History of the Late War between Great Britain and the United States by David Thompson: Chapter 13
Preparations of a warlike Appearance on the part of the United States—Extract from the Address of the House of Assembly to the Yeomanry of Canada at the Commencement of the War—Invasion of Canada by an Army under General Hull—General Hull's Proclamation to the People of Canada—Active Measures pursued by General Brock for the Relief of Fort Amherstburg—Evident Signs of Indecision and Distrust in the American Camp.
During the defensive preparations on the part of Canada, the United States government was not unmindful of its security against any hostile attack. Besides strengthening her fortifications, &c., an act of Congress was passed, on the 11th day of January, 1812, for raising ten additional regiments of infantry to consist of two thousand men each—two regiments of cavalry of two thousand each—and one additional regiment of artillery, to consist of one thousand—to be enlisted for five years. Early in the ensuing month, another act passed that body, authorising the president of the United States to accept the military services of certain volunteer corps, not to exceed in number fifty thousand men; and, in the month of April following, an act was passed to call into active service, for the purpose of military drill, one hundred thousand militia. proportioned, to each state as follows:
|North Carolina, ..................||7,000|
|South Carolina, ..................||5,000|
|Rhode Island, ....................||500|
In addition to the above, the United States had a regular army of eleven regiments of five hundred men each, which, in the whole, certainly constituted a formidable army.
Acts were passed, at the same time, for building new ships of war, and repairing such as were out of commission, and for making such provisions for the defence of the maritime frontier as were considered necessary.
As soon as the declaration of war was announced in Canada, measures were employed in that colony to embody a portion of the militia force of the country for its protection against an invasion of the enemy.
An appeal was made by the representatives in parliament of Upper Canada to their constituents, at the end of the extra session which was convened at the commencement of the war, in which was portrayed in its native coloring the abject and wretched state of vassalage to the ruler of France into which America had descended, and her consequent perfidious conduct towards Great Britain. A most deserved eulogium was in that address passed upon the character of the militia, for the promptitude with which their services were volunteered in defence of the country.
"Already have we the joy to remark," says that address, "that the spirit of loyalty has burst forth in all its ancient splendor. The militia, in all parts of the province, have volunteered their service with acclamation, and displayed a degree of energy worthy of the British name. They do not forget the blessings and privileges which they enjoy under the protection and fostering care of the British empire, whose government is only felt in this country by acts of the purest justice and most pleasing and efficacious benevolence. When men are called upon to defend every thing they hold precious—their wives and children, their friends and possessions, they ought to be inspired by the noblest resolution, and they will not be easily frightened with menaces, or conquered by force. And beholding, as we do, the flame of patriotism burning from one end of the Canadas to the other, we cannot but entertain the most pleasing anticipations. Our enemies have indeed said, that they can subdue the country by a proclamation; but it is our part to prove to them that they are sadly mistaken; that the population is determinately hostile, and that the few who might be otherwise inclined, will find it their safety and interest to be faithful."
As was before observed, a large American force, consisting of regulars and militia, was early in the year 1812 stationed at Detroit, and had been placed under the command of General Hull, an officer of the Revolution, who, on the 12th of July, crossed the river Detroit with a force of two thousand five hundred of the above troops and a strong park of artillery, and planted the American standard on the shores of Canada. Immediately on the arrival of the American army at Sandwich, General Hull issued the following:
Head Quarters, Sandwich, 12th July, 1812
After thirty years of peace and prosperity, the U. States have been driven to arms. The injuries and aggressions, the insults and indignities of Great Britain, have once more left them no alternative but manly resistance, or unconditional submission. The army under my command has invaded your country. The standard of the Union now waves over the territory of Canada. To the peaceable, unoffending inhabitants it brings neither danger nor difficulty. I come to find enemies, not to make them. I come to protect, not to injure you.
Separated by an immense ocean and an extensive wilderness from Great Britain, you have no participation in her councils, no interest in her conduct. You have felt her tyranny; you have seen her injustice; but I do not ask you to avenge the one, or to redress the other. The United States are sufficiently powerful to afford every security, consistent with their rights and your expectations. I tender you the invaluable blessing of civil, religious and political liberty, and their necessary result, individual and general prosperity; that liberty which gave decision to our councils and energy to our conduct, in a struggle for independence, which conducted us safely and triumphantly through the stormy period of the Revolution—the liberty which has raised us to an elevated rank among the nations of the world, and which afforded us a greater measure of peace and security, of wealth and improvement, than ever fell to the lot of any people. In the name of my country and the authority of government, I promise you protection to your persons, property and rights. Remain at your homes; pursue your peaceful and customary avocations; raise not your hands against your brethren. Many of your fathers fought for the freedom and independence we now enjoy. Being children, therefore, of the same family with us, and heirs of the same heritage, the arrival of an army of friends must be hailed by you with a cordial welcome. You will be emancipated from tyranny and oppression, and restored to the dignified station of freemen.
Had I any doubt of eventual success, I might ask your assistance; but I do not. I come prepared for every contingency—I have a force which will break down all opposition, and that force is but the vanguard of a much greater. If, contrary to your own interest and the just expectations of my country, you should take part in the approaching contest, you will be considered and treated as enemies, and the horrors and cala mities of war will stalk before you.
If the barbarous and savage policy of Great Britain be pursued, and the savages are let loose to murder our citizens and butcher our women and children, this war will be a war of extermination. The first stroke of the tomahawk, the first attempt with the scalping knife, will be the signal of one indiscriminate scene of desolation. No white man, found fighting by the side of an Indian, will be taken prisoner—instant death will be his lot. If the dictates of reason, duty, justice, and humanity, cannot prevent the employment of a force which respects no rights, and knows no wrongs, it will be prevented by a severe and relentless system of retaliation.
I doubt not your courage and firmness; I will not doubt your attachment to liberty. If you tender your services voluntarily, they will be accepted readily. The United States offer you peace, liberty and security. Your choice lies between these and war, slavery, and destruction. Choose, then, but choosy wisely—and may
By the General,
A. P. Hull.
This proclamation of General Hull was full of confidence in the strength of his arms and in the justice of his cause, assuring himself, from that consideration, of a successful termination to the campaign. It threatens, too, of pursuing a war of extermination, in the event of the employment of the Indians on the part of the British, forgetting, it would appear, that already were the Indians engaged co-operating with the forces of the United States against the British army.
General Hull, having crossed into the British dominions with an army which in point of numbers was capable of setting at defiance the whole of the British regular army then in the Canadas, commenced an advance on Fort Malden or Amherstburg. At the time the American army approached that place, the garrison consisted of a subaltern's detachment of royal artillery commanded by Lieutenant Troughton; a detachment of the forty-first regiment, of three hundred men, commanded by Captain Muir; and between three hundred and four hundred militia, the whole under the command of Lieutenant Colonel St. George, inspecting field officer of militia for that district— a force totally inadequate, by its numerical strength, to cope with that of the Americans, to which they were now opposed; but the most vigorous measures were employed by Major General Brock, to secure the fort against an assault, in the aid of which the capture of Fort Michilimackinack was a fortunate circumstance, as it laid open the rear and flanks of the American army to the desultory attacks of the Indians in the neighborhood, a part of whom bad assisted in its capture.
As soon as General Hull had established his camp at Sandwich, parties were sent out from his army, to levy contributions of provisions and forage from the inhabitants, who advanced as far as the Moravian Town, committing on their routes the most unheard-of atrocities upon the defenceless inhabitants, carrying with them as prisoners of war such influential persons as they found well affected towards their king and country.
In the mean time. General Brock had despatched, from the garrison of Fort George, Captain Chambers with fifty men of the 41st Regiment, into the interior of the country, for the purpose of collecting such of the militia and Indians as were then ready to join the army at Amherstburg—previously sending Colonel Proctor of the same regiment to assume the command of that garrison. Sixty men also of the 41st Regiment were despatched at the same time to reinforce the besieged garrison, and forty were sent to Long Point, for the purpose of collecting the militia in that vicinity.
General Brock, having made such arrangements, in the government of the province, as were necessary during his absence from York, proceeded from thence to Fort George, and thence to Long Point on Lake Erie, where he was joined by two hundred and sixty of the militia, who had, in a few days and in the very height of their harvest, gallantly volunteered their services to share the dangers of the field in defence of their country, together with the detachment of the 41st Regiment who had been previously sent to that quarter. At the head of these. General Brock proceeded to the relief of Amherstburg, where he arrived on the 13th of August.
General Hull had not long remained in the position which he had taken up, until it was manifest to the British commander, that indecision and distrust reigned every where throughout the American lines; and that the military talents of General Hull were far from being commensurate with the enterprise in which he had engaged, and that his talents had been sadly overrated by is government. In fact, it was evident that General Hull himself had already made this discovery; and of course these circumstances were held as ominous of this speedy overthrow.