THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (August 5 –
With his supply lines from Michigan compromised and the threat of even more First Nations (as they’re called in Canada) warriors joining the small force of British and Canadian troops defending Amherstburg, U.S. Brigadier Gen. William Hull decides to withdraw from his toehold in Upper Canada (now Ontario) in early August and retreat back across the Detroit River into Michigan. Hull and his troops return to Fort Detroit, their invasion of Canada lasted a mere 24 days.
At Brownstown Creek in Michigan, Native Americans – mostly Shawnee – led by Tecumseh ambush about 200 U.S. troops heading south from Fort Detroit on Aug. 5 to pick up cattle and much needed supplies.
The American commander – Major Thomas Van Horne overestimates the size of the force opposing him – which may only have numbered 25 warriors – and orders a withdrawal. The retreat soon turns into a rout with 70 militiamen scattering. Seventeen U.S. soldiers are killed, a dozen more are wounded. Most of the 70 missing militiamen turn up at Fort Detroit. But two soldiers are captured and later killed. Apparently only one Native American raider is killed in the skirmish.
More Indians, Fighting
Worried about his dwindling supplies, Hull sends an even bigger force – 280 Army regulars and more than 330 Ohio volunteers – to pick up supplies at the River Raisin in southeast Michigan. But again, the Americans are confronted on Aug. 9 by a combined force of 205 British and Canadian troops and First Nations warriors.
The battle dissolved in confusion through a series of mistakes and misunderstandings by both sides. The outnumbered British force traded fire with a group of Potawatomi coming to their assistance. Both groups thought the other one was Americans.
As the American line wavered under heavy British-Canadian-First Nations fire, the British commander Capt. Adam Muir of the 41st Welsh Regiment of Foot ordered his bugler to sound the charge, but most of his troops came from units that used drums, not bugles, for commands. Confused, they fell back.
When the American commander Lt. Colonel James Miller saw the other troops retreating, he ordered his men to charge. After advancing a way, Miller realized Muir had rallied his troops and they were were prepared for another attack. The American colonel decided not to press his luck. But he also refused to advance and get the supplies, fearing another ambush. Hull finally ordered Miller to return to Detroit. It was the second time in a week that a supply escort column came back empty handed.
American casualties at what would become known as the Battle of Maguaga amounted to 18 dead and 64 wounded. The British troops lost three killed and 13 wounded. The Canadian militia suffered one killed and two wounded. The Indians lost two killed and six wounded.
Next week: Horror at Dearborn, Disgrace at Detroit
Entry filed under: Lessons Learned, National Security and Defense, Special Operations, THIS WEEK in the War of 1812, Traditions. Tags: Army, Indian Wars, U.S. invasion of Canada, War of 1812 Bicentennial.