History of the Late War between Great Britain and the United States by David Thompson: Chapter 14
General Hull compelled to retreat to his own Territory—General Brock arrives at Amherstburg—Offers Terms to General Hull for the Surrender of Detroit—General Hull refuses the Proposition—The British Forces effect a Landing on the American Side of the River—General Hull proposes a Cessation of Hostilities—Terms of Surrender dictated to General Hull in his own Tent, by General Brock's Aids de Camp—Articles of Capitulation—Munitions of War &c. &c. included in the Conquest—Remarks—General Brock's Proclamation to the Inhabitants of the Michigan Territory—Trial of General Hull by a general Court Martial—Sentence &c.
Previous to the arrival of Major General Brock, Colonel Proctor had commenced active operations against the enemy by sending detachments across the river in order to cut off all communications between his main body and the reserve This with other Judicious arrangements had compelled the enemy to retreat under the shelter of the guns of his own fort. Several skirmishes had occurred, by which losses had been sustained upon both aides, but in all of which the Americans were compelled to retire and acknowledge the superiority of the British arms; two in particular on the 5th and 9th instants, were maintained with much bravery on both sides, and in both of which the loss of the American army was very considerable, while that of the British amounted to three killed and fourteen wounded. Amongst the latter were Captain Muir and Lieutenant Sutherland, of the 41st Regiment, two officers very justly distinguished by their chief.
After the American army had again crossed the river to their own territory, a position opposite Fort Detroit was token up by the British, and on the 13th instant batteries were commenced; and although exposed to a well directed fire from a battery of seven twenty-four pounders, yet such was their construction under the able directions of Captain Dixon of the royal engineers, that the works were continued without intermission until completed, without sustaining the least injury from the fire of the enemy.
On the arrival of General Brock at Amherstburg, notwithstanding the formidable numerical strength of the enemy, preparations were immediately commenced to follow him into his own territory; and on Saturday, the 15th instant, the British forces were collected in the neighborhood of Sandwich for that purpose, consisting of thirty of the Royal Artillery with three six pounders and two three pounders, under the command of Lieutenant Troughton, two hundred and fifty of the 41st Regiment, fifty of the Royal Newfoundland fencibles, and four hundred Canadian militia, in all amounting to seven hundred and thirty, to whom six hundred Indians attached themselves, making an aggregate of one thousand three hundred and thirty.
About noon, on the same day, a flag of truce was sent by General Brock to General Hull, with a summons for the surrender of the town and fort of Detroit, stating that he could no longer restrain the fury of the Indians. To this an immediate and spirited refusal was returned by General Hull, stating that he was prepared to meet any force which might be at the disposal of General Brock, and any consequences which might result from any exertion of it he might think proper to make. About four o'clock, the firing commenced from the British batteries and was immediately returned, which continued without intermission until about eleven o'clock that night. At daylight, next morning, the fire re-commenced upon both sides, at which time the British were discovered landing their troops at the Springwells, three miles below Detroit. The Indians, in the mean time, had effected a landing about two miles lower down, and moved up, taking a position in the woods about a mile and a half on the left.
The British force immediately advanced within about five hundred yards of the enemy's line, with a view to bring him to a general action. General Brock having received information that Colonel Mc. Arthur, a distinguished American officer who had left the garrison only A few days previous, was now close upon his rear, and that his cavalry had been seen that morning by some of the reconnoitering parties of the British. The American army, having made a precipitate retreat into the fort, an assault was immediately decided upon. However, for this time the effusion of blood was saved by the exterminating General Hull sending out a proposition for a cessation of hostilities, for the purpose of preparing terms of capitulation.
Lieutenant Colonel Mc. Donald, provincial aid de camp, and Captain Gregg, aid de camp to General Brock, were deputed by that general to proceed to the American general, to present the terms upon which General Brock would be pleased to accept the surrender. In about an hour the two aids returned to the British camp, with the condition of capitulation which they dictated to General Hull in his own tent. The conditions were as follows:
Article I Fort Detroit with all the troops, regulars as well as militia, will be immediately surrendered to the British forces under the command of the Major General Brock and will be considered prisoners of war, with the exception of such of the militia of the Michigan Territory as have not joined the army.
II. All public stores, arms and all public documents, including every thing else of a public nature, will be immediately given up.
III. Private persons and property of every description will be respected.
IV. His Excellency, Brigadier General Hull, having expressed a desire that a detachment from the state of Ohio, on its way to join his army, as well as one sent from Detroit, should be included in the capitulation, it is accordingly agreed to. It is, however, to be understood, that such part of the Ohio militia as have not joined the army, will be permitted to return to their homes, on condition that they will not serve during the war; their arms will be delivered up, if belonging to the public
V. The garrison will march out at the hour of twelve o'clock this day, and the British forces will take immediate possession of the fort.
J. Mc. Donald, Lieut. Col. Militia, P. A. D. D.
J. B. Glegg, Major, A. D. C.
James Miller, Lieut. Col. 5th Regt. U. S. Infantry.
E. Brush, Col. Commanding 1st Regt. of Michigan Militia.
W. Hull, Brigadier General Commanding the N. W. Army
Isaac Brock, Major General.
An Article supplementary to the Articles of Capitulation, concluded at Detroit, the 16th of August, 1812.
It is agreed that the officers and soldiers of the Ohio militia and volunteers shall be permitted to proceed to their respective homes, on this condition, that they do not serve during the present war, unless they are exchanged.
W. Hull, Brigadier General Commanding U. S. N. W. Army.
Isaac Brock, Major General.
An Article in addition to the supplementary Article of Capitulation, concluded at Detroit, the 16th of August, 1812.
It is B agreed that the officers and soldiers of the Michigan militia and volunteers, under the command of Major Wetherall, shall be placed on the same principles as the Ohio militia and volunteers are placed by the supplementary article of the 16th instant.
W. Hull, Brigadier General Commanding N. W. Army. U. S.
Isaac Brock, Major General.
By the surrender of Detroit, which clothed with fresh and accumulating glory the arms of Great Britain, and stamped in indelible characters the terror which the name of a British soldier carries into the ranks of his enemy, an army of two thousand five hundred of the choicest American troops became prisoners of war, and thirty-three pieces of brass and iron ordnance fell into the hands of the conquerors,* besides four hundred rounds of twenty-four pound shot fixed, one hundred thousand cartridges made, forty barrels of powder and two thousand five hundred stand of arms.||
On the day of the surrender of the town and fort of Detroit, the American army had fifteen days' provision of every kind on hand. Of meat there was plenty in the country, and arrangements had been made for purchasing and grinding the flour. It was calculated that they could readily have procured three months' provisions, independent of one hundred and fifty barrels of flour and thirteen hundred head of cattle which had been forwarded from the state of Ohio, and remained at the River Raisin under Captain Brush, within reach of the army.
In endeavoring to appreciate the motives and to investigate the causes which led to an event so unexpected and dishonorable as the surrender of General Hull, it is impossible to find any solution in the relative strength of the contending parties, or in the measure of resistance in General Hull's power. He had a force at his disposal which was more than double the numerical strength of that of the British general, including six hundred Indians which had attached themselves to the army; yet, such was the decided bravery and promptitude of General Brock and his little band, that they were determined to storm the American garrison and camp. But it would appear that General Hull was not prepared for such prompt and decided measures as the handful of British regulars and Canadian militia were preparing to press upon him; he therefore surrendered at discretion.
* Col. Cass's letter.
Ib. General Brock had no sooner taken possession of the fort and town of Detroit with the Michigan Territory, of which it is the capital, than he issued the following:
Proclamation by Isaac Brock, Esquire, Major General, commanding His Majesty's Forces in the Province of Upper Canada, &c. &c
Whereas the Territory of Michigan was, this day, by capitulation, ceded to the arms of His Britannic Majesty, without any other condition than the protection of private property—and wishing to give an early proof of the moderation and justice of His Majesty's government—I do hereby announce to all the inhabitants of the said territory, that the laws heretofore in existence shall continue in force until His Majesty's pleasure be known, or so long as the peace and safety of the said territory will admit thereof; and I do hereby also declare and make known to the said inhabitants, that they shall be protected in the full exercise and enjoyment of their religion—of which all persons, both civil and military, will take notice and govern themselves accordingly.
All persons having in their possession, or having any knowledge of any public property, shall forthwith deliver in the same, or give notice thereof to the officer commanding or to Lieutenant Colonel Nicholl, who are duly authorised to receive and give proper receipts for the same.
Officers of militia will be held responsible that all arms in possession of the militiamen be immediately delivered up, and all individuals whatever who have in their possession arms of any kind, will deliver them up without delay.
Given under my hand, at Detroit, this 16th day of August, 1812, and in the 52d year of His Majesty's reign God Save the King.
Isaac Brock, Major General.
Such was the glorious result, to the British arms, of the first military operations in Canada, during the war. It had, however, an effect throughout the whole of the United States, to beget the most violent altercations with respect to the conduct of General Hull.
The government contended that General Hull had been guilty of the basest and most dastardly cowardice, while he and his friends maintained that the means with which he was supplied were inadequate to the enterprise with which he was intrusted. A court martial was ordered, before which his conduct in that affair underwent a candid and dispassionate investigation, and which, after maturely weighing the evidence in all its bearings, found him guilty of neglect of duty, unofficerlike conduct and cowardice, and did therefore adjudge him to be shot to death; but the court, considering the advanced age of the prisoner and his revolutionary services, (he being a compatriot of the immortal Washington,) recommended him to mercy. The President, although highly approving of the sentence of the court, yet thought proper to remit its execution.
It has often been contended, by many persons of respectability in the United States, that the surrender of General Hull was the result of bribery; however, no circumstances connected with that affair will warrant that conclusion; nor can it, after a moment's reflection, be conceived that it was the effect of cowardice.
General Hull's character, as a soldier In the Revolutionary War, stood high; and his capacity, to fill the rank he then held in the service was never questioned; his fidelity towards his government was ever beyond a doubt, and his principles as an individual were blended with the finest honor. But the general, after descending far into the vale of time, a period at which every faculty of the mind becomes imbecile, and man is again in childhood, is placed at the head of an undisciplined army, (a situation he never before had filled;) with his imagination replete with horrors of the most fearful description, at the awful tales of the savage ferocity of the British and Indians which were propagated by ignorant and designing people—his ideas magnifying every danger in a tenfold proportion—Whence he is rendered incapable of wielding the army entrusted to his command, and therefore surrendered, as he says, to prevent the effusion of blood.
The foregoing premises are rapported by the tenor of his proclamation, as nearly every line of that document breathes a terror not to be disguised. It is corroborated, too, by his communication to Colonel Cass, as appears by that officer's letter to the Honorable William Eustis, where he says "I was informed by General Hull, the morning after the capitulation, that the British forces consisted of eighteen hundred regulars, and that he surrendered to prevent the effusion of human blood. That he magnified their regular force nearly five fold, there can be no doubt."
*A Return of Ordnance taken in the Fort and Batteries of Detroit, August 16th, 1812.
Iron Ordnance—nine twenty-four pounders, eight twelve pounders, five nine pounders, three six pounders.
Brass Ordnance—three six pounders, two four pounders, one three pounder, one eight inch howitzer, one five and a half inch howitzer.
Total of Ordnance taken—33.
We felt it due to truth—to government—to General Hull, and to all persons directly or indirectly connected with the facts or circumstances leading to the shameful capitulation at Detroit, to suspend our opinion until a sufficiency of light was afforded to chase away the doubts and shadows that rested on the strange transaction. But doubt has resolved itself into certainty—we no longer hesitate to join in opinion with the whole people of the west, "of every sect or persuasion, religious or political," that the army at Detroit was treacherously surrendered; and that General Brock instead of General Hull ought to have been the prisoner. This idea is powerfully enforced by many private letters from gentlemen of the first respectability in the state of Ohio, who had opportunity to know the verity and strength of the opinion advanced; but the detail by Colonel Cass [see appendix,] is conclusive—it is besides supported by a host of testimony in all the substantial facts it exposes.