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July 12 1812: American Invasion



On July 12, 1812, after intermittent bombardment, Brigadier General Hull leads his troops across the Detroit River to capture the settlement of Sandwich (now Windsor), in Upper Canada. The American invasion of Canada has begun. (Probably has not ended). Sandwich was undefended. The Essex Militia stationed there scattered and were no match for Hull's force of about 2,500. Hull was also aided by the fact that many of the inhabitants of Sandwich were decidedly friendly towards the Americans.

Meanwhile, on the same day, Major-General Brock is in Fort George, unaware of the invasion, writing to Sir George Prevost. Brock notes that the men of his militia have improved in discipline but also "evince a degree of impatience under their present restraint, that is far from inspiring confidence." They wanted to return to their farms. Brock was a realist who understood the loyalty of many Upper Canadians could not be assumed. He writes: "There can be no doubt that a large portion of the population in this neighbourhood are sincere in their professions to defend the country; but it appears likewise evident to me that the greater part are either indifferent to what is passing, or so completely American as to rejoice in the prospect of a change of government. Many, who now consider our means inadequate, would readily take an active part were the regular troops increased. These cool calculators are numerous in all societies". Brock's letter is reproduced below.
Brock to PrevostFort George, July 12, 1812.


With the exception of occasional firing from the opposite shore, (the unauthorized act of an undisciplined militia,) nothing of a hostile nature has occurred on this communication since I last had the honor of addressing your excellency.


The enemy is busy constructing batteries at different points on the river, but he does not appear to have yet received cannon to place in them. We are doing all we can on this side to counteract his views, and the arrival of the Royal George* and the vessels under her convoy, bringing various pieces of ordnance, will give us in this respect a decided superiority.


The militia, which assembled here immediately on the account being received of war being declared by the United States, have been improving daily in discipline; but the men evince a degree of impatience under their present restraint, that is far from inspiring confidence. So great was the clamour to return and attend to their farms, that I found myself in some measure compelled to sanction the departure of a large proportion; and I am not without my apprehensions that the remainder will, in defiance of the law, which can only impose a fine of £20, leave the service the moment the harvest commences. There can be no doubt that a large portion of the population in this neighbourhood are sincere in their professions to defend the country ; but it appears likewise evident to me that the greater part are either indifferent to what is passing, or so completely American as to rejoice in the prospect of a change of government. Many, who now consider our means inadequate, would readily take an active part were the regular troops increased. These cool calculators are numerous in all societies.


The alacrity and good temper with which the militia, in the first instance, marched to the frontiers, have tended to infuse in the mind of the enemy a very different sentiment of the disposition of the inhabitants, who, he was led to believe would, upon the first summons, declare themselves an American state. The display for several days of a large force was made, I have every reason to believe, in that expectation.


Nearly the whole of the arms at my disposal have been issued. They are barely sufficient to arm the militia immediately required to guard the frontier. Were I furnished with the means of distributing arms among the people, in whom confidence can be placed, they would not only overawe the disaffected, but prove of essential use in the event of invasion. The militia assembled in a wretched state in regard to clothing; many were without shoes, an article which can scarcely be provided in the country.


After the cannon, which have arrived this morning, are mounted, I shall consider my front perfectly secure. I do not imagine the enemy will hazard a water excursion with a view to turn my flanks. He probably will wait until winter, when the ice will enable him to cross with the utmost facility to any part between Fort Erie and as far as Long Point. My situation will then depend upon the force the enemy may bring to invade the province. Should the troops have to move, the want of tents will be severely felt.


A person, who left Sandwich yesterday week, pretends that the enemy was then in the act of cannonading the place. I have not heard from Lieut.Colonel St. George since my last letter to your excellency.


An officer is so absolutely necessary to command in the eastern district, that I have consented to Major General Shaw proceeding thither in that capacity. I have full confidence in his judgment, and his coduct in the field is undoubted. He of course will assume the command in virtue of his militia rank, and will be liable to be superseded by any lieutenant colonel your excellency may be pleased to appoint.


The expense of defending this province will unquestionably be great; upon a rough calculation, and supposing that 4,000 militia be constantly embodied, it cannot be estimated at less than £140,000 per annum. However great the sum, it will be applied to very considerable advantage, provided your excellency be enabled to send reinforcements, as without them it is scarcely possible that the government of the United States will be so inactive or supine as to permit the present limited force to remain in possession of the country. Whatever can be done to preserve it, or to delay its fall, your excellency may rest assured will be exerted.


Having been suddenly called away from York, I had not time to close my dispatch, giving your excellency an account of my proceedings during my stay at Ainherstburg. I now have the honor to forward two documents, detailing the steps taken by the Indian department to prevail on that unfortunate people to accommodate their differences with the American government.

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