Monday, May 16, 2011

Miller's Charge and the Sebree Map

Upon finishing my series of posts on the first siege of Fort Meigs in April-May 1813, I decided to take a look at the William Sebree map. To my surprise, I found a lot of useful details in the map that don't come out in written accounts. The map itself is a work of folk art, combining line drawings and printed symbols and text. While the map is commonly reprinted in secondary works on the War of 1812, the resolution is nowhere near large enough to bring out its rich detail.

After coming back to Kentucky, Captain William Sebree made a large, hand colored map from his notes and sketches of the siege; "To preserve from oblivion the useful events of our history, and the occurances which are characteristic of us, as a nation..."

This immensely detailed map is preserved in the Library of Congress, and can be viewed on this site. It reveals some interesting details about Miller's charge (which Sebree participated in):

Miller's 350 men form in a line of companies abreast. The dotted lines trace where each company advanced.

As this portion of the map illustrates, Millers battalion swung in a broad left wheel across the plain.

Each side exchanged volleys, while the Indians in the treeline continued to pepper the American flank with fire.

The little Ls behind the battery are pistols: they represent where men died. Miller's men pushed the British flank companies away from the batteries.

"The batteries were taken; cannon spiked: carriages cut down, and every object of the Gen'l was completely gained: there was nothing to do but retreat... And to CUT A WAY through a thick grove of BAYONETS and TOMAHAWKS, to the FORT." Sebree's text captures the intensity of combat in the woods.

The dotted lines show the retreat of the British regulars. Nearer the river (top right) they were captured and marched back to the American lines.
Sebree's company got cut off on the right flank of the attack. "Nothing can please a Kentuckian better, than to get a shot at an Indian; and he must be indulged. Col Wood. (This quote means that  the map was made after 1814).

Sebree's struggle on the right was ended when Miller led a counter attack to relieve them.

A note on Sebree's map gives a useful note on the timing of the battles on the north and south banks: "Sortie on this side, 15m before 11; and the defeat on the north side 11 o'clock." Harrison would have had no reserves available to save Dudley's men, even if they could have risked more men falling into the net.