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Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 14

The British Indian Department and the Frontier in North America, 1755-1830

by Robert S. Allen

The Indian Department and the Northwest in the War of 1812 (1807-15)


The Chesapeake Affair of June, 1807, and the bellicose American reaction destroyed the placid life in the weakly defended settlements of the Canadas and produced fear of invasion.1 The position of Upper Canada was particularly precarious because the defensive strategy devised by the War Office and outlined to the new captain general and governor-in-chief of British North America, Sir James Craig, was to preserve the fortress of Quebec and subordinate all other considerations.2 Since the garrisons in the upper province were woefully inadequate (even as late as November of 1808 a strength return of only 411 rank and file was shown), it became abundantly clear that once again the future security of Upper Canada was to be dependent on the allegiance and fighting qualities of the Indian tribes of the Northwest. As a result, the heretofore waning prestige and respect for the Indian Department was quickly and wholeheartedly revived by the British.

During the winter of 1807-08, Craig developed a native policy to meet the alarming situation in the Northwest. He corresponded frequently with Francis Gore, the worried lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, and issued various instructions that were to guide the conduct of the Indian Department for the next three hectic years. Craig reasoned that in the event of a war, the Indians would not be idle, and if England did not use them, they would undoubtedly be "employed against us." Therefore, he continued, the Indians must be conciliated by the British, but their chiefs must be persuaded not to engage in a premature attack on the Americans. Thus the agents should avoid making any commitment with them, at least in "public."3 In another despatch the governor reminded Gore of the "long-lasting ties" between the king and the tribes, and suggested that provisions could be supplied to the Indians to enable them to protect themselves against the Americans who "obviously desired to take their country." Craig stated further that

the officer of the Indian Department must be diligent and active, the communication must be constant, these Topicks must be held up to them not merely in Great Councils and public Assemblies, they should be privately urged to some of their leading men, with whom endeavours should be used to lead them to a confidence in us.4

The dual native policy of Craig, one public and one private, was very reminiscent of Haldimand's successful efforts in 1783. As before, agents were to court and secure Indian loyalty to the king, and thus preserve British imperial and territorial jurisdiction in the Northwest by confounding the expansionist ambitions of the United States. Gore fully supported the plan and ordered William Claus to Fort Malden, where he was to assemble the chiefs, "consult privately" with them and remind them of the "Artful and Clandestine manner, in which the Americans have obtained possession of their lands, and of their obvious intention of ultimately possessing themselves of the whole and driving the Indians out of the Country."5 However, the officers of the Indian Department were cautioned to dissuade the tribes from any warlike action until or unless the British should be at war with the United States.

To achieve a more positive assurance of the successful implementation of his policy, which required delicate and intricate negotiations with the various tribal leaders, Craig desired officers of experience and high quality in the Indian service. This was particularly important since

The Indian Nations owing to the long continuance of Peace have been neglected by us, and from the considerable curtailments made in the Presents to those People it appears, that the retaining their attachment to the King's Interests has not of late years been thought an object worthy of serious consideration.6

For the British Indian Department, Fort Malden at Amherstburg was the key Indian centre in Upper Canada. But, unfortunately, the superintendent, Thomas McKee, was seldom sober and his excessive rum drinking had drastically undermined his influence with the Indians. As time was critical and tactful diplomacy vital, Matthew Elliott, "the only man capable of calling forth the energies of the Indians," was reinstated as superintendent.


The spring of 1808 initiated the annual pilgrimage of the various Indian bands to the three western British posts, and the officers of the Indian Department anxiously looked forward to holding secret councils with them. At Amherstburg on 25 March a group of Shawnee under Captain Johnny Blackbeard and the Buffalo assembled to hear the British rhetoric. Like Sir John Johnson in 1782-83, and Dorchester, Simcoe and Alexander McKee in 1794, William Claus began anew the old diplomatic rituals. The Shawnee were told that the king was trying to maintain peace with the Americans, but if he failed, the Indians could expect to hear from the British, and together they would regain the country taken from them by the Americans.7

25 Fort Malden, Amherstburg, and Navy Yard and Detroit River, 1812, by Catherine Reynolds.

The work of regaining the affections of the Indians gathered momentum and in July, 1,000 warriors with about 100 chiefs, including the influential Shawnee leader Tecumseh who carried on Joseph Brant's dream of a united Indian confederacy, met with Lieutenant Governor Gore, Claus and Elliott at Amherstburg. Although the innocuous public councils were conducted with the greatest decorum, formality and military pomp as in 1783, the "private communications with confidential chiefs, afford . . . hopes, of a cordial assistance if we show ourselves in any force to join them."8 To the delight of Gore and Craig, Tecumseh informed Claus that the different Indian nations were collecting on the Wabash in order to preserve their country from any encroachments. But the Shawnee leader spoke a great deal about the Fallen Timbers-Fort Miami fiasco, and reminded Indian Department officers of the many chiefs who fell because of that action. Gore realized that the Indians would have to see actual signs of British military strength before they would act firmly on the side of the king. However, the native policy inaugurated by Craig, in which the British engaged in winning the support of the Indians within American territory, was an unqualified success. The visit of more than 5,000 Indians to Fort Malden in the autumn of 1808 was the culmination of 12 months of work and preparation, and indicated clearly the extent of the achievement.9

In spite of the overwhelming eagerness of the Algonkian tribes of the Northwest to accept a realignment with the British and fight the Americans again, the Iroquois of Upper Canada were not so enthusiastic. They had suffered cruelly during the American Revolution, particularly in Sullivan's campaign of 1779; and although Joseph Brant had died in 1807, he had taught the Iroquois to remember the two bitter lessons of 1783 and 1794 when the British had abandoned the Indians to the mercy of American expansion. Thus at a gathering in the Indian council house outside Fort George in August of 1808, the Iroquois told William Claus

of the great distress they are in for Bread... that they had come to a Determination to sit quiet in case of any quarrel between the King and America and not to spill the Blood of the white men, and that their Friendship for the King was firm.10

In fact at two further meetings in March, 1809, the Iroquois complained vehemently about the difficulties they were having with the white settlers around Newark, who had squatted on their lands, stolen their hogs, worked their horses, given them no redress and told them that the Indian possessed no land.11


The renewed power of the British Indian Department accentuated by their skillful managing of the various tribal councils in 1808 was evidenced by the "Askin Affair" during the winter of 1809-10. John Askin, Jr., acting superintendent and storekeeper for the Indian Department at St. Joseph was charged with pilfering and accused of committing other misdemeanors by Lieutenant Dixon, the military commandant at that post. Gore referred the matter to Elliott, who was of course well acquainted with such problems. Elliott thought that the suspension of Askin would make an unfavourable impression on the minds of the Indians, and since every exertion at this time was required from the officers of the department, the reinstatement of the storekeeper should become effective immediately.12 Gore complied, and to maintain harmony between the army and the Indian Department, another officer was sent to replace Dixon.13 By 1810 the humiliations experienced by the Indian Department during the "quiet years" seemed vindicated.

