Posts tagged ‘War of 1812’

FRIDAY FOTO (December 25, 2020)

Happy Holidays

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Grant G. Grady). Click on the photo to enlarge the image.

The USS Constitution displays holiday lights and decorations during a snow storm while moored to the pier at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Massachusetts.

Constitution is the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, and played a crucial role in the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812. Dubbed “Old Ironsides” in 1812 when British cannon balls seemed to bounce off the ship’s sturdy oak hull, Constitution actively defended sea lanes from 1797 to 1855.

Here at 4GWAR blog we wish everyone a safe and joyous holiday time to help put this very trying year behind us.

Please stay safe: keep your distance at least six feet apart and wear a mask or face-covering when you can’t. It they can do it under these circumstances, you can too.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist George M. Bell/Released)


December 25, 2020 at 12:36 am 2 comments

SHAKO: Defenders Day Blast

Purple Cannons Majesty.

Old Guard Artillery Baltimore

(U.S. Army photo by Sergeant Jacob Holmes)

Soldiers assigned to the Presidential Salute Battery of 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” participate in a Defenders Day performance at Fort McHenry in Baltimore on September  14, 2019. Defenders Day commemorates the successful defense of Baltimore from a British invasion force during the War of 1812.

Based at Fort Myer, Virginia, the 3d U.S. Infantry is the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the Army, serving the  nation since 1784. “The Old Guard” is the Army’s official ceremonial unit that accompanies honor funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, guards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and serves as escort to the president. Other units in the regiment include the Continental Color Guard, red-coated Fife and Drum Corps, and the U.S. Army Drill Team.

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.west point cadets.pdf

 SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.


October 11, 2019 at 2:18 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: U.S. Entered WWI 100 Years Ago Today

Over there.

On this date in 1917, the United States entered what was then known as the Great War.


A column of American troops passing Buckingham Palace, London, 1917. (Photo: Imperial War Museum collection)

After avoiding entanglement in the European bloodbath that erupted in August 1914, America finally got involved when Germany resumed unconditional submarine warfare — threatening freedom of the seas — and tried to win over Mexico as an ally by promising a return of lands lost in the Mexican-American War of 1846.

Congress declared war on Germany just two months after U.S. troops under General John J. Pershing returned from a punitive expedition into Mexico to catch or kill the rebel general and bandit Pancho Villa. When Congress declared war of April 6, 1917, the U.S. army was still small and hadn’t fought a nation state’s army (Spain) since 1898.

While 4GWAR won’t be following the centennial of World War I as closely as we did the bicentennial of the War of 1812, SHAKO will be checking in from time to time to ponder the implications of America’s involvement in an overseas war that saw the introduction of tank warfare, poison gas and the widespread use of the airplane, submarine and machine gun.


Pilots of the 94th Aero Squadron at Foucaucourt Aerodrome, France, November 1918. The top U.S. air ace of WWI, Eddie Rickenbacker (center), leans against a SPAD XIII fighter plane bearing the squadron’s “Hat in the Ring” symbol.

World War I also saw veteran units like the Marine Corps and the 69th New York Infantry Regiment add to their glory while new outfits like the “Harlem Hellfighters” and the “Hat in the Ring Squadron” added their names to the history books.

In the coming months leading up to November 11, 2018, we hope to introduce you to some interesting people and units like the “One Man Army,” the “Lost Battalion,” “Arizona Balloon Buster,” and the “Rock of the Marne.” Meanwhile, to get you started, here are some informative websites about World War One and the American Expeditionary Force. The U.S. Army Center of Military History, The Great War and the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission.

SHAKOSHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point New York.


April 6, 2017 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (March 15-21, 1815) PART II

The Final Act, Part II

Winners and Losers

U.S. forces, including Choctaw Indians and Free Men of Color battle British troops in a surprise night attack in the fog south of New Orleans. (U.S. Army Center of Military History)

U.S. forces, including Choctaw Indians and Free Men of Color battle British troops in a surprise night attack in the fog south of New Orleans.
(U.S. Army Center of Military History)

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland hasn’t lost anything in the War of 1812 except a little prestige and maybe a little arrogance (especially after the humiliating defeat at New Orleans) but the Royal Navy still rules the seas and the British Army will soon vanquish Napoleon at Waterloo. Within 100 years, Hong Kong, New Zealand, large parts of south, east and west Africa, all of India and Burma are added to an empire that stretches around the globe.

