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conduct of Great Britain against the United States had been such for years before as to excite the public mind to fever heat. The forcible taking of sailors from our ships on the high seas and impressing them into the British marine; the blockading of our seaports to the ruin of our commerce, and worst of all, the arming, clothing, and feeding of savages while they tomahawked and scalped our helpless women and children raised public indignation to such a height that the sight of an English soldier excited a hatred that made every man an avenger. Leading men everywhere in the United States reached the conclusion that war, though a terrible evil, was a less evil than to endure such outrages and oppressions.
No secret was made of the determination of the people that the United States would go to war with England if such outrages continued. The matter was openly debated in Congress and the newspapers of that day were full of fiery articles on the subject, and politicians everywhere made inflammatory speeches about it. Even the plan of the initial campaign of the war was shadowed forth in the proposed conquest of Canada, by the orators and writers of the day. Some were opposed to the war, but enough were in favor of it to bear down all opposition. War against Great Britain was therefore declared by the United States, June 18, 1812.
The eighteenth publication of the Filson Club is principally concerned with the war that followed this declaration as it occurred in the Northwest. It was soon evident after the declaration that we were not ready for war, especially for the campaign in the Northwest. An inadequate number of undisciplined infantry were expected to invade Canada and conquer it, without a navy and in spite of the armed vessels of the enemy that floated upon the lakes and protected Canada. Neither was our army ready with officers or soldiers, or arms, or supplies. A beginning had to be made, however, and when the initial steps were taken it was found that the enemy, forewarned by our proceedings in Congress, by our newspapers and our stump orators, were better prepared for the fight than those who had sent the challenge.
The campaign began by the invasion of Canada by Hull on the 12th of July, 1812. Instead of Hull attacking Malden he spent his time in trying to induce the Canadians to come under the American flag and the Indians to keep quiet, until he learned that the British were not as idle as he was and were about ready to make an attack on him. He then crept back to Detroit and there began that disgraceful series of acts which led to the surrender not only of his army but of the whole Northwest frontier. His first step after returning to Detroit was to get his supplies from the river Raisin, where the enemy had blockaded them, by sending an inadequate force, which was defeated. He then sent a larger force, which after defeating the enemy were withdrawn without getting the much-needed supplies. While these unmilitary acts were progressing and a third party had been sent to the river Raisin for the supplies, General Brock marched his army to Sandwich, planted cannon so as to command Detroit, without any interference on the part of Hull, and when ready for bombarding demanded and secured the surrender of Hull, August 16, 1812, without the American general accomplishing anything but to cover himself with everlasting disgrace. The fortress of Detroit and the territory of Michigan, with a population of five thousand souls and one thousand four hundred soldiers, with arms, ammunition, and supplies went from Hull to Brock by the surrender.
Previous to the surrender of Detroit, Fort Mackinac had been taken by the British, on the 17th of July, 1812. Lieutenant Hanks was in command of the fort, but had not been advised of the declaration of war until the enemy were upon him. The garrison, consisting of only fiftyseven effective men, could do nothing but surrender when taken by surprise, as they were, by an overwhelming enemy.
Hull's order to Captain Heald to evacuate Fort Dearborn after distributing the stores to the Indians led to a fearful massacre of the occupants of the fort on the 15 th of August, 1812. The Indians, who had promised to conduct the garrison safely to Detroit, proved to be treacherous, and either slaughtered or permitted others to slaughter those they had promised and been paid to protect. The massacre had all the horrors of Indian barbarity in tomahawking and scalping not only soldiers but women and children.
Things had thus gone fearfully wrong in the year 1812, the first year of the war. On the 8th of September, however, a small bright spot appeared in the dark sky of that period. The Indians attacked Fort Harrison, on the Wabash, and set it on fire and seemed to be in the act of taking it. But it was heroically defended by Captain Taylor and saved. As the year 1812 ended so the year 1813 began with a show of favor to the Americans by the God of War. The soldiers sent by General Winchester to Frenchtown met the British there and defeated them January 18, 1813. The defeat, however, was of short duration.# On the twenty-second the British were reinforced from Malden and the Americans from Fort Meigs. A second battle ensued, in which the Americans were defeated with great loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners. On the
twenty-third followed such a massacre of the prisoners and wounded by the Indians as has seldom occurred in the annals of civilized war.
There was another serious disaster to our arms in the year 1813. It occurred at Fort Meigs on the 5th of May, and came of Colonel Dudley either not understanding or disobeying the orders given to him to take the English batteries and then make his way to the fort. Instead of doing this he took the batteries and then pursued the Indians. In so doing he lost eight hundred men and left the enemy's batteries to continue playing upon the fort.
This bad current of events began to change for the better in the second siege of Fort Meigs in May, 1813. It gained strength and flowed stronger in the defense of Fort Stephenson August 2d, and yet stronger in the victory of Perry on Lake Erie September 10th. The decisive victory of Perry on the lake removed all obstacles in the way of General Harrison to Detroit and into Canada, and the battle of the Thames soon followed.
This battle of the Thames is the subject of the following pages. It was no big thing compared to armies as now organized and brought against one another, but it was immense in its influence on the War of 1812. It was like the battle of King's Mountain in the Revolutionary War. It came at a time when the Americans were full of gloom.