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Battle of Detroit

On July 11th 1812, 2,500 American troops under General Hull reached the Detroit River and camped at Fort Detroit. At Amherstburg on the Canadian side of the river were 100 British regulars, 300 militia and 150 indians led by Tecumseh.

Hull crossed the Detroit and made his headquarters in a Canadian farm house. He issued a proclamation which was printed for distribution among Canadians. It began:

INHABITANTS OF CANADA

After thirty years of peace and prosperity, the Unitied States have been driven to arms. The injuries and aggressions, the insults and indignities of Great Britain have once more left no alternative but manly resistance or unconditional submission. The army under my command has invaded your country. The standard of the union now waves over the territiry of Canada. To the peaceful and unoffending inhabitants it brings neither danger nor difficulty. I come to find enemies, not to make them; I come to protect not to injure you ... I have a force which will break down all opposition, and that force is but the vanguard of a much greater. If, contrary to your own interest, and the just expectations of my country, you should take part in the approaching contest, you will be considered and treated as enemies, and the horrors and calamities of war will stalk you ...

General Hull was so preoccupied with his attempts to terrify Canadians with printed words that he neglected to protect American forts on Lake Michigan. As a result, a small force of British and Indians captured Fort Michilimackinac, while other Indians seized Fort Dearborn (Chicago).

After these small but strategic victories, the Indians took such courage that small bands of them hurried northward from the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to join Tecumseh on the Canadian frontier. Within a short time, the great Indian commander had more than six hundred braves ready and eager for battle.

Hull waited uneasily as Indians swarmed across the border and as Canadian militiamen rallied to the defence of their land. The general became increasingly nervous at the thought of facing an enemy force of British regulars, sharpshooting backwoodsmen and hundreds of angry Indians. His nervousness finally gave way to near panic. On August 11th, he ordered his army to retreat across the river to Detroit.

Two days after the withdrawal of the Americans, General Isaac Brock arrived at Amherstburg, where he held an immediate conference with his officers and with Tecumseh.

After a brief consideration of the border situation, Brock decided to cross the river and make a direct attack on Fort Detroit. Pleased with this firm and courageous decision, Tecumseh pointed at the British general and shouted " Ho! Here is a man!"

On August 16th, 1812, British regulars, Canadian militamen and Indians advanced on Detroit as the guns of Amherstburg threw shells across the water. The site of the advancing redcoats and the sound of the shrill, wild Indian war whoops caused an uneasy stir among the Americans. General Hull's own forces still out numbered those of the approaching enemy, but he did not know this. Feeling the situation within in the fort hopeless, he ran up a white flag and quickly agreed to surrender.

Once the surrender is accomplished, Hull emerges from his catatonic state like a man coming out of an anaesthetic. Scarcely able to speak or act that morning, he is now both lucid and serene. "I have done what my conscience directed," he declares. "I have saved Detroit and the Territory from the horrors of an Indian massacre." He knows that his country will censure him ( though he cannot yet comprehend the magnitude of that censure).

In addition to an easy victory, the daring invaders captured valuable goods, including thirty three cannon, a large quantity of stores and equipment, a number of horses and a newly built sailing ship. As a token of appreciation of Tecumseh's part in the affair, Brock slipped off his own red military sash and wrapped it about the chief's waist. In quick response, Tecumseh removed his beaded sash and handed it over to the general. General Brock returned to Niagara fearing the next threat of an American attack would be there.