Friday, August 17, 2012

Siege of Detroit: The Prequel

After having been affirmed by the Congress and signed into law by President James Madison, a formal declaration of war was made by the government of the United States of America against the British Empire on June 18, 1812. Within weeks, William Hull, Michigan Territorial Governor since 1805 and now Brigadier General and Commander of the North-Western Army of the United States, crossed into Canada with a chunk of his gathering forces. After arriving in Sandwich (now Windsor, Ontario), he produced "A PROCLAMATION" addressed to "Inhabitants of Canada!" It states in part:

"The army under my command has invaded your country; the standard of the Union now waves over the territory of Canada. To the peacable unoffending inhabitant, it brings neither danger nor difficulty. I come to find enemies, not to make them. I come to protect, not injure you."

A little later, Hull's proclamation begins to sound eerily like a Neo-Con's dream about the invasion of Iraq in 2003. ". . . the arrival of an army of friends must be hailed by you with a cordial welcome. You will be emancipated from tyranny and oppression, and restored to the dignified station of freemen."

After the cotton candy comes the menace: "If, contrary to your own interest and the just expectations of my country, you should take a part in the approaching contest, you will be treated and considered as enemies, and the horrors and calamities of war will stalk before you." 

Worse: "If the barbarous and savage policy of Great Britian be pursued, and the savages let loose to murder our citizens and butcher our women and children, THIS WILL BE A WAR OF EXTERMINATION" [Caps in original document]." 

"The first stroke of the tomahawk -- the first attempt with the scalping knife, will be the signal of one indiscriminate scene of desolation. No white man found fighting by the side of an indian will be taken prisoner -- instant death will be his lot. . ."

Then back to cotton candy: "The United States offer you peace, liberty and security. Your choice lies between these and war, slavery and destruction -- Choose then; but choose wisely and may he who knows the justice of our cause, and who holds in his hand the fate of nations, guide you to the result the most compatible with your rights and interests, your peace and happiness . . . Head-quarters, Sandwich, July 12, 1812."

Major General Isaac Brock, Tecumseh and British regulars, First Nation warriors and Canadian militia responded quickly. One combined force captured the Fort of Michillimackinac (Mackinac) on July 17, 1812.  First Nation forces there included Sioux, "Winnebagoes," Tallesawain [Menominee], Chippewas and Ottawas. Next, Tecumseh led raids against US supply lines below Detroit. Hull ordered his army back across the border, concentrating in Fort Detroit. Brock then moved forces into Sandwich, directly across from Detroit. and on August 15, 1812, sent a message to the US commander. This message did three things:

1) It called on Hull to surrender Detroit.
2) It responded to Hull's proclamation by turning the tables.
3) It scared the hell out of Hull, who surrendered the next day with his entire command.

"Sir-- The force at my disposal, authorises me to require of you the immediate surrender of Fort Detroit. It is far from my inclination to join in a war of extermination, but you must be aware, that the numerous body of Indians, who have attached themselves to my troops, will be beyond my control the moment the contest commences. [But if you surrender,] [y]ou will find me disposed to enter into such conditions as will satisfy the most scrupulous sense of honour . . . " [i.e. surrender to me now or my First Nation warriors will kill you all. -- This did the trick].

Note: William Hull's son, Captain Abraham F. Hull of the 13th US Infantry had helped draft the Proclamation to Citizens of Canada while serving as his aide-de-camp. He was killed in action fighting at the Battle of Lundy's Lane in 1814. As noted in the previous post, Brock and Tecumseh were also killed in combat during the war.

Primary documents drawn from Report of the Trial of Brig. General William Hull: Commanding the North-western Army of the United States. By a Court Martial Held at Albany on Monday, 3d January, 1814, and Succeeding Days (New York : Eastburn, Kirk, and Co., 1814).

Today's Rune: Harvest.  



Charles Gramlich said...

A fascinating little piece of American history. I learned a fair amount about it when I was in Canada.

the walking man said...

Hull surrendered US to Canada..I want my Canadian citizenship restored!