By Bill Loomis / Special to The Detroit News
In a way, it’s good that almost nobody knows much about the War of 1812. Detroit played a significant role, and it was not the city’s finest hour.
Poor leadership, outnumbered and inexperienced troops, limited supplies, a fierce cannon bombardment and the imminent threat of an Indian attack led to this ignominious claim to fame: Detroit became the only major American city ever to surrender to a foreign power — a record that still stands.
While the war is primarily remembered today for the birth of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the burning of the White House and the Battle of New Orleans, in the first year and a half of the war, Detroit and the Great Lakes took center stage.
Motivations for war
The setting for the war came at a low point in our country. By 1812 the American Revolution had long been over. Many in the world stopped admiring the U.S. and soured on the idea of democracy, especially after the hideous violence of the French Revolution of 1789-99. Politically, Americans bickered viciously, divided between Federalists primarily in New England versus Republicans in Virginia. The U.S. was called the “land of hate” by U.S. history author Gaillard Hunt.
The reasons for going to war were never clear. Sections of the U.S. were so geographically separated that each region came to fight the war for different reasons.
The eastern seaboard loathed impressments, in which armed British military would board American vessels and force American sailors to fight on their war ships.
The mid-Atlantic coast fought against a blockade the British had established.
New Orleans feared an invasion from the mighty British navy.
In Detroit and the Northwest Territory that included Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and parts of Minnesota, the belief was that the British were inciting Indians to drive out the settlers and retake the land; it was claimed the British did this to protect their lucrative fur trade.
Of course, the British did not see it this way. An account of “The Late War Between Great Britain and the United States of America …” written by William James and published in London in 1818 gave the British perspective:
“The Indians cannot exist without their hunting grounds: these are continually cut down, and encroached upon, by the white borderers … An American citizen — out of mere wantonness and with as little remorse as if it were a wild turkey — shoots a poor Indian; the yells of the widowed squaw and her children rend the air in vain …”
Whatever the reasons, Americans knew they were legally a country but felt they were not being treated as such. A new generation of Americans decided it was their time.
Wrong man for an impossible job
Thomas Jefferson appointed the Michigan Territory’s first American governor in 1805, William Hull. Born in Connecticut in 1753 and a graduate of Yale, Hull had been a militia captain in the Revolutionary War. He was cited twice for bravery and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the regular army, before leaving the service in 1784 to practice law in Massachusetts. Hull was an able administrator but as a New England lawyer had trouble relating to Detroiters of the day, who were primarily French, Indian or British.
The Indians he distrusted and some said he greatly feared them, which in his circumstances was not good, since the territory had more than 65,000 Native Americans and only about 4,700 whites. Half the settlers lived in or near Detroit, along the waterways. But the British controlled the Great Lakes. Traveling south by land to reach the rest of the U.S. was difficult because of a 100-mile-long, 40-mile-wide nearly impassible marsh called the “Black Swamp,” near current Toledo.
The name Tecumseh terrified settlers in Michigan. The Shawnee leader had seen tribal chiefs swindled into selling millions of acres of land to Americans. Tecumseh built a large confederacy of Native Americans determined to force out the settlers. He had strong appeal to young warriors who were losing their tribal traditions and succumbing to alcoholism. Their attacks on settlers were merciless and horrifying. So, it was a nightmare come true when it was rumored in late 1811 that Tecumseh had joined the British at Fort Malden across the Detroit River and a mere 10 miles south of Detroit, along with 1,800 warriors.
Detroit leaders and Hull saw that they could be fighting a war on two fronts — on land, against thousands of Indians across Michigan, and on water, against British war ships and Tecumseh.
Hull realized he needed to reinforce the military presence at Fort Detroit immediately; Detroit had a mere 94 regular soldiers. He headed for Washington to make his request. It was in Washington that he learned of the government’s plan to invade Canada.
The march from Dayton to Detroit
Americans were provincial in 1812 and unrealistic about their own abilities. It showed up in the popular assessment of Canada and the leadership capabilities of old Revolutionary War heroes. It was decided that since Americans vastly outnumbered the British in Canada, they would take the offensive and attack Canada. The population of the U.S. at that time was 7.5 million while in Canada there were about 400,000 whites spread out over enormous distances.
