Isaac Hamblin – A heroic man with historic stuffWritten by Frank Kuron | | email@example.com
I had a wagon as a kid, didn’t you? Some of you surely bought station wagons as adults, right? My grown-up wagon was my bee-ay-you-tee-full (thank you, Jim Carrey), metallic gold 1973 Ford Mustang — which vanished one morning from right in front of my house! Oh, I got it back in a few days, so maybe I shouldn’t have been so upset. After all, the only things missing were my 8-track tapes, which wouldn’t fit into the hole where the player used to be anyway. And I hadn’t originally ordered air-conditioning, so driving now was quite refreshing without any windows. Owning cool stuff is risky, and one little-known early American, Isaac Hamblin, learned this lesson when his favorite wagon was stolen by none other than Gen. Henry Proctor, leader of the British forces in Canada, circa 1813.
Do you remember studying Shays’ Rebellion? Well, it was a short-lived revolt against taxation during the 1780s, and its participants were either loved or hated. One of its leaders, Perez Hamlin, may have been an uncle to Isaac. No matter; the notoriety of the “Hamlin” name, whether a relative or not, made life difficult for Isaac. He hoped adding a “b” to his name would distance him from Perez, but it didn’t work. So when the British, in need of tradesmen, solicited Americans to settle in Upper Canada (today’s Ontario) in the late 1700s; Isaac, a stone mason, made the move.
Isaac thrived along the Thames River, near present-day Chatham, for well over 10 years until the War of 1812 happened. At its beginning, U.S. Gen. William Hull reassured the Americans in the area that they would soon be secure. Well… things didn’t go quite as planned. Hull’s defeat in 1812 is legendary, and soon British General Proctor was in command of Canada. He reversed the peaceful co-habitation that had existed between the two countries by actually plotting to have an Indian contingent wipeout the Americans in residence. Isaac learned of his murderous plot and managed to intercept a strategic letter intended for the perpetrators. This lessened the extent of the disaster and Proctor always suspected that Isaac had a hand in foiling his plan.
Isaac’s Canadian residence was well-maintained with an orchard, several fine horses and an exceptional American-built wagon. Unfortunately, as September, 1813 arrived, all his possessions became easy pickins’ for Proctor, and even William Henry Harrison, the American general pursuing the British and Indians across Canada at that time.
Just weeks before the Battle of the Thames would occur near Isaac’s home; Proctor simply took Isaac’s horses and wagon for his own use. Isaac was taken too; literally, wound-up in a heavy rope like a mummy from his toes to his neck and kept in this horrid condition for 17 days … 17 days! And, he was taunted daily with kicks and cursings from both Proctor and Tecumseh.
As it happened, the night before the battle, Harrison made camp at the edge of Isaac’s property. Expecting an enemy attack overnight, Harrison used the wood of Isaac’s home, barns and fruit trees to set up a breastwork of defense, but the fight never came.
The morning of the battle Isaac was still bound, now aboard a British supply ship sailing up the Thames River. Harrison’s men captured that vessel. Isaac was finally unwrapped, and unfettered in his determination to avenge his circumstances. Because he could identify Tecumseh, Harrison asked him to serve on the front lines as a spy; and by that afternoon he was eagerly fighting in the heart of the Battle of the Thames, even becoming a key eyewitness to Tecumseh’s death!
It’s unclear which family members Isaac may have lost in the chaos of 1813, but he did soon marry and removed to Ohio, settling near present-day Worthington, and later Mt. Vernon. Isaac led a somewhat transient life thereafter, but all his children were native Ohioans.
Isaac’s wagon, shot-up and useless, but filled with Proctor’s personal possessions, was found abandoned as that general disgracefully fled the Thames battlefield as soon as the opening shots were fired. Proctor continued riding Isaac’s fine horse all the way to a British court-martial for his cowardice.
Frank Kuron is author of the War of 1812 book, “Thus Fell Tecumseh.” Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.