Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine


Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

John Graves Simcoe
Chapter VIII - The Alarms of War


THE possibility of war with the United States had always been present to Simcoe's mind. He feared that before the Canadas could develop sufficient strength to render assault and capture by a determined foe a difficult and uncertain operation the belt of neutral Indian country would be absorbed. the boundary of the nation and the colony would become a single intangible line, and the forces of the United States would overwhelm the weak garrisons of the widely separated posts. All his desire had been for peace. His avowed policy was to prevent war "by the appearance of force and by its concentration," and he hoped that five years of continuous peace and prosperity would find Upper Canada able to sustain itself against any attack that might be made. Upon May 27th, 1793, he had received the dispatch which announced officially the declaration of war with France. To his mind the political leaders of the United States only awaited a pretext to disclose their real feeling of hostility and to begin an invasion. That he might be in possession of the latest advices from Europe, he had sent his secretary, Talbot, to Philadelphia to confer with Hammond, the British plenipotentiary, but before his return the news had come direct to his hand. Although it was necessary for him to be vigilant and to take the utmost precautions he was also compelled to be extremely cautious at the moment of his receipt of the dispatch, for he had under his roof three commissioners from the power he distrusted, whose object was to make a treaty of peace with the Indians. It was important that this treaty should be concluded, and that by an acknowledgment of the Ohio as the boundary of the Indian domain, a belt of neutral territory should be imposed between the two countries.

The relations of Great Britain with the United States at this time were peculiar, and there is no room for wonder that they were strained almost to the breaking point. Certain articles of the Treaty of Paris had not been carried out in their integrity by the United States. These clauses were precisely those the non-observance of which would cause the most bitter feeling of hostility on the part of the colonists. Clauses V and VI dealt, respectively, with the restitution of Loyalist losses and complete cessation of all reprisals by the Americans on those who had taken the king's side in the war. In the event, reprisals were made, and any movement to restore property destroyed during the Revolution was as unsubstantial as the smoke which had swallowed up the Loyalist rooftrees and granaries. The most important effect of the chicanery was to give the British colonies an infusion of the best blood of the republic. The Loyalists came trooping in with empty hands but with stern and intrepid hearts. A less important result was that Great Britain refused to evacuate certain of the western posts, and over them, well within United States territory as deliminated by the treaty of 1783, the royal flag still flew.

In vain had the United States demanded the delivery of these posts; they were quietly retained as an earnest that a treaty remained unfulfilled. Of itself this position was sufficiently delicate, but it was complicated by the war which for some time had been raging between the troops of the United States and the Indians. And in this conflict Great Britain was bound to the Indian cause. In the view of the States she was fomenting the trouble and assisting the savages by her advice and protection. But her policy was far different. She felt compelled to see justice done her Indians, and there was no basis of right or justice in the appropriation by American settlers of lands which had never been surrendered by their aboriginal owners. Despite all the argument and all the force which the Indians could use these spoliations went steadily on until the friendship of Great Britain with the tribes was shaken. It came to be alleged that, by the treaty, the king had given away these Indian lands to which he had no right or title, and this view was enforced where-ever possible by emissaries of the republic. This Indian estrangement had to be conquered, and we shall see in a page or two how Dorchester, aided by Simcoe, overcame it and quieted the fears and suspicions of the tribes. It was necessary, as well for the safety of the Indians as for the protection of Canada, that these Indian lands should be respected. The trend of all the British diplomacy of that day was to endeavour to maintain the territory north of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi as an Indian domain that would serve as a breakwater before the British frontier against the waves of American aggression. Now in the light of events the policy seems as infantine as to endeavour to keep back Atlantic surges by a frail wall of sand heaped up by children at play. But it was honestly and with every peacable desire kept m the front by the officers of the king's government.

Upon the side of the United States the efforts for peace were more persistent and strenuous as the troubled state of the border checked the settlement of the rich watershed of the Ohio, and the activity of the Indians filled the pioneers with terror and dismay. Force had been tried, and with lamentable results. The expedition under General St. Clair that was organized with such care and forwarded with every hope of success, had been crushed upon its first encounter with the Indians. Moving incautiously, without those safeguards so necessary in border warfare, the force became involved in an ambuscade. Suddenly the woods were alive with Indians, the pickets were driven in, the soldiers were hurled back and swept through the camp, and it was the greed of the Indians alone that enabled any portion of the army to escape. The sight of the stores was too great a temptation for the savages, who preferred plunder to a feast of blood. This battle was fought on November 4th, 1701. St. Clair lost fifteen hundred men, and all the supplies and impedimenta of his army—artillery, baggage, and ammunition. The Indian loss was only twenty-one killed and forty wounded. Another force was placed under General Wayne's command to accomplish the task in which St. Clair had failed so disastrously; and Wayne was a leader of a very different stamp.

While the pacification by force was still looked upon as possible, the American government had decided to adopt, as well, milder methods. In June of 1702 Brant had visited Philadelphia. Upon the Indian side of the controversy he was held to be the most powerful single force. Although there was a suspicion that he had led the attack upon St. Clair it was ill-founded. Only ten braves of the Six Nations and one chief, Du Quania, participated with the western Indians in the savage glory of that rout. From the late encounter there was no stain upon the great chief of the confederacy, and much was expected from his diplomacy. Accordingly he was received with respect by Washington, and was feted and honoured in the chief cities of the republic. A multitude of councillors was also working for peace, chief among whom were the Quakers, who were regarded as friends of all the interested tribes.