Many of the Canadians were French and not loyal to the British crown. The Americans thought they could invade Canada and claim possession; in Washington City (it was not yet the District of Columbia) the notion was popular. Thomas Jefferson was quoted as saying, “Simply march up and take it.” They would strike first and fortify positions. The Americans wanted a quick end to the war, and holding Canada would give them a bargaining chip. The British were still locked in war with Napoleon and France; if the American war with Britain did not end quickly, the Americans would face hardened, experienced redcoats shipped over from Europe.
The invasion would occur in three locations: Lake Champlain, Niagara Peninsula and Detroit. President James Madison and Secretary of War William Eustis wanted Hull, now in his 60s, to take on the task at Detroit. Hull would be given the title Brigadier General of the Army of the Northwest and retain his title as Governor of the Michigan Territory.
“I proceeded to the state of Ohio and took command of the forces … these militia were badly armed, badly clothed, and completely undisciplined …,” William Hull wrote in his memoir “Campaign of the Northwestern Army of the United States.”
The militia arrived in Dayton, Ohio, a town of about 400, on May 25, 1812, armed with rusty muskets, kitchen knives, no bedding or blankets, and no experience in soldiering. Since there were no regular uniforms, leadership improvised with linen hunting shirts, trousers, leather belts, and low-crowned felt hats.
There was the added confusion of command; state militia reported to its own state officers, but not to federal officers nor to Hull. Young and inexperienced militia officers, such as a 30-year-old lawyer named Lewis Cass, bickered and wrangled over command.
They began marching through a wilderness and expecting an ambush from Indians. Frequently wives and children marched with the troops. Mrs. Lydia Bacon, age 26, accompanied her childhood sweetheart, now her husband, Lieutenant Josiah Bacon, a quartermaster of the Fourth Regiment of the United States Infantry. Mrs. Bacon carried in a bag on the pommel of her saddle a Bible, a copy of Homer’s “Iliad,” and a “huge Spunge cake.” She wrote letters to her 15-year-old sister Abby, her mother and friends in Boston, which later she collected as a memoir of her experiences during the War of 1812.
“We have been six weeks on our journey, four of which has been damp with a great deal of rain. I find it difficult to guide my Horse some times, the new roads cut by the Soldiers are rather narrow, & the boughs of the small trees & large bushes come in contact with our faces, & when it rains, I have to hold the reins, & Umbrella, with one hand, & with the other endeavor to keep the bushes from scratching my eyes out & tearing my bonnet off my head … the mosquitoes are very troublesome.”
Military discipline is a continual problem for Hull. Mrs. Bacon describes an example:
“The Malitia [sic] are very different from regulars, most of them have no idea of order & discipline, they think they can do as they please, one man for mutinous conduct, has been tried & sentenced to have half his head shaved, Tory written on his back, & drummed out of camp, with the Rogues March …”
Robert Lucas, a scout and future governor of Ohio, was days ahead of the army. He reached the Black Swamp in June, writing in his journal:
“Proceeded on to the foot of the rapids through a tremendous Swamp of 40 miles distance … the Swamp being without intermission from knee deep to belly deep to our horses for 8 or 10 miles together.”
A large luggage error
Hull and his army forged on to make a road, called Hull’s Trace. It was a slow grind. Where the land was too wet to cross, the soldiers cut large logs, sometimes 5 feet in circumference and laid them side by side to make a road bed that was called a “corduroy road.” (Remnants of Hull’s Trace in Michigan were discovered in the year 2000 where West Jefferson Avenue crosses the Huron River in Brownstown Charter Township. Extremely low Lake Erie water levels of that year exposed the old log bed.)
In the summer of 1812 it rained for weeks on end. On June 30 they reached the Miami River (now called the Maumee River) and neared Michigan Territory. Three hundred of his army died slogging and hacking through the water and muck, mostly of injuries and a form of malaria called “ague” or “Michigan fever.” More than half of his men were sick with fever.