The United States of America, while fighting the most powerful nation on Earth to a draw, can hardly call the ill-conceived war (the Americans declared war first) a victory. The White House, U.S. Capitol, Washington Navy Yard and several other government buildings are in ruins — as is York (now Toronto).  Canada remains part of the British Empire. All but one of the many attempted American invasions of Canada failed — and most ended in utter disaster even though U.S. troops often outnumbered Canadian militia and the few British regulars the mother country could spare during its war with Napoleon

Canada Finds a Cause.

Many Americans at the time saw the war as a second War of Independence from an overbearing Britain. And with the defeats of British forces on Lake Erie and Lake Champlain, the defense of Baltimore and the overwhelming victory at New Orleans, they also saw themselves as a kind of David battling a British Goliath. Those victories, due as much to luck and enemy hubris, as bravery and superior firepower, spark a surge of pride and the notion of American exceptionalism that we’re still dealing with today.

But folks up North see it very differently. To the Canadians, they were the Davids fending off the more populous nation to the South that wanted to conquer Canada and make it part of the United States. Pro-War politicians in Washington, mainly from the South and West, thought conquering Canada would be easy. Even former President Thomas Jefferson opined that it would be just “a matter of marching” into Canada. Many in the states thought the people of Canada would embrace the American cause, forgetting that many of them were Tory refugees who fled to Canada after the American Revolution, preferring to be ruled by a king rather than “rabble.”

So in Canada, the war is seen as a heroic defense against an invasion by a larger opponent.

The Indian Question.

If the Canadians were the real winners, Native Americans (called First Nations in Canada) suffered the greatest loss.

Led by the remarkable Tecumseh, the Shawnee and other tribes of the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes formed a confederacy to halt the relentless pressure on their lands by the skyrocketing white population. Those tribes threw in their lot with the British who promised them an Indians-only zone between the United States and Canada after the war. There were early victories at Detroit and Fort Mackinac in Michigan Territory and at Fort Dearborn in what is now Illinois. But gradually the tide turned and when Tecumseh was killed at the Battle of the Thames River in 1813, the confederacy fell apart. British support and supplies for the tribes began to fade and there was no mention of protecting the Indian rights in the Treaty of Ghent that ended the war.

In the American South, Creek warriors known as Red Sticks, for their violent opposition to American expansion into their territory, were moved by Tecumseh’s oratory and decided to side with the British. Other Creeks, known as White Sticks, opposed warring on the Americans. A virtual civil war broke out among the factions. But it spilled over into an attack on both White Sticks and white people taking refuge at stockade in southern Alabama known as Fort Mims. As many as 200-500 whites and White Stick Creeks — including women and children — were killed in the attack

The “Fort Mims Massacre,” both terrified and galvanized whites on the frontier. An army of Tennessee and Kentucky militia, along with some regular troops commanded by Major General Andrew Jackson, crushed the Creeks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend and forced them to give up 23 million acres of their land in the Treaty of Fort Jackson in 1814. Years later, after he was elected president, Jackson pushed a bill through Congress, the Indian Removal Act, which forced most eastern Indian tribes to migrate West of the Mississippi River.

Opportunity Lost.

The Treaty of Ghent called for both the United States and Britain to take steps to end the international slave trade, but just as it made no mention of Indian rights or the rights of American ships at sea, it said nothing about slaves or free blacks already in North America.

As we noted yesterday (March 15) there were 1.1 million enslaved black people in the United States by the end of the war. Slaves built the U.S. Capitol, which the British burned in 1814. Slaves dug the three-quarter mile-long trench and the embankment behind it to fortify the American defensive line at New Orleans. Slaves and free blacks helped build the fortifications that defended Baltimore. And free blacks in the U.S. Corps of Flotillamen fought beside U.S. Marines and militia at the Battle of Bladensburg. The flotillamen did not flee when the militia broke and ran.

At the Battle of Lake Erie, where Oliver Hazzard Perry’s fleet beat the British, his black sailors performed so well that Perry praised their courage in a letter to the Navy Secretary.