The news of the French imbroglio readied Navy Hall during a pause of preparation. As a fruit of Brant's visit to Philadelphia, the tribes had assembled in the autumn of 1792 at the Au Glaize, and it was arranged that the chiefs and warriors should meet the representatives of the United States government during the following spring at Sandusky. It was fixed upon in the council that the Ohio should be demanded as the Indian boundary, and during all the subsequent negotiations this remained the position from which the western Indians never retreated. The Six Nations were fully represented by their chiefs, but Brant himself was not present, having been detained, it is alleged, by illness. It is apparent that at this stage of the negotiations he did not wish to appear as the mediator. He felt that the time had not come when he could stand as the sole bulwark between peace and war, that said such a number of diverse forces, all tending to one purpose, his influence would be obscured. He, therefore, stood aloof and waited to observe the reception which his chiefs, publishing peace, might be accorded. They were, in fact, treated with expressed scorn in their character of peacemakers with "the voice of the United States folded under their arm." The hostiles triumphed signally, and the Ohio was to be pressed as the only boundary. Brant did not appear until October 28th, when he met the Shawanese and Delawares at the foot of the Miami Rapids and was officially informed, as it were, of the decision of the great council and warned against Washington and his cunning, advice which must have been unpalatable to the great warrior.

The winter and early spring passed without any change in the position of affairs, but both the Indians and the British viewed with distrust the continued activity of General Wayne. On May 17th two commissioners appointed to meet the Indians at Sandusky, according to agreement, arrived at Navy Hall: Beverley Randolph, late governor of Virginia, and Colonel Timothy Pickering, the postmaster-general. A few days later came the third commissioner, General Benjamin Lincoln, who had fought throughout the Revolutionary War with distinction. They remained at Navy Hall, the guests of Governor Simcoe, until early in July. At the outset there was unexpected difficulty in arranging a date for the conference. Brant had gone westward with his chiefs to attend a preliminary council of the tribes, there were vague rumours of dissension and intrigue. At length the patience of the commissioners was exhausted, and on June 26th they left Niagara, intending to proceed at once to the Detroit River. If the Indians would not come to them, they would approach the Indians. But they had only reached Fort Erie when they met Brant with representatives of all the western tribes. Back they trooped to Niagara,- and on Sunday morning, July 7th, they met in Freemasons' Hall in the presence of the governor, the British officers, and the prominent Canadians of the district. Brant, the spokesman of the confederates, was expected by them to ask definitely whether the commissioners were empowered to fix the Ohio as a boundary. Now Brant perceived that a negative answer to this demand would close all hope of a compromise, would, in fact, destroy the very foundation on which the peace party hoped to build; therefore he temporized. He emasculated the question which became merely a request to know whether the commissioners were authorized to fix the boundary. The answer was simply affirmative. Brant had gained time, but he had lost every vestige of power over the western tribes, who, from that day forward, considered him a traitor to their common interests.

After lasting for a few days the preliminary meeting broke up, and the commissioners proceeded to the mouth of the Detroit River and remained at Captain Elliot's, the local Indian superintendent. Simcoe had refused politely to allow them to gain a sight of the defences of Detroit. Here they dallied until the fourteenth of August, The great council was in progress at the Au Glaire and messages were sent and received. But the Indians were now 124 thoroughly alarmed; from the south their runners brought word of Wayne's activity, and they had no assurance that the waters of the Ohio would flow across the path of future aggression. Brant had weakened his influence and all the eloquence of the Corn-planter, the great chief of the Senecas, failed to move the warriors who saw nothing but falseness and duplicity in these efforts. Abruptly the final message came; all hope for further negotiations was at an end, and the friends of peace departed discomfited by their failure.

Thus the peace negotiations fell through and the Indian problem was still unsettled. The proceedings had shown how far separate were the parties to the conference, but they had other effects. They completed Simcoe's distrust of Brant. The governor found only one leading principle in Brant's conduct: "the wish to involve the British empire in a quarrel with the United States." He held him responsible for the collapse of the negotiations and reported that " he [Brant] knew the Pottawattamies of St. Joseph had determined to obtain peace at any rate, and that he thought by siding with them in not absolutely insisting on the Ohio for the boundary might be the means of reconciling them to the general interest." On September 20th, 1703, he wrote to Dundas enclosing a letter from Brant, "by which," he says, "it will appear that he is labouring to effect a pacification upon such terms and principles as he shall think proper, arid which will eventually make him that mediator which the United States have declined to request from His Majesty's government. In this arduous task I cannot believe that he will succeed, as the western Indians consider him as a traitor to their interests and totally in the service of the United States. I am by no means of such an opinion. I believe that he considers the Indian interests as his first object, that as a secondary, though very inferior one, he prefers the British in a certain degree to the people of the States. I consider the use he has made or may make of his power to be an object of just alarm, and that it is necessary, by degrees and on just principles, that it should be diminished. From circumstances, the almost guidance of the superintendent's office, as far as the Six Nations have been concerned, has very imprudently centred in the hands of this chieftain. He has made an artful use of such means of power, and appears in himself to be the dispenser of His Majesty's bounty."