Hull was then hit with another bit of bad luck. Because it was so much easier to travel on water than on land, Hull chartered a schooner on the river for $60 to sail to Detroit with some of the militia’s sick and injured, plus musicians (who were looking after the sick), medical supplies, musical instruments, uniforms, and officer’s wives, including Mrs. Bacon. His son, Captain Abraham Hull, mistakenly loaded a case that held Hull’s own personal papers, which included letters from Madison and Eustis detailing troop strength and more.
Hull did not know at the time that war had already been declared on June 18. On the night of July 1, the schooner sailed up the Detroit River. The British captured the ship and took the passengers to Fort Malden. Mrs. Bacon described the experience:
“The sails was lowered & the English Capt with his Men jumped on board deligh’ed with their prieze, most of the Hospital stores were on board & all the Officers baggage. Leiut G enquired the cause of this conduct & was informed that War was declared … we could hardly believe it, but it was too true, General Hull received the intelligence, after we started, & sent immediately to stop us, but we had got beyond their reach … The Capts name was Rulet, a very gentlemanly young man, he took the Helm & in a short time we were anchored at Malden Prisoners to His Majesty King George 3d …”
The British captain ordered the captured musicians to play “God Save the King.” After a short time, Lydia and the other officers’ wives were released back to Detroit. The British now knew as much about Hull, his plans and his army as he did himself.
Go forth and conquer Canada
On July 5, Hull and his army reached Detroit, which at that time consisted of about 800 residents, 150 houses and the fort. He arrived with 450 regular army, 1,450 Ohio militia, and 200 Michigan militia led by Maj. James Witherell. Upon arrival Hull was given the orders from U.S. War Secretary Eustis to take the offensive: “… You will take possession of Malden and extend your conquests as circumstances may justify.”
He had hoped for a little time but the orders were unmistakable. At dawn of July 12, 1812, Hull began sending small boats loaded with soldiers to Canada. Some in the Ohio Militia refused to cross, claiming their state charter did not permit them to leave the country. Hull let them stay to defend Detroit. Lewis Cass’s Ohio regiment was among the first to cross the river near Hog Island (Belle Isle). They met no resistance. (Today a Canadian historic marker next to the Hiram Walker distillery in Windsor indicates the spot where they landed.)
Hull had a declaration written (some believe the author was Lewis Cass) which he distributed and posted, claiming to have come to liberate the Canadians from the servitude of British rule. He also offered personal and property protection; many Americans had recently migrated to Canada and he felt confident they would welcome the American invasion.
The regiments gathered cautiously on the Canadian side and marched quietly to the Village of Sandwich, at what is now the foot of the Ambassador Bridge. Hull bivouacked at a prominent fur trader’s house in Sandwich and set up his base, which the Americans called “Fort Hope.” He planned to have cannon now on both sides of the river. This would allow him to defend Detroit and control the river traffic. He could add to his provisions from Canada and convince some Canadians to join the Americans. Some of them did, but not in substantial numbers.
In addition, Hull had been through several bayonet charges in the American Revolution. He knew inexperienced, untrained men falter in such circumstances. Hull intended to remain in Sandwich until he felt the men were ready for combat and he had artillery pieces to soften up the fort with bombardment. In Detroit, men were working on “traveling carriages” so the large cannon could be moved about. He would wait and saw no need to hurry.
Fort Malden, 10 miles south of Sandwich, was a fully fortified fortress with an advanced redoubt and a 14-foot-high picket surrounding it. It had 150 loopholes for firearms and was protected by 20 mounted cannon. Lt. Colonel St. George commanded the fort with 300 veteran redcoats, the British 41st Regiment Foot. They also had their own Canadian militia, with 600 from Essex and 850 from Kent.
In addition, 400 warriors led by Tecumseh were eager to fight the Americans; the tribes they represented included Shawnee, Wyandot, Ottawa, Chippewa, Seneca, Six Nations, Sioux, Pottawatomie, Mohawk, and as Robert Lucas described them, “28 Warriors without any Women or Children with them. They was of the Kickapoo nation and the same fellows that was at the battle with Harrison [the Battle of Tippecanoe]. Some of them show their wounds. They said there was more of their nation coming behind them.”
