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August 13 1812: Brock Meets Tecumseh

On August 13 1812, Major General Isaac Brock arrives at Fort Malden, Amherstburg near Detroit. He meets with Tecumseh. Captain John Glegg describes Tecumseh "with bright eyes beaming cheerfulness, energy and decision." They have a council of war. Brock's advisors oppose attacking Detroit. Brock decides that they will attack. "This is a man!" Tecumseh is supposed to have said.

James Laxer in his fine book Tecumseh & Brock: The War of 1812 (House of Anansi, 2012) describes their first meeting this way:

Late on the evening of August 13, Brock’s flotilla reached Amherstburg, near Fort Malden. Native warriors fired muskets into the night air to welcome the general and the recruits he had brought with him. Brock immediately sent Matthew Elliott, who had served for decades as the British Indian agent in the region, to find Tecumseh. Elliott had two messages for the Shawnee chief. The first was to ask Tecumseh to tell his warriors to stop shooting and save their ammunition for the Americans. The second was that Brock wanted to meet Tecumseh immediately.

...As a show of respect, Tecumseh dressed more ornately than was his custom for the occasion. He wore a large silver medallion of George III, the long-serving British monarch who had sat on the throne since 1760, attached to a coloured wampum string around his neck. Suspended from the cartilage of his nose were three small silver crowns. He was attired in a tanned deerskin jacket and trousers of the same material, and he wore his leather moccasins decorated with dyed porcupine quills. Tecumseh set out with Elliott for the meeting. By the time they arrived, the major general had already received the good news that Hull had pulled his remaining troops at Sandwich back across the river to Fort Detroit, ending the American invasion of Upper Canada. Brock had been sitting at a candlelit table, reading the packets of mail captured from the Americans, which told of Hull’s low morale and the lack of confidence of the men under his command, when the door opened and Tecumseh entered. The general, taller and stouter than Tecumseh, rose to his feet and stepped forward to shake the hand of his visitor...

...According to an account written by British Captain John Bachevoyle Glegg, who was present at the meeting, Brock commended Tecumseh for his leadership and courage in the native warriors’ recent engagements against the Americans. “I have fought against the enemies of our father, the king beyond the great lake, and they have never seen my back,” he continued. “I am come here to fight his enemies on this side of the great lake, and now desire with my soldiers to take lessons from you and your warriors, that I may learn how to make war in these great forests.” Glegg recorded that Brock outlined his plan for a swift attack on Fort Detroit, while the British officers shook their heads and strongly dissented. Tecumseh responded positively to the proposed offensive, and when Brock asked him about the lay of the land en route to Detroit, the Shawnee chief spread out a long strip of elm bark on the table. He secured the corners with stones, unsheathed his knife, and proceeded to create a map with its tip. Brock was impressed as Tecumseh drew in the roads, waterways, and valleys and hills of the neighbouring terrain.

 

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