Various tribal delegates constantly visited the British Indian centre of Fort Malden, Amherstburg to pledge their support to the king and to receive gifts and provisions in return. As there were no instructions to alter policy, the Indian Department continued to win and maintain the allegiance of the various tribes. But in the summer of 1810, native dissatisfaction at American encroachments on their lands, and British inspiration, made it increasingly difficult for Claus, Elliott and others to control the Indian appetite for war. In July, 125 Sauk and Fox arrived at Amherstburg in a wretched condition of poverty and requested clothing, kettles, guns, ammunition and other necessities. In council Elliott urged peace, but he excited the Indians by telling them to "keep your eyes fixed on me: my tomahawk is now up; be you ready, but do not strike until I give the signal."14 The dramatic oratory of Elliott was reminiscent, both in tone and content, of the "Tomahawk Speech" of Sir John Johnson at Sandusky in 1783.

The problem of Indian unrest reached a peak in November, 1810 when 200 Potawatomi, Ottawa, Winnebago, Sauk and Shawnee assembled at Amherstburg for a council. Tecumseh acted as spokesman for the tribes and informed the British officers present that

We are now determined to defend it [our Country] ourselves, and after raising you on your feet leave you behind but expecting you will push forwards towards us what may be necessary to supply our wants.15

Elliott was astounded by these words and wrote to Claus stating that the speech "fully convinces me that Our Neighbours are on the eve of an Indian War, and I have no doubt that the Confederacy is almost general."16 Already, 6,000 Indians had been served with "their annual Presents and Expenditure of Provisions" from Amherstburg, but Elliott was now fully aware of the potential dangers and endeavoured to prevent the Indians from engaging in premature hostilities with the United States.

The November council placed Sir James Craig in a difficult and embarrassing position. His native policy initiated in 1808 had worked too well. Thus in a desperate attempt to reverse the native trend the governor told Francis Gore to instruct the officers of the Indian Department to dissuade the tribes from their projected plan of hostility with the United States. The chiefs were to understand clearly that they "must not expect any assistance from us."17 Gore quickly relayed the new orders to Claus and Elliott, and added that to leave no possible suspicion of flavouring the projected hostilities of the Indians, arms and ammunition should be withheld from those tribes who advocated war.18

By the summer of 1811 the officers of the British Indian Department were striving frantically in councils to prevent an Indian war by attempting to convince various influential chiefs that the time was not ripe for a rupture with the Americans. But the Indian desire for war was now unshakable, particularly since they had received a powerful stimulant in the new religion of the Prophet. The original name of this Indian visionary and philosopher was Lalawethika and he was the half-brother of Tecumseh. In 1805 Lalawethika was influenced by the religious revival taking place among the white settlers on the northwest frontier and particularly by itinerant Shaker preachers, whose jerking, dancing and excessive physical activity stirred mystical forces within him. During a frightful epidemic of sickness among the Shawnee, Lalawethika was overcome by a "deep and awful sense" of his own wickedness and fell into the first of many trances, during which he supposedly met the Indian Master of Life. When he revived, Lalawethika announced himself to be a prophet and changed his name to Tenskwatawa (from the saying of Jesus, "I am the door"). The Prophet preached against the use of liquor and pointed to a new path, "beautiful sweet and pleasant," a pure life which embodied a return to traditional Indian values.19 His emotional appeals, which soon broadened into an anti-white doctrine, and his alliance with Tecumseh inspired almost every tribe in the Northwest that rallied at the Prophet's town.

Sporadic Indian raids began to harass the American back settlements along the Wabash River during the spring and summer of 1811. Public opinion in much of the United States was convinced that British intrigue and instigation was behind the revival of Indian resistance. An Ohio newspaper noted that "it appears that there is a general combination of the Indian tribes that their aim is the inhabitants of these states, and that they are prompted to these measures by British (Indian) agents,who constantly excite them to hostility against the country."20 The rapid deterioration of Indian-American and Anglo-American relations was convincing proof that Craig's new policy of 1811 had not taken effect.

Following the November 1810 council, Tecumseh continued to organize a united Indian confederacy and eventually departed for the south in the summer of 1811 in the vain hope of winning the support of the Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee and others. During his absence William Henry Harrison, governor of Indiana Territory, advanced with a large army against the Prophet's town. Although Tecumseh had instructed the chiefs to avoid hostilities, the approach of the Americans caused great uneasiness among the Indians and they decided to engage Harrison near Tippecanoe Creek on 7 November. The early morning attack drove the Americans back, but after two hours of bitter fighting the Indians were pushed into a swamp and gave up the contest, leaving 38 bodies on the field of battle. The victors suffered 188 casualties, but claimed Tippecanoe as a glorious victory and condemned the British for their participation in the affair since "British muskets were found on the battlefield."21 Governor Harrison charged in a letter that "within the last three months, the whole of the Indians on this frontier, have been completely armed and equipped out of the king's stores at Malden."22


The Battle of Tippecanoe terminated Craig's 1811 policy of native pacification. For several months the British Indian Department had made genuine efforts to prevent an Indian war, but the vacillation of policy and the long delays in communicating often different instructions had hampered the effectiveness of the department and confused the visiting chiefs. The only alternative was renewal of the friendship and alliance policy of 1808. With the threat of war imminent, Sir George Prevost, the new captain general and governor-in-chief of British North America, was anxious for additional troops. The British regulars and fencibles immediately available in Canada totaled roughly 5,600 effectives, of which only 1,200 were garrisoning the widely scattered posts in Upper Canada, the area most exposed to attack.23 But Isaac Brock, recently promoted to the rank of major-general, disliked the defensive concept long held by the British War Office that Upper Canada would have to be abandoned in the face of an American invasion. In early December he wrote a long letter to Provost and argued that the Indians were eager to avenge themselves upon the Americans, and that a strong stand could and should be made. If the western Indians were supplied by the British Indian Department and encouraged to make war, Brock reasoned, the Americans would be kept too busy to threaten Upper Canada; but,

before we can expect an active cooperation on the part of the Indians the reduction of Detroit and Michilimackinac must convince that people, who conceive themselves to have been sacrificed in 1794, to our policy, that we are earnestly engaged in the war.24

Once again Indian support was considered vital for the preservation of Upper Canada. Prevost, however, had been instructed to exercise forbearance and to avoid offending the United States by any overt act which might give the Americans justification for war.25 England was engaged in a bitter struggle with Napoleonic France in Spain and had no interest in provoking a colonial war with America. Therefore Prevost urged caution, as he was determined not to create an incident. The conservative attitude of the governor was reflected in the instructions issued by Sir John Johnson in May "for the Good Government of the Indian Department." The superintendent general avoided a detailed discussion of Indian relations, but did urge the officers of the department to continue "your utmost endeavours to promote His Majesty's Indian Interest in general."26 Therefore throughout the spring of 1812, the British Indian Department secretly prepared the tribes for war.