Hull’s soldiers grow impatient
While terrifying to settlers, Tecumseh had a charisma and regal bearing that impressed both Native Americans and whites. He was described by a British aide-de-camp: “Tecumseh’s appearance was very prepossessing: his figure light, and finely proportioned; his age I imagined to be about five-and-thirty [he was about forty]; in height, 5 feet 9 or 10 inches; his complexion light copper; countenance oval, with bright hazel eyes, bearing cheerfulness, energy, and decision. Three small silver crosses or coronets were suspended from the lower cartilage of his aquiline nose, and a large silver medallion of George the Third, which I believe his ancestor had received from Lord Dorchester when Governor General of Canada, was attached to a mixed-colored wampum string and hung round his neck. His dress consisted of a plain, neat uniform, tanned deer-skin jacket, with long trowsers (sic) of the same material, the seams of both being covered with neatly-cut fringe, and he had on his feet leather moccasins, much ornamented with work made from the dyed quills of the porcupine.”
With the Indians’ reputation for cruel treatment of American soldiers and settlers, the British used the Indian warriors to effectively undermine American morale through fear. Indians would come and go as they pleased and the British were expected to feed, arm, and supply their families. The British seldom knew at any one time how many Indians they had available for fighting.
Along the river the British had the brigs General Hunter and Queen Charlotte both heavily armed. Meanwhile, Hull waited and trained his soldiers for two weeks undisturbed. His soldiers and young officers grew impatient and wondered why they were not advancing to Fort Malden. Concerns about Hull’s timidity were rising. Lewis Cass led a force of 200 men to capture a bridge on the River Canard about five miles from Fort Malden. This was not what Hull wanted since the bridge was indefensible against cannon from the British ships. But his officers saw it differently.
On top of this, Hull learned that Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island had surrendered to the British without a fight. For Hull this meant one thing: the potential for 3,000 Native American warriors now free to come to Detroit and aid the British. The thought of a massacre in Detroit haunted Hull. He decided to pull out of Sandwich and head back to Detroit with the hope of getting reinforcements. His officers considered mutiny.
In the meantime, the leading British commander in Upper Canada — Major General Isaac Brock — arrived at Fort Malden with reinforcements. He was 42 years old and a commanding presence at 6 feet 3 inches tall. Where Hull was cautious, Brock was brash and bold. At Malden, Brock met Tecumseh and instantly the two men formed a bond. “Now here is a man!” Tecumseh supposedly declared when he learned of Brock’s intentions to carry the offensive. Despite different backgrounds, the two men shared common characteristics. Both were natural, aggressive fighters and each earned the respect and trust of their men.
Brock knew the Americans’ supply line was weak from Detroit south along the water to Monroe, so he ordered Tecumseh and British soldiers to ambush supply caravans. This resulted in two skirmishes: the Battle of Brownstown and the Battle of Maguaga.
Frightened by Indians
On or about Aug. 3, 1812, Hull received a letter from Captain Brush of the Ohio volunteers, informing him that he had arrived at the River Raisin, 36 miles from Detroit, with a detachment of 200 men and provisions brought from Ohio for the army (300 cattle and 70 horses loaded with flour). He had to pass through about 20 miles of woods, and the road leading through Brownstown was the only one he could travel. He thought it advisable to halt the convoy and wait for a detachment from the army at Detroit to reinforce him before he attempted the march.
Hull believed Detroit was down to 20 days of food, so he had to have this supply line secured. For young American soldiers who had never fought Indians, the prospects were truly terrifying. A British officer, Major Richardson of the 41st Regiment, gave the following description of the appearance of the Indian warriors: “No other sound than the measured step of the troops interrupted the solitude of the scene, rendered more imposing by the wild appearance of the warriors, whose bodies, stained and painted in the most frightful manner for the occasion, glided by us with almost noiseless velocity, without order and without a chief; some painted white, some black, others half black and half red, half black and half white; all with their hair plastered in such a way as to resemble the bristling quills of the porcupine, with no other covering than a cloth around their loins, yet armed to the teeth with rifles, tomahawks, war-clubs, spears, bows and arrows, and scalping-knives.