The governor closes this arraignment of the great Mohawk by another appeal for a reorganization of the Indian department, for the abolition of the office of superintendent-general, and for the control by the executive council of the Indian interests with Colonel McKee, the western superintendent, as a member of the council. In truth, the state of the Indian department and its government was a source of constant and just vexation to Simcoe. The Indian policy was the only field in all his government in which there was any room for diplomacy, and from that field he was officially excluded. The superintendent-general, Sir John Johnson, had been absent for long periods, during which each superintendent administered his office according to instructions that gave no directions for emergencies. Their orders came direct from the superintendent-general or the commander-in-chief at Quebec; the governor was ignorant of them and was not consulted as to the Indian policy. Owing to the influence of Sir John Johnson no change had been made in the administration of the department, although from the first Simcoe had pointed out the advisability of placing the control of the Indians in his province in the hands of the lieutenant-governor.

Simcoe's constant representations as to .the unpopularity and dishonesty of the officials of this important department met with no favourable response from Dorchester. His friend, Sir John Johnson, was at the head of that service, and should so remain, subject only to the governor of the province in which it was necessary for him to reside; and it had never come to pass that Upper Canada needed his special attention and residence. Simcoe's final charge threw all responsibility upon other shoulders. He wrote to Dorchester: "I therefore, if it [the Indian department] shall continue on its present independent footing, declare that I consider the present power and authority of my station . . . to be materially and unnecessarily weakened, but more especially, should it be permitted to remain in this insecure situation, I beg not to be understood as responsible for the continuance of peace with the Indian nations, and, as far as their interests are implicated and interwoven, with the subjects of the United States." This vigorous protest called forth a frigid reply from the commander-in-chief, and no changes were inaugurated.

While Simcoe could neither give orders to, nor control, the officers of this department, he yet managed to keep a firm hand upon Indian affairs. To state the fact that he was loved and respected by the Indians is equivalent to the statement that by nature and policy he was fitted to deal with them. He was affectionately called in the Iroquois tongue Dcyotenhokaraiven—"an open door." He was an ideal representative of that firm, true and uniform policy that has made the Canadian Indian believe the British sovereign his great parent and himself a child under beneficent protection.

In thus censuring Brant, Simcoe was taking too absolute a view of the circumstances, as was his wont. The Six Nations, allies and comrades-in-arms of the British, had already suffered much for the cause. Brant had thrown all his personal courage and cunning on the royal side of the balance, and was a terror to the king's enemies on the field or before the council fire. But circumstances had arrived, in 1792, at a point where mere courage was of non-effect and where the magnitude of the interest at stake paralyzed his diplomacy. He desired to save their lands for his people, but his ambition led him to hope for a personal triumph as well as a tribal, confederate victory. Thus misled, he appeared shifty to those from whom he gained his chief power, and in consequence it crumbled away. That his allegiance to Great Britain may for the moment have become attainted is not impossible. His mind was sufficiently natural to dislike a policy which wore all the semblance of friendship without the warm and active support which companioned that friendship in the old war time. His experience taught him that there would be only one outcome of a war between his people and the United States, and it may have been that by his vacillation, as Simcoe suspected, he wished to gain the open and active assistance of the great power which had always supported him.

While these events were occurring the governor was using every effort to place his frontier in a state of defence. Fort Niagara was strengthened, and York, in the autumn of 1793, was given at least an appearance of fortification by mounting some condemned cannon from Carleton Island. Simcoe had removed to York immediately after the departure of the American commissioners, and arrived in the harbour on July 30th. Here he spent the summer and the ensuing winter. His correspondence with Sir Alured Clarice upon the military affairs of the province had been harmonious, even cordial. But on September 23rd Lord Dorchester relieved Clarke and took up the reins of government, and from that time forward the relations between the commander-in-chief and the lieutenant-governor were strained. Upon Simcoe's part there was evidently a strong personal feeling against Dorchester. He could not forget his censure of the Queen's Rangers or his patronage of Sir John Johnson for the governorship of Upper Canada.

There are a few words in Simcoe s correspondence with Dundas that lead one to believe that lie hoped Dorchester would not assume his government and that he might himself take command at Quebec. To increase this feeling of hostility there soon arose a divergence of opinion which rendered the relations of the two officers unsatisfactory to each. Dorchester, seeing the defence of Canada with a broad sweep, could not approve of Simcoe's suggestions for the protection of the upper province. He disapproved particularly of fortifying York. Simcoe had stated to Clarke that he found it impossible, and, indeed, unnecessary to separate his civil and his military duties, and upon this line he carried on his correspondence with Dorchester. His temper in the circumstances that followed cannot be commended. He was hasty and petulant, his words were frequently ill-considered and violent.

Dorchester's views as to the military force necessary for his province are called "immoral." He wrote on December 15th, 1793, to Dundas: "Nothing but the pure principle of doing my utmost for the king's service would for a moment make me wish to remain in a situation where I consider myself liable to become the instrument of the most flagitious breach of national honour and public faith without any military necessity." Dorchester, on the contrary, contained himself and was considerate of his insubordinate officer. The friction is of no public moment, for it resulted in nothing more important than the quarrel itself.