26 Major General Sir Isaac Brock (1769-1812), military and civil administrator of Upper Canada (1811-12). (Public Archives of Canada.)

The British policy in the years before the War of 1812 of enlisting the Indians for the defence of Upper Canada was not restricted merely to those tribes who inhabited the region of the Great Lakes. In the Minnesota Sioux country, for example, the foremost British fur trader on the upper Mississippi, Robert Dickson, had volunteered his services to the king in 1811. During the long harsh winter of 1811-12 Dickson, prompted by humanitarian and political motives, distributed £1,500 worth of supplies to the starving Indians and this generous act was to prove most profitable for His Majesty's government.27 Throughout that winter American agents attempted to influence the Indians by "making them unusual presents of goods and inciting them in the most pressing manner to visit the President of the United States at Washington."28 This American agitation and encroachment threatened the future prosperity of the fur trade in the region. Thus, motivated by economic self-interest, his Indian associations29 and loyalty to the British crown, Dickson was prompted to endeavour to frustrate American intentions.

He began to rally Indian support for the British by sending "belts" throughout the Northwest "offering every inducement to take up the hatchet against the United States."30 Evidently he made no secret of his power and sentiments for Ninian Edwards, the governor of the Indiana Territory, warned the secretary of war that "Dickson hopes to engage all the Indians in opposition to the United States by making peace between the Chippewa [Ojibway] and Sioux and having them declare war against us."31 Dickson enjoyed a complete success in allying the Indians to the British cause. The religion of the Prophet, the encouraging councils with the Indian Department at Amherstburg and their hatred of the Americans recently accentuated by their losses at Tippecanoe, drove the tribes into a natural alliance with the British against the common enemy. As a ruse some of the chiefs accepted the American invitation to visit Washington early in 1812. But even while this contingent was en route, 800 Winnebago, Sauk and Fox warriors were gathering at the Rock River rapids ready to fall upon the American border settlements.32 The raids commenced in the first days of spring and by May "all the Americans except two had fled from Prairie du Chien, in consequence of the avowed hostility of the Savages toward them."33

The influence and achievements of Dickson encouraged Brock to send him a confidential query as to the number of Indians he could muster and the amount of supplies required. The letter reached Dickson early in June at the Fox-Wisconsin portage. He replied that Indian support for the king had already been assured, and that he had about 250-300 "friends" who would be ready at St. Joseph about the end of the month.34 From Green Bay a few days later Dickson despatched a contingent of Sioux, Winnebago and Menominee under Chief Weenusate to co-operate with the British at Fort Malden. With 130 other warriors from these three tribes he marched for St. Joseph and arrived at that post on 1 July 1812.

At Amherstburg throughout May and June, Elliott and Claus were continuously engaged in organizing the large numbers of Indians that were converging on the British post from all regions of the Northwest. Tecumseh was located near the Prophet's town with 600 more warriors. The Shawnee leader regretted that the tribes had fought the Americans in the previous autumn, but he was anxious for the British to commit themselves openly. In fact to further inflame Anglo-American relations, Tecumseh visited Fort Wayne on 17 June and told the American Indian agent that he was going to Amherstburg for powder and lead.35 Thus by June of 1812, as the government of the United States began to push its cumbersome war machine slowly into motion, a host of Indian warriors, prepared for battle, waited patiently at the British Indian Department posts of St. Joseph and Fort Malden for the declaration of war.


News of the war reached St. Joseph on 8 July, along with Brock's instructions for Captain Charles Roberts, the military commandant, to adopt the "most prompt and effectual measures to possess yourself of Michilimackinac," and to make full use of the friendly Indians and the fur traders. Roberts' command consisted of only 45 men of the 10th Royal Veterans, but he managed to muster 180 loyal fur traders, and with the assistance of John Askin, Jr., 300 Ojibway and Ottawa who were in the process of bartering their furs for trade goods. Dickson's warriors augmented the contingent to over 400 Indians. With this mixed force Roberts reached Michilimackinac in the early morning of 17 July. The discovery of the British and Indians surrounding the fort came as quite a shock to Lieutenant Porter Hanks and the American garrison, who were uninformed of the declaration of war. Hanks was unprepared for a lengthy siege and was unwilling to chance a possible Indian massacre. He therefore agreed to a capitulation which granted his men the honours of war.36

The loss of Michilimackinac compounded the strain on Brigadier General William Hull, who was beset with difficulties at Detroit. The Indians under Tecumseh had rendered logistics impossible, and in an effort to re-open their supply lines the Americans had suffered two setbacks in skirmishes at Brownstown and Monguagan on 5 and 9 August.37 Hull realized that only a speedy capture of Fort Malden would restore the prestige of the United States; thus he wrote imploring the governors of Ohio and Kentucky to send militia reinforcements. But at the same time, because of the fall of Michilimackinac which had "opened the northern hive" of Indians, Hull ordered the abandonment of the isolated and indefensible Fort Dearborn (Chicago). Captain Nathan Heald, commander at that post, commenced the withdrawal of his 100 men, women and children on 15 August: but the local Potawatomi had received word of the British-Indian successes, and excited by the prospect of a victory, 400 warriors led by Black Bird attacked and butchered the retreating column. The few survivors were ransomed by the British.38

The American reverses, added to their military ineptitude and tardiness, encouraged Major General Isaac Brock to plan an attack on Detroit. With 300 British regulars, 400 Canadian militia, and supported by about 600 Indians under Tecumseh, he effected a bold crossing of the Detroit River and demanded the surrender of the town. Hull, who was also the governor of Michigan Territory, was responsible for the welfare of the inhabitants. The menace posed by the Indians had undoubtedly become an obsession with him and he feared for the safety of the women and children. With these problems weighing heavily upon him, Hull surrendered on 16 August 1812.39

27 The American fort at Niagara from the British side of the Niagara River, about 1812. (Public Archives of Canada.)

The victories at Michilimackinac and Detroit provided a quick and decisive reversal of the military situation, and credit must be given in large measure to Elliott. Claus and the officers of the Indian Department who collected and organized the vital native allies for the British war effort in the opening months of the war. Also these successes encouraged the Indians already on the side of the king, won over the waverers, and made neutrals of those who might have joined the Americans. In September, for example, Brock noted that the Iroquois of Grand River, who had earlier professed neutrality, were assembling in great numbers at Fort George. "They appear ashamed of themselves and promise to whipe away the disgrace into which they have fallen by their late conduct."40 In fact, for the remainder of the military campaign in 1812, the Indians provided valuable service in the British cause as they participated in the Muir expedition against Fort Wayne in September, and at Queenston Heights in October and Frenchman's Creek in November along the Niagara sector.

