August 7 1812: Hull's Decision Day

On August 7, 1812, is a contradictory day for General William Hull in Sandwich, Upper Canada. First, he gives orders to attack Fort Malden. Robert Lucas describes the exaltation of his men at last attacking the enemy. He writes: "the expected attack was on Malden every Countenance was cheered and their spirits raised with a prospect of having liberty to act in Defence of their Country." They would soon be  disappointed as Hull countermanded the order and instead ordered that his army, at night, recross the Detroit River. Robert Lucas entry for August 7 1812 reads: 
[ Friday, August the Seventh ] 
7th this morning Genl Orders issued for the army to draw 5 days provision to have three days cooked and prepare themsel[v]es against the next morning to take the field against the en[e]my. Major Den[n]y was directed to stay in the fort at Gowris with 150 Men but by Solicitation Capt Cook of the 4th Regt was allowed to stay with him those that was to Stay in the fort was the Convelessent that was not able to take the field, the expected attack was on Maldon every Countenance was cheered and their spirits raised with a prospect of having liberty to act in Defence of their Country, but to the[i]r great Supprise and dissatisfaction in the dusk of the evening the Orders for taking the field was Comprimanded and the army was ordered to recross the Detroit River to detroit after night which was done, or at least as many as Could be Crossed till daylight, (and from this time will be recorded the Dastardly evacuation of Sandwich by Gnl Hull Contrary to the general wish of all his troops) 
Hull will receive letters on August 7 showing that the British are moving reinforcements up Lake Ontario to Lake Erie and Fort Malden. He fears Native attacks from Lake Huron. On his rear, the line of communications and supply have been severed by Tecumseh. On August 7 1812, Hull is writing to Secretary of War Eustis about the attack at Brownswtown. Hull is thus  under siege from all sides. He feels he has no further option but to retreat. His letter to the Secretary of War describibing the Battle of Brownstown is reproduced below. 

Sandwich, August 7, 1812.

Sir,— On the 4th inst. major Vanhorn, of colonel Findley's regiment of Ohio volunteers, was detached from this army, with the command of 200 men, principally riflemen, to proceed to the river Raisin, and further, if necessary, to meet and reinforce capt. Brush, of the state of Ohio, commanding a , company of volunteers, and escorting provisions for this army. At Brownstown, a large body of Indians had formed an ambuscade, and the major's detachment received a heavy fire, at the distance of fifty yards from the enemy. The whole detachment retreated in disorder. Major Vanhorn made every exertion to form, and prevent the retreat, that was possible for a brave and gallant officer, but without success. By the return of killed and wounded, it will be perceived, that the loss of officers was uncommonly great. The efforts to rally their companies was the occasion of it.
 Report of killed in Major Vanhorne's defeat.
Captains Gilchrist, UUery, M'Callough of the spies, Eoerstler severely wounded, and not expected to recover (since dead) ; lieutenant Pentz ; ensigns Eoby and Allison ; 10 privates. Total 17. Number of wounded, as yet unknown.
On August 7, 1812, General Dearborn in Albany is also writing to the Secretary of War Eustis [1] and again demonstrating a breathtaking incompetence. While Hull is surrounded Dearborn does nothing. He writes: 
It is said that a detachment [of British troops] has been sent from Niagara by land to Detroit ; if so, I should presume before they can march two hundred and  fifty miles General Hull will receive notice of their approach, and in season to cut them off before they reach Fort Malden. It is reported that no ordnance or ammunition have reached Niagara this season, and that there is great deficiency of these articles. Not having considered any part of the borders of Upper Canada as within the command intended for me, I have received no reports or returns from that quarter, and did not until since my last arrival at this place give any orders to the commanding officers of the respective posts on that frontier. 

Hull will issue the following order on August 7 1812:  

Sandwich, August 7, 1812.

Doctor Edwards will take charge of the medical and surgical departments until further orders and will immediately make every preparation to take the field against the enemy. All the tents and baggage not necessary will be immediately sent to Detroit. The boats not necessary for the movement of the army will be sent to Detroit. An officer with twenty-five  convalescents will remain at the fort at Gowie's with a boat sufficient to cross the river if necessary. All the artillery not taken by the army will be sent immediately to Detroit. The army will take seven days' provisions-. Three days' provisions will be drawn to-morrow morning and will be cooked; the residue will be taken in waggons. Pork will be drawn for the meat part of the ration. One hundred axes, fifty spades, and twenty pickaxes will be taken for the army and a raft of timber and plank suitable for bridges will be prepared and floated down with the batteries. Only one day's whiskey will be drawn each day and twelve barrels will be taken in waggons. All the artificers and all men on any kind of extra duty will immediately join their regiments.


1. Henry Adams,  History of the United States 1809-17 (New York, Library of America, 1986), pages 518. 

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