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July 25 1812: Brock to Prevost






On July 25, 1812, Major General Isaac Brock, in Upper Canada, again writes to Sir George Prevost, in Lower Canada. Brock writes that he had intended to move west to attack General Hull but has now been informed that a majority of the Native nations are going to remain neutral. As a consequence, the men of the militia will not move with him. In an angry tone he writes: this unexpected intelligence has ruined the whole of my plans. The militia, which I destined for this service, will now be alarmed, and unwilling to leave their families to the mercy of 400 Indians, whose conduct affords such wide room for suspicion; and really to expect that this fickle race will remain in a state of neutrality in the midst of war, would be truly absurd." The mutual fear and animosity in the uneasy alliance of Natives, Upper Canadians and the British comes to fore in away that is not flattering to Brock. In his defence, Brock also had an unfavourable view of the residents of Upper Canada. Brock writes this letter on the same day that Native warriors have checked the advance of American forces at Turkey Creek Bridge, near Sandwich, with American troops suffering some of their first casualties. Brock`s letter is reproduced below.


Major-General Brock to Sir George Prevost. 
Fort George, July 25, 1812. 


Since my dispatch to your excellency of the 20th instant, I have received information of the enemy having made frequent and extensive inroads from Sandwich up the river Thames. I have in consequence been induced to detach Capt. Chambers with about 50 of the 41st regiment to the Moravian town, where I have directed 200 militia to join him. From the loud and apparently warm professions of the Indians residing on the Grand River, I made no doubt of rinding at all times a large majority ready to take the field and act in conjunction with our troops; but accounts received this morning state that they have determined to remain neutral, and they had consequently refused, with the exception of about fifty, to join Captain Chambers' detachment. I meditated a diversion to the westward, the moment I could collect a sufficient number of militia, in the hope of compelling General Hull to retreat across the river; but this unexpected intelligence has ruined the whole of my plans. The militia, which I destined for this service, will now be alarmed, and unwilling to leave their families to the mercy of 400 Indians, whose conduct affords such wide room for suspicion; and really to expect that this fickle race will remain in a state of neutrality in the midst of war, would be truly absurd. The Indians have probably been led to this change of sentiment by emissaries from General Hull, whose proclamation to the Six Nations is herewith enclosed. I have not deemed it of sufficient consequence to commence active operations on this line, by an attack on Fort Niagara. It can be demolished, when found necessary, in half an hour, and there my means of annoyance would terminate. To enable the militia to acquire some degree of discipline without interruption, is of far greater consequence than such a conquest. Every thing in my power shall be done to overcome the difficulties by which I am surrounded; but without strong reinforcements, I fear the country cannot be roused to make exertions equal to meet this crisis. I proceed immediately to York, to attend the meeting of the legislature, and I hope to return on Wednesday. The charge of this frontier will in the mean time devolve on Lieut.-Colonel Myers, who appears worthy of every confidence. The actual invasion of the province has compelled me to recall that portion of the militia whom I permitted to return home and work at harvest. I am prepared to hear of much discontent in consequence; the disaffected will take advantage of it, and add fuel to the flame. But it may not bewithout reason that I may be accused of having already studied their convenience and humour, to the injury of the service.

I should have derived much consolation in the midst of my present difficulties had I been honored, previously to the meeting of the legislature, with your excellency's determination in regard to this province. That it cannot be maintained with its present force is very obvious; and unless the enemy be driven from Sandwich, it will be impossible to avert much longer the impending ruin of the country. Numbers have already joined the invading army; commotions are excited; and the late occurrences at Sandwich have spread a general gloom. I have not heard from Lieut.-Colonel St. George, or from any individual at Amherstburg, since I last had the honor of addressing your excellency, which makes me apprehensive that Colonel Proctor has been detained on his journey too long for the good of the service.

The enemy's cavalry, amounting to about fifty, are led by one Watson, a surveyor from Montreal of a desperate character. This fellow has been allowed to parade with about twenty men of the same description as far as Westminster, vowing as they went along the most bitter vengeance against the first characters in the province. Nothing can shew more strongly the state of apathy which exists in most parts of the country; but I am perhaps too liberal in attributing the conduct of the inhabitants to that cause.


Mr. Couche has represented to the head of his department the total impracticability of carrying on the public service without a remittance of specie, or a government paper substitute. He was in expectation of making arrangements with some individuals that would have enabled him to proceed, but I much fear that the whole project has fallen to the ground. The militia on this communication were so clamorous for their pay, that I directed Mr. Couche to make the necessary advances, and this has drained him of the little specie in his possession.


My present civil office not only authorizes me to convene general courts martial for the trial of offenders belonging to the militia, but likewise the infliction of the sentence of death; whilst, in regard to the military, my power is limited to the mere assembling of the court. I beg leave to submit to the consideration of your excellency, whether in times like the present I ought not to be invested with equal authority over each service.

I herewith have the honor to transmit two letters, one from Captain Roberts, commanding at St. Joseph's, and the second from Mr. Dickson, a gentleman every way capable of forming a correct judgment of the actual state of the Indians. Nothing can be more deplorable than his description; yet the United States government accuse Great Britain of instigating that people to war. Is not the true cause to be found in the state of desperation to which they are reduced by the unfriendly and unjust measures of that government towards them?

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