William Claus concluded the first year of the War of 1812 in the Indian council house near Fort George, encouraging and maintaining Iroquois allegiance to the king. At Amherstburg Thomas McKee remained dead drunk, but Matthew Elliott, although over 70 years old, was still active and worked in close alliance with Tecumseh. In the Northwest, Robert Dickson, soon to be appointed as "Agent and Superintendent to the Western Indians,"41 arranged for the distribution of supplies to the Indians for the winter of 1812-13. He also summoned several bands of Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Ottawa, Winnebago and Sauk to assemble at Green Bay in preparation for being sent south as reinforcements. In response a large force of about 500 warriors gathered under the leadership of the Sauk war chief Black Hawk, and were eventually despatched to the Detroit front in order to participate in the 1813 campaign.42


The second year of the war opened in January on the Detroit front with a decisive and bloody British-Indian victory at Frenchtown in which the American army of General Winchester was nearly annihilated. "The Zeal and Courage of the Indian Department," observed the British area commander Henry Proctor, "was never more conspicuous than on this Occasion."43 In the Northwest Robert Dickson continued to recruit warriors to the British cause. At Michilimackinac an aide, John Askin, Jr., commented that "every Indian that can bear arms on Lake Michigan and Huron, from Saginaw Bay to Matchedock, will exert himself to drive away the Americans."44 In April Dickson was at Prairie du Chien organizing various Indian bands, and by June he had returned to Michilimackinac with 600 more warriors of which about 100 were Sioux from the Lake Traverse region. Throughout the spring and summer of 1813, Dickson was responsible for sending 1,400 to 1,500 Indians to the Detroit front.45

Bolstered and encouraged by the vast numbers of these Indian allies and supported by Tecumseh, the British in early May despatched an expedition under Proctor against the American post of Fort Meigs on the Maumee River. A siege and battle ensued in which an American relief column suffered 200 killed and more than 600 prisoners. Although a total success for the combined British-Indian force, the weakness of the Indians as a fighting force became glaringly apparent here. After the battle most of the Indians, satisfied with their victory, dispersed with their booty and prisoners, leaving Proctor and Tecumseh with less than 20 chiefs and warriors. The Indian attitude shocked Proctor who was prompted to declare that "under present circumstances at least, our Indian force is not a disposable one, or permanent, tho' occasionally a most powerful aid."46

In July, Robert Dickson finally arrived at Detroit from Michilimackinac with a force of Ojibway, Ottawa, Menominee, Winnebago and Sioux. Procter seemed exceedingly happy to have these reinforcements and wrote enthusiastically that Dickson had "succeeded to the full Extent of his Hopes among the Indian Tribes."47 For more than two weeks over 800 Indians lounged around Detroit, gobbling up food from the British Indian Department stores at a frightening rate, and chafing at the lack of excitement. Proctor soon realized that another expedition was necessary in order to preserve tribal interest and respect for the king; accordingly, a British-Indian force was organized and sent to the Ohio basin in late July. Proctor explained, "It being absolutely requisite, for several urgent reasons, my Indian Force should not remain unemployed, and being well aware that it would not be moveable except accompanied by a regular Force, I resolved, notwithstanding the Smallness of that Force to move, and where we might be fed at the Expense of the Enemy."48

The combined army moved across Lake Erie to Fort Meigs where an unsuccessful attempt was made to lure the American garrison into an ambush with a sham battle started in the woods by two parties of Indians under Tecumseh. The failure of these tactics discouraged Proctor who decided against attempting an assault on the fort. The Indians soon became annoyed and impatient at the inactivity and many began to desert. Those warriors who remained were determined to attack some thing and suggested the weakly defended Fort Stephenson, a post on the Sandusky River which guarded Harrison's supply depot. Dickson carried a white flag to the post and demanded surrender. but the American commander. Major George Croghan, refused. This determined American response depressed Proctor even more and he lapsed into indecision once again. But Dickson had told Black Hawk that the fort would be taken, and Elliott and other members of the Indian Department warned Proctor that unless the place was stormed, the British would be unable to depend on any continuation of tribal support. Thus Proctor reluctantly ordered an advance in the open against two sides of the fort on 2 August. The troops "displayed the greatest Bravery," he reported.

the greater of who, reached the Fort and made every Effort to enter: but the Indians who had proposed the Assault, and had it not been assented to, would have ever stigmatized the British character, scarcely came into Fire, before they ran off out of its Reach.49

After the battle,50 which cost the British 96 casualties, the warriors abandoned the expedition and quickly returned to Detroit. Here they were received with dignity and presented with a bountiful distribution of presents and supplies by the Indian Department in order to keep them happy and in a warlike mood. The great problem in the autumn of 1813 for the British was in supplying the Indians with food. Captain Robert Barclay of the Royal Navy observed that "the quantity of Beef and Flour consumed here is tremendous there are such hordes of Indians with their wives and children."51 Barclay soon compounded the difficulty by losing his fleet and control of Lake Erie at Put-in-Bay on 10 September. American naval supremacy isolated the British "Right Division" at Detroit, and prevented adequate supplies from reaching that post or Michilimackinac.52 Thus the food problem became even more severe. As early as 6 September, Proctor had written Prevost about the shortage of supplies and the Indian dissatisfaction.

The long expected Supplies can not any longer be delayed, without the most frightfull Consequences. The Indian and his Family, suffering from Cold, will no longer be amused with Promises, His Wants he will naturally attribute to our Neglect at least: and Defection is the least of Evils we may expect from him.53

The destitution and the weakened defensive position of the British garrison, along with the rapidly advancing American army under Harrison, convinced Proctor that the forts at Detroit and Amherstburg together with the various public buildings should be destroyed, and that the troops and Indians must withdraw.

The decision of Proctor aroused vehement opposition on the part of the Indians. In a fiery speech in council Tecumseh reminded that officer of his pledge never to draw a foot off British ground;

but now, father, we see you are drawing back, and we are sorry to see our father doing so without seeing the enemy. We must compare our father's conduct to a fat animal, that carries its tail upon its back, but when affrighted, it drops it between its legs and runs off.54

The anger, frustration. and bitterness expressed by the Shawnee leader was shared by the other chiefs who remembered 1783 and 1794. To the Indians, the British abandonment of Detroit and Fort Malden in September of 1813 was a third betrayal.