Dorchester was officially correct in controlling the military operations in Upper Canada; and, when he was commanded to act in affairs of importance, Simcoe pushed on with his wonted vigour and dispatch. Very near the close of their relations Dorchester stated to Simcoe that between them there seemed to be some unfortunate mistake which required to be cleared up. "I do not understand," he wrote, "how the officer commanding the troops in this country, whether he approves or disapproves of provincial projects, can interfere with the lieutenant-governor in the exercise of the means intrusted to him by the king's ministers for carrying on the great public measures of his province; and I must suppose, till further explained, that the commander-in-chief is as little under the control of the lieutenant-governor."

I have said that the friction or quarrel of these two officers, each laden with great responsibility, each endeavouring to carry out his duty amid peculiar difficulties, was of no public moment. But it had intimate and private results. The home government endeavoured to conciliate the opposition, and traced with tact the boundaries of the two gubernatorial spheres, and pointed out how, with mutual consideration, no clash need occur. But the personal wounds remained unsalved to the last. Simcoe, upon the eve of his departure, was bitter in his invective ; and Dorchester, provoked by the captious opposition of the chief-justices in his own capital, and the insolence of the commander of the forces in the upper province, would fain have recommended the recall of each. "I think," he wrote, "this would not only prevent any disorder for the present, but teach gentlemen in these distant provinces to beware how they sport with the authority of the king, their master, and the tranquillity of his subjects."

But, while upon many points Dorchester and Simcoe differed, there was one opinion which they shared—that war with the United States was inevitable. The autumn and winter of 1793 heard the clamour and din of the American fire-eaters and filibusters rise to such a height that the voices of the prudent and moderate were lost, overwhelmed in the tumult. It was urged that with a French alliance the time would be ripe to sweep the power of Great Britain from the continent. Added to this agitation there was the menace of Wayne's force ready to strike at Detroit when a favourable opportunity should arise. Dorchester, in November, 1703, gives to Hammond the information that this army consisted of three thousand regulars, two thousand militia, and two hundred Indians. It was his first duty to defend the posts, and Detroit was in no state to stand before such an army. During the early weeks of 1794 the tension increased, and Dorchester wrote to Hammond on February 17th that "Wayne's language implies hostile designs requiring other measures than complaints or repairing a fort of pickets." He believed "a frank statement best, so that it may be understood that trust in forbearance and the desire of peace may be carried too far." A few days earlier, on February 10th, he had made a speech to a deputation of the Seven Nations which had the effect of a frank statement, and was taken by the United States as such. He told the Indians "that from the manner in which the people of the States push on and act and talk, I shall not be surprised if we were at war with them in the course of the present year." The speech, intended only for Indian ears, reached the United States, was printed in the newspapers, and the secretary of state wrote to Hammond that the words were " hostility itself."

Although the letter to Hammond just cited does not contain a hint that Dorchester had decided to take any active measures, upon the same day he advised Simcoe that as he heard Wayne proposed to close the British up at Detroit he should occupy nearly the same posts as were demolished after the peace on the Miami; he should arm ships upon the lakes, and prepare to resist Wayne should he attempt to take possession of the country.

For some time the governor had sought guidance from his superior officer as to what his course of action should be if the Americans appeared with an armed naval force upon the lakes. He had been referred in answer to the British plenipotentiary at Philadelphia, and, accordingly, in alarm at the impossibility of obtaining definite instructions in a matter of such moment, he had dispatched Major Littlehales to the American capital to learn from Hammond the "mind of His Majesty's ministers." While his envoy was still at Philadelphia, Dorchester's dispatch was received. Simcoe interpreted it as the declaration of a war policy, and on March 14th he dispatched to the commander-in-chief his plan of aggression, as it was his belief that Upper Canada could not be defended from its own soil. Immediately afterwards he left York. He arrived at the Mohawk village on the Grand River on March 20th, and taking canoes there he reached the rapids of the Miami on April 10th.

An episode now occurred that is worthy of record, more from its strangeness than from any remote bearing upon the subject. Upon April 8th a letter had been received b)r Simcoe from Baron Carondelet, the Spanish governor-general of Louisiana, dated January 2nd, 1794, asking him for aid against an expedition that he believed was designed against Louisiana. His information was explicit; the attack was to be made by way of the upper and lower Mississippi; France had intrigued with American Jacobins, the force was known, as well as the fund to supply the insurgents. He asked Simcoe to send five hundred men by way of St. Louis to defeat the designs of the common enemy, as he believed that it was in the interest of Britain that Illinois should remain in possession of Spain. Simcoe agreed to the general statement that such a secured possession was in Great Britain's interests, but that he could not afford assistance to St. Louis even if authorized so to do. He averred that he would be happy were the alliance between the two Crowns strengthened as, in cooperation, their forces would be of consequence should the United States force a war. The letter closed with those courteous messages that Simcoe, gifted in the expression of sentiment, would feel constrained to deliver to a Spanish governor. It was many months afterwards, in the winter of 1794-5, that Simcoe received an answer to his letter; the expected invasion of Spanish territory had not occurred, and Carondelet wasted his words in pointing out how combinations of the Indian forces might be made, and in what manner communications could be maintained. Simcoe, upon reading this epistle, may have smiled at the recollection of the request for aid from one who was the leader of what he considered a forlorn hope, at the request of Carondelet coming to him in the wilderness while he was gathering his puny force and felling trees to make a breastwork against his immediate foe.

