Friday, July 11, 2014

Croghan's Misgivings About the Expedition to Fort Mackinac

"...my belief is, that if resistance be made at all, it will prove too stout for 1,000 men. The position of Mackinaw is a strong one, and should the enemy have determined on holding it, he has had time enough to throw in reinforcements."

After the victory over western British and Indian forces at the Battle of the Thames, General William Henry Harrison and Secretary of War John Armstrong looked toward the strategic straits of Mackinac. However, it was too late in the year to mount a naval expedition into the upper lakes. In the spring of 1814 plans commenced to mount a new expedition. Armstrong sent orders directly to Captain Arthur Sinclair, commander of the naval squadron on Lake Erie, and to Major Andrew Holmes of the 32nd Infantry to mount an expedition with 500 regulars to take the fort on Mackinac Island. At the time, Lt. Colonel George Croghan was commander of the US forces in Michigan and Upper Canada. He was upset, either because of Armstong bypassing his authority, being stripped of the few troops he had available to garrison the frontier, or perhaps because he expected to lead the expedition himself.


Croghan to General William Henry Harrison:
Major Holmes has been notified by the War Department that he is chosen to command the land troops, which are intended to co-operate with the fleet, against the enemy's forces on the upper lakes. So soon as I may be directed by you to order Major Holmes on that command, and to furnish him with the necessary troops, I shall do so, but not till then shall he or any other part of my force leave the sod.

to Captain Arthur Sinclair:
I much fear, sir, that in your expectation of being joined at this place by a battalion or corps of regulars under Major Holmes, you will be disappointed. Major Holmes, it is true, has been notified by the War Department that he is selected to command the troops on the expedition up the lakes. But this notification, even did it amount to a positive order to the major, could not be considered as an order to me; nor can I deem it in itself sufficient to justify me in weakening the present reduced strength of my command. My objection to co-operate with you at this time is not, I assure you, moved by anything like chagrin at this departure from military etiquette, but is bottomed on a thorough conviction that nothing less than a positive order could justify or excuse my detaching part of a the small force under my command from the immediate defence of this frontier. I agree with you that the promised force under Major Holmes appears too weak to effect the desired end. I cannot speak positively on the subject, as my knowledge even of the geographical situation of the country is but limited; yet my belief is, that if resistance be made at all, it will prove too stout for 1,000 men. The position of Mackinaw is a strong one, and should the enemy have determined on holding it, he has had time enough to throw in reinforcements. The Engages in the employ of the N.W. Co., generally get down to Mackinaw from their wintering grounds, about the last of May in every year. Will these hardy fellows, whose force exceeds 1,000, be permitted to be idle? Will it not be the interest of the N.W. Co. to exert all its means in the defence of those posts in which it is so immediately concerned? I send you a few queries on the subject, with the answers as given by an intelligent gentleman, formerly an agent to the N.W. Co., and well acquainted with the geographical situation of that country. Every arrangement is made for securing the entrance into Lake Huron. I am under no solicitude about the passage up the strait.