Friday, February 13, 2015

Michigan's War of 1812

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing will host Adam Franti of Ypsilanti who will speak on “Michigan’s War of 1812” 7 p.m., Thursday, February 19 at Capital Area District Library, 401 S. Capitol.

 Franti, who is working on his Masters Degree in History at Eastern Michigan University with a focus on the War of 1812, was a historical interpreter at Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island for four years where his interest in the unusual war was piqued.

He will not only discuss how the War of 1812 started, but also will focus on the capture of Fort Mackinac and Fort Detroit by the British and the complex relationships between the British, Indians and Americans.

“The British soldiers assigned to capture Fort Mackinac were, at best, reservists, as Britain’s best troops were fighting Napoleon’s army at the time in Europe.  Their officer, Captain Charles Roberts, reported to his commander that the men 'were so debilitated and worn down by unconquerable drunkenness that neither the fear of punishment, love of fame, or the honor of their country could animate them to extraordinary exertions.'  Yet they still managed to capture the fort, which doesn't say much for the Americans!".  

He said the capture of Fort Detroit was the most embarrassing battle of the War for the American since it was taken not by absolute force, but through skullduggery and deception.  William Hull, the commander at the fort, wrote to the Secretary of War, William Eustis, begging for reinforcements and notifying Eustis that ‘the Northern hive of Indians has been loosed upon the frontier.’  Ironically, the letter was captured in a baggage train by Tecumseh, the most prominent Indian leader during the war, who turned it over to the British authorities.  The letter convinced the British that, though outnumbered, they could force Hull into surrendering.  Encouraged, the British took Detroit easily, shaming Hull.

Following the War Hull was court-martialed, found guilty and sentenced to die, but the sentence was commuted by President James Madison.

“Ironically, Detroit’s misfortune during the War of 1812 and capture actually benefitted Lansing.  Many writers of the first Michigan State Constitution remembered the disgraceful defeat and, due to concern that the British might return to Detroit again someday, mandated in the document that the capital city be relocated by 1847.  Thus the founding of Lansing for the purpose of being the new capital,” Historical Society of Greater Lansing President Valerie Marvin stated.