Tecumseh’s confederacy began to grow. Early successes against the Big Knives bolstered the First Nations around Detroit. Teyoninhokarawenor The Snipe whose English name was John Norton arrived with seventy warriors. He was a Mohawk from the Grand River. His war party consisted of Iroquois from the Grand and some Munsee Delaware he had recruited from the Thames. Miscocomon or Red Knife joined him with a party of Ojibway warriors from the Thames.
The young warriors Kayotang and Yahobance, in English Raccoon, from Bear Creek (Sydenham River) raised a war party and joined with war chief Waupugais and his party from the Sauble. They traveled down the eastern shore of Lake Huron to Aamjiwnaang at the mouth of the St. Clair River. They met Misquahwegezhigk or Red Sky at the mouth of the Black River. He was the war chief of the Black River band of Saulteaux Ojibwa. They were all joined by Quakegman also known as Feather a war chief of the St. Clair band across the river. The whole entourage made its way south down the St. Clair to the lake of the same name. They picked up Petahgegeeshig or Between Day as well as Quaquakebookgk or Revolution with a large group of Ojibwa warriors from the Swan Creek and Salt River bands. The whole group arrived at Amherstburg sometime in early August 1812.
Okemos, who was a nephew of Pontiac, was the chief of the Cedar River band near present day Lansing, Michigan. They were a mixed band of Ojibwa and Ottawa people. He also arrived about the same time as the Saulteaux Ojibwa. Manitocorbay also came leading a large party of Ojibwa from Saginaw. Tecumseh’s coalition grew to about 600 warriors.
On the 9th of August Captain Adam Muir crossed the Detroit with just over 100 Red Coats, most of them regulars and started down the road to Bluejacket’s village of Maguaga. They were joined by Tecumseh with 300 warriors.. Main Poc and Walk-In-The-Water led the Potawatomi and Wyandotte bands.. Just as they arrived some of their scouts came rushing down the road with news. They excitedly told their chiefs that a large party of Big Knives were arriving from Detroit.
Hull had sent out a force to re-take the road that was his supply line from Ohio. This time the size of the force he sent out was much larger and included a healthy contingent of battle hardened regulars. The allied forces picked a place conducive to the ambush style forest warfare. Muir’s men flattened themselves on the ground on each side of the road while Main Poc and Walk-In-The-Water took up position ahead of the British in the woods on one side while Tecumseh covered them from the other side. There they lay, still and silent, awaiting the Americans. They didn’t have to wait long.
The Big Knives appeared marching down the road in two columns one on each side of the road with a column of cavalry in between. They were led by an advance guard of infantrymen under Captain Josiah Snelling while Lieutenant-Colonel James Miller rode at the head of the cavalry. Behind them was their baggage and heavy armament, one six-pounder and one howitzer. These were flanked by a small rear guard of regulars from the 4th U.S. Infantry. The unsuspecting Americans marched right passed the hiding enemy.
The warriors opened up fire upon the advance guard and the main column. The Red Coats joined the fire and the Big Knives broke ranks. However, they were battle tested veterans and among Hull’s finest soldiers. They regrouped under Miller and quickly formed battle lines. They began to advance firing mainly upon the British as the bright red jackets made easier targets than the warriors. Their 6 pounder also joined the fray by spaying the wooded areas with grape-shot.
Then things began to go wrong for the allies. One report said that the American’s forced one of the body of warriors to fall back and Muir’s men mistook them for advancing Blue Coats and so fired upon their own allies. Another report said the Red Coats mistook a command to advance as one to retreat giving up ground to Miller’s troops. Later Proctor would only record that during the battle something went amiss.
The Red Coats retired from the battlefield and retreated back to Malden. The warriors fought on for a time but were overwhelmed by superior numbers and they gave up the road to the Americans. But they didn’t hold control of their supply line for very long.
Inexplicably on August the 12th the “Old Lady”, that’s what Hull’s officers had come to call him, ordered Miller to withdraw back to the safety of Fort Detroit. Tecumseh moved back across the river and took control of the road to Urbana once again.
Tecumseh lost two warriors killed and six wounded in the Battle of Maguaga. He was slightly wounded himself. Muir lost five killed including Lieutenant Charles Sutherland, fourteen wounded and two missing. The Americans fared much worse. Miller suffered eighty-two casualties including eighteen dead. Jim Bluejacket, son of the great Shawnee Chief was also killed scouting for Miller. Although the Canadians lost the battle in the end because of Hull’s trepidation the blockade of Fort Detroit remained intact.
The American’s also had planned an invasion of Upper Canada at Niagara to coincide with Hull’s arrival at Sandwich but it was delayed. This freed up the commander of the British forces Isaac Brock to personally survey the situation on the Detroit frontier. He left Long Point with 350 men skirting the north shore of Lake Erie and up the Detroit. When he arrived at Amherstburg, sometime after the sun had set on August 13th, he was greeted with a volley of gunfire. The rounds were not deadly but fired off into the air as a greeting by the warriors on Bois Blanc Island.
