The Story of Isaac Brock: Hero, Defender and Saviour of Upper Canada/20
Reaching a ravine, Brock ordered up his artillery and prepared to assault. A shell from the British battery at Sandwich roared over the river and crashed through an embrasure of Fort Shelby, killing four American officers. The Savoyard river was reached and the outlying tan-yard crossed. Brock's troops, keyed up, with nerves tense under the strain of suspense, and every moment expecting a raking discharge of shot and shell from the enemy's big guns, heard with grim satisfaction the General's orders to "prepare for assault."
The field-pieces were trained upon the fort, to cover the rush of the besiegers. The gunners, with bated breath and burning fuses, awaited the final command, when lo! an officer bearing a white flag emerged from the fort, while a boat with another flag of truce was seen crossing the river to the Sandwich battery. Macdonell and Glegg galloped out to meet the messenger. They returned with a despatch from the American general, Hull, to the British general, Brock. This was the message:
"The object of the flag which crossed the river was to propose a cessation of hostilities for an hour, for the purpose of entering into negotiations for the surrender of Detroit."
An hour later the British troops, with General Isaac[Pg 110] Brock at their head, marched through the smiling fields and orchards, passed over the fort draw-bridge, and, surrounded by a host of fierce-looking and indignant militia of Ohio and "the heroes of Tippecanoe," hauled down the Stars and Stripes—which had waved undisturbed over Fort Lernoult since its voluntary evacuation by the British in 1796—and, in default of a British ensign, hoisted a Union Jack—which a sailor had worn as a body-belt—over the surrendered fortress. British sentinels now guarded the ramparts. The bells of old St. Anne's saluted the colors. The "Grand Army of the West," by which pretentious title Hull had seen fit to describe his invading force, melted like mist before the rising sun.
Several unattached Canadians, costumed as redmen, followed Brock inside the fort, and, baring their white arms for Hull's especial edification, declared they had so disguised themselves in order to show their contempt for his cruel threat respecting instant death to "Indians found fighting."
The terms of capitulation included not only one general officer and 2,500 men of all ranks—the would-be conquerors of Canada—2,500 stand of arms, 33 pieces of cannon, the Adams brig of war, and immense quantities of stores and munitions, valued at £40,000—but Fort Shelby and the town of Detroit and 59,700 square miles of United States territory. Nor were these all, for the fort standard—to the wild delight of Tecumseh's warriors—a highly-prized trophy, it being the "colours" of the 4th United States regiment, the vaunted "heroes of Tippecanoe," passed into the keeping of the British.
Canada was saved![Pg 111]
It was then that those officers who strongly opposed Brock's determination to attack became suddenly wise after the event and eager to share the honour. The temptation to improve the opportunity, to any man less strong than our hero, would have been irresistible, but there was no display of vainglory, no cheap boasting. The sword of the conquered American general was accepted with manly deference and the consideration due to his rank, and he was told, without solicitation on his part, he could return to the United States on parole. Then Brock hurriedly dictated a brief and modest despatch apprising Sir George Prevost of the "capture of this very important post," and quite realizing that he was merely an instrument in the hands of Providence, and gratitude and the happiness of those he held most dear being uppermost in his mind, the captor of Detroit wrote this characteristic letter.
"Headquarters, Detroit, "August 16, 1812.
"My dear Brothers and Friends,—Rejoice at my good fortune and join me in prayers to heaven. I send you a copy of my hasty note to Sir George. Let me know that you are all united and happy.
And so it came about that in this strange and noble fashion General Brock—"Master Isaac of St. Peter's Port"—overcame the enemy in the wilds of Michigan and passed his fourth milestone.