1812: Tecumseh at Detroit & Other Quebec Curios

Part of “The Canadas in Britain”, 1792-1827

One of the leaders of the War of 1812 that you might encounter was Tecumseh. As a young man, Tecumseh joined the ranks of Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea), a Loyalist Mohawk that was involved in the American Revolutionary War and who eventually relocated to Upper Canada, retaining an important role as a leader for his community. Brant’s early ideals of a general confederacy among Aboriginals would influence the young Tecumseh. Later in life, Tecumseh would be a strong supporter of his older brother, Tenskwatawa, also known as The Prophet, who preached against American expansionism. The two ideologies of his youth eventually merged into one. Tecumseh’s efforts to form a confederacy lead him to places as far as Florida in order to create a force diverse and strong enough to maintain the rightful ownership of Aboriginal land.

Tecumseh’s most famous collaborator was the British military man, Sir Isaac Brock. Even though the two men would only meet each other for a few days, the two strategists had a great admiration for each other. One of the first days of their collaboration was the Siege of Detroit, where Tecumseh’s 600 warriors would help lead Brock’s army to victory. The traditional story that lead partially to the surrender was Tecumseh’s strategy was to circle his army of warriors around the area multiple times. This way, the Americans were fooled into thinking that Tecumseh’s army was in fact much larger than it was. Fearing that there would be a large amount of losses due to the sightings of Tecumseh’s massive army, William Hull surrendered the fort to the British and the battle ended with less than ten people killed or wounded spread across each warring side. The British would take control of Fort Detroit until 1813, when the Americans were able to take it back during the Battle of Lake Eric.

The brave actions of Tecumseh and his confederacy were documented most famously one last time in late 1813, when Tecumseh’s five-hundred-man force would have another stand with William Henry Harrison and the over three thousand Americans at the Battle of the Thames. This disastrous battle would result in an American victory and the death of Tecumseh. The British, largely at fault for this loss, had promised reinforcements to Tecumseh that, for one reason or another, never arrived. The leader on the British side of this loss, Major General Henry Proctor, was later disciplined for his ineptitude at this battle by the British military at Quebec. Even the future king George IV disliked the man’s actions so much that he had the disciplinary action read to every division of the British military. As a result of Tecumseh’s loss, his confederacy dissolved, and yet the fighting forces of the First Nations struggled onwards.

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