THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 July 22-July 28
Paralysis on the Northwest Frontier
Since invading what is now southern Ontario, Canada on July 12, Brigadier Gen. William Hull has made little progress against the much smaller force of British regulars, Canadian militia and Native Americans (called First Nations in Canada today) arrayed against him.
Hull’s forces land at Sandwich (now Windsor, Ontario) across the Detroit River from Fort Detroit in Michigan Territory. Numbering about 300 U.S. Army regulars and 1,600 Ohio and Michigan militiamen, they see little action except for some raids northeast along the Thames River. Those raids by mounted troops discourage Canadian militia from opposing the Americans.
On July 16 some of Hull’s troops drive off a much smaller British-Canadian force at River Canard near the fort guarding Amherstburg, about 20 miles father down the peninsula that divides Lake Erie from Lake Huron. One British soldier is killed. Another is wounded and captured. They are the first British casualties in the war. After the war, the fort was rebuilt and re-named Fort Malden.
But Hull, a revolutionary war hero now almost 60, is reluctant to take on the fortified position without artillery. His cannon have unsound gun carriages that need repair and can’t be brought up from the landing place at Sandwich. Hull is also concerned about reports that Indians allied with the Canadians are gathering in greater numbers against him on both sides of the Detroit River.
Despite his urgings – even before the Michigan-Canada campaign began – the U.S. Military command has not built or dispatched sufficient warships to protect Hull’s supply lines from Ohio along the western Lake Erie and Detroit River shorelines. Hull believes this will leave several outposts with tiny garrisons like Fort Dearborn (present day Chicago) and Fort Mackinac (at the northern tip of lower Michigan) vulnerable to attack.
His worries grow after receiving word in August that the Army post at Mackinac far to the north has fallen to British-Canadian-Indian forces on July 17 – without a shot. Hull decides to pull back toward his beach head at Sandwich.
Several of Hull’s officers disagree with this timidity and discuss removing him from command. The Ohio militia colonels are especially hostile to Hull. The bickering will continue at Hull’s frequent council of war meetings well into August.
Next Week: Rioting in Baltimore
Entry filed under: National Security and Defense, SHAKO, THIS WEEK in the War of 1812, Traditions, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: Amherstburg, Army, Canada, Defense, Fort Detroit, War of 1812, War of 1812 Bicentennial.