“Uttering no sound, and intent on reaching the enemy unperceived, they might have passed for the spectres of those wilds — the ruthless demons which war had unchained for the punishment and oppression of men.”
The first attempt to escort the supplies proved disastrous for the Americans. Led by Major Thomas Van Horne, 150 men from the Findley, Ohio regiment made their way downriver (Hull told him to take 300). Hull wanted Van Horne to take a back path, not the regular road, but at dawn Van Horne could not find a back path so went ahead on the road without advanced scouts, despite warnings of ambush. On Aug. 5, 1812 at the Brownstown Creek, they were fired on by Tecumseh’s men. Van Horne’s horse was shot out from under him. Officers ordered the men to retreat and reform at higher ground, which many did to the extreme, running without stop the entire way back to Detroit. One historian, Alec Gilpin, commented, “If not brave, they were in good condition.”
As it turned out the 150 Americans were confronted by only 25 Indians — more evidence of the inexperience of Hull’s army. Van Horne’s Ohio regiment did sustain casualties in the battle — 17 killed and 12 wounded. (There is a monument to the Battle of Brownstown on South Gibraltar Road, just east of Jefferson.)
‘No man will disgrace himself’
A second attempt to reach the supply train, called the Battle of Maguaga (or sometimes Monguagon), proved better for the Americans. Six hundred men of various regiments from Ohio and Michigan were commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Miller. Miller led the soldiers in a parade through Detroit, and to be sure the actions of his men would be honorable, he told them before leaving, “I trust no man will disgrace himself or me — everyman who is seen to leave the ranks, without orders, shall instantly be put to death.”
A British and Indian force of 350 led by Captain Adam Muir and Tecumseh advanced toward the Americans at a ravine at the Wyandot village of Maguaga, in the current city of Trenton. (The exact location is uncertain; a Michigan state marker indicates the general area off Jefferson Avenue and Slocum near Elizabeth Park.) On Aug. 9, Tecumseh’s men were dispersed in an Indian cornfield and woods to the British left flank. Other celebrated Indians with Tecumseh were Walk-On-the-Water, Split Log and Marpot. Another 60 British regulars joined their ranks.
The Americans marched down the road. An artillerist, Lieutenant James Dalliba, recorded his experience: “… The troops marched over the ground on which Major Van Horne had been defeated four days before; and passed the dead bodies of several of the slain, and some dead horses.”
The American advance guard led by Captain Snelling was fired on but for the first time in the fighting the advance guard held position, and the force of the main body moved up to return fire. The Americans fought well and the battle continued for more than two hours. Miller’s horse threw him and immediately Indians pounced to scalp the leader, only to be driven back.
The British observed movement in the woods and began firing, thinking the Americans were flanking them. They were actually firing on their own allies, the Indians. Enraged, the Indians fired back. After a confused bayonet charge, the British retreated to hidden boats and returned to Fort Malden. Miller pursued the Indians for two miles, then assembled his men.
A downpour began. Having discarded their knapsacks, the men spent a night in a hard rain, without tents or food. Although they had the opportunity to open the road for the supplies, Miller waited for provisions from Hull and for reasons unclear did not continue to Monroe; it was said he was suffering from fever and some believe this was the reason. The Americans returned victorious, having dented the British hold on the road.
The bombardment of Detroit
Brock began building an embankment for a battery of cannon in Sandwich behind a brick house: an 18-pounder, two 12- pounders, and two mortars. It was hardly a secret and there were many questions as to why Hull did not try to knock out the battery before it was completed and ready to blast the city.
Brock also ordered the Queen Charlotte and General Hunter forward with cannon ready. The larger brig Queen Charlotte was 180 tons with 10 20-pound cannon and six long guns, twelve-pounders. The ship was manned by two officers and 27 men. Brock ordered Tecumseh’s men posted on the north side of Detroit. When the bombing ceased, the Indians were ordered to attack the city.
On Aug. 15, Brock sent a summons to Hull demanding the surrender of Detroit. Hull refused. Women and children were ordered to the fort. They knew that as soon as the British officers returned to Sandwich and reached the opposite shore, the bombardment from the battery and ships would begin.