At the rapids of the Miami Simcoe erected as effectual a stronghold as possible, and garrisoned it with one hundred and twenty rank and file of the 24th Regiment, commanded by Major Campbell, and one non-commissioned. officer and ten privates of the Royal Artillery. He reports to Dorchester that he also "directed a log house, defensible against necessity, to be built at Turtle Island and another at the River aux Raisins, and mertons of logs in the hog-pen manner to be provided at these posts which, being filled as occasion shall require, will give the adequate means of speedily erecting batteries, and in the meantime these houses will become immediate deposits absolutely necessary to the security of the navigation." Having thus created an outpost to the defenoe of Detroit, Simcoe hurried back to Niagara to further strengthen the fort, to make a better disposition of the troops under his command, to call out the militia, and to complete the naval force upon Lake Erie. He arrived at Navy Hall on April 27th. The next three months were spent in these preparations, and in this interval the legislature met on June 2nd and prorogued on July 7th. Early in August the governor dis-136 patched Lieutenant Sheaffe to the Sodus to protest, in the name of the British government, against the settlement of Americans on that bay, which indents the shore of Lake Ontario in Wayne county, in the state of New York. This visit was made in no hostile spirit, and the lieutenant was accompanied by but one officer and seven unarmed soldiers as oarsmen.

On August 18th all that Simcoe could do for the defence of Canada had been done, the militia of Niagara and Detroit had been drafted, and he was ready to leave for the latter post with all his available force, one hundred men of the 5th Regiment and forty of the Queen's Rangers. With his small army he feared that Wayne could not be successfully opposed. But since Dorchester's speech to the Indians and the establishment of the post at the Miami, Brant had acted with firmness and vigour, and Simcoe expected his assistance and that of every warrior of the Six Nations.

The establishment of a fort by the British fifty miles south of Detroit and within territory formally ceded by treaty, caused violent comment in the United States. An acrimonious correspondence was carried on between Jefferson and Hammond, and the newspapers fanned the excitement. But while this episode was in progress far from the scene of activity, and while Simcoe was disposing his forces and rallying his Indians, Wayne was cautiously advancing. No opportunity was given for such an ambuscade as broke St. Clair and destroyed his army. His object was solely to crush the Indians, obeying the order of his government. On June 30th he met his foe under the stockade of Fort Recovery, which had been erected upon the ground where Butler fell and St. Clair was defeated. The Indians cut off and drove away a train of pack animals laden with provisions and killed fifty men of the escort. For two days a desultory", but at intervals a fierce fight was maintained. Wayne was not to be surprised or drawn from his defences, and his men, from the loopholes of Fort Recover)', inflicted heavy loss upon the Indians. Discouraged from the continuance of a contest in which they were at a disadvantage, the Indians earned off their dead and wounded and left the field where they had less than two years before crushed St. Clair. But in Wayne they had an adversary of a different stamp. In the wilderness he made no step of which he was not perfectly sure, and when he received reinforcements at Fort Recovery he advanced as rapidl)' as the nature of the country would permit.

His objective point was the junction of the Au Glaize and the Miami, upon the fertile banks of which lay the Indian villages. When he arrived he met with no resistance. The Indians were taken unawares, and as they retreated towards the rapids, where Major Campbell and his little force held the walls of the new British fort, they 138 saw above the trees the dense smoke from their huts and cornfields drift away in the wind. Here they took up a position; their left secured by the strong rocky bank of the river, their centre and right involved in a thicket of wood rendered impassable by fallen trees mingled with underbrush, the track of a tornado. The Americans numbered about four thousand, the Indians but one thousand three hundred. With this superior force Wayne advanced, and on August 20th he struck at the position. His dispositions were well planned, the charge was impetuous and intrepid ; in a single hour the Indians were rolled back upon the British post, with few losses but thoroughly broken and defeated. The day after the battle Major Campbell addressed a letter to Wayne in which he requested to be informed in what light he was to view Wayne's near approaches to his garrison. The interchange of letters which followed exposed the differing views of the commanders, but had no other result. Wayne demanded, that Campbell retire; Campbell retorted that he would not abandon his post at the summons of any power whatever. Wayne's cavalry ranged about within reach of Campbell's guns, over which hung the port-fire, but they withdrew and the match did not descend. Wayne had positive orders not to attack any British garrison, and after burning everything of value which he could discover, including the house and barns of Colonel McKee, the Indian superintendent, he retired to the Au Glaize on August 28th.

Major Campbell's conduct was highly approved by Simcoe. In a difficult position he had maintained a bold and determined front. His fort was an impromptu affair, half completed, and with but a semblance of strength; his garrison was weak and his guns few; but he did not flinch at Wayne's challenge, and would no doubt have fought him to the death. He received nothing more than the thanks of the home government, that coldly agreed with Simcoe's warm words: "The conduct of this gentleman which, in substance, may have prevented the greatest miseries to the province . . . has most nobly supported the national character." The governor sent one hundred guineas to Major Campbell for distribution as rewards, and if his view could have prevailed, advancement and honour would have followed for the commander of the post. No gun had been fired but many had lost their lives by fever. At the end of August six had died and one hundred and twenty of the garrison were upon the sick list.