Despite the protestations of the chiefs, Proctor conducted a slow and agonizing retreat along the Thames River. The Indians reluctantly followed, and acting as a rear guard, they delayed the American pursuit by skirmishing with the enemy at Dolsen's and Chatham, but by 5 October the British were forced to turn and engage Harrison in a major battle near the Moravian Town, the new home of the Indian survivors of the Gnadenhutten Massacre of 1782. Many of the Indians had become disheartened, and contrary to the pleas of Matthew Elliott a number of Ottawa, Ojibway, Potawatomi, Wyandot and Shawnee deserted. Those warriors that remained positioned themselves in a swamp to the right of the British. The American advance was so rapid that the British and Indians were not yet cleared of Indian women and children nor of the sick and the baggage. Tired and discouraged the ranks of the 41st fired two ragged volleys at the charging enemy and then promptly surrendered. Having in vain endeavoured to call the men to a sense of duty and seeing no advantage in remaining, Proctor quitted the ground and narrowly escaped capture by the American cavalry. "I cannot but observe" he wrote, "that the Troops do not seem to have had that Confidence in themselves, that they have shewn on every former occasion, and which had produced a conduct that I witnessed with Pride and satisfaction."55 The Indians under Tecumseh, however, executed their part faithfully and courageously and turned the left of the enemy. But after maintaining the fight against the Kentucky Mounted Volunteers for about an hour and witnessing the death of their Shawnee leader, the Indians finally retired through the woods in good order. During the final phase of the affair "the Conduct of the Enemy's Cavalry was marked by peculiar cruelty to the Families of the Indians who had not time to escape or conceal themselves."56

The casualties suffered by combatants vary from account to account. The British admitted to 12 killed and 36 wounded.57 Eventually 246 assembled at Ancaster, but Richardson states that 600 regulars were captured.58 This figure contrasts with the reports of Richard Bullock, an officer under Procter, and Prevost who state that only 450 British soldiers were available at the start of the battle.59 All agree that the Indians had 33 killed; and Harrison indicates that in the American force of some 3,000, only 12 were killed and 22 wounded.60

The battle at the Moravian Town, more popularly known as the "Battle of the Thames," virtually terminated the War of 1812 on the Detroit front. The remnants of the British "Right Division" retreated to Burlington Heights and linked with the "Centre Division." The Indian allies of Procter who had not always been reliable, dispersed to their various towns. As a result of the battle many bands remained neutral for the duration of the war, whereas others decided to sue for peace with the Americans at Detroit. For Tecumseh, the Thames provided the death knell for his United Confederacy—an Indian alliance which proved like others to be a futile attempt to preserve traditional native values and regional hunting grounds. When the War of 1812 began, the Shawnee leader joined the British and was given the title of brigadier general. He distinguished himself throughout the conflict; but the British had promised never to yield an inch of their soil, and when Procter retreated from Amherstburg, Tecumseh knew that his dream was irretrievably lost. He no longer wanted to live, and he died in the only way that seemed to him appropriate, covering the retreat of Proctor's British army for which he had nothing but distrust and contempt.

Although the "Right Division" ceased to exist, their campaigns for more than a year had provided in valuable service to the British war effort. Detroit, Frenchtown, Meigs, Stephenson and the Thames had absorbed the military energies of the states of Ohio and Kentucky and the territory of Michigan. The American militia and regulars from these areas would have been of immense value at Queenston Heights, Stoney Creek, Beaver Dams, Crysler's Farm or Chateauguay. In spite of the disappointing conduct of Procter and the army at the Thames, it must be remembered that with the defeat of Barclay, the outnumbered and now isolated British were without adequate provisions or armament. Thus under the circumstances, the decision of Procter to retreat was wise and the harsh criticism leveled against the British general as a result of the disastrous battle, which ruined his military career, was unwarranted. Finally the existence of the "Right Division" until October of 1813 enabled Robert Dickson and the British military to establish a firm allegiance with the remaining tribes of the Northwest, and this achievement was to be of vital importance during the last year of the war.


As Matthew Elliott led the shattered remains of Tecumseh's confederacy toward Burlington Heights, William Claus was busily engaged at the head of the lake in preparing the Six Nations of the Grand River, and a number of Iroquois bands from villages in Lower Canada for the counterattack against Fort George. In May, 1813, after a gallant defence against superior American forces and guns, the British retreated from Fort George, Newark, Queenston Heights, Chippewa and Fort Erie. But the American advance was checked by bold British action at Stoney Creek and the Forty in early June, and by a complete victory at Beaver Dams in which Iroquois warriors under Dominique Ducharme and William Kerr of the Indian Department forced the surrender of 500 enemy soldiers. Indian casualties were 15 killed and 25 wounded.61

Throughout the summer of 1813 the Indians provided inestimable service as 800 of them lurked about the woods in the vicinity of Fort George and forced the Americans to remain huddled behind the safety of their breastworks. The fierce reputation of the warriors was so effective that "a few shots and a little yelling from about 20 of them" produced a panic in the enemy camp, and fears were expressed that Proctor and all the Indians had arrived and a general attack was forthcoming.62 The constant dread of Indian raids on the pickets and the overcrowded conditions produced sickness and demoralization. The American general Peter B. Porter wrote disgustedly that "We have an army at Fort George which for two months past has lain panic-struck, shut up and whipped in by a few hundred miserable savages, leaving the whole of this frontier, except the mile in extent which they occupy, exposed to the inroads and depredations of the enemy."63

28 Upper Canada and the Northwest, 1796-1818. (click on image for a PDF version)

By December the American force for the defence of Fort George had been reduced to 100. The rest of the army, composed mostly of militia, had drifted away on the expiration of their period of enlistment or deserted because of the cold weather, sickness, fear or boredom. Supported by Claus, Elliott and the Indians, the British easily recaptured Fort George and promptly proceeded to capture Fort Niagara across the river; and in retaliation for the burning of Newark, the British attacked and burned the American towns of Lewiston, Black Rock and Buffalo. For his participation in these latest and successful exploits Elliott, who had led the Indians against the American towns, was praised "for his Zeal and activity as Superintendent of the Indian Department, and I am happy to add that thro' his Exertions, and that of his Officers no Act of Cruelty . . . was committed by the Indians towards any of their Prisoners."64

After the counterattack campaigns in December of 1813, Matthew Elliott, who was nearly 75 years of age, was overcome by a serious illness and returned to the old house of the late Joseph Brant at Burlington. Although his sickness persisted, Elliott continued to manage the affairs of the western Indians from the beach at the head of the lake. But by early May, his great mental anxiety relative to the Indians under his charge and his unremitting bodily exertions beyond what his strength at his advanced age could support so completely exhausted him that Gordon Drummond, the new British administrator of Upper Canada, feared that "His Majesty has lost one of his most faithful and Zealous servants."65 Indeed although his physicians had despaired for some time and had actually "given him over for three successive days." Elliott stubbornly clung to life and lingered until 7 May 1814, when he finally died.

With the death of Elliott and the bad health of William Claus, the appointment of William Caldwell as superintendent to the western Indians and acting deputy superintendent of Indian Affairs became effective immediately.66 Both Riall and Drummond had insisted that Thomas McKee, the obvious choice as successor, not be appointed as he had been "getting shamefully drunk" on the beach, causing a great deal of mischief among the Indians by "speaking to them improperly," and allowing liquor to be sold to them in great quantities, which "renders them outrageous and easy to be worked upon."67 Thus for the remainder of the war on the Niagara front, Claus and Caldwell conducted the affairs of the Indian Department, but unfortunately these two men became embroiled in a controversy with "Chief" John Norton over the jurisdiction of the Indians during the hostilities.


William Claus had always maintained that the Indian Department should possess sole jurisdiction and authority over Indian affairs. But the British military found this argument difficult to accept, particularly as the large expenditures and bountiful distribution of presents to the Indian allies came from the army supply stores. Thus during the War of 1812 the problem of authority over provisioning the Indians became acute and was not finally settled until October, 1813, when a "General Order Affecting the Awards of Presents to the Indians Warriors" was posted. By this order the Indian Department was told to co-operate with His Majesty's officers or any "Chief of Renown" who enjoyed the confidence and possessed influence over the warriors; and to comply with the requisitions for presents by the military officer in command where Indians served.68

To William Claus and the Indian Department the general order was a victory for one "Chief of Renown," John Norton, who had continually attempted to undermine the influence of the department since the beginning of the war. Originally from Scotland, Norton first arrived in Canada as a private in the 65th Regiment and was discharged in 1788. He served for a while as a trader along the Miami River, but in 1795 Joseph Brant took the young man to the Grand River where he eventually became an interpreter to the Mohawks at Fort George. In 1800 Norton resigned this appointment and returned to the Grand River and assumed the customs and manners of an Indian. By 1812 he had gained considerable influence among the Mohawks, and had attained the status of an Indian leader of repute.

During the War of 1812 he unquestionably served the crown as an effective servant in several battles. At Queenston Heights, for example, Roger Sheaffe noted that the success of the British operation "is chiefly to be ascribed to the judicious position taken by Norton and the Indians with him on the woody brow of the high ground."69 Norton also participated at Frenchman's Creek in November and throughout the summer campaign of 1813 along the Niagara front. But Norton became increasingly angry at Claus and the Indian Department because of their interference with him and his Indians.70 Clearly, Norton wanted an independent command unfettered by any military or civil bureaucratic shackles. He did not want to report to Claus, "only a Deputy of Sir John Johnson," but preferred to reward his Indians separately. Thus Claus was most disturbed when Prevost, who was always suspicious of the Indian Department as a jealous clique, agreed in 1813 by the "General Order" to grant a discretionary power to various officers and chiefs to distribute presents and rewards to the Indians who fought in the British interest.71 A second blow to the prestige and power of the Indian Department occurred in March of 1814, when Chief John Norton was commissioned as "Captain and Leader of the Five Nations Grand River Indians or Confederates," and given power "to reward the faithful Services of the Warriors Acting with him, . . . and that an ample Proportion of Presents be put up Separately for the Indians of the Five Nations, to be distributed under Captain Norton's directions."72 Indeed, Norton was allotted three-eighths of the presents and ammunition which he thought was too little and which Claus thought was too much. By the spring of 1814, the influence and popularity of Norton with the British military was decidedly great and his complete autonomy was assured by Prevost's directive which stressed that there should be no interference from the officers of the Indian Department.

Seemingly confident of his omnipotence, Norton was not content with controlling the Six Nation Iroquois, but endeavoured to extend his influence over Matthew Elliott's western Indians as well as bribing them with liquor and supplies. His obvious lust for power alienated the Mohawk who expressed dissatisfaction at the appointment and conduct of Captain Norton as their leader; and a number of Iroquois chiefs affirmed that they have a "Head Man, who the King has appointed and they want no other" than William Claus.73 Nonetheless Norton insisted that the disposition of the Indians toward him, notwithstanding the exertion of the Indian Department and a portion of the Mohawks, was most favourable.74

In June 1814, William Caldwell held a council with his Indians in an attempt to resolve any differences. Caldwell told the Indians that if they wanted to join Norton they must indicate such clearly, since the Indians could not be furnished with provisions and clothing by both. Neywash spoke for the Western Indians and observed that "As to the Snipe [Norton] . . .I can only say, He speaks loud, and has Strong Milk, and Big Breasts, which yield plentifully."75 But Caldwell was assured that if he could supply the Indians in an equally generous manner, they would remain loyal to him and thus to the Indian Department. Indian diplomacy was never more calculated.

In order to successfully achieve his ambitions of power and leadership. Norton distributed lavish amounts of presents and supplies to the Indians in an effort to win their loyalty. The actions of Norton aroused the indignation and jealousy of the officers in the Indian Department who had been instructed to carefully ration provisions to the tribes at this time. Nonetheless Caldwell reported that the department would not show to our Indians "any anxiety or uneasiness on the subject of their joining Captain Norton because such conduct would make them suppose that a Party Spirit and not true Patriotism prevailed amongst us, and that we could not act without unanimity among ourselves."76

The feud between Norton and the Indian Department became so strained that Gordon Drummond directed Claus and Caldwell to take a conciliatory line of conduct toward Norton as the means most likely to produce a good understanding between all parties, "particularly while employed in Cooperation with His Majesty's Troops, against the Enemy of their Country."77 However all efforts to gain a spirit of harmony were frustrated and only the termination of the war ended the bitter friction between Claus and Elliott and John Norton. In fact the unhappy conclusion to the affair was that Norton became so insolent and insubordinate that he was finally discharged in 1815. Nonetheless his contribution, like those of Dickson, Elliott, Claus and Caldwell was considerable in that he recruited, organized and led an efficient fighting force of Indians in the cause of the king.


While Norton and the British Department quibbled over the authority and provisioning of Indians on the Niagara front, significant events, largely inspired by Robert Dickson, were occurring in the Northwest in 1814. With the defeat of Proctor and the predominant use of British regulars during the siege of Fort Erie, the only large-scale employment of Indians was left to the vast and strategically important region of the Northwest. Although the United States went to war to redress national honour and capture Canada, the British and Canadian fur traders of the upper Great Lakes region and beyond, supported by the local tribes, also saw an opportunity to wage a war of conquest.78 For the fur traders and the Indians, the War of 1812 became a common struggle to preserve the lands of the Northwest against American westward expansion.

In the autumn of 1813, after visiting York in order to make the necessary arrangements for the transportation of provisions and to receive his instructions as agent and superintendent, Robert Dickson travelled to the Northwest.79 He spent the bitterly cold winter of 1813-14 at Lake Winnebago where he encouraged the Indians to retain their allegiance to the British crown. In a letter to his ex-fur-trading partner John Awe on Christmas Day, Dickson recounted, "I have seen all the Indians of the Rock River and a good number from Wisconsin. I am most heartily sick and tired of this distributing of goods and wish for the spring. I hear nothing but the cry of hunger from all Quarters."80 In February of 1814, Dickson was "entirely destitute of provisions," and by March he wrote, "There is no situation more miserable than to see objects around you dying with hunger, and unable to give them but little assistance. I have done what I could for them, and will in consequence starve myself."81 Dickson managed to survive the winter by eating black bread and roots, and in April, after overcoming severe physical hardships, he reached the Fox-Wisconsin portage with a number of loyal warriors.

According to Dickson the American threat from St. Louis was the chief danger for the British and Indians in the Northwest. "It is unfortunate that we are required in another Quarter," he confessed; "we should find something worth fighting for there."82 The thoughts of Dickson echoed those of the British and Canadian fur traders of the region who wished to preserve the Northwest for the king, keep their fur-trading interests intact and allow the Indians to roam freely as before. This was the British fur-trade strategy. The American offensive against Prairie du Chien and Michilimackinac in 1814 was precisely what the British merchants desired, as it kept the Indians at home and necessitated the forwarding of British regulars to the Northwest. Dickson and the other traders hoped that if the Americans were decisively repulsed in the Northwest and peace negotiated with the British in complete possession of the region, the British fur-trade monopoly could be secured at the expense of the territorial ambitions of the United States.

For the remainder of the spring, Dickson recruited Indian warriors, and at Green Bay he was joined by loyal Sioux, Menominee and Winnebago bands. In May he despatched the Sauk and Fox to guard the Rock Island rapids on the Mississippi River against a possible American attack which he feared might come from St. Louis. Early in June, Dickson and 300 warriors arrived at Michilimackinac where Lieutenant Colonel Robert McDouall, the military commandant of that post, held a large and impressive council with the Indian bands who pledged their support to the king. The Sioux chief Wabasha spoke for the western Indians and stated in part that "We have the good fortune to have 'the Red Head' [Dickson] for a friend, who in spite of the barriers which the Americans have made, always found a passage to come and save the Indians from perishing."83 Other chiefs praised "the courage and good heart" of Dickson, and Prevost reported that "most of the Indians would have been lost to the British cause had it not been for the judicious, resolute and determined conduct of Mr. Dickson and his foresight and promptitude in forwarding supplies after Procter's defeat."84

Since Michilimackinac was the key to the Indian country of the upper Mississippi valley, the retention of the island fortress was imperative for the British, particularly as the maintenance of the tribal loyalty and the defence of that vast country were at stake. But Michilimackinac was but one of two doors to the Northwest, and the Americans had control of the other at St. Louis. In fact, the Americans planned a twin offensive in 1814 against Prairie du Chien and Michilimackinac in an attempt to gain hegemony over the entire area. One prong was assembled at St. Louis under General Clark, the governor of Missouri Territory. This force ascended the Mississippi in May, and meeting only feeble resistance from the Sauk and Fox at Rock Island, the Americans pushed toward Prairie du Chien and captured the town on 2 June.85 After constructing a stockade which he named Fort Shelby, Clark, apparently content with his success, returned to St. Louis but left a small force to guard the town and the new post.86

The news of the capture of Prairie du Chien reached the British at Michilimackinac on 21 June. Robert McDouall saw immediately the necessity of endeavouring by every means possible "to dislodge the American General from his new conquest, and make him relinquish the immense tract of country he had seized upon in consequence and which brought him into the very heart of that occupied by "our friendly Indians".87 Thus at the risk of weakening his own position. the British commander despatched an expedition under William McKay, a leading fur trader in the region, to retake Prairie du Chien. Both the British military and fur-trade interests had no alternative, for if the Americans were allowed to remain in possession of the area,

there was an end to our connection with the Indians. . . . tribe after tribe would be graned [sic] over or subdued, & thus would be destroyed the only barrier which protects the Great trading establishments of the North West & the Hudson's Bay Company. Nothing could then prevent the enemy from gaining the source of the Mississippi, gradually extending themselves by the Red River to Lake Winnipeg from whence the descent of Nelson's River to York Fort would in time be easy. The total subjugation of the Indians on the Mississippi would either lead to their extermination by the enemy or they would be spared on the express condition of assisting them to expel us from Upper Canada.88

The small British force was joined en route by voyageurs and Indians. By the time McKay reached Fort Shelby his contingent had swelled to 650, of which 120 were "Michigan Fencibles, Canadian Volunteers and Officers of the Indian Department, the remainder Indians who proved to be perfectly useless."89 After a curt exchange of notes the American detachment surrendered on 19 July. The British were once again supreme in the region and although McKay was not impressed with the efforts of the Indians who pillaged the houses in the town. he praised the Canadians and officers of the Indian Department who "behaved as well as I could possibly wish."90 As a crowning touch and to complete the victory in a symbolic sense McKay modestly renamed Shelby, Fort McKay. Following this gesture of victory, McKay promptly retired to his bed, for he had contracted a severe case of the mumps.

While Prairie du Chien was exchanging flags, a second and larger American expeditionary force of 700 had sailed from Detroit for Michilimackinac under the leadership of the hero of Fort Stephenson, Lieutenant Colonel George Croghan. The five American naval vessels were delayed by contrary winds and did not reach St. Joseph until 20 July. After storming the island and finding it deserted, the Americans burned the fort and public buildings. Following this success they captured a North West Company vessel, the Mink, burned the fur-trading post at Saint Marys (Sault Ste. Marie), and murdered a number of Indian families camped about the post.91 By 26 July, Croghan was anchored off Michilimackinac, but the high elevation prevented his guns from engaging the fort. For several days the Americans waited, as Croghan was reluctant to attempt a landing and assault against the Indians in the dense and unfamiliar woods.

Although the force for the defence of Michilimackinac had been greatly reduced as a result of McKay's expedition, McDouall wrote confidently that "We are here in a very fine state of Defense the Garrison and Indians in the highest spirits, and all ready for the attack of the Enemy."92 Croghan finally decided to land on 4 August, and McDouall, realizing that no British relief column was near, immediately unleashed the Menominee under Tomah who

commenced a spirited attack upon the Enemy, who in a short time lost their second in Command and several other Officers . . . . The Enemy retired in the utmost haste and confusion . . . till they found shelter under the very Broadside of their Ships anchored within a few yards of the Shore—They re-embarked that Evening and the Vessels immediately hauled off.93

The Americans had been exposed to the fire of 140 British regulars and two field guns, which McDouall has positioned behind a low natural breastwork, and the furious attack of the Indians in the woods. The brief but fierce contest had cost Croghan 15 killed and 48 wounded, whereas British and Indian losses were negligible.94

On their return trip to Detroit the Americans located and destroyed the schooner Nancy, the only remaining British vessel on the upper lakes, which had been maintaining communications with Michilimackinac.95 But the commander of the Nancy, Lieutenant Miller Worsley, and his small crew managed to reach Michilimackinac by canoe. Since the American schooners Tigress and Scorpion had been left to patrol Lake Huron and prevent supplies from reaching Michilimackinac via the York-Lake Simcoe-Georgian Bay route, Worsley quickly devised a plan to capture the two vessels. With the assistance of Lieutenant Andrew Bulger of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, Robert Dickson and 50 men, all in four small boats, Worsley surprised and captured the Tigress at the passage of the Detour (near Drummond Island) on 3 September. Two nights later the unsuspecting Scorpion was boarded and became an easy victim for Worsley and a British crew in the Tigress, which was still flying the American pennant.96 These acquisitions provided the Royal Navy with a makeshift force on Lake Huron, and if the war had continued until 1815 there undoubtedly would have been a naval battle to decide the supremacy of the upper lakes.

