General Hull‘s invasion of Canada was described on July 12 (see my post First At Baby’s Farm!.) He retreated to Detroit when he heard about the capture of Mackinac and Fort Dearborn a few days later. In the meantime, General Brock, who had the difficult job of guarding both the Niagara and Detroit sectors, rushed to Amherstburg to join forces with Indian Chief Tecumseh.
Tecumseh, who radiated cheerfulness, energy and decision, impressed Brock and the British officers. He wore a neat uniform with a tanned deerskin jacket, and ornamented leather moccasins. Suspended from his nose was a strange ornament of three small crowns.
It was known that Hull had 2,500 troops, some of whom were mounted. Brock had 300 regulars, 400 militia and Tecumseh’s 600 Indians. It was a desperate undertaking to cross the river with such a small force and attack a much stronger army in a fortified position. Tecumseh was greatly pleased when Brock decided to do it, and said to the other chief: “This is a man!”
Tecumseh’s warriors crossed the river in canoes during the early morning hours of August 16. When daylight came the guns at Sandwich and those of the armed schooner Queen Charlotte opened fire on Detroit. One of the first mortar shells killed three officers on Hull’s staff. British troops had now crossed the river and were approaching Detroit, with Brock and Tecumseh riding side by side. The 600 Indians hidden in the woods began screeching their eerie war cries. The shells continued to explode in the fort.
Hull had his son, married daughter and two small grandchildren with him. Many of his men had brought along their families. As the redcoats began to form for the attack, Hull decided to surrender. The white flag went up and half an hour later the fort was in British hands. The Americans were allowed to return home on condition that they would not fight again in the war. Great quantities of supplies were captured.
Brock took off his tasselled scarlet sash and put it around Tecumseh in the presence of the troops and Indians. Tecumseh then returned the compliment, wrapping his gaudy arrow-patterned sash around Brock, who wore it until he was killed two months later.
This is probably one of my favourite anecdotes of the War of 1812 — the association between Brock and Tecumseh. What a team they made! To read more about the siege at Detroit, I certainly recommend a few places. For instance, there is The War of 1812 Website by R. Taylor. And then there is the 1812now blog. You may also enjoy War of 1812 Southwest Ontario Region – while you are there, take a look around, as it is truly an exceptional site with multimedia!