Thus the decisive action was fought while Brant was still at his village on the Grand River. If he had at heart the successful prosecution of the war, his inactivity at this critical time is inexplicable. He knew that Wayne was steadily advancing, yet he withheld his hand ; he answered Simcoe that he was ready to move with his best fighters, yet he remained at home. He wrote to McKee on January 14th, 1795, that he should have been present at the affair with Wayne had the nations, "agreeable to our ancient customs, informed me of his approaches." When he and Simcoe on September 27th arrived at Miami's Bay all reason for their presence had vanished. The Indians were discouraged and disunited, and Wayne had moved southward victorious.

In the spring and summer of 1794, while these men of action were manoeuvring for an advantage in. the far west, each party alive for a pretext to strike at the other, the diplomats of Philadelphia and Downing Street were quietly settling the difficulty in their own fashion. Jay landed at Falmouth on June 8th upon a pacific mission, and while Simcoe thought that war had been declared and was straining every nerve to place his province upon the defensive, Dundas was writing him from London that peace was secured and that nothing should be done to irritate the United States or provoke hostilities. These dispatches were received many days after all fear of a clash had past. If Washington's determination to maintain peace had been less firm, if his directions to Wayne had left any loophole for that impulsive officer to resent hostility, the nations might again have been involved in war. The motive may not have been higher than that which prompted the communication of the war office to the unfortunate St. Clair, but it was sufficient: " We must by all means avoid involving the United States with Great Britain until events arise of the quality and magnitude as to impress the people of the United States and the world at large of the rank injustice and unfairness of their procedure. But a war with that power in the present state of affairs would retard our power, growth and happiness beyond almost the power of calculation." The restraint put upon Wayne was in part actuated by self-interest, and the opposition that he met so far from Detroit prevented him from pitching his tents under the walls of that fort.

The treaty that was concluded between Great Britain and the United States, which is usually called Jay's Treaty, settled the pending difficulties between the two countries, and in the summer of 1796 the posts were delivered to the United States. The American flag was hoisted over Fort Niagara on August 11th. About the same time the relieving party, assisted by the British with supplies of pork and flour, arrived at Michilimackinac, and the dominion of the west passed peaceably to the United States.

Dorchester, misled by alarming signs, had nearly brought disaster upon the country. For his inflammatory speech to the Indians and his directions to Simcoe to establish the post on the Miami, he was reproved by the government. His spirited defence of his action ends with his resignation. But with these facts the present writing has but little concern. It is with Simcoe's position we must deal. He had been the chief actor in the scene and he apprehended that his would be the chief blame. In this he was wrong, but the fear drew from him a characteristic letter to the Duke of Portland. It follows with but slight abridgment as it sums up with vigour and almost vehemence the situation from his standpoint. It exhibits many of the essential points of his character, his intense spirit of partizanship, his impatience of restraint, his deep integrity, his devotion to duty which was in his mind inseparable from his religion, and from all that he held sacred in life.

"Kingston, December 20th, 179A.

"My Lord Duke,—As the manner in which the disputes relative to the barrier forts of this province shall be terminated must probably become the subject of discussion, I feel it indispensably necessary to state to your grace the orders of the commander-in-chief, Lord Dorchester, under which I acted and the principles which in the event of war would have guided my discretion. ... It is necessary that I should premise to your grace what transpired on my arrival in this province. I found it to be the common language of all classes of people, military as well as civil, the well-informed as well as the ignorant, that any attempt of the United States to launch a single boat upon the lakes was to be repelled as hostility; it, therefore, became incumbent upon me to obtain as soon as possible positive instructions upon so important a subject. The manner in which his Lordship had previously declined to give such instructions and his observations to me on January 27th that 'Mr. Hammond was best qualified to speak the language that will be approved by His Majesty's ministers,' when contrasted with the orders of February 19th folio whig, to occupy the post at the Miami; and his Lordship's answer to the speech of the Seven Nations of Canada as deputies from part of the Indian nations, which speech was totally unknown to me: these circumstances, added to the total silence of His Majesty's ministers in respect to the application made by me to Major-General Clarke, and communicated by him in his letter to Mr. Dundas of Februaiy 2nd, 1793, left no justifiable doubt upon my mind but that war with the United States was inevitable, and that his Lordship's recent measures had originated under the instructions of His Majesty's confidential servants; I immediately, therefore, decided personally to proceed through the woods to Detroit, and to carry into execution his Lordship's directions upon the principles, which are explained by the letter, which I beg to transmit a copy of to your grace. Previously to the receipt of the commander-in-chief's orders, the same information from I lieutenant-Colonel England, to which his Lordship alludes in his instructions, having passed through my hands, 1 had sent Major of Brigade Littlehales to Mr. Hammond to request that if 'he thought it was seasonable, he would interfere with the government of the United States to prevent any ill consequences that might follow Mr. Wayne's menaces and approach.' In particular I stated to Mr. Hammond: ' That I considered the settlement at the River aux Raisins as the boundary of the territory occupied by His Majesty's subjects, dependent on Detroit.' It, therefore, will not escape your grace that had Mr. Hammond acted upon my communication and had entered into an amicable discussion with the government of the United States, nearly at the same period that a post at the Miami Rapids, thirty miles in advance of the River aux Raisins, should have been occupied by His Majesty's troops, the conduct of the British government would have appeared in the most unfavourable light, and, personally, I should have been liable to the charge of extreme duplicity. . . . Your grace will be pleased to observe that Lord Dorchester, by his speaking of my ' local knowledge ' of the country where it must have been known to his Lordship I never could have been, in person, seems to intimate the propriety of my going thither; upon this expression, I determined to waive the peculiar circumstances of my situation, and, as I conceived, the general impropriety of His Majesty s representative in this province passing its boundaries without the most urgent occasion. I more readily embraced this resolution, as I had not an officer of experience, and in my confidence as deputy quartermaster-general, whose general superintendence, not confining him to local duties, might with propriety have been employed in a matter of such importance. Had I possessed such an officer, most certainly I should not have felt myself under the necessity of proceeding to the Miami's; nor in any case would 1 personally have done it, without further explanations with the commander-in-chief, had I not conceived a war to have been inevitable, that an opposition to Mr. Wayne's approaches had been determined upon by His Majesty's ministers, and that not a moment was to be neglected. I stated, therefore, to his Lordship, after a general sketch of such military defence as then appeared proper, that I should procure better information at Detroit, 'and, if it can be done with propriety, by personal investigation.'

