H. M. (Henry Marie) Brackenridge.

History of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: online

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ing collected a considerable quantity of blankets, ammunition,
and other military stores. Colonel Cass was then despatched
in an opposite direction, towards Fort Maiden, with two hun-
dred and eighty men, for the purpose of reconnoitering the
British and Indians. This place is situated at the junction of
Detroit river with Lake Erie, thirteen miles south of Hull's
camp. Colonel Cass, following the course of the stream,
reached the river Aux Canards, about four miles from Maiden,
where he found a British detachment in possession of the bridge.
After reconnoitering the situation of the enemy, the colonel
placed a rifle company under captain Robinson, near the place,
with orders, to divert the attention of the guard, by keeping up
a fire until the remainder of the party should appear on the


Skirmishes on the River Aiix Canards.

opposite side. This part of the detachment, was to have forded
the river about five miles below. The design was frustrated,
by their want of a sufficient knowledge of the country; the
detachment was unable to reach the designated spot, until late
in the evening. In tiie meanwhile, the attempt to surprise the
post had been discovered, and it was strengthened by considera-
ble reinforcements ; notwithstanding which, a smart skirmish
ensued, and the enemy was compelled to abandon his position,
after losing eleven killed and wounded, besides several desert-
ers. Colonel Cass, having no orders to retain possession of
it, although constituting the principal obstruction between the
American camp and Maiden, thought proper to retire.

These skirmishes, in which the Americans were generally
successful, served to inspire confidence, and, together with the
proclamation, had an effect upon the Canadians, many of whom
joined our standard, and threw themselves on Hull for protec-
tion. These were, however, but preludes to the main object
in view, the reduction of Fort IMalden. Preparations for this
purpose proceeded slowly ; no artillery was provided for the
occasion. It was not until the beginning of August, that two
twenty-four pounders and three howitzers were mounted, and
no attempt in the meanwhile had been made upon the fort.
The capture of this place, which would have been necessary in
the prosecution of any further design, had now become neces-
sary to self-preservation. A most unexpected disaster had
happened during the last month ; an event, to which many of
our subsequent misfortunes are to be attributed. This was the
surrender of Michilimackinac.

On the 16th of July, a party of three hundred British
troops, and upwards of six hundred Indians, embarked at St
Joseph's, and reached the island next morning. A prisoner
was desp-.itched to inform the garrison, and the inhabitants of
the village, that if any resistance were made they would all be
indiscriminately put to death. Many of the inhabitants escaped
to the British for protection. The garrison consisted of no
more than lifty-six men, under the command of lieutenant
Hanks, of the artillery. A flag was now sent by the enemy,
to the fort, demanding a surrender. This was the first intima-
tion of the declaration of war, which the garrison had received.
Until this moment, the American commandant had considered
this as one of the outrages on the part of the Indians, which of
late had been frequent ; he had therefore resolved to defend
himself to the last extremity. He now considered it prudent
to agree to a capitulation, as there was no hope of being able
to defend himself successfully, against so great a disparity of


Taking of Michilimackinac.

force. The garrison was accordingly delivered uj) ; security to
the property and persons of individuals was stipulated, and the
British put in possession of one of the strongest ])ositions in the
United States, on that account, sometimes called the American
Gibraltar. The situation completely commands the northwest
trade, which is compelled to pass immediately under the guns of
the fort, and consequently affords the best means of intercepting
the Indian supplies, and of checking the incursions of those
restless warriors. The blame of this aHair lias been thrown
by some upon the government, by others on Hull : the follow-
ing facts will enable the reader to judge. Hull reached De-
troit on the 5th of July, and the fall of Michilimackinac
took place on the 17th. Tiie distance is two hundred and
forty miles. That the British at JMalden should have had
sooner intelligence of the declaration of war, than the American
general, is less surprising when we consider the wonderful
activity of those engaged in the Indian trade, as well as the cir-
cumstances of the regular establishments, all along the lakes.
Notwithstanding this, it is not easy to account for the tardiness
with which the news of war was transmitted from Detroit to
Michilimackinac ; nor was this satisfactorily explained by the
American general.

