In June 1812, Major General Isaac Brock issued a request to Captain Roberts to form alliances in the north along the St. Mary’s in order to protect and preserve the British side of the river and the related Trade Routes.
Charles Oakes Ermatinger at the Old Stone House received a message of such and was able to form alliances with his native friends and voyageurs to assist him. Friends from both sides of the St. Mary’s river gathered and traveled by canoe to Fort St. Joseph.
At Fort St. Joseph, the British garrison comprised of a Sergeant, two Gunners (Royal Artillery) and forty-four officers (10th Royal Veteran Battalion). This group of British military were asked to line up additional forces, and with the assistance of John Askin Jr. (Indian interpreter at St. Joseph’s, whose father was a famous fur trader) and Robert Dickson (from Michigan and Wisconsin) both assisted in recruiting their native alliances.
On July 8, Captain Roberts was notified by Brock that the war was on and he should act accordingly. Roberts requisitioned guns and supplies and commandeered the North West Company’s 70-ton armed schooner, the Caledonia, as well as150 voyageurs from St. Joseph’s and Sault Ste. Marie (both sides of the river).
On July 16th, Roberts is quoted: “I embarked on the morning with two of the six-pounders and every man I could muster”. It was a strange sight – Roberts and the other leaders on board the Caledonia in their British uniforms, the colourfully-attired voyageurs in their capote’s and red woolen caps, paddling in their voyageur bateaux, and then everywhere, canoes filled with aboriginal peoples in their traditional attire.
At 3:00 a.m. on the morning of July 17, the British landed at a cove on the northwest shore of the island of Michilimakinac. The fort and village were about two miles south of this point (now called the British landing). The men made their way through the woods – south, dragging one of the unwieldy cannons to the area immediately to the rear of the fort.
Around mid-morning the American soldiers were surrounded and the six-pounder cannon was directed to the most defenseless part of the garrison. Then the gun boomed out the announcement that Roberts had reached his first objective. Shortly after, a flag of truce was sent to the fort asking for a surrender “to His Britannic Majesty’s forces”, in order to save the effusion of blood. By noon, the fort had been handed over to the British.
THIS WAS THE FIRST MILITARY MANEUVER (and without bloodshed),
IN THE WAR OF 1812.