"Fortunately for me, Lord Dorchester's speech to the Seven Nations having been made publick before Brigade-Major Littlehales reached Mr. Hammond, all communication between that gentleman and the government of the United States on the subject of my dispatch was prevented and superseded.

"On my arrival at Detroit, I found it necessary for the king's service that I should in person proceed to the Miami's; and subsequent events have in all respects justified the military principles I stated to Lord Dorchester in respect to the occupation of that post. Your grace will have the goodness to observe, upon the question of the commander-in-chief, ' whether by collecting all the force in your power to assemble, you would be in a condition to resist Wayne's attack should he attempt by force to take possession of the country?' that I answer, ' I think no force in this country could resist Wayne's direct attack.' Your grace will also observe that the commander-in-chief had expressed himself: 'It may not be amiss to consider what reinforcements you may draw from other posts within your command without exposing any to insult.' I need not call to your grace's attention the vague and indeterminate idea annexed to insult in a military acceptation of the term. Lord Dorchester has never yet by name mentioned to me the Indian nations as part of the force or powers. He knows the garrison of Oswego to be untenable, and that I consider Niagara alone to have been so extensive as to require all the force in this country to garrison it; that my opinions were that there were neither competent magazines nor military stores in the province. I also know that American militia are not fitted for garrison duty, and will not perform it; and that what I stated to the king's ministers before I left England I affirm to be true, ' that Upper Canada is not to be defended remaining within it,' that is, on a defensive plan. However, I beg respectfully to remark to your grace, after having stated these difficulties, that I did not shrink from the encounter, and, therefore, I transmitted to his Lordship a series of operations that might possibly counteract Wayne's approach and possibly ruin his army. The details upon which the execution of these operations depended, though they could not at that moment be brought to bear, were instantly put into a train, and if war had been declared and it had then been advisable, I could have attempted its execution in June following. I transmitted this plan to Lord Dorchester to show that I was in person ready to undertake any enterprise, however hazardous, that might, in my judgment, conduce to the public service, and I beg here most respectfully to state to your grace, and I hope without impropriety, as this letter is meant for personal protection, that having embraced the military profession on principle, and having cultivated it on the most extensive theory and 110 uncommon practice, I have always been ready to apply my attainments to the king's service, measuring the value of command by its public utility and not by its extent, and being equally prepared for the smallest detachment or the largest army, leaving to the timid or the superficial to distinguish between the partizan and the general. I have now shown to your grace the precipice on which I stood, namely, my belief that it was the intention of His Majesty to commence a war with the United States, and that on a defensive plan Upper Canada must fall inevitably. I have stated the opinions I had thrown out to Lord Dorchester and the natives which led to them. Mr. Wayne approached the Miami's, at the same time the Pennsylvanians garrisoned Le Boeuf on the way to Presqu'isle. They were prevented by the Six Nations (and President Washington's consequent interference), from proceeding and occupying that important station. The occupation of Le Bceuf with one hundred men appeared to me a false step of the United States, and I prepared to take due advantage of it. At the time of Mr. Wayne's approach and summons of Major Campbell, I was collecting artillery, boats, and troops at Fort Erie, and had sent off such a detachment as I had means of transporting to secure Turtle Island. Had Mr. Wayne besieged the Miami Fort I had good hopes of relieving it, having well considered on the spot every arrangement necessary to effect that purpose ; had he been repulsed in an attempt to have assaulted the fort, the Indians would have regained their spirits, and, supported by the Canadian militia, who, it is probable, in numbers would then have joined the savages, and by two hundred at least of the king's troops, led by Major Campbell, 1 doubt not but they would have destroyed General Wayne's army, or at least disabled it for further operations. That officer seems to have been unprepared for meeting with so compact a fortress, and perhaps he was intimidated by the very permission to reconnoitre the post on all sides. His horse appearing after all further approach had been forbidden by Major Campbell, he directed a cannon to be pointed ; the match was lighted and if the party had not been withdrawn, it would have been fired upon. So near was the war being commenced !