On the privateers that bedeviled the British at sea, half the crews were often black. At New Orleans, free black men — many of them refugees from the slave revolt in Haiti — along with Choctaw Indians, Jean Lafitte’s pirates and smugglers fought side-by-side with Army regulars, Marines and militiamen from Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Andrew Jackson, himself a slaveholder in Tennessee, ordered the paymaster at New Orleans to pay the free black militiamen the same as white soldiers. But once the crisis was over, the gains blacks made in the military evaporated. No large unit of black soldiers would be created again until the Civil War. when 180,000 blacks fought for the Union. Clearing the Indians out of Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia opened the region up for large scale agriculture operations like cotton plantations. The slave-based economy spread West to the Mississippi and beyond.

Other Winners.

Major General Isaac Brock meets Tecumseh. (Historica Canada and Parks Canada)

Major General Isaac Brock meets Tecumseh.
(Historica Canada and Parks Canada)

The War of 1812 gave Canadians an early sense of nationhood. To Americans it gave a poem that became a song that eventually became the national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner. It also gave both countries new heroes. For Canadians, it was General Isaac Brock, who fell leading his men at Queenstown Heights in 1812, and Laura Secord, the farm woman who made a dangerous nighttime journey on foot to warn British-Canadian forces of an approaching American attack.

Laura Secord warns Lieutenant Fitzgibbons of impending U.S. attack. (Courtesy Libraries and Archives Canada)

Laura Secord warns Lieutenant Fitzgibbons of impending U.S. attack.
(Courtesy Libraries and Archives Canada)

For the United States, the war produced four presidents and one would-be-president.  Madison’s Secretary of War, James Monroe, was elected the fifth U.S. president. John Quincy Adams, the head negotiator at the Ghent treaty talks, succeeded Monroe as the sixth president. Andrew Jackson, the hero of New Orleans, was elected the seventh president in 1828.

Two other soldiers in the War of 1812 made it to the White House. William Henry Harrison was elected the ninth president in 1840 and Zachary Taylor was elected in 1848, becoming the 12th president. Another war hero, Winfield Scott, sought the presidency in 1852 as candidate for the Whig Party. He lost, however, to Mexican War veteran Franklin Pierce.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final installment of THIS WEEK in the War of 1812. Our thanks to all our viewers who have visited this 4GWAR feature since June 2012.    To View this series from the start, CLICK HERE.

March 17, 2015 at 2:58 am Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (Jun 15-June 21, 1814)

Men in Motion

"Wellington at Waterloo" by Robert Alexander Hillingford via Wikipedia

“Wellington at Waterloo” by Robert Alexander Hillingford via Wikipedia

There was little if any gunfire this week in 1814 but leaders in Canada, London,Washington and Upstate New York were setting things in motion that would lead to the bloodiest battle of the war in Canada and British attacks on Baltimore, Washington and New Orleans later in the year.

In June, 10,000 British troops – veterans of the Duke of Wellingtons campaign against the French in Spain – are sent to the Americas, first to Bermuda and then on to Quebec.

British Major General Robert Ross – one of Wellington’s best generals – is set to command troops raiding the eastern seaboard. Ross and his troops depart Bordeaux, France June 2, reaching Bermuda on July 25.

With Napoleon removed from the scene, the British prime minister Lord Liverpool, means to teach the upstart Americans a lesson – particularly after U.S. Troops burn York (later to become Toronto, Canada) in 1813.

For the past year, British troops based at Virginia’s Tangier Island in Chesapeake Bay have conducted a series of raids: burning towns and plantations, seizing food and other supplies as well as southerners’ slaves. Many of the now free slaves join the British Corps of Colonial Marines.

The British raid Havre de Grace, Maryland in May 1813, Hampton, Virginia in June. Frenchtown, Fredericktown and Georgetown all on Maryland’s Eastern Shore are also raided in 1813. Raids against military targets in 1814 include: Pongoteague Creek on May 30; a skirmish between British and American naval forces at Cedar Point, Maryland on June 1 and additional skirmishes between the British fleet and a U.S. Navy flotilla of barges turned into gunboats at St. Leonard’s Creek, Maryland between June 8 and June 26.

President James Madison

President James Madison

On June 20, near Benedict, Maryland on the Patuxent River, an advance party of U.S. cavalry clashed with a British raiding party, killing one and capturing five.

