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Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada

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Chronology of the War of 1812 on the Detroit Frontier

1812

June 19: The United States declares war on Great Britain, citing naval offences and British encouragement of the Western Natives' resistence to settlement.

June 28: Colonel St. George, commander at Fort Malden, receives word of war. With about 300 British regulars in Amherstburg, he despatches a detachment of militia to Sandwich.

July 1: American Brigadier-General William Hull, charters the Cuyahoga to transport some officers' wives and invalids, along with band instruments and his personal luggage, from Toledo to Detroit.

July 2: The Cuyahoga is taken in the deep water channel in front of Fort Malden, yielding 45 prisoners and among the booty, American military despatches and even muster rolls. Hull receives word of the declaration of war.

July 5: Hull's army arrives at Spring Wells, below Detroit and begins shelling the British gun placements at Sandwich. St. George's militiamen withdraw to Amherstburg.

July 12: Shortly after sunrise, General Hull takes the initiative, landing a force above Sandwich and establishing his headquarters in the François Baby House (now Windsor's Community Museum). Hull issues a proclamation in which he asserts that he has come to free area residents from British Tyranny. He vows to protect their persons, property, and rights. John Askin, of Sandwich, notes in a letter to relatives that the American soldiers "dare not take a cherry without the owner's consent". This situation will not last long.

July 12-16: Under Colonel Duncan McArthur, an American force heads up the Thames River, commandeering supplies and capturing militiamen.

July 16: Skirmish at the River Canard. An advance guard from Hull's army clashes with a patrol from Fort Malden. Two British soldiers are killed - the first casualties of the War of 1812.

July 17-25: Intermittent fighting at the River Canard, with some casualties. Relations between Hull's force and the residents of Upper Canada become increasingly strained; some private goods are confiscated. Canadian militiamen are deserting in large numbers to return to their families and farms. Hull decides to withdraw to Detroit.

July 22: Major-General Isaac Brock issues a proclamation refuting Hull's bombastic statement. Brock asserts that the residents of Upper Canada already enjoy peace, liberty and security under British administration.

July 26: Colonel Henry Procter, an experienced officer of the 41st Regiment, assumes command at Fort Malden.

August 1: The Americans hold an Indian Council at Piqua, Ohio in an attempt to enlist aboriginal support for their cause. For the most part they are unsuccessful; throughout the war, the British native allies greatly outnumber those on the American side.

August 5: En route from Detroit to the River Raisin (now Monroe, Michigan) to accompany a supply train, Major Van Horne and the 2nd Regt. Ohio Volunteers are surprised by an native ambush while crossing Brownstown Creek (near Trenton, Michigan). The Americans withdraw to Detroit, having suffered 31 casualties; the aboriginals under Tecumseh suffer one.

August 9: In another attempt to reach the River Raisin, an American military escort under Lt. Colonel Miller encounter British Captain Adam Muir and a mixed party of 400 soldiers and Natives. Despite considerable confusion in the British ranks, 82 American casualties are inflicted. The British withdraw to Fort Malden; The Americans return, once again, to Detroit.

August 13: Major-General Isaac Brock, Commanding Officer and President of Upper Canada, arrives at Fort Malden with reinforcements. He meets with the aboriginal leader, Tecumseh, to discuss strategy. They devise a plan for the capture of Detroit. The same day, the British artillery begin the march to Sandwich.

August 15: Having established themselves across from Detroit, near the François Baby house, the British open fire. The gunboats Queen Charlotte and General Hunter provide support from the river. The Americans return fire, and although the two sides exchange shots for several hours, damage is minimal. Two senior British officers cross to Detroit to present Brock's demand for surrender. They are blindfolded and escorted to a nearby house to await Hull's reply. His answer: "I am prepared to meet any force which may be at your disposal..."

August 16: Capture of Detroit. Before dawn, the British troops under Brock and the Natives under Tecumseh land at Spring Wells and move into position around the walled town of Detroit. Considerably unnerved by the Natives, Hull surrenders within hours. By noon, word has reached Malden that Brock has accepted the surrender of the Fort at Detroit, along with all 60,000 square miles of Michigan Territory, and an abundance of public stores and supplies, including the U.S. Brig Adams. A tremendous accomplishment, the Capture of Detroit is one of only three actions in North America which results in issuance of the British Military General Service medal to the participants. In the days which follow, the American militiamen are paroled (that is, relieved of their weapons and ordered to refrain from any further military action, at the risk of sever penalty) and the American regulars are sent to Quebec as prisoners of war. Brock returns immediately to Niagara, expecting action on that frontier at any time.

