Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 27 >> 1 The War With to 35 The Political Events >> 21 the War of_P1

21 the War of 1812

army, militia, hull, detroit, canada and england

Page: 1 2

21. THE WAR OF 1812. The War of 1812 began officially on 18 June. The army of the United States numbered at that time 6,744 regulars. It was poorly equipped, poorly drilled and its morale was extremely low. But Congress had authorized its increase to 25,000 and provided, at least by law, for a second volunteer army of 50,000 men; besides, the militia of the several States was called on to co-operate with the regulars and the volunteers. The result of these acts was very unsatisfactory. The regular army never during the war reached 10,000, the volunteers appeared only in small numbers and the militia offered to serve only for short terms and then preferably in their own States. The governments of the New Eng land States prohibited their militia from going beyond their State boundaries and various ob stacles were put in the way of enlisting. The South was too remote from the theatre of ac tion to feel the need of sending the militia to the front. Tennessee, Kentucky and the old Northwest furnished the main body of soldiers, regular and irregular, who fought in this war. The American navy apparently promised still less at the beginning of the conflict. It con sisted of seven frigates and nine smaller craft. And as to the sinews of war, the treasury was in a precarious condition as a result of the numerous trade regulation acts of Jefferson's and Madison's administrations. Congress was inveterately opposed to laying new taxes in any form. Loans had to be resorted to at the be ginning. But the bulk of the capital in the country was in New England and New England was bitterly opposed to the war. Hardly half the money asked for was subscribed. On the other hand, England was contending in Europe with her great enemy, Napoleon. The British troops in Canada numbered barely 7,000; their line of defense was 1,000 miles long. The Eng lish navy was, however, the undisputed mistress of all the seas; the north Atlantic squadron counted three battle ships, 20 cruisers and 50 smaller ships.

The conquest of Canada was made the first object of attainment. An army of 1,850 men, under command of Gen. William Hull, crossed the Detroit River in the latter part of July 1812. Hull threatened the British stronghold, Malden, for a few days; but hearing that the English and their Indian allies had seized Mackinaw, a fort at the head of Lake Huron, he retreated across the American border to Detroit. From this point Hull hastened off two regiments to oppose the advance of the enemy from the west. At this juncture the British Major-General Brock crossed the river and de manded the surrender of the Americans. Hull's supplies were already becoming scarce, his basis of operations was 200 miles south and his com munications were most difficult to maintain. He surrendered the fort and all the troops under his command, without a fight, on 14 Aug. 1812. Some 2,500 men, 33 guns and the whole of Michigan were thus lost at the be ginning of the contest. The principal cause of this was the failure of General Dearborn to march into Canada from the eastern end of Lake Erie, according to the plan of the campaign, and thus cut off all supplies from Brock and finally force him to surrender. But while Hull made his way through dense forests to Detroit, Dearborn was in Boston attending to the politi cal side of the war. Not until October, nearly two months after the disaster at Detroit, did Dearborn cross the Niagara; and then it was with only a small part of his army under the command of Van Rensselaer, a New York mili tia commander. Van Rensselaer attacked Queenstown (13 Oct. 1812), and was repulsed by General Brock, who had hastened from the scenes of his recent triumph to check this sec ond movement. He was successful, though he was killed in the engagement. The campaign closed with the enemy in possession of the Western forts and the Territory of Michigan to the Maumee River. In the East the border re mained the same.

Page: 1 2