Meanwhile, U.S. President James Madison and his cabinet still have their eyes on Canada. Madison thinks if U.S. generals can take parts of Lower Canada before Wellingtons veterans reach North America, the United States will have a bargaining chip at the peace negotiations. Washington dispatches troops from Ohio on June 19 to begin a campaign to control Lake Huron and recapture  Mackinac Island. More troops are moved along the Niagara frontier between New York and Canada, although little is done to reinforce Baltimore, Washington or New Orleans.


June 16, 2014 at 11:38 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: Fort Mims Massacre 1813

Creek War

While U.S. Army regulars and militiamen from the states battled British troops, Canadian militia and warriors from the First Nations (as Canadians now call them) along the Great Lakes and the Upper Midwest during the war of 1812, the Army and state volunteers were also battling the Creek Indians of the Southeast in what has become known as the Creek War.

On August 30, 1813, pro-British members of the Creek Indian nation (also known as the Muskogee) attacked a poorly designed stockade known as Fort Mims in southern Alabama where hundreds of white settlers and pro-U.S. Creeks had taken refuge.

According to some accounts, as many as 500 militia, settlers, slaves and Creeks favoring peace with the Americans were killed or captured in what has become known as the Fort Mims massacre. Modern historians generally put the death toll at about 250 men, women and children.

Fort Mims massacre re-enactment ( photo)

Fort Mims massacre re-enactment ( photo)

The bloodshed between whites and the Creeks in 1813-1814 was an outgrowth a civil war among the Creeks themselves.

That struggle erupted within the Creek nation, which inhabited parts of what is now Alabama and Georgia, over whether to join Shawnee leader Tecumseh‘s campaign against whites of the United States. The Red Sticks faction favored war with white America. Indian leaders from what was known as the Lower Creek towns were against war with the whites. They were known as the White Sticks.

The Fort Mims slaughter terrified whites in the South, who had waged war on and off with various tribes including Cherokee and Seminole Indians since before the American Revolution.  Future President Andrew Jackson, an Army and Tennessee militia general, led a long campaign against the Creeks culminating with the battle (and for all intents a massacre)  against the Indians at Horseshoe Bend in 1814.

Map Courtesy of PCL Map Collection at the Universtity of Texas at Austin

Map Courtesy of PCL Map Collection at the Universtity of Texas at Austin

A year later, Jackson would rise to national prominence following the Battle of New Orleans.


SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

August 30, 2013 at 12:42 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: War on the Frontier, 1813

Siege Begins

Today (May 1) marks the bicentennial of the siege of Fort Meigs on northern Ohio during the War of 1812.

Photo courtesy of Fort Meigs Museum

Photo courtesy of Fort Meigs Museum

In the first year of the war, the U.S. Navy has been scoring one-on-one victories against the Royal Navy but several attempts to invade Canada have ended in failure. Meanwhile, conflict has been constant on the frontier of the Old Northwest – which now makes up the Midwest states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin .

The previous year, the U.S. Army posts of Forts Detroit, Dearborn, Harrison, Madison and Wayne all came under attack by Native Americans – largely unaided by British troops or Canadian militia. Detroit and Dearborn both fell to the British and their native American allies.

Fort Meigs, built in early 1813 by Major Gen. William Henry Harrison on the Maumee River in Ohio, has come under attack by about 400 British regulars, 450 Canadian militiamen and more than 1,200 Indians. The British and Canadians are commanded by Major Gen. Henry Procter, while the Native Americans follow Shawnee leader Tecumseh and the Wyandot chief Roundhead.

Massacre of Kentucky Militia

Massacre of Kentucky Militia

About 1,100 men are bottled up in the huge – eight-acre – fort, commanded by Harrison. A brigade of Kentucky militia numbering about 1,200 is on its way to reinforce the American garrison. About 700 Kentuckians attack British positions in the siege lines on May 2. But the Kentuckians are lured into the woods by fleeing Indians who then spring an ambush. Hundreds of Kentucky militia men are killed and wounded. About a dozen more taken prisoner are tortured and killed by the Indians until Tecumseh and two Brisith officers intervene.

The siege of Fort Miegs continues until May 9 when the Indians and Canadians withdraw. They try to mount another siege in July 1813 but fail.


SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.


May 1, 2013 at 1:10 am Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (Dec. 30-Jan. 6)

The First Year

It has been a year of surprises — pleasant and unpleasant — for both sides in the conflict known alternately as “The Second American Revolution” and “Canada’s War of Independence.”

