March 6 1812: Brock and Hull

On March 6 1812, the Parliament of Upper Canada ended its session by passing various pieces of legislation including amendments to the Militia Act. The amended act provided for raising and training of additional volunteer troops but did not provide everything that Brock had requested. He was particularly unhappy that the legislation to last only one session and thereafter be repealed. At the closing of the session, he would say,"The exigencies of the time alone authorize me to give my assent to the amended Militia Act, for under circumstances of less urgency its very limited duration would oblige me to reject it." 

On the same day, American General Hull, who would face Brock in the upcoming war,  wrote a long letter to the American Secretary of War. The letter provides an overview of the military situation in Michigan.  

The letter is reproduced below:

Washington, 6th March, 1812. 

The prompt manner in which you have adopted measures for the protection of Detroit and the other settlements in the territory of Michigan, inspires me with confidence that such ulterior arrangements will speedily be made as the peculiar situation of that section of the United States may require. How far the measures already adopted will give security to that part of the country in the event of war with Great Britain, is a subject worthy of consideration.
Officers of a company have been appointed with orders to recruit in the territory.

The secretary acting as governor has been authorized to make a detachment of four companies of militia and call them into actual service. 

The commanding officer of fort Detroit has been directed to erect batteries on the banks of the river Detroit for the protection of the town.

These, as incipient measures I very much approve, and was particularly pleased with the decisive manner they were adopted. It must be apparent however they add no physical strength to that section of the country. The force already there is only better organized and prepared to be called into action. By comparing this force with the force which may be opposed to us, will evince the necessity of additional means of defence, if the territory is worth preserving. 

In the fort of Detroit I understand by the last returns there are less than one hundred regulars — the population of the territory is less than five thousand — and this population of the territory principally of Canadian Character — Connected with the post of Detroit, and three hundred miles North, is the island of Miohilimackinac, where is a fort garrisoned by a company of regulars. Near the South bend of Lake Michigan on the Westerly side is fort Dearborn, likewise garrisoned by a company of regulars.  

This is all the force on which we can at present calculate for the safety of our frontier and for the protection of the Indians which the United States are bound by treaties, to afford. No support can be derived from the Indian Nations, even in the event of war, because our officers are instructed to advise them to remain neutral — and not to accept their services if they should be offered- 

I will now consider the British force opposed to this part of the United States. 

A fort at Amherstberg at the mouth of the Detroit river, garrisoned by about one hundred British troops — another fort on the island of St. Joseph's at the mouth of the river St. Mary's, garrisoned by about fifty British troops — two armed ships on Lake Erie, which command the waters and would prevent all communication from the States through that channel — a population of at least fifty thousand in that part of Upper Canada which is connected with the Detroit river and Lake Erie, and could easily be brought to operate against our settlements — about four thousand men, principally Canadian employed in the Indian trade and under British influence — and lastly may be reckoned all the Indians in Upper Canada, and a large proportion of the powerful nations residing in the territory of the United States, who now hold a constant and friendly intercourse with the British agents, and are liberally fed and clothed by the bounty of the British government. 

It appears from this statement that the British force which can be brought to operate against us in the territory, is more than ten to one, without including the Indians. 

It requires no difficult reasoning to determine what must be the consequence — that part of the United States must fall into the hands of the British government, with all the inhabitants — the forts at Chicago, Michilimackinac and Detroit, and all the public stores, with the public and private vessels on the Lake, the forts at Chicaga, Michilimackinac and Detroit, and all the country North and North-west of the Miami of Lake Erie — and the settlements on the western part of the state of Ohio, will be subject to the depredations of the powerful northern nations of savages. There is nothing in my opinion (in the event of war) can prevent this state of things but an adequate force on the Detroit river, opposite to the settlements in Upper Canada. It may be asked how is this force to be placed there, and how is it to be supported? If sir, we cannot command the Ocean, we can command the inland Lakes of our country — I have always been of the opinion that we ought to have built as many armed vessels on the Lakes as would have commanded them — we have more interest in them than the British nation, and can build vessels with more convenience. If, however, there is no intention of the kind, that communication must be abandoned until we take possession of the Canadas. The army which marches into the country must open roads through the wilderness, and the supplies 'and provisions of whatever else may be necessary, must pass by land through the state of Ohio. If the conquest of the Canada's is the object of the government, they will then have an army in a proper situation to commence operations, and at the same time protect the defenceless inhabitants and control the Indians within our territory. The answer probably may be, it is more expedient to leave the Michigan territory to it's fate, and direct the force to Montreal. ' This will prevent all communication by the St. 

Lawrence with Upper Canada, and it must of course surrender. In this expectation I think it probable there would be a disappointment — if a force is not sent sufficient to oppose the British force which may be collected at Amherstberg and it's vicinity, Detroit, Michilimackinac and Ghicaga must fall —the inhabitants must once more change their allegiance, and the Indians become the exclusive friends and allies of the King their great Father. In the garrison at these places they will find large quantities of arms and military stores of every kind. — Upper Canada and our country of which they will be in the possession, will furnish them with provisions — How then will Upper Canada be conquered by possessing Montreal? They will be in the quiet possession of their country and a part of our's — and how are they to be approached? You cannot approach them by water, because they command the Lakes — In approaching them by land you must pass through a wilderness filled with savages under British control, and devoted to British interest. The consequences of such an attempt may probably be best learned from the history of the campaign in that very country conducted by Gens: Harmar, St- Clair and Wayne. In Upper Canada they have a governor who is a Major Gen. in their army — who commands the regular troops, the militia and the Indians — the whole force of the country is therefore combined under his command and may be directed to a single point without any collision. 

From the preceding state (ment) of facts and observations it must be apparent that fort Detroit and the settlements in it's neighbourhood — and likewise Michilimackinac and Chicaga under present circumstances are in the power of the British — and that their possession of them would be extremely calamitous 

to the United States. In the event of peace with England I am of opinion that the northern frontier ought to be better protected than it is at present in the event of war — and the object being the reduction of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, I think it must be evident that the establishment of an army at Detroit, sufficient to defend that part of the country, control the Indians, and commence operations on the weakest points of defence of the enemy, would be an incipient measure indispensably necessary. With respect to the other points of attack I shall make no observations, as I probably shall have no agency in them. In considering this subject I have endeavoured to divest myself of all local feelings, and grounded my observations and opinions on public considerations alone.

Two things appear to me to be certain, one is that in the event of war, the enemy will attempt to take possession of that country, with a view to obtain the assistance of the Indians residing in our territory; and the other is, that under its present circumstances of defence, it will be in their power to do it. A part of your army now recruiting may be as well supported and disciplined at Detroit as at any other place. A force adequate to the defence of that vulnerable point, would prevent a war with the savages, and probably induce the enemy to abandon the province of Upper Canada without opposition. The naval force on the Lakes would in that event fall into our possession — and we should obtain the command of the waters without the expense of building such a force. 

The British cannot hold Upper Canada without the assistance of the Indians, and that assistance they cannot obtain if we have an adequate force in the situation I have pointed out. There is another consideration very important. It will do more to prevent a general Indian war, as far West, and beyond the Mississippi, than any other measure. The Indians cannot conduct a war without the assistance of a civilized nation. 

The British establishment at Amherstberg is the great emporium from which even the most distant Indians receive their supplies. A force at the point I. have mentioned would prevent all communication of the Indians with that post — indeed sir, in every point of view in which the subject can be considered, it appears to me of the first importance to adopt the measure. 

No comments:

Post a Comment