Canaan Gowen Fought the British in Battle of Thames River
Canaan Gowen, son of Mary Gowen, was born about 1775 in Botetourt County, Virginia. He was bound out to Edward Pate June 8, 1790, according to Botetourt County Court Minutes. On the same day “Mary Gowing” was bound out to John Johnston. She is regarded as a sister to Canaan Gowen.
On February 12, 1793, “Canaan Gowen, son of Mary Gowen was set at liberty,” according to “Annals of Southwest Vir-ginia, 1760-1800” by Lewis Preston Summers.
“Canan Going” was enlisted as a private in 1812 in the Second Regiment [Jennings] Kentucky Volunteers, according to the research of Donna Gowin Johnston, Foundation member of Casper, Wyoming. The Kentuckians, under Col. Isaac Shelby, governor of Kentucky, participated in the capture of Detroit and the decisive Battle of the Thames River.
“Caanan Going, free man of color” was mentioned in an affi-davit signed by Williamson Toole of Madison County, Ken-tucky in Adams County, Mississippi April 3, 1814, according to “Passports of Southeastern Pioneers, 1770-1823” by Dorothy Williams Potter. Passports were required for Ameri-cans passing through Indian land and Spanish land.
The affidavit read:
Williamson Toole of Madison County, State of Kentucky this day appeared before the undersigned Justice of the Peace in & for the said County and made oath that he has known Canaan Going, a free man of color upwards of four years–during which time he has never heard his freedom disputed–that he has served as camp [illegible] in the Michigan Territory and [under the] command of Genl. [William Henry] Harrison in the years 1812 and 1813 in the same regiment with the said Going–Going is six feet high, stout built, complexion of a yellowish cast, is going to Madison County in the State aforesaid in company with deponent.
Sworn to & subscribed this 3d April, 1814.
Since the affidavit was made in Natchez, Mississippi, it is suggested that the men were preparing to take the Natchez Trace back to their home in Kentucky. The Natchez Trace passed through Chickasaw land and thus the necessity of having the passport.
The fact that Williamson Toole and Canaan Gowen were re-turning to Madison County, Kentucky suggests that Canaan Gowen might have been related to the family of William Gowan and Anastasia Sullivan Gowan who removed from Bedford County, Virginia to Madison County in 1800. Bed-ford County adjoined Botetourt County where Canaan Gowen grew up.
Gen. Harrison was the hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe fought November 7, 1811 in Indiana in which the Americans defeated the forces of Elskwatawa the Prophet, brother of Tecumseh, the Shawnee chieftain. The estimated 6,000 Indians, sup-ported by the British, launched the battle in a pre-dawn attack in which they caught the Americans sleeping. After several hours of desperate fighting, the Indians withdrew, leaving 40 dead on the field. The Americans lost 185 men, but Harrison declared victory and became famous. The battle, fought on the Tippecanoe River, is regarded as the opening round of the War of 1812.
Harrison was appointed a major-general in the Kentucky mili-tia at the beginning of the War of 1812. He began to combine his forces with that of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, the daring naval commander who challenged the British Navy on Lake Erie.
On September 10, 1813, as the British Navy was preparing to transport more troops to their outpost on the Sandusky River in Ohio, Perry attacked the superior flotilla. After his flagship, the U.S.S. Lawrence had become disabled and defeat seemed certain, Perry transferred his commanded by small boat to the U.S.S. Niagara, took her into close action with his six remain-ing vessels and turned the tide of victory.
The British Army, faced with the severance of its line of sup-plies, was forced to make a hasty evacuation of Ohio and Michigan. Gen. Harrison, then commander of all the troops in the Northwest, advanced northward. He occupied Detroit Sep-tember 29, 1813 and began to press the British in their re-treat up the Thames River toward Lake Ontario.
Perry quickly took Harrison’s troops aboard his ships and pur-sued the British up the Thames. Thus Canaan Gowen partici-pated in one of the U.S. Navy’s first amphibious landings. When they overtook the English forces, the troops and sailors debarked to continue the fight on land.
The British had 983 regulars and Tecumseh, who had been made a brigadier general in the British army, had 3,500 Indi-ans. Harrison and Perry, with 6,500 militiamen and sailors, launched the attack.
Commodore Perry took command of one American force, and General Harrison commanded another. Perry led the decisive charge and again showed his daring leadership. The Kentuck-ians under Col. Shelby, regarded as the best Indian fighters, were ordered to the left front facing Tecumseh. The Kentuck-ians charged into the Indians, penetrated through their ranks and finding Tecumseh, killed him on the spot. With the death of their Chieftain, the Indians quickly melted away, leaving the British in a hopeless situation.
The British surrendered, and on October 5, 1813, Col. Henry A. Proctor gave up all the territory west of the Niagara penin-sula as the result of losing the battle. When the fighting was over, the Americans had suffered 47 casualties and the British 48. The Battle of Thames River not only destroyed the British power in upper Canada, but splintered the Northestern Indian Confederacy as well.
Later Perry commanded the Mediterranean expedition of 1815-16. He died of yellow fever at Port of Spain, Trinidad August 23, 1819.
Subsequently, Gen. Harrison was nominated by the Whig party and was elected president of the United States in 1840 under the slogan of “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.” He served only one month after inauguration and succumbed to pneumonia. He was succeeded in office by his vice-president, John Tyler.
“Cannon Gowen, free negro” was enumerated in the 1830 cen-sus of Clay County, Indiana, according to the research of June A. Smith, Foundation Member of Bremerton, Washington.
“Canaan Goans” was married March 2, 1835 to Susan Tucker in Fountain County, Indiana, according to the research of Stephen L. Allen, Foundation Member of Chino Hills, California. He appeared there as the head of a household in the 1840 census, according to June A. Smith.
Children born to Canaan Gowen and Susan Tucker Gowen include:
Stephen Goins born about 1837
Stephen Goins, son of Canaan Gowen and Susan Tucker Gowen, was born about 1837 in Fountain County. His death certificate showed his father as “Canaan Goins,” according to Stephen L. Allen.