Summer 1812: British General Isaac Brock and Shawnee Leader Tecumseh form an alliance

In August 1812, Major General Isaac Brock traveled to Amherstburg to organize the British attack on Fort Detroit. He met with native warriors, including Tecumseh, to negotiate an alliance to fight against the Americans. The success of their meeting would determine the future of Upper Canada.

“I have heard much of your fame, and am happy again to shake by the hand a brave brother warrior.” Tecumseh to Major-General Isaac Brock

A British officer shakes hands with a Native American leader.
A 20th century depiction of the meeting between Major-General Brock and Tecumseh.

Library and Archives Canada.

As the ship glided through the dark waters of Lake Erie, Major-General Isaac Brock turned his eye to the shoreline of Upper Canada, the province under his care and command. He knew that the darkness hid soldiers camped along the shores or in garrisons at British Fort Amherstburg and American Fort Detroit. The recent American invasion of Upper Canada in July 1812 had terrorized the British population, and emphasized the fragility of the British defenses. Although the American soldiers had now retreated to Fort Detroit on their side of the river, Brock hoped to strengthen defenses and even test the Americans.

When the ship neared Fort Amherstburg on August 13, word passed through the area that Brock had finally arrived. Suddenly, musket fire and loud cries erupted from an island in the river. Colonel Elliott, a superintendent of the natives, explained that the native warriors were celebrating Brock’s arrival. Knowing the shortage of ammunition and powder, Brock requested that they preserve their supplies and arranged to meet with the chiefs.

When morning broke, Brock met with the native chiefs and their assembled warriors. He informed them that the British intended to aid their cause and drive the Americans from Fort Detroit. During the ceremonies, Brock noticed that one Shawnee warrior, Tecumseh, demonstrated commendable leadership skills and wisdom. He arranged to meet