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ANNALS OF AMERICA.
§ 1. Introduction. 52. Expedition of general Hull. 53. March through
the Indian country. 4. Invasion of Canada. 5 5. Reconnoitering on the Thames. $ 6. Attack on the British advanced posts. $ 7. Fall of Michillimackinac. $ 8. Policy of Britain and America towards the Indians 59. Skirmishing$ 10. American supplies intercepted. $ 11. Battle of Maguago. 12. Canada evacuated. S 13. Detroit summoned. $ 14. Surrender of the army. 515. Massacre at Chicago.
$ 1. DURING the last thirty years the United States has been increasing in population and wealth in a ratio unparalleled in history. Within that period, its numbers have been more than doubled, while its forests have been rapidly changing into cultivated fields, and flourishing towns and villages rising, as if by magic, in the midst of the wilderness. These blessings, however, have not been entirely unalloyed. The rapid increase of wealth has introduced luxury, with its accompanying evils, and has, especially in the larger cities, considerably sullied our republican simplicity of manners.
Our extensive commerce, too, has embroiled us with several of the European powers, and finally involved us in war; while the thirst for speculation which it has excited in almost every class, has undoubtedly had a demoralizing tendency, though not perhaps in the degree attributed to it by some politicians, who have placed solely to that account the want of public spirit and nationality, which has been charged to this country. The present war, whatever other evils it may have introduced, has certainly checked this evil. It has raised the character of the nation in the
of foreign powers, and erected an altar of national glory on which all local prejudices have been sacrificed, and politicians of every party have joined hand in hand to celebrate the triumphs of our country.
In commencing this work, we have chosen the declaration of war against Great Britain as a point from whence to set out. Historical events in general are so closely connected, that it is difficult to give a clear account of any particular period, without
extending the view considerably backward. This, however, is hardly necessary on the present occasion, as our intention is rather to present a digested statement of passing events, than to enter into historical discussions of their causes, and as we intend to publish, by way of introduction, a digest of state papers and of the proceedings of congress, from the establishment of the constitution, which will present an authentic view both of the foreign and domestic transactions of America, up to the
A formal declaration of war against Great Britain, was passed by congress on the 18th of June, 1812*, which was proclaimed by the president on the following day. At this time the whole naval force of the United States amounted only to seven frigates, and a few sloops of war and other smaller vessels. The
* This year will form a memorahle era in history, as the commencement of two wars, which seem destined to effect an important revolution in the world, to oppose limits to powers hitherto deemed invincible, and which threatened to reduce Christendom into two mighty empires.
France and England have waged a war nearly without intermission for twen. ty years, during which the former has been gradually enlarging its power by land, and the latter by sea, until at length the whole continent of Europe seemed to be prostrate at the foot of the one, while the boast of the other, that the ocean was her domain, and that not a sail but by permission spread, seemed true, almost without a hyperbole.
Though possessing boundless power on one element, however, both nations have been comparatively harmless on the other, and therefore neither has been able to make any serious impression on its adversary. In this state of things it would seem as if, inflated with the pride of power, and unable to vent their fury on each other, they had with one consent laid down the usual modes of warfare, and entered on a contest of rapacity and injustice toward all other powers. Decrees and orders have followed in rapid succession, and friendly neutrals have been oppressed and plundered without mercy.
While both parties have thus pursued the same track, each has lavished the most opprobrious epithets on the conduct of the other, The most plausible pretexts, however, have not been wanting for their own justification. The oppressor of the continent is fighting for the liberty of the seas, and the glorious object of the conflagrator of Copenhagen, and the tyrant of the ocean, is the emancipation of Europe from the chains of its despot. It is with the utmost regret that both
have been forced, through just and necessary retaliation, in a war waged, not for their individual glory, nor through the lust of power, but for the liberties of the world, to depart from the rules of civilized warfare, and to plunder indiscriminately friends and foes.
It is certainly a remarkable coincidence, that the Russian and American wars should have broken out within a few days of each other, and that nearly at the same moment Bonaparte should be threatening to plant his victorious eagles on the walls of St. Petersburgh, and Great Britain boasting that she would sweep every American cock boat from the ocean, little suspecting that, in a few short months, the invincible legions of France would be nearly annihilated by a herd of * barbarous Cossacs,” and the British ensign be repeatedly struck to the “ fir-built” frigates of a despicable foe. It is sincerely to be hoped that both nations, and the world in general, will profit by the important lessons of this eventful year.
land forces were next to nothing. An of 35,000 men, it is true, were authorized by congress, and the president was empowered to call out 100,000 militia ; but the latter species of force, though strong in defensive operation, in offensive is perhaps worse than nothing, and in a free country like this, where a comfortable subsistence is so readily procured, the embodying of a large regular force is far from being the work of a day. Besides, some time is necessary to change the habits of men from civil to military; men brought up to ease arld indolence cannot at once execute the duties and meet the perils of war. Considerable difficulties were experienced likewise in finding officers fitted for command. Many of the revolutionary characters were dead, and those who survived were almost too old for active service. In this state of things, can it be a subject of wonder that the raw forces of the United States, headed by officers who had never seen service, and accompanied by rash militia, without subordination, should experience some disasters in the commencement of their career? These disasters, however, have thrown no disgrace on the American name. On the contrary, the conduct of the American armies has reflected honour on their country, and all their reverses have been occasioned either by the rashness of undisciplined bravery, or by the misconduct or inexperience of their leaders.
