Hull worried about his supply line from Ohio. He was also convinced he was outnumbered by fierce, unrelenting warriors. Anxious to keep “his friendly Indians” in Michigan Territory neutral he called for an all native conference to renew their pledges of neutrality. Captain Lewis, Logan and The Wolf acted as scouts for Hull when he hacked his way through the bogs of northwestern Ohio and dense forests of Michigan to Detroit. Black Hoof joined them just after their arrival. Hull assigned them the task of calling the friendly chiefs to a council at Walk-In-The-Water’s Wyandotte village near Brownstown. Tecumseh, Roundhead and Main Poc were invited but declined.
On July 15th Black Hoof spoke to the council of nine nations. Chiefs from the Ojibwa, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Wyandotte, Kickapoo, Delaware, Munsee, Sac and Six Nations of the Grand attended. He brought them a message from the great American war chief who was at Detroit explaining that the Americans were obliged to go to War with Great Britianir because they would not permit the them to enjoy their neutral rights. Further, it was not of interest to the First Nations to concern themselves with the two government’s differences. And because the British were too weak to contend with them they were enticing all the nations around to join them in their fight. It was the desire of their Great Father in Washington that they not do so but remain neutral and enjoy their peace.
Lewis and Logan followed with reminders of how the British treated them at the end of the War of Independence and how they were abandoned at Fallen Timbers. They argued that they all should let the Red Coats and the Big Knives fight their own battles and if they did they could be assured their Great Father in Washington wanted no more of their land and he would always care for needs.
The chiefs still believing the British were fighting an unwinnable war professed their continued neutrality and July 20th the conference ended. Black Hoof, Logan, Lewis and The Wolf left immediately for Piqua and the Conference called for on August 1st.
A week later Major James Denny moved down the Canadian shore of the Detroit to just short of the Aux Canard. He was at the head of 120 Ohio Militiamen when they came upon a small party of warriors who were out of range. They traded shots to no avail while the warriors sent for reinforcements. Denny also sent one of his men back up the road to Sandwich and their main camp. Unfortunately, he ran into another small war party of thirteen at Turkey Creek where he was tomahawked. He would be the first American soldier killed in the war.
Tecumseh and Main Poc rushed from Malden with 150 Shawnee, Ottawa and Potawatomi warriors. They skirted the road to a tall grass prairie called Petite Cote just beyond the bridge and set up an ambush. The small war party who killed the militiaman at Turkey Creek appeared and twenty militiamen gave chase down the road and past the ambush. The main body of warriors emerged from the tall sunflowers and wild carrots amid screeching war hoops and gunfire directed at Denny. He saw that he had a disaster on his hands. His troops were scattered so he broke with the main body for a wood lot on his left to set up a defensive line. The line held but the warriors moved to take possession of the road to his right. When they saw their only escape route was about to be cut off and they would be surrounded they panicked. They rushed for the road, every man for himself, with the warriors hot on their flank. They managed to reach the road safely but were in full retreat, running pell-mell back to Sandwich. The warriors hounded them all the way stopping along fence lines, orchards and behind homesteads to take pot shots at the fleeing Americans. They finally broke off the chase at Turkey Creek. Denny lost five killed, two wounded and one taken prisoner. The warriors lost one killed and three wounded.
The American captive was treated very badly because one of his comrades, William McColloch, found time during the skirmish to scalp the dead warrior. He was bound and whipped with ramrods but he did live and was ransomed by British Indian Agent Matthew Elliott.
The warriors now shifted their efforts to the other side of the Detroit. On August 3rd Tecumseh, Roundhead and Captain Adam Muir led a large force of warriors along with 100 Red Coats across the Detroit to Brownstown. They surrounded the towns of Maguaga and Brownstown and rounded up the inhabitants. Maguaga, Blue Jacket’s town, was inhabited by a mix of Shawnee and Wyandotte while Walk-In-The-Water’s town were all Wyandotte. The total population was approximately 300 all remaining neutral in the war.
The whole population was spirited back across the boarder to Bois Blanc Island where a council was held. Tecumseh and Roundhead pleaded for the Confederacy’s cause. Miere or Walk-In-The-Water retorted with his intention of keeping his word to remain neutral. In the end Tecumseh won out convincing the neutral First Nations to capitulate and join his cause. This added about eighty warriors to his force.
Two days later Tecumseh left Amherstburg again. This time he crossed the river with a much smaller force of just twenty-five. Their scouts made them aware of a mail run making its way north from Frenchtown with communications from Ohio. They ambushed the unsuspecting column killing eighteen of the French volunteers and capturing the mail. Of the seven that made it back to Frenchtown two were wounded.
Tecumseh’s scouts returned with more news. They had run across William McColloch, the same man that scalped the dead warrior at Petite Cote, who was with a scouting party of a mail run moving south. After learning that Major Thomas Van Horne was moving down the road from Detroit with 200 militiamen they killed all of the advance party including McColloch. Van Horne was intending to meet with the northbound mail to exchange communications. Tecumseh prepared an ambush at a most suitable spot and waited.
Van Horne approached with his mail pouches protected in the center of his column. It was preceded and flanked first by infantry then mounted militiamen. As they passed the point of ambush the trap was sprung. Mounted men and officers fell first. The militia panicked and fled. Over the next two days they straggled into Fort Detroit in a state of shock. They had lost twenty-five killed and twelve wounded. Tecumseh lost one dead and two wounded but captured both north and southbound communications. One letter from Hull to Eustis pleading for reinforcements revealed his belief that there were 2,000 unrepentant warriors about to descend on Detroit from the north country. A most valuable piece of information indeed.
Hull was fraught with anxiety. His most vulnerable asset was now breached. His supplies were cut off. He failed to take the bridge on the Aux Canard or Fort Malden. He seemed to see Tecumseh’s warriors everywhere. He withdrew his small advance stationed at Sandwich back to the fort and he sent a dispatch to Fort Dearborn to abandon their post and retreat either to Fort Wayne, Detroit or Michilimackinac. Now Hull gave up any notion of advancing and he assumed a defensive position inside the fort. The American invasion was over!
NEXT WEEK: The Fall of Detroit