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Indiana University Bloomington


Old Northwest 1812

[Address to the officers and soldiers of the First army of Ohio] /
[Address to the officers and soldiers of the First army of Ohio] / (1812.)

Surrender of Detroit

The United States was ill-prepared to begin the war, especially lacking in numbers of ground troops, so the fall of 1812 began slowly with a less than successful multi-pronged attack on British North America. Brigadier General William Hull led a force of regulars and militia across the wilderness of the Old Northwest, cutting a road as they travelled, intending to use Detroit as a base of operations in the region. As Hull settled in to Detroit, British forces in Canada moved to seize Fort Mackinac (also known as Fort Michilimackinac) located at the strategic straits between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. They took possession of the important fur trading post on July 17, 1812, without much resistance.

British and Native American raids along the road captured some of Hull’s papers and threatened his supply lines. News of the fall of Fort Mackinac further alarmed  General Hull, causing him to abandon his offensive plans and remain in place at Detroit. Though British and Native American troops were far fewer and farther away than he feared, Hull waited at Detroit until Brigadier General Isaac Brock began to mount a siege. Craftily, Brock let it be known that he was not sure he could control the native warriors in the heat of battle. The prospect of a massacre tipped the already fearful Hull over the edge. On August 16, 1812, he surrendered Detroit with barely a shot fired, and was court-martialed for treason and cowardice in 1813.