THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (July 1-July 7)
Local Politics and Slow News
Despite the American outrage over the seizure of sailors on U.S.-flagged ships and suspected British encouragement of Native American attacks on western outposts, not everyone favored war with one of the world’s greatest military and naval powers.
On July 2, Connecticut Roger Griswold announces he will not allow his state militia to serve in the war with Great Britain. A month later, on August 5, Massachusetts Gov. Caleb Strong follows suit, refusing to commit Massachusetts men to fighting in the war. The lower house of the Massachusetts legislature issued a statement condemning the war June 26 – just eight days after President James Madison signed Congress’ war declaration.
The war was not popular in New England – even though Vice President Rufus King and Secretary of War William Eustis hailed from the region – because various diplomatic strategies and embargoes failed to pressure Britain and France to leave U.S. commercial vessels alone. Instead, the maneuvering seriously hurt maritime trade and many in New England feared war would would be a calamity for shipping. Also New England was a stronghold of the Federalist Party. Many of its members feared the war would drive the United States into the arms of France – and also suspected it was just a ploy by Democratic Republicans to win re-election.
Meanwhile, Eustis had been corresponding all Spring with Brigadier William Hull, the commander of an army marching across Michigan to prepare to attack Canada in the event of war. On the day war was declared, Eustis sent a letter to Hull advising him of the situation but he sent via regular mail instead of special courier, according to Union 1812 by A.J. Langguth. The letter reached Hull on July 2. But the British in Canada learned of the war three days earlier.
So on July 2 when the schooner Cuyahoga Packet – carrying supplies, U.S. soldiers too sick to march and Hull’s personal papers and battle plans – was waylaid by a small boat of armed British soldiers on the Detroit River, its capatin and crew had no idea the war was on and they were captured.
The slow movement of war news would play a major role in the Battle of New Orleans at the end of the war.
Editor’s Note: A massive power outage and internet interruption in the Greater Washington area after last week’s violent storm delayed This Week in the War of 1812. We regret the inconvenience.