From the disadvantages under which the army has laboured, the little navy of America has been entirely free. The previous embarrassments of commerce rendered it
easy for our naval officers to supply themselves with a sufficient number of seamen, and with men too who had all their lives been engaged in similar pursuits, and under the most rigorous discipline ; for we apprehend that but little difference exists as to discipline and general habits between a merchantman and a ship of war. With these circumstances in view, then, while we rejoice over the brillant exploits of our naval heroes, let us not doubt but that the American army, when it has overcome the difficulties which have arisen from the long peace with which the United States has been blessed, and from the very nature of its free political institutions, will shew what can be achieved by freemen by land as well as by sea.
52. At the time of the declaration of war, general Hull, governor of the territory of Michigan, was on his march through the Indian country in the state of Ohio, with an army of about 2000 men, destined for Detroit. In the preceding month of April the governor of Ohio had been ordered by the president to call out 1200 militia. This requisition was principally filled by volunteers, who rendezvoused at Dayton on the 29th of
April, and were shortly after placed under the command of general Hull. In the beginning of June the detachment advanced to Urbanna, where, on the tenth, they were joined by the 4th regiment of United States infantry. The following day they commenced their march through the wilderness.
3. From Urbanna to the rapids of the Miami of the Lakes, the country belongs to the Indians, and is entirely destitute of roads. From the rapids to Detroit, along Lake Erie and Detroit river, are various settlements, principally of French Canadians. By the treaty of Greenville, concluded by general Wayne with the Indians in 1795, a number of tracts, generally six miles square, were ceded to the United States, which form chains of posts joining the lakes with the Ohio by the course of the navigable rivers and the portages connecting them. By the treaty a free passage both by land and water was to be allowed to the people of the United States, along these chains of posts. Forts or block-houses have been erected and garrisoned in most of these ceded tracts since the declaration of war, but at the time that the country was traversed by general Hull's detachment, no civilized being was to be seen between Urbanna and the rapids, a distance of at least 120 miles.
Towards the end of June the army arrived at the rapids, where a beautiful and romantic country suddenly opened to their view, enlivened by the signs of cultivation, and by the dwellings of their countrymen. Here a beam of joy animated every countenance, and
energy and fortitude to those who had undergone with difficulty the fatigues of à march at once gloomy and oppressive. On men who had just emerged from a dreary wilderness, unincumbered by a single hut reared by the hand of civilization, occupied by nought but Indians and beasts of prey, the change of scenery had a wonderful effect.
After stopping here one day for refreshment, the army recommenced their march, having previously loaded a small schooner with the hospital stores and officers? baggage, which was dispatched to Detroit by water, under a guard of a lieutenant and thirty men. Before they reached Detroit the army were informed of the capture of the schooner, and of the declaration of war. On the morning of the 5th of July, they arrived at Spring Wells, opposite Sandwich, within a few miles of Detroit, where they encamped.
$ 4. As general Hull had received, before his taking command of the army, discretionary powers to act offensively in case of war, the invasion of Canada was now determined on, and the utmost diligence was used in preparation for that event. The arms of the troops were repaired, a part of the ordnance
found in the fort at Detroit was mounted, and every exertion was used by the officers to impress on the minds of the soldiery the necessity of strict discipline and obedience to orders.
On the 12th of July the army crossed into Canada, with the exception of a small part of one company of militia, that refused to pass the river. They encamped at Sandwich, a little below Detroit, where a proclamation was issued by general Hull.
The inhabitants fled in the utmost consternation on the approach of the army, but on receiving the proclamation, many of them returned to their homes.
$ 5. On the 14th a company of militia and a rifle corps, under colonel M‘Arthur, were detached to reconnoitre the country. They penetrated to M'Gregor's mills, upon the river La Tranche, or Thames, a short distance from the field of battle where the British army was captured fifteen months afterwards by general Harrison. On the 17th, they returned to camp, having collected a great quantity of provisions, and a number of blankets, besides a considerable quantity of ammunition and other military stores.
That part of Upper Canada traversed by the detachment is described by one of the volunteers that composed it as extreme- , ly fertile and beautiful. The fields of wheat and Indian corn were remarkably fine ; but as every male capable of bearing arms had been drafted for the defence of the province, vast quantities of the wheat remained ungathered.
96. On the 16th, another reconnoitering party of 280 men, under colonel Cass, was despatched in an opposite direction, towards Fort Malden, where the British and Indians had concentrated their forces.
Malden, or Amherstburgh, is situated near the junction of Detroit river with lake Erie, about thirteen miles south from the camp of general Hull at Sandwich. The road lies along the river, and crosses two creeks and the river Aux Canards, the latter about four miles from Malden. Cass's detachment found the British advanced posts in possession of a bridge over the Aux Canards. After examining their position, the colonel posted a company of riflemen near the bridge, and forded the river about five miles above with the remainder of his force, with the intention of surprising the British post. For that purpose the riflemen were instructed to commence firing, in order to'divert the attention of the enemy, as soon as they should perceive their companions on the opposite side of the river. Unfortunately, however, being entirely destitute of guides, the detachment marched too near the bank of the river, and found their progress checked by a creek, which obliged them to make