Re-enactors defending Fort Wellington, Canada. (Photo by Parks Canada)

Re-enactors defending Fort Wellington, Canada. (Photo by Parks Canada)

The Americans saw two major frontier forts, Mackinac and Detroit — both in Michigan — fall to the British, Canadians and their Indian allies with barely a shot fired. Three other U.S. post — Fort Dearborn in Illinois and Fort Harrison and Fort Wayne, both in Indiana — came under attack by Native Americans. Fort Dearborn was evacuated and about a score of its inhabitants — both soldier and civilian — were massacred. The fort, standing in what is now downtown Chicago, was burned to the ground.

British troops and Canadian militia — sometimes with the assistance of Native Americans (or First Nations as they are known in Canada) — were able to repulse three clumsy invasions of Canada by poorly led U.S. troops, but with the loss of one of their most skilled leaders: Major. Gen. Isaac Brock, who was killed at Queenston Heights in present day Ontario, Canada.

The Americans were more successful at sea, defeating three British frigates — the Guerriere, Macedonian and Java — while losing some smaller ships like the sloop USS Wasp.  Meanwhile, the Royal Navy expanded a blockade of U.S. ports from New England to Georgia.

The first year of the war, which began in June 1812 showed how ill prepared the armies on both sides were.

The American troops consisted mostly of state militias and volunteers commanded by elderly veterans of the Revolution or younger men who were eager but often inexperienced.

Re-enactors defend Fort McHenry, Maryland. (Photo by National Park Service)

Re-enactors defend Fort McHenry, Maryland. (Photo by National Park Service)

Still at war with Napoleon in Europe, the British could spare but few troops to defend Canada or invade the United States. Instead the burden of war fell on Canadian militiamen who often had little training or supplies. The Shawnee leader Tecumseh threw in his lot with the British, hoping a U.S. defeat would put a halt to the Americans’ relentless expansion into tribal lands stretching West from the 13 original colonies into what was then called the Old Northwest (a region around the Great Lakes that would generate the future states of Indiana, Illinois,  Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota). Tecumseh’s attempt to unite all the tribes east of the Mississippi River against the Americans set the  frontier aflame in 1812, leading to attacks on settlements and Army posts.


This will be the last installment of THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 as a weekly feature on 4GWAR.

In the future we will focus on significant developments like the battles of  Lake Erie, Bladensburg, Fort McHenry and New Orleans. The first posting, in late January, will explore the Battle of Frenchtown and the River Raisin massacre.

Thanks and Happy New Year!

Your 4GWAR Editor

December 31, 2012 at 12:58 am Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (Oct. 7 to Oct. 13)

Land and Sea

This week sees action between U.S. and British forces on both land and sea.

Gen. James Winchester
Tennessee State Library and Archives

U.S. Brigadier Gen. James Winchester, formerly commander of the U.S. Northwest Army and now subordinate to recently promoted Major Gen. William Henry Harrison, advances with his troops to Fort Defiance in Ohio (Oct. 7). Early in 1813 those troops will advance into Indiana, Michigan and Canada as Harrison launches another invasion of Canada.

In the waters between Canada and New York State, two Marylanders — U.S. Army Capt. Nathan Towson and Navy Lt. Jesse Elliott — capture the British brigs Caledonia and Detroit (Oct. 8) near the British Fort Erie on the Niagara River opposite Buffalo, N.Y.  While the Caledonia escapes to an American port and becomes the USS Caledonia, the Detroit meets a grimmer fate. Swept down the river within range of the British guns, the ship is beached by the Americans when their ammunition runs out. British and American guns later destroy the brig.

Towson later serves as an artillery commander at the battle of Queenston Heights in Canada (Oct. 13). The engagement is considered the first major land battle in the War of 1812 as some 1,300 British soldiers, Canadian militia and Mohawk Indian allies drive off yet another American invasion of Canadian territory — this time near the present site of Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Battle of Queenston Heights

The battle is considered a British victory even though the commander Major Gen. Sir Isaac Brock (the Hero of Detroit) is mortally wounded. Hundreds of U.S. troops are taken prisoner and nearly 300 are killed or wounded. Among those captured is Lt. Colonel Winfield Scott, who will win glory as the victorious U.S. commander in the Mexican-American War.