September: The British begin the difficult task of assuming control over the massive Michigan Territory. Some skirmishes take place, although major engagements are precluded by a temporary armistice arranged by British Commander-in-Chief Prevost and U.S. General Dearborn.

October 8: Hostilities resume. Brock is killed leading a charge against an American force on the Heights above Queenstown, Upper Canada. The British are victorious, however, inflicting staggering losses on the Americans.

Late October: Construction of an American naval fleet for Lake Erie begins at Presqu'ile (now Erie, Pa.).

November: The American army is regrouping, with the aboriginals in Ohio and Indiana as their main targets. On the 19th, Prophetstown, the home of Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa (The Prophet), is destroyed.


1813

January 13: Col. Procter, commanding at Malden, sends members of the Essex Militia to the River Raisin to reinforce the British presence there. An American force, under Brigadier General Winchester has reached the rapids, thirty miles distant.

January 17: Winchester sends some of his men to the River Raisin, apparently in response to civilian requests for protection from the British. Two days later, Winchester's men force reinforcements from Malden back to Brownstown. Both sides suffer casualties. By January 20th, Winchester has approximately 1000 men at the River Raisin.

January 22: Battle of the River Raisin. At dawn, a force of 1100 British regulars, militia, and Natives under Col. Procter attack the American camp. They capture General Winchester, who quickly signs a capitulation, surrendering his men as prisoners of war.

January 23: The glorious British victory of the 22nd is marred by a Native raid on the houses where injured American prisoners are being kept under a small guard. Intent upon exacting retribution for the death of their fellows in battle, the aboriginals kill a number of the prisoners and set fire to the buildings. Known as "The Massacre at the River Raisin", this event, more than any other, serves to unify the American war effort; thousands of southerners and westerners volunteer soon after, and "Remember the Raisin" becomes their battle-cry.

Febuary: Major-General William Henry Harrison begins construction of Fort Meigs on the Maumee River (Perrysburg, Ohio). The British at Amherstburg begin construction of H.M.S. Detroit. Late in the month, Harrison despatches a raiding party to burn the ice-bound British fleet. The expedition is abandoned when the Americans encounter open water on Lake Erie.

March: Late in March, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry arrives at Presqu'ile and takes command of the growing American fleet.

April 24: Col. Procter mounts an expedition made up of 2200 men and the gunboats Myers and Eliza. His target is the newly constructed Fort Meigs, on the Maumee River.

April 27: The provincial capital of York (now Toronto) is attacked and burned by the Americans. Among the items captured and destroyed are the cannons and supplies intended for the Detroit, under construction at Amherstburg. Some historians suggest that this was a vital factor in the subsequent defeat in the Battle of Lake Erie and the resulting retreat from Fort Malden.

April 30: The British under Col. Procter set up batteries across the river from Fort Meigs and commence firing.

May 3: The British set up additional batteries just below the Fort Meigs and commenced a cross-fire.

May 4: Procter demands the surrender of the post; Harrison refuses, expecting reinforcements at any moment.

May 5: American Colonel Dudley leads a two-pronged attack on the British gun positions. In the intense fighting which erupts, the Americans are beaten back with as many as 800 killed, wounded, and taken prisoner. After the fighting ceases, Procter demands surrender again, but Harrison refuses.

May 7: Prisoners are exchanged. Two days later, the British lift the siege and return to Amherstburg.

June: Captain R. H. Barclay, RN, assumes command of the Lake Erie Fleet.

July 21: A small British expedition, with the support of a large number of Natives, arrives at the Maumee River in a second attempt to reduce Fort Meigs.

July 26: A ruse intended to draw the American troops out the fort ends in failure.

July 28: The second siege of Fort Meigs is lifted, but Procter succumbs to pressure from the Native allies and redirects the expedition to Fort Stephenson, on the Sandusky River. A small, relatively insignificant American post under the command of 21 year old Major George Croghan - who has only 200 men and one artillery piece, fondly known as "Old Betsy" -should have been an easy target.

Late July: Commodore Perry manages to get his fleet over the sandbar at Presqu'ile and into Lake Erie. In the position to establish a naval blockade, Perry poses a serious threat to British mobility.

August 1: Attack on fort Stephenson. After Croghan refuses to surrender, the British open fire with an artillery barrage. Almost miraculously, they are unable to make a breach in the stockade.

August 2: Procter orders a direct frontal assault. With only half-hearted support from the Natives (who normally avoided actions of this nature), the British attempt to take the post by storm but are driven back by musket fire and grapeshot. Almost immediately, Procter orders a retreat to Amherstburg. In the rush to withdraw, a few of the 96 British casualties are actually left on the field. Young Major Croghan had turned a potentially disastrous situation into a triumph.

August 5: Capt. Barclay, Royal Navy Commander on Lake Erie, sails to Presqu'ile, only to find that Perry's fleet has already made it to open water.

September 9: With British supplies dwindling, a naval engagement is inevitable. On September 9th, Barclay sails out to engage Perry's fleet. Barclay has six vessels, among them the flagship H.M.S. Detroit. Just completed, the Detroit is improperly supplied, with only soldiers and cannon borrowed from Fort Malden to outfit it.

September 10: Battle of Lake Erie. At about noon, Barclay engages Perry's nine-vessel flotilla near West Sister Island. Perry's flagship, the Lawrence is soon put out of action but Perry transfers to the Niagara and the battle goes on. Assisted by a shift in the wind and by superior fire power, Perry forces the surrender of the British fleet by mid-afternoon. Among the numerous casualties on both sides was British Captain Barclay, who sustained a severe injury to his left arm. A veteran of Trafalgar, Barclay had already lost his right arm in battle.

September 14: A joint service for the dead is held on South Bass Island.

September 18: An Indian Council is held at Amherstburg to announce Col. Procter's intention to retreat from Amherstburg. Angered by what he sees as cowardice and convinced that their chances are better within the garrison than on the run, Tecumseh resists. In an eloquent address to the group, Tecumseh refers to Procter and his officers as "cowardly animals, withdrawing with their tails between their legs".

September 23: Still strapped for food and other vital supplies, Procter feels that he has no alternative but to retreat. The public buildings at Amherstburg and Sandwich are burned in advance of the withdrawal. After torching Fort Malden, Procter and approximately 900 regulars and militia and some aboriginals head for the Thames River.

September 27: American Major General Harrison lands at Bar Point, south of Amherstburg, with a force of 3000 men. The last of the British soldiers are less than one day ahead of them.

September 29: Procter reaches the Thames River; Harrison advances to Sandwich.

October 2: Harrison reaches the mouth of the Thames and continues to gain on the retreating British.

October 4: At Chatham, the Americans skirmish with the Natives. Both sides suffer several casualties.

October 5: Battle of the Thames. Harrison catches up, 3 miles below Moraviantown. The British troops and Native allies quickly form up in a marshy area along the riverbank. After a pitched battle, complete with cavalry charge, the British troops who had not managed to escape, surrender. Procter and approximately 250 of his men eventually reach Niagara; 600 others have been killed or captured. Among the casualties is the Indian leader, Tecumseh. Of his victory, Harrison reports: "By the blessing of Providence, the army under my command has this evening obtained a complete victory over the combined Indian and British forces".


October 1813 - Dec. 1814

The Americans occupy Sandwich and Amherstburg, conducting supply raids as far west a Chatham and London. The situation is fairly peaceful, if not comfortable, for the area residents who remain. Occasionally, local militia units offer some resistance. The Americans begin construction of a small fortification one mile south of Amherstburg (near the present site of the Amherstburg Police Office). Fort Covington, as it was known, consisted of a series of earthen berms and several temporary structures. Elsewhere in North America, the war continues in earnest with each side claiming victories. Finally, on Christmas Eve 1814, a treaty of peace is signed at Ghent, Belgium. The Treaty of Ghent returns the border between British North America and the United States to its pre-war state, but fails to deal with Native concerns. Life along the border returns slowly to normal after nearly three years of warfare; militia units are disbanded, war dead remembered, and damage claims pursued. On July 1, 1815 the Americans officially withdraw from the area. Each perceiving victory, both Canada and the United States have incorporated the War of 1812 into their national mythology, strengthening their respective national identities. For the Natives, however, the War of 1812 was particularly devastating. Their loss of the great leader Tecumseh and their failure to regain control over ancestral lands meant that they would continue to be forced aside as settlement advanced westward.


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