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July 20 1812: Brock — I Almost Despair




On July 20, 1812, Major General Isaac Brock writes to Sir George Prevost, in Lower Canada about Hull's invasion of Upper Canada. Brock is upset at the delay in being advised of the invasion. He is also  disappointed in the conduct of the Canadian militia. "Where it possible to animate the militia to a proper sense of their duty, something might yet be done—but I almost despair," Brock writes.  Brock`s letter is reproduced below.


Major-General Brock to Sir George Prevost.
Fort George, July 20, 1812.

My last to your excellency was dated the 12th instant, since which nothing extraordinary has occurred on this communication. The enemy has evidently diminished his force, and appears to have no intention of making an immediate attack.

I have herewith the honor of enclosing the copy of two letters which I have received from Lieut. Colonel St. George, together with some interesting documents found on board a schooner, which the boats of the Hunter captured on her voyage from the Miami to Detroit.

From the accompanying official correspondence between General Hull and the secretary at war, it appears that the collected force which has arrived at Detroit amounts to about 2,000 men. I have requested Colonel Proctor to proceed to Amherstburg, and ascertain accurately the state of things in that quarter. I had every inclination to go there myself, but the meeting of the legislature on the 27th instant renders it impossible.

I receive this moment a dispatch dated the 15th instant, from Lieut.-Colonel St. George, giving an account of the enemy having landed on the 12th, and immediately after occupied the village of Sandwich. It is strange that three days should be allowed to elapse before sending to acquaint me of this important fact. I had no idea, until I received Lieut.-Colonel St. George's letter a few days ago, that General Hull was advancing with so large a force.

The militia, from every account, behaved very ill. The officers appear the most in fault. Colonel Proctor will probably reach Amherstburg in the course of to-morrow. I have great dependence in that officer's decision, but fear he will arrive too late to be of much service. The enemy was not likely to delay attacking a force that had allowed him to cross the river in open day without firing a shot.

The position which Lieut.-Colonel St. George occupied is very good, and infinitely more formidable than the fort itself. Should he therefore be compelled to retire, I know of no other alternative than his embarking in the king's vessels and proceeding to Fort Erie.


Were it possible to animate the militia to a proper sense of their duty, something might yet be done—but I almost despair.


Your excellency will readily perceive the critical situation in which the reduction of Amherstburg will place me.


I do not imagine General Hull will be able to detach more than 1,000 men, but even with that trifling force I much fear he will succeed in getting to my rear. The militia will not act without a strong regular force to set them the example; and as I must now expect to be seriously threatened, I cannot in prudence make strong detachments, which would not only weaken my line of defence, but, in the event of a retreat, endanger their safety.

I have never, as Your Excellency has doubtless noticed, been very sanguine in my hopes of assistance -from the Militia, and I am now given to understand that General Hull's insidious proclamation, herewith enclosed, has already been productive of considerable effect on the minds of the people. In fact, a general sentiment prevails, that with the present force resistance is unavailing. I shall continue to exert myself to the utmost to overcome every difficulty. Should, however, the communication between Kingston and Montreal be cut off, the fate of the troops in this part of the province will be decided. I now express my apprehensions on a supposition that the slender means your excellency possesses will not admit of diminution; consequently, that I need not look for reinforcements. It is evidently not the intention of the enemy to make any attempt to penetrate into the province by this strait, unless the present force be diminished. He seems much more inclined to work on the flanks, aware that if he succeed every other part must very soon submit.


My last official communication from the Lower Province is dated the 25th ultimo, when the adjutant-general announced the receipt of intelligence, by a mercantile house, of war being declared by the United States against Great Britain. I need not entreat Your Excellency to honor me with your commands with as little delay as possible — I consider every moment exceedingly precious — 

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