A meeting of the officers was hastily called. Mathew Elliot, the old Indian Agent, quickly left to fetch Tecumseh. When Tecumseh and the General met they immediately hit it off. Both men were bold warriors, decisive in deed and had the military acumen only great generals enjoy. In short they were made of the same mettle.
When Brock heard of the trembling fear General Hull had of Tecumseh’s warriors he wanted to exploit this weakness. He decided to go on the offensive by attacking Fort Detroit. Proctor was against the plan as were most of the officers except for two. Tecumseh on the hand was filled with affirmative excitement. When that meeting broke up the decision had been made to send Hull a letter giving him the chance to surrender the fort. If the offer was refused they would attack. Colonel Proctor had been sent to Amherstburg to replace St. George. Now Brock would replace him as commander of the forces on the Detroit front.
On August 15th the letter containing Brock’s offer was sent across the river to Hull. In it Brock reminded Hull that ”the numerous body of Indians that have attached themselves to my troops will be beyond control the moment the contest commences”. He was preying on Hull’s most paralyzing fear but the bluff didn’t work. Hull refused to surrender. The following day British cannon fire roared across the Detroit from Sandwich. Hull returned the fire The British cannonade proved more deadly than Hull’s. Several shots found their mark landing inside the fort killing several people.
Brock marched his men boldly up the road to within sight of the main gate and its gatehouse. He led 800 men which included 300 regulars and 400 Militia with some dressed in red coats to give the impression he had more regulars than he did. Norton and his seventy Mohawk and Munsee warriors also marched with Brock. When they arrived to within sight of the fort they realized they were about to be met with the deadly fire of two twenty-four-pounders and one 6 pounder load with grape and canister shot. Brock peeled off taking shelter in a small ravine.
Roundhead, Walk-In-The-Water, Main Poc and Splitlog led their warriors through woods in order to attack the fort from the left and rear. Tecumseh led the rest of the coalition and joined them as they faced off against Hull’s militia. One story relates that during the face off Tecumseh had the 530 warriors march out of a small wood lot across an open field and into the main woods, circle around to the starting point. They filed passed the Americans again all the time screeching blood curdling war hoops in full view of the enemy. Three times the warriors showed themselves deceiving the militia and General Hull into actually believing the warriors they feared so much were there in the thousands.
While Brock had his men stationed in the ravine trying to entice Hull out of the fort he received bad news from scouts who had been patrolling the road south of the fort. They reported that a force of 350 militiamen under McArthur and Cass were approaching from the south. They had been sent two days earlier skirting through the forest to meet a supply convoy at the River Raisin. Before they reached their goal they were urgently recalled by Hull when he received Brock’s letter. Now it seemed Hull had Brock and his allies hemmed in.
However, neither Brock nor the war chiefs would entertain retreat. It was a tactic only to be used as a last resort. Brock decided to abandon the ploy to entice the Americans out of the fort to fight in the open. About 10 o’clock in the morning as Brock was preparing his men for a frontal assault the big American guns stopped firing across the Detroit. To Brock’s utter amazement a white flag was hung over the fort’s wall. The militia facing the warriors withdrew.. Not a shot was fired by either side.
Hull had fretted all morning about unrelenting “savages” overrunning the fort and committing unspeakable atrocities on the civilian populace. He especially worried about the safety of his own daughter and grandchildren who were with him. He surrendered the fort, the American army and all armament and supplies with only a few cannonade exchanged across the river. Never before had First Nation warriors so overwhelmingly contributed to such an immense victory over a common enemy.
Hull’s men were utterly dismayed and humiliated at being denied the chance to give account of themselves. They are said to have piled their small arms in heaps along the fort’s palisade with tears in their eyes. Cass and McArthur’s men had stopped to roast an ox they had caught running through the woods and were never a factor in the almost battle.
The American colors were lowered and the Union Jack hoisted above Fort Detroit to the sound of volleys of gunfire shot in the air. They were returned by cannon fire from Sandwich all as a victory celebration. The British flag had been absent from the Territory of Michigan for seventeen years. Now it had returned..The Territory of Michigan would now be annexed into the Province of Upper Canada.
General Hull was taken prisoner along with 582 regulars and 1,606 militia. There was also 350 Michigan Militia taken into the British forces because they were not part of American federal forces. However, half of them had already defected when the engagement commenced. Hull also gave up thirty-nine guns including nine twenty-four pounders, 3,000 rifles, a huge quantity of ammunition and twenty-five days worth of supplies. The spoils also included the Adams, a new American war ship not yet quite finished.
When Hull was returned to the U.S. he faced a court-martial charged with treason, cowardice, neglect of duty and bad conduct. The trial took place in April of 1814 where he was found not guilty of the first two charges but guilty of neglect of duty and bad conduct. He was sentenced to be shot but mercy was recommended because of his age and his exemplary war record during the Revolution. President Madison remitted his sentence and William Hull spent the rest of his life trying to defend himself and explain his conduct. He died in 1825.
NEXT WEEK: The Warrior’s Offensive Falters