||Sir Isaac Brock and Tecumseh
This lesson corresponds to material found in:
Episode 5 A Question of Loyalties
In the early 19th century, tension mounted between the United States and Britain. Britain waged war against Napoleonic France and blockaded European ports, preventing neutral American merchants from reaching their European markets. As well, the Americans were pushing westward into Native lands of the Ohio valley, and coming into conflict with British garrisons in those territories where sovereignty was not defined. American sentiment was growing in support of a Canadian invasion that would remove the British from North America and defeat their Native allies. On June 18, 1812, the United States Congress declared war on Britain; its objective was Canada. The United States was a nation of seven million people; there were 500,000 Canadians.
The commander of the British forces in Canada was Isaac Brock, a general who commanded 300 soldiers and 400 militiamen. He allied with Shawnee chief Tecumseh, who wanted to hinder American expansion and organize an Indian confederacy. Tecumseh had 600 men whom he put at Brock's disposal. At Fort Detroit in August, 1812, the two armies overcame the 2,000 American defenders and captured the fort.
The Americans were humiliated by this surprise defeat. At dawn on October 13, 1812, American forces under General Winfield Scott struck at Queenston Heights, downstream from Niagara Falls. The 6,000 American soldiers gained the upper hand, but Brock ordered a counterattack supported by a band of Mohawk under the leadership of John Brant. The Americans were pushed back towards the river and their retreat turned into a stampede. Although this was another major victory for Brock, he was killed on the battlefield.
In the fall of 1813, the Americans were determined to retake Fort Detroit. An American naval victory on Lake Erie cut off the British supply routes to Detroit. An army of 3,000 men commanded by General William Henry Harrison marched on the fort. The 3,000 British soldiers, commanded by General Henry Proctor, defended the position. Tecumseh was at his side. Proctor decided to abandon Fort Detroit and double back up the Thames River. Tecumseh was furious and felt abandoned by his allies. On October 5, 1813, the two armies met. The British forces broke ranks and their defence disintegrated. With only 500 Natives, Tecumseh faced 3,000 American soldiers. When quiet finally descended on the battlefield, Tecumseh had been killed, and his dream of a great Indian Confederacy had been permanently shattered. Shortly after, the Native nations of the United States forged peace with the Americans. The Americans attempted to seize Montreal in October, 1813, but they suffered a major defeat on the Chateauguay River south of Montreal when 460 French-Canadian militiamen resisted an American army of 4,000. In August, 1814, Britain and the United States ended the hostilities.
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