Michilimackinac was ignored for the duration of the war, but American attempts to dislodge the British in the Northwest continued against Prairie du Chien. Early in July, a Major John Campbell and 120 regulars and rangers had been despatched from St. Louis to reinforce Fort Shelby. At the Rock Island Rapids this force was attacked and mauled by about 400 Sauk and Fox under the determined leadership of Black Hawk, "a zealous partisan of the British cause." The Americans suffered 16 killed and 21 wounded in the engagement; Indian casualties were unknown, but considered slight.97 The timely arrival of the gunboat Governor Clark, which was retreating from Prairie du Chien following McKay's victory, rescued the survivors and the Americans retreated to St. Louis.

The news of Campbell's defeat angered the Americans, and a second and larger expedition was organized in August against the Indians at Rock Island and the British at Prairie du Chien. The commander of this contingent of 350 men and 8 gun boats was Major Zachary Taylor, future president of the United States. At Fort McKay the British were aware of Taylor's movements, and to bolster Indian courage Lieutenant Duncan Graham of the Indian Department and 30 men, accompanied by Sergeant James Keating of the Royal Artillery with a 3-pounder and two swivel guns, were sent down to the villages along the Rock River.98 The small British harrassing force was augmented by 1,200 Fox, Sauk, Winnebago, Sioux and Kickapoo who swarmed to the side of the king in eager expectation of another victory.99 In the early morning of 5 September, Graham, Keating and the Indians surprised and attacked Taylor's flotilla which was anchored in the shallow waters of the Rock River. The accuracy of the guns under Keating and the intensity of the Indian attack under Black Hawk convinced the Americans of the futility of attempting to destroy the villages and of their inability to recapture Prairie du Chien. With the Indians in pursuit for about two miles, Taylor who had lost 3 killed and 8 wounded, retreated to the Des Moines River and constructed Fort Johnson. In October 1813, he burned the fort and withdrew to St. Louis.100 No further American efforts were made against Prairie du Chien, and the British and Indians remained supreme in the Northwest for the duration of the war.

After receiving word of the repulse of Taylor, Robert Dickson, accompanied by Andrew Bulger who was to assume command at Fort McKay, left Michilimackinac on 29 October for Prairie du Chien with five boatloads of presents and supplies for the Indians.101 Combatting the bitter cold the group reached their destination one month later. The situation at Fort McKay was critical as the Indians were starving and the militia garrison was in a mutinous state. Relations between Dickson and Bulger became strained almost immediately, because Dickson insisted that the Indians be fed from the king's stores at Prairie du Chien.102 Bulger countered that he would not allow Dickson to usurp the authority of the military, and the difficulty was not settled until McDouall ordered that as of 23 February 1815, "the Indian Department on the Mississippi is subject to and entirely under the orders of Captain Bulger.103 McDouall reported that Dickson had shown a bias in feeding the Indians, and especially the Sioux bands, and that his conduct had placed the garrison and other western Indian allies in danger of further starvation. In consequence, Dickson was recalled to Michilimackinac, deprived of his appointment as agent and superintendent of the Western Indians, placed under arrest and detained until the spring when news of peace reached the Northwest. After his dismissal and release in the spring of 1815, Dickson journeyed to Quebec where he petitioned Sir Gordon Drummond, the governor, for an investigation of his conduct during the War of 1812. The case was referred to the government in London where Dickson obtained a hearing and a complete vindication. His services to the British cause were fully recognized and he was rewarded with the commission of lieutenant colonel and retired with a pension of £300 per year.

29 Tecumseh or Tecumtha (1768-1813). (Public Archives of Canada.)

Although the Treaty of Ghent announcing the cessation of hostilities between Great Britain and the United States was signed Christmas Eve, 1814, the British at Prairie du Chien did not receive official notification of the peace until 20 May 1815. As a result Bulger had established a defensive position at the Rock Island Rapids, and in the hopes of discouraging another attack from St. Louis, he sent out several war parties of Indians in the spring to raid the American settlements in the surrounding areas. So intense were these raids that one St. Louis newspaper lamented, "The Indians continue their hostility upon our frontiers. They have taken more scalps within the last six weeks than they did during the whole of the preceding spring and summer upon this frontier."104 Despite the failure of supplies and ammunition, most of the Indians of the Northwest maintained their steadfast allegiance to the British who reigned supreme as far south as Rock River until the spring of 1815.

Toward the end of March, Gordon Drummond sent orders to McDouall to restore Michilimackinac and Prairie du Chien to the United States as soon as the garrison and stores could be removed to the new designated site at Drummond Island. Not unexpectedly, McDouall was extremely upset and bitter over this British surrender.

Our negociators, as usual, have been egregiously duped: as usual, they have shewn themselves profoundly ignorant of the concerns of this part of the Empire. I am penetrated with grief at the restoration of this fine Island, "a fortress built by Nature for herself." I am equally mortified at giving up Fort McKay to the Americans, . . . Sir Gordon Drummond's order is however, positive, and of course leaves no alternative but compliance.105

At Fort McKay, Captain Andrew Bulger held an Indian council on 22 May 1815. The chiefs were informed of the terms of the peace and of the fact that the British, as in 1796, were forced to evacuate. When informed of the situation "the whole hearted man and unflinching warrior, Black Hawk, cried like a child saying our Great Mother [Great Britain] has thus concluded, and further talk is useless."106 Two days later, after distributing presents of pork, flour, cloth, tobacco, iron. guns, powder, shot and ball to the Sauk and other tribes, and leaving the Indians "without want" and in a situation more comfortable than in former years, the British gathered their remaining possessions, burned the fort and departed. Bulger's force reached Michilimackinac in June, and on 18 July 1815, having previously removed guns, provisions and stores to the new post at Drummond Island, McDouall formally surrendered Michilimackinac to Colonel Butler of the United States Army.107 British domination of the upper Mississippi valley of the Northwest was ended forever.

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