17 November 2015

Deserters In Detroit

Detroit Scene

An incident that took place in November of 1805, before the commencement of the War of 1812, involved a few of the soldiers who participated in the war and in what was later a major theatre of war.

From the History of Michigan, Volume 1 by Charles Moore:

While Governor Hull was in Washington, officers from Fort Malden, the British headquarters at the mouth of the river, attempted to apprehend and take back a deserter from that post. The story...relates that on Sunday, December 8, Thomas Nolan, a deputy marshal, while going to the River Rouge, six miles below Detroit, was met on the river by a party of British soldiers, who held him to search his boat for deserters. After some words, the boats went their different ways, and Nolan landed at Weaver's Tavern on the Rouge for breakfast. There he found Captain [Adam] Muir and Lieutenant Lundee from Fort Malden.

While the party were breakfasting, a sentry stationed by the officers reported a canoe in sight. Captain Muir ordered his boat manned and dispatched a soldier to intercept it. During the bustle, a man named Morrison arrived at the tavern, was recognized by some of the British as a deserter, and was taken into custody.  ...the fashion in which he [Captain Muir] and his soldiers conducted themselves on American soil aroused the ire of Marshal Nolan, who, calling the citizens of the United States to his assistance after a struggle in which arms were displayed, rescued Morrison and took him to Detroit. The British officers followed not far behind and on reaching the town went to Fort Shelby with their grievance.

There they found Captain Brevoort and Lieutenant Hanks quite ready to give aid in apprehending a deserter by way of courtesy to fellow officers. [The deserter was found in the residence of  Conrad Seek.

The people were prepared for them and a general scuffle ensued. The British officers flourished their swords and pistols. Captain [Henry] Brevoort stood by and swore at the citizens, and Lieutenant Hanks, with uplifted stick, threatened to strike any man who dared to lay hands on a British officer. Several shots were fired and Captain Muir fired a bullet into his own leg, but neither the prowess of the British nor the curses and threats of their American allies availed to rescue Morrison, who, securely guarded, was removed to the house of a Mr. Smythe.

There another crowd assembled, and when Lieutenant Hanks threatened to bring a detachment of troops from the fort and Governor Hull's impetuous son menaced the mob with the assurance that he would have the artillery blow the parcel of rascals to perdition, the people promptly gathered in both British and American officers.

Even Major Campbell, the commandant at Malden, felt himself called upon promptly to disavow the action of his officers, although he insisted that the reports of the affair had been exaggerated. The officers were duly convicted but the international bearings of the affair having been adjusted by Major Campbell's disavowal, the fines were made trifling in amount. Thus the dignity of the United States was upheld and at the same time an olive branch was extended to our neighbors.

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