Hull’s failure to take Fort Malden was one fatal mistake. His failure to secure his communications southward from Detroit was another. Apparently yielding to the prevalent American idea that a safe base could be created among friendly Canadians without the trouble of a regular campaign, he sent off raiding parties up the Thames. According to his own account, these parties ’penetrated sixty miles into the settled part of the province.’ According to Brock, they ’ravaged the country as far as the Moravian Town.’ But they gained no permanent foothold. By the beginning of August Hull’s position had already become precarious. The Canadians had not proved friendly. The raid up the Thames and the advance towards Amherstburg had both failed. And the first British reinforcements had already begun to arrive. These were very small. But even a few good regulars helped to discourage Hull; and the new British commander, Colonel Procter of the 41st, was not yet to be faced by a task beyond his strength. Worse yet for the Americans, Brock might soon be expected from the east; the Provincial Marine still held the water line of communication from the south; and dire news had just come in from the west.
The moment Brock had heard of the declaration of war he had sent orders post-haste to Captain Roberts at St Joseph’s Island, either to attack the Americans at Michilimackinac or stand on his own defence. Roberts received Brock’s orders on the 15th of July. The very next day he started for Michilimackinac with 45 men of the Royal Veterans, 180 French-Canadian voyageurs, 400 Indians, and two ‘unwieldy’ iron six-pounders. Surprise was essential, to prevent the Americans from destroying their stores; and the distance was a good fifty miles. But ’by the almost unparalleled exertions of the Canadians who manned the boats, we arrived at the place of Rendezvous at 3 o’clock the following morning.’ One of the iron six-pounders was then hauled up the heights, which rise to eight hundred feet, and trained on the dumbfounded Americans, while the whole British force took post for storming. The American commandant, Lieutenant Hanks, who had only fifty-seven effective men, thereupon surrendered without firing a shot.
The news of this bold stroke ran like wildfire through the whole North-West. The effect on the Indians was tremendous, immediate, and wholly in favour of the British. In the previous November Tecumseh’s brother, known far and wide as the ‘Prophet,’ had been defeated on the banks of the Tippecanoe, a river of Indiana, by General Harrison, of whom we shall hear in the next campaign. This battle, though small in itself, was looked upon as the typical victory of the dispossessing Americans; so the British seizure of Michilimackinac was hailed with great joy as being a most effective counter-stroke. Nor was this the only reason for rejoicing. Michilimackinac and St Joseph’s commanded the two lines of communication between the western wilds and the Great Lakes; so the possession of both by the British was more than a single victory, it was a promise of victories to come. No wonder Hull lamented this ‘opening of the hive,’ which ‘let the swarms’ loose all over the wilds on his inland flank and rear.