The History of Genesee County, MI
Chapter I
War of 1812

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Clayton

 

WAR OF 1812

It came about that gradually a union of the Indians was effected, somewhat after the model of that of the famous Pontiac. Its moving spirit was Tecumseh, a Shawnee chief, whose home was on the upper Wabash. In 1811, Gen. William Henry Harrison checked the movement temporarily by a disastrous defeat of Tecumseh at Tippecanoe, But when, on June 16, 1812, war was declared by the United States against Great Britain, the western Indians rallied to the cause of the British.

Governor Hull was appointed commander-in-chief of the forces on the Michigan frontier. His troops were eager that he should at once make a bold offensive and capture Malden, but he would not, and in July General Proctor, commander of the British advance, reached Malden and immediately began operations to cut off Hull's communications and isolate his army. In august, General Brock, the British commander-in-chief, a most efficient and daring officer, arrived, and prepared to take Detroit.

In the meantime, on July 17, Lieut. Porter hanks, commanding at Mackinac, having received no word of the declaration of war, was surprised and was compelled to surrender at discretion the fort and his whole garrison. This was a disheartening blow to Hull and doubtless influenced his subsequent course. Moreover, General Dearborn, who commanded the American forces at Niagara, had concluded an armistice, enabling the British forces there to concentrate against Detroit. Believing that Detroit cold not be held, and that it would be a wanton sacrifice of his men to attempt to hold it, Hull surrendered, August, 16. To Brock. Almost at the same time the garrison at Fort Dearborn, where is now Chicago, commanded by Captain Heald, in acting on orders from Hull to evacuate that fort, was waylaid and massacred by the Indians. Disaster on the Michigan frontier seemed complete. General Hull was afterwards court-martialed and sentenced to be shot, but, in view of his advanced age and his distinguished services during the Revolution, the President pardoned him. Since then Hull has had vigorous defenders. It is not too much to say that today, viewed in the sober light of all the facts, there are a few historians who are inclined to regard his action as wise, but the majority do not share this view.

Regarding Hull's government of Michigan Territory, Cooley writes: "He had all his life lived in the smiles of public favor and his domestic and social relations were agreeable; and had he been made executive of a staid and orderly commonwealth, with associates in government of similar characteristics, his administration might have been altogether popular and successful. But in Michigan he found uncongenial people all about him, and it soon appeared that he was somewhat lacking in the persistent self-assertion necessary to make the rough characters of a backwoods settlement recognize and accept the fact that within the proper limits of his authority he proposed to be and would be ruler and master." In private life his record was honorable and without a stain.

One of the most lamentable events on Michigan soil during this war occurred in 1813, in Frenchtown, now Monroe. At that place, on January 22, General Winchester was attacked by a consolidated force of British and Indians under General Proctor. Overwhelmed by the onset, Winchester was induced to surrender by promises of honorable treatment; but in spite of Proctor's promises, the Indians committed, on the following day, a most inhuman massacre of prisoners. Barely fort men survived out of a command of about eight hundred. A large part of the force was Kentuckians. Following their fall, there ensued scenes of plundering, murdering, and barbarities too horrible to mention. The confusion, misery and fear caused by the massacre of settlers in the Raisin valley continued long after the war.

With Commodore Perry's victory on Lake Erie, September 10, 1813, and the complete route of the British and Indians under proctor and Tecumseh by Harrison, on October 5, the war, so far as Michigan was concerned, came to an end. On October 13, 1813, Lewis Cass was appointed governor of Michigan Territory, under whose able administration Michigan began a new career.

 

History of Genesee County, Michigan, Her People, Industries and Institutions
by Edwin O. Wood, LL.D, President Michigan Historical Commission, 1916

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Deb

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