Cannon balls and artillery fire exploded into houses and buildings of Detroit. Judge Augustus B. Woodward had a cannonball smash into his fireplace, and bounce down his stairway. Augustin Longon built a log home in 1809 at the corner of Griswold and Congress. As the British batteries began hammering Detroit a cannon ball came through the roof of Longon’s house. It passed through the middle of the breakfast table just as the family had finished eating, and then through the floor. The family escaped outside just as the ball exploded.
Lydia Bacon wrote to her mother about the day:
“I took Mrs. H’s daughter by the hand and fled to the fort. This was some distance from our house but I assure you I did not loiter by the way. When I arrived I found most had preceded me. It was not long ere the cannonade commenced on both sides. The firing continued till midnight without intermission. … Captain S two days previously to commencement of the hostilities had married a sweet little girl of fourteen years. She was with us having a nephew under her care, a child of five. The two hand in hand like “Babes in the Woods” cried themselves to sleep …
“As soon as the morning arose the cannon commenced to roar with ten fold fury … The enemy’s bombs and shot began to enter the fort. Some of the ladies were employed in making cylinders (bags to hold powder for cannons) others were scraping lint that it might be used to dress the wounds of the injured soldiers. While thus engaged, a twenty four pound shot entered the room next to where we were sitting. Two officers who were standing in the room were cut entirely in two, their bowels gushing out as they fell. The same ball, after doing such horrid execution, passed through the wall into another room where a number of persons were standing. Here it took off both legs of one man, and sliced the flesh off the thigh of another. The man who lost both legs died very soon.”
One of the doctors Stephen C. Henry described the scene:
“Just before Hull ordered the white flag to be hoisted on the ramparts of the Fort, a cannon shot killed three officers and wounded one. I was ordered to amputate the leg of the surviving officer. General Hull came. The sight was dreadful, but not reason enough to surrender.”
The enemy now had the range of the fort, and it was judged no longer safe for the women and children. Lydia Bacon continued:
“So we were all hurried to the root-house [vegetable root cellar], which was on the opposite side of the fort, and was bomb proof. Never shall I forget my sensations as I crossed the parade ground to gain this place of safety. … it seemed as if my heart would burst. My hair stood erect on my head which in the hurry of escape was uncovered, as I raised my eyes and caught a glimpse of the bombs, shells and balls that were flying in all directions … On going to the root-house I found it nearly full of women and children. What a scene was here presented! … Such a day of lamentation and weeping I never witnessed before, and pray I may never again be called to see.”
Hull could do little and could not bear the outcome of a massacre of Detroit residents by the growing army of Native Americans. On Aug. 16, 1812 he agreed to surrender the fort and as brigadier general of the Army of the Northwest, the entire region. Some accounts say he surrendered without a single shot being fired from the American side. His officers were disgusted. The nation humiliated. The Northwest Territory was again owned by the British.
“We received the melancholy tidings that General Hull had surrendered Detroit himself and the whole army to the British. Do you not tremble with resentment at this treacherous act?” — First Lady Dolley Madison, August 31, 1812.
Taken prisoner by the British
Hull and the army were taken prisoner to Montreal. (Josiah and Lydia Bacon were by Hull’s side as prisoners on the Queen Charlotte.) Charles Askin, a captain of one of the Canadian militia, gave a brief description of the surrender:
“I saw the American prisoners embarking, many of whom were unwell with fevers and some wounded. Poor fellows I fear few of them will ever get home.”
Was Hull as bad as people thought or was he the victim of a poor plan to invade Canada with untrained soldiers and nonexistent logistics? Hull was put on trial for treason. The prosecuting attorney was future president Martin Van Buren. The principal accuser and witness was Lewis Cass. Robert Lucas also testified against him. Presiding over the trial was General Henry Dearborn, the commander Hull had pleaded with to send more troops to defend Detroit. Hull was court-martialed and sentenced to death, but was pardoned by President Madison based on his honorable record in the Revolution. He was considered incompetent but not a traitor.