"Your grace will be pleased to advert to my situation if Mr. Wayne's ferocity had tempted him to have attempted an assault, and those consequences had followed that I have stated and which I firmly believed would have been the case.

"I should have known of the event of these hostilities before their commission could have possibly been communicated to the government of the United States. I should, I had, decided; I was prepared and would have instantly surrounded Le Boeuf, and cut off Fort Franklin (not tenable). Le Bceuf, weakly garrisoned aud scarcely fortified, could not have held out an hour against my cannon ; destroyed, there would not have been an Indian of the Six Nations but who would have taken up arms. My immediate operation would have been by small parties of white men, as the mildest mode of warfare, to have burnt every mill in the forks of the Susquehanna down to Northumberland or Sunbery, and on the Delaware to Minesink, which would have driven in those settlements; and from every circumstance I have no reason to doubt but that in three weeks the whole of the Genesees, almost without resistance, would have been abandoned, the inhabitants taking refuge in the king s or the dominions of the States, and that by a post on the Three Rivers Point, Sodus Harbour, and Oswego, I should have effectually for the season protected Upper Canada. I am persuaded there is not an Indian in North America but would have flown to arms, and by a right use of their terror rather than their action, I have reason to believe that Vermont, and it is possible that Kentucky would have declared themselves neutral.

"The British militia to a man, on the first appearance of hostilities, had avowed the most determined loyalty. They are as well calculated for offensive war as they would be impotent in garrisons. There are few families among them but what can relate some barbarous murder or atrocious requisitions which their relations have undergone from the rulers of the United States, however those transactions may have been concealed and glossed over in Europe. It is probable that, once called into action and movement, and successful, they would have been a most formidable assistance. Offensive operations, therefore, would have been impressed upon me by every consideration. I beg respectfully to call your grace's attention to what must have been my situation, if, under such circumstances, at any moment of these operations, I had received Mr. Dundas's letter No. 6, and that of your grace dated July 10th, 1794, the former and its enclosures stating that it was not the intention of His Majesty's government to commence hostilities with the United States on the subject of the posts, and the latter recalling me in the midst of my operations, and of operations of such a nature and extent. But, my Lord Duke, I must beg your permission to state what (though I am not of that opinion) may be thought an extreme case.

"It would have been of public service, among such a people as those of the United States, who are governed by newspapers, to have published reasons for my operations, and probably it might have been politic to have limited their extent. In this case it is not impossible the people near Pittsburg, who perhaps have broken out into their late violences in hopes of Great Britain and the United: States going to war, might have entered into some compact in which it would have been prudent to have acquiesced; supported as these people could easily be by Upper Canada and the Indians, they would present a most systematic and formidable opposition to the United States. I have no doubt that the president, Mr. Washington, in person must have marched to crush it. The first object of my heart would certainly be, with adequate force and on a just occasion, to meet this gentleman face to face ; of course public duty and private inclination would have made me almost surmount impossibilities to have elfected such a purpose, and on the supposition that Lord Dorchester should not call for the troops of Upper Canada, such an event might have been possible. At that moment the communications from your grace and Mr. Dundas must have come through the president, whom I believe to be the most treacherous of mankind, and most hostile to the interests of Great Britain. In what a dreadful situation this circumstance must have platted me imagination can scarcely devise.

"I have, my Lord Duke, in an early part of my life, sacrificed much to my sense of obedience and essential subordination; at present, were it necessary, these principles must be doubly enforced on my mind. I have long held it as a maxim that in proportion as the general mass of mankind are relaxed in their habits of due subordination, the stricter and more exemplary will be the obedience of every true servant and soldier of his country to His Majesty's authority, and to whom he shall be pleased to delegate it, but in the situation I have represented, where enterprise must have been hazardous and inactivity desperate, your grace will see it might have been almost impossible for me at once to have stopped in my career, to have exemplified prompt obedience, and, acting most conscientiously in what I conceived the letter and spirit of my orders, to have preserved myself from calumny and ruin.

"The consequences of the orders which I have already executed must, as I eonceive, prove most injurious to the king's interests. The giving up the posts at present will have the appearance (and appearance becomes reality in disgrace), as having been extorted by armed America, and acquiesced in under the apparently unfortunate termination of the present European campaign. This the Federal party of the States will dilate upon as a proof of the wisdom of Mr. Jay's appointment, and the anti-Federalists as resulting from their opposition to British encroachments.

"The having brought this dormant question into discussion will, therefore, at the least, appear reprehensible in the eyes of those who may imagine their interests injured by its termination or whose aims are to impede His Majesty's government. These circumstances will renew in the minds of Englishmen the memory of the late American war, and above all the loss of honour in which it terminated, a loss that is now understood from its consequences and felt universally.

"I, therefore, in my very peculiar situation most respectfully repose on the justice of your grace and His Majesty's ministers, and hope and trust that should any public or parliamentary question arise upon the subject in which my name may be implicated, that it will be clearly understood that all my late transactions were in obedience to the orders of the commander-in-chief, Lord Dorchester.

"I have the honour to be, my lord, with utmost respect and deference, your grace's most obedient and most humble servant,

"J. G. Simcoe.

"His Grace the Duke of Portland, one of His Majesty's principal Secretaries of State.'


Return to our Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus