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The Invasion of Canada

For the week of Monday July 9, 2012

On July 12, 1812, United States Brigadier General William Hull, commander of the American North Western Army, crossed the Detroit River and invaded Upper Canada with about 2,000 men. Landing in Sandwich (present-day Windsor, Ontario), his forces greatly outnumbered the British, Canadian, and First Nations defenders.

Portrait of William Hull taken from life, circa 1800
© James Sharples Sr. (1751-1811)
War loomed during the summer of 1812 and British forces attempted to strengthen defences along the Detroit River in early July. Despite such measures, the four closest points along the Canadian border  Amherstburg, Niagara, Montréal, and Kingston  were threatened by the arrival of three large American armies. One of these armies, led by General Hull, arrived in Detroit on June 18 and, after a few confused attempts to push forward into Canada, succeeded on July 12. British troops in Sandwich were overwhelmed, so their commander Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas B. St. George fell back to Fort Amherstburg to try to regroup.

Despite success at Sandwich, General Hull lost the initiative to the British because of his tentative advance on Fort Amherstburg. Lieutenant-Colonel St. George consolidated his forces at the fort, placed a picket line of soldiers in a forward position at the bridge over the River Canard and awaited further action. He did not have long to wait. Four days later American scouts clashed with the soldiers at the bridge. Before long, General Hull’s forces retreated back across the river to Fort Detroit. He had heard that British reinforcements were on their way!

Sketch of Fort Amherstburg, circa 1804
© Parks Canada
Fort Amherstburg would play an important role in the early days of the War of 1812 and would have the war’s first British army casualties. It was also at Fort Amherstburg that Major-General Sir Isaac Brock and Shawnee War Chief Tecumseh, along with regular British troops, Canadian militia and First Nations warriors, would plan a successful attack on Fort Detroit, forcing the surrender of Brigadier General William Hull. The ruins of Fort Amherstburg were rebuilt in the 1820s. Renamed Fort Malden, it was declared a National Historic Site in 1921. The Capture of Fort Detroit was declared a National Historic Event in 1923.

This year is the beginning of the bicentennial of the War of 1812. For more stories about the war, please read This Means War!, Victory at Fort Detroit!, and The British Lose Ground in the This Week in History archives. Commemorative events will take place at Fort Malden, and all across Canada! For more information on the commemoration of the War of 1812, read Commemorating the War of 1812 on the Parks Canada website.

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