Hull spent his remaining days in Connecticut, nearly a hermit, writing a lengthy, rambling book to justify his decision. “I beg you, my fellow citizens, to look back, and consider what took place, before I left Washington, on this subject,” Hull wrote.
The Americans learned and would continue to learn hard lessons from their inexperience. In January of 1813 they would suffer a terrible defeat in Monroe — the Battle of River Raisin. But they were getting better and the Second Army of the Northwest, led by William Henry Harrison, soon had several victories in Ohio. In the fall of 1813 the Americans had their first national hero — Oliver H. Perry, who captured the entire British fleet at the Battle of Lake Erie. Without control of the waterways, the British fled and Harrison led the final battle on the River Thames near present-day Chatham, Ontario, in which the British were defeated and Tecumseh was killed.
The war ended in early 1815, with both Americans and Canadians considering themselves victorious, although no land changed hands. The British never again threatened the United States. Native Americans would be the greatest losers in the War of 1812 as their power was broken in Michigan and the surrounding states. After their defeat in the war, the tribes were forced to sell all of their land claims to the U.S. federal government by the Treaty of Saginaw and the Treaty of Chicago, which was essentially the entire lower peninsula.
Bill Loomis’ book “Detroit’s Delectable Past,” which covers two centuries of food, dining, drinking, and lively times in Detroit, will be released in September by The History Press.
Legacy of the war: Place names
Many of Detroit’s streets and Michigan’s counties, cities and townships are named after heroes, leaders and common Detroiters who fought in the War of 1812. Here are some of them:
Cass Avenue — Lewis Cass was a prominent figure in Detroit for decades, including serving as territorial governor and later U.S. senator. He was one of three regimental lieutenant colonels of the Ohio Volunteers.
Macomb County — Col. Alexander Macomb won acclaim and a Congressional Gold Medal during the War of 1812 as brigadier general in command of the frontier of northern New York. He was at the Battle of Plattsburgh on Sept. 11, 1814 and was showered with praise and styled “The Hero of Plattsburgh” by the American press.
Larned Street — Charles Larned was a Kentucky fighter who fought in Detroit in the war. Along with Lewis Cass, Larned tried to get William Hull removed from command before he surrendered Detroit. Later he fought in the Battle of the River Thames. After the war, Larned practiced law in Detroit and became attorney general for Michigan.
Shelby Township — Named for Isaac Shelby, hero of the American Revolution and first governor of Kentucky. At the age of 63, while governor during the War of 1812, he personally led the Kentucky militia in the Battle of the Thames, an action that was rewarded with a Congressional Gold Medal. Counties in nine states and several cities and military bases have been named in his honor.
Van Horn Road — On Aug. 4, 1812, Major Thomas Van Horn (sometimes spelled Horne) was sent to open the road from Detroit to the River Raisin and protect supplies destined for Detroit. Van Horn’s detachment ran into an ambush of Indians near Brownstown and he retreated with heavy losses.
Sibley Highway — Solomon Sibley is known for many things in the early American days of Detroit — frontier lawyer, Detroit’s first charter chairman, Michigan Supreme Court justice and more. During the War of 1812, Sibley commanded a company of riflemen in defense of Detroit.
Brush Street — Elijah Brush was lieutenant colonel of the Michigan Militia during the war. He and other militia officers were taken prisoner and shipped to Toronto, but his brother-in-law, a British officer, procured his release. Brush returned to Detroit in late 1813 when American troops retook the city.
City of Tecumseh — Named after the famous Shawnee leader.
Dequindre Street — While the street is likely named after the family farm, Major Antoine Dequindre was a captain during the War of 1812 who fought courageously in the Battle of Brownstown.
Gratiot Avenue — Col. Charles Gratiot Jr. served with William Henry Harrison as his chief engineer in the War of 1812. He rebuilt Fort St. Joseph, later renamed Fort Gratiot in his honor and the road that led to the fort was named Gratiot Avenue. In 1814 he took part in the unsuccessful attack to regain Mackinac Island from the British. He received the thanks of Congress for his efforts during the war.
Witherell Street — Major James Witherell was a territorial judge and leader of the Michigan Militia in the war.