About 1,300 Americans — both regulars and militia — make it across the river to Canada but more than half are pinned down on the landing beach and unable to support the U.S. troops who capture the high ground on Queenston Heights.

The American beat back a counter attack during which Brock is  killed, but are unable to hold without reinforcements and supplies. Complicating matters, many New York militia units refuse to leave their home state and fight on Canadian soil.

October 8, 2012 at 12:16 am Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (Aug. 12 – Aug. 18)

Success at Sea

USS Essex takes HMS Alert (From Wikipedia)

While things continue to go wrong for the Army in the West (see below) the Navy scores another small triumph at sea.

On Aug. 13, the American frigate, USS Essex, attacks and captures the British sloop, HMS Alert in the south Atlantic. The 36-gun Essex was built in Salem, Massachusetts and paid for by the citizens of Salem and Essex County, who presented her to the U.S. Navy just before Christmas 1799. By 1812, the 864-ton Essex was already a veteran of engagements with the French in the Quasi Naval War between the United States and Revolutionary France in 1800, and against the Barbary pirates of North Africa in 1805. The youngest crewman aboard was 11-year-old midshipman David Glasgow Farragut, who would rise to become the Navy’s first full admiral, as well as the Union commander at the Battle of Mobile Bay during the U.S. Civil War (“Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!”).

Disaster in the West

Concerned about the Fall of Fort Mackinac in northern Michigan on July 17 and the threat to his own position at Fort Detroit, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. William Hull orders the commander at Fort Dearborn — in what is now downtown Chicago — to abandon the fort and evacuate his tiny garrison eastward to Fort Wayne in the Indiana Territory.

Before closing up shop, Capt. Nathan Heald tells the mostly Potawatomi Indians who are menacing the fort that they can have it and its supply stores if they guarantee safe passage for the approximately 60 U.S. regulars, 12 Illinois militiamen, nine women and 18 children. But following Hull’s written order, Heald destroys all the guns, ammunition and liquor in the fort before leaving — angering the younger Indian warriors.

Not far from Fort Dearborn on Aug. 15, 400 to 500 Indians attack the evacuation column. In the 15-minute battle, 26 regulars and all of the militia men are killed. The Indians also attack the wagons carrying civilians, killing two women and nearly all the children. After a brief stand-off, the rest of the U.S. party surrenders and are taken prisoner.

The attack, called a massacre at the time, inflames the United States, especially along the frontier. Today Native American historians dispute the unverified contemporary reports that the Indians tortured and scalped their victims. This account of the battle/massacre and the quest for historical evidence in Chicago magazine has some very helpful maps. The Chicago History Museum has a model of what the fort looked like here.

Downfall of Detroit

Brock accepts surrender of Detroit (Wikipedia)

On the same day of the attack outside Fort Dearborn, General Hull finds that his opposite number, Major Gen. Sir Isaac Brock, has crossed the Detroit River from Canada with about 300 regulars, 400 Canadian militia and some 600 Native American warriors headed by the Shawnee leader Tecumseh. Hull has about 1,200 troops at his disposal, both regulars and Ohio and Michigan militia. Hull has previously sent more than 300 troops south to link up with a supply train near the Raisin River, the same supply train that led to two earlier ambushes of Hull’s troops.

Brock and Tecumseh succeed in making Hull believe their forces are much greater in size than his. Tecumseh marches his warriors through an opening in the woods several times to make it look like his contingent numbers over 1,000. They whoop and yell through the night. The idea he is surrounded by savages who might massacre the women and the children in the fort — including his own daughter and grandchild — rattles Hull.

Both sides open fire on each other with canons without doing much damage. On Aug. 16, however, the British gunners start to hit the mark, killing several inside the fort, including the commander who surrendered Fort Mackinac and is awaiting a court martial.

Hull then decides to surrender the fort without firing another shot. The easy victory stuns Brock — who is hailed as a hero in Canada — and emboldens Tecumseh and his Confederacy to become more belligerent toward the Americans. After being paroled, Hull is charged with treason for surrendering so many men and guns. He is convicted of neglect of duty and cowardice and sentenced to be shot. President Madison approves the sentence but waives its execution. Hull is sent home to Massachusetts in disgrace, a sad end for a hero of the American Revolution.

August 13, 2012 at 4:53 pm 3 comments

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