Intelligence of this unfortunate occurrence, which so com-
pletely changed the face of affairs, reached Hull on the 23d of
July, while engaged in making preparations for the attack on
Maiden. The British, by this time, were considerably rein-
forced, and aided by an additional number of Indians. The
golden moment had been suffered to pass. It is generally con-
ceded, that if an assault had been made on the fort in the first
instance, it must have fallen. This was the opinion of the
officers: the general, however, declined it under various pre-
texts. But having neglected this opportunity, there was no
longer any hope of carrying the place without being provided
with a train of artillery, and the necessary means for a regular
assault. The necessity of possessing the post, became every
day more apparent. With the fall of Michilimackinac, that of
Chicago, and all the other western posts, might be expected to
follow, and the Indian tribes would move down with all the
force of the Northwest Company ; rendering the situation of
our army extremely critical. In anticipation of these events,
the general had sent repealed expresses to procnre reinforce-
ments. His confident expectations of those reinforcements,
may probably be one reason of the slowness of his movements
against Maiden, contenting himself with carrying on a vigilant
partizan war, in itself of little consequence. Reinforcements


Battle of Brownstown.

were not hastened, from the belief that the force under his com-
mand, was more than sufficient for all the purposes that could
be accomplished in this quarter.

The spirit which had animated the troops, in the first in-
stance, was gradually giving way to the feelings of despon-
dency ; while their commander had by this time nearly lost
their confidence. By the 1st of August, every thing being
made ready for the attack on Maiden, a council of war was
convened, and the result was a determination to make it imme-
diately. Desertions from the Canada militia still continued,
and the whole force was animated with the prospect of under-
taking an enterprise, M'hich it was believed could not but be suc-
cessful. The cannon was well mounted, and embarked on
floating batteries. The general had approved the deliberations
of the council, and the day was actually appointed for carry-
ing them into execution.

Some time before this, a company of Ohio volunteers, under
the command of captain Brush, had arrived at the river Raisin,
with supplies for the army. As their march to Detroit, a
distance of thirty-six miles, was attended with considerable
dangers, from parties of the enemy, it was deemed prudent to
remain here until an escort could be sent to guard them. This
duty was confided to major Vanhorn, with a detachment of one
hundred and fifty men. On his second day's march, near
Brownstown, he was suddenly attacked on all sides by British
regulars and Indians. His little force made a determined re-
sistance, and being commanded by a brave and skilful officer,
was at length brought ofi", with the loss of nineteen killed and
missing, and nine wounded. Captains Gilcrease, M'CuUoch,
and Bostler were killed, and captain Ulry severely wounded.

Scarcely had this detachment left the camp at Sandwich,
when a sudden and unlocked for change took place in the de-
termination of the commander-in-chief. AVithout any apparent
cause, or the occurrence of any new event, he announced his
intention of abandoning not only the design upon Maiden, but
even the position which he then held. This operated very
unfavourably upon the army; the volunteers murmured; they
upbraided their commander with pusillanimity, and even trea-
chery ; and it was with difficulty they could be restrained by
their own officers, in whom they confided. The disappoint-
ment and vexation which ensued, can better be imagined than
described : all confidence in their leader was evidently at an
end : if treacherous, he might deliver them up to be massacred ;
and it was evident he was deficient in the skill and ability ne-
cessary to command. It was with much reluctance this gallant


Battle of Magagua.

little army was compelled to abandon, almost in disgrace, the
flattering hopes which they thought themselves on the point
of realizing. Tliey reached the opposite shore on the 8th of
August, where they received the intelligence of the affair of
major Vanhorn, of the day before. Such was the termination
of this expedition into Canada, of whose success, an account
was every moment expected in the United States. Happy had
it been if the misfortunes of our arms had terminated here !
The enemy's territory was not, however, entirely evacuated ;
a detachment of about three hundred men was left to keep pos-
session of Sandwich, principally with a view of affording some
protection to tlie Canadians who had been induced by Hull's
proclamation to join our standard.

One thing was now on all hands considered indispensable,
the opening the communication with the river Raisin. In a
few weeks, the army might stand in need of the supplies in
the possession of captain Brush; and at all events, its situation
was rendered extremely unpleasant, by being thus cut off from
all communication with the state of Ohio. To effect this ob-
ject, a respectable force detached under lieutenant-colonel
James Miller, of the United States army, consisting of three
hundred regulars of the gallant Fourth regiment, which had dis-
tinguished itself under colonel Boyd, at the battle of Tippecanoe,
and also about two hundred militia. The enemy, anticipating
a renewal of the attempt, had sent reinforcements of regulars
and Indians, so that their force was little short of seven hun-
dred and fifty men : this force might, moreover, be increased
during an engagement, from Maiden, which is situated oppo-
site Brownstown. Tliey had also thrown up a temporary
breast-work, of trees and logs, about four miles from this town,
at a place called Magagua, behind which the greater part of the
Indians, under Tecumseh, lay concealed, waiting the approach
of the Americans ; the whole commanded by major Muir, of
the British army.

On the 9th, cur detachment proceeded on its march, but with
great caution, from the danger of surprise. They, however,
drew near the ambuscade, before it was discovered; when sud-
denly the attack was commenced on captain Snelling, who
commanded the advance, with the usual barbarous shouts of
the enemy. This corps, undaunted by this sudden onset, kept
its ground until the main body approached, when the Indians
sprang up, and with the regulars furiously advanced to the front
of the breast-work, where they formed a regular line, and com-
menced a heavy fire. Colonel Miller, with the utmost celerity
and coolness, drew up his men, opened a brisk fire, and then


Battle of Magagua Taking of Chicago.

charged. The British regulars gave way, but the Indians under
Tecumseh, betaking themselves to the woods on each side, kept
their ground with desperate obstinacy. The regulars being
rallied, returned to the combat, which continued lor some time,
with equal resolution. The conduct of our countrymen, on
this occasion, cannot be too much admired : the stoutest hearts
might have Aiiled when thus attacked on all sides by more than
five hundred savages, painted in the most hideous manner, and
yelling like demons; engaged at the same time with a body of
regulars. Disregarding both the savage shrieks and the mus-
ketry of the British, the American leader repelled their attacks
on every side, his troops gallantly maintaining their ground
until the enemy was compelled to yield. They retired slowly
to Brownstown, literally retreating at the point of the bayonet;
here they hastily embarked in boats, provided for their recep-
tion. Had ni)t this precaution been taken, it is probable the
whole force would have fallen into the hands of the Americans.
Their loss was, of the regulars, fifteen killed, and thirty or forty
wounded, but of the Indians nearly one hundred were left on
the field. In this battle, which lasted about two hours, we had
fifteen killed, and about sixty wounded. The officers who
chiefly distinguished themselves were captain Baker, lieuten-
ants Larrabee and Peters, and ensign Whistler. The next day
at noon, colonel Miller, who kept possession of Brownstown,
received orders to return to Detroit. This was rendered ne-
cessary from the fatigue which his command had experienced
in the engagement of the day before. It was tliought more
advisable to send a fresh detachment to accomplish the ultimate

An occurrence took place about this time in another quarter,
which ought not to be passed in silence. Captain HeakI, who
commanded at fort Ciiicago, had received orders from Hull to
abandon that post and make his way to Detroit. He accord-
ingly consigned the public property to the care of some friendly
Indians ; and with his company, about fifty regulars, accompa-
nied by several families, which had resided near this place, set
out on his march. He had proceeded but a short distance
along the beach of the lake, when he was attacked by a large
body of Indians, who occupied the bank. Captain Heald as-
cended the bank, and fought them for some time, until they had
gained his rear and taken possession of his horses and baggage.
He then retired to an open piece of ground, where he was en-
abled to keep the Indians at bay. But finding that he would
be compelled to yield at last, he accepted the ofler of protection
from an Indian chief. Twenty-six regulars were killed, and



Surrender of General HuW.

all the militia ; a number of women and children were inhu-
manly murdered. Captain Wells and ensign Warner were
among the killed. Heald with his lady, who had received six
wounds, himself severely wounded, after a variety of escapes,
at length reached Michilimackinac.

The victory at Magagua, though brilliant and highly honour-
able to the American arms, was productive of no essential ad-
vantage. Two days afterwards, a despatch was sent to captain
Brush, who was still in waiting for the escort at the river Rai-
sin, informing him that in consequence of the fatigue of the
Tictorious detachment, it had been rendered incapable of pro-
ceeding furtiier, and that it was become impossible to send a
sufficient force by the usual route ; thathe must therefore remain
where he was until circumstances should be more favourable.
In a postscript, the general advised him that an attempt would
be made to open the communication in another quarter, by
crossing the river Huron higher up the country. And accord-
ingly, on the 14th, colonels Miller and Cass were despatched
with three hundred and fifty men, for this purpose. Some time
before this, an express had been received from general Hall,
commanding at Niagara, bringing information that it was not
in his power to send reinforcements.

On the 19th, the British took a position opposite Detroit,
and immediately set themselves about erecting batteries. On
their approach, major Denny, who commanded at Sandwich,
abandoned his position, and crossed over to Detroit, it having
been determined to act entirely on the defensive. The British
continued their preparations for the attack. On the 15th, a flag
of truce was sent by them to summon the place to surrender.
A note to the following efl'ect was directed to general Hull, by
the British commander : " Sir вАФ The forces at my disposal autho-
rize me to require of you the surrender of Detroit. It is far
from my inclination to join in a war of extermination, but you
must be aware that the numerous body of Indians who have
attached themselves to my troops will be beyond my control
the moment the contest commences. You will find me dis-
posed to enter into such conditions as will satisfy the most
scrupulous sense of honour. Lieutenant-colonel M'Donald and
major Glegg are fully authorized to enter into any arrangements
that may tend to prevent the unnecessary effusion of blood."
This was signed by major-general Brock.

To this summon^ an answer was returned, that the fort
would be defended to the last extremity. The British imme-
diately opened their batteries, and continued to throw shells
during a great part of the night. The fire was returned, but


Sulrender of Hull.

with attle effect on either side. In the morning, it was dis-
covered that the British were landing their troops at Spring
Wells, under cover of their ships. To prevent the landing
from the fort, at this moment, was a matter impossible ; the
town lying between it and the river. But if Hull had not
neglected the advice of his officers, he might have effectually
prevented it, by erecting batteries on the bank, where they
would be compelled to debark. A strange fatality seemed to
attend this unfortunate man in everything he did, or neglected
to do. The enemy having landed, about ten o'clock advanced
towards the fort in close column, and tv/elve deep. 'J'he fort
being separated from the town, by an open space of about two
hundred yards, they would be enabled to approach within tliis
distance, before its guns could be brought to bear upon them,
unless they could aj)proach in the rear. Tlie American force
was, however, judiciously disposed to prevent their advance.
The militia, and a great part of the volunteers, occupied the
town, or were posted behind pickets, whence they could annoy
the enemy's flanks ; the reguhirs defended the fort, and two
tsVenty-four pounders charged with grape, were advantageously
)>osted on an eminence, and could sweep tlie whole of the
enemy's line, as he advanced. All was now silent expecta-
tion: the daring foe still slowly moved forward, apparently
regardless, or unconscious of their danger; for their destruc-
tion must Itave been certain, had they not been impressed with
contempt for a commander, who had so meanly abandoned
Sandwich a few days before. The hearts of our countrymen
beat high, at the near prospect of regaining their credit. But
who can describe the chagrin and mortification which took
possession of these troops, when orders were issued for tiiem
to retire to the fort ; and the artillery, at the very moment
when it was thought the British were deliberately advancing
to the most certain destruction, was ordered not to fire ! The
whole force, together with a great number of women and chil-
dren, was gathered into the fort, almost too narrow to contain
them. Here the troops were ordered to stack their arms, and
to the astonishment of every one, a white flag, in token of sub-
mission, was suspended from the walls. A British officer
rode up to ascertain the cause. A capitulation was agreed to,
without even stipulating the terms. Words are wanting to ex-
press the feelings of the Americans on this occasion ; they
considered themselves basely betrayed, in thus surrendering to
an inferior force without firing a gun, when they were firmly
convinced that that force was in their power. They had pro-
visions for at least fifteen days, and were provided with all the


Surrender of Hull.

requisite munitions of war. They were compelled, thus hu-
miliated, to march out, and to surrender themselves prisoners
at discretion. The British took immediate possession of the
fort, with all the public property it contained ; amongst which
there were forty barrels of powder, four hundred rounds of
fixed twenty-four pound shot, one hundred thousand ball car-
tridges, two thousand five hundred stand of arms, twenty-five
pieces of iron cannon, and eight of brass, the greater number of
which had been captured by the Americans during the revolu-
tionary war.

The whole territory, and all the forts and garrisons of the
United States, within the district of the general, were also
formally surrendered ; and the detachment under colonels
Cass and M'Arthur, as well as the party under captain Brush,
were included in the capitulation. Orders had been despatched
the evening before, for the detachment under Cass and M'Ar-
thur to return, and they had approached almost sufficiently
near to discover the movements of the enemy, while their ac-
cidental situation might enable them to render the most
material service during the attack. They were surprised at
the silence which prevailed, when every moment was expected
to announce the conflict ; and that surprise was soon changed
into rage, when they learned the capitulation. A British
officer was then despatched to the river Raisin, to convey the
intelligence to captain Brush, who at first gave no credit to so
improbable a tale, and actually put the officer in confinement.
The melancholy story was, however, soon confirmed by some
Americans who had escaped. Captain Brush indignantly re-
fused to submit to the capitulation, declaring that Hull had no
right to include him, and determined to return to the state of
Ohio. He first deliberated, whether he should destroy the
public stores, which he had in his possession, and which he
could not carry away ; but reflecting that this might be used as
a pretext for harsh treatment to his countrymen, he resolved
to abandon them. The greater part of the volunteers and
militia, were permitted to return home ; but the regulars, to-
gether with the general, were taken to Quebec.

In his official despatch, Hull took great pains to free his con-
duct from censure. In swelling the account of the dangers
with which he conceived himself beset, every idle rumour
which had operated on his fears, was placed under contribu-
tion, while his imagination conjured up a thousand frightful
phantoms. He magnified the reinforcements under colonel
Proctor, and gave implicit belief to the story that the whole
force of the Northwestern Fur Company, under major Cham-


Surrender of Hull.

bers, was approaching; nothing, in fact, was forgotten, wliich
could heighten the picture, or tend to take the blame from
him. While on the Canada side, it was impossible to effect
any thing against Maiden, from the difficulty of transporting
his artillery. Every thing is difficult to a man who wants the
necessary talents. The British garrison had been wonderfully
strengthened, and at this critical moment, general Hall, of
Niagara, announced that it was not in his power to assist him.
What then could be done but to cross over to Detroit, that is,
to abandon the inhabitants of Canada, who had placed them-
selves under his protection ; to fly, before the enemy had even
attempted to attack or molest him, and thus encourage them in
what they would never probably have thought it possible to

But what appears most to figure, in this attempted vindica-
tion, is the frightful display of Indian auxiliaries. The whole
" Northern hive," as he called it, was let loose : Winnebagos,
Wyandots, Hurons, Cliippeways, Knistenoos and Algonquins,
Pottowatomies, Sacks and Kickapoos, were swarming in llie
neighouring woods, and concealed behind every bush, ready
to rush to the indiscriminate slaughter of the Americans. He
represented his situation at the moment of surrender, as most
deplorable. In consequence of the absence of colonels Cass
and M'Arthur, he could not bring more than six hundred men
into the field, and he w^as, moreover, destitute of all necessaiy
supplies and munitions of war: yet, by tlie morning's report,
his force exceeded a thousand men fit for duty, besides the de-
tachment which might be expected to arrive, about the time of
the engagement; and also three hundred Michigan militia who

Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeHistory of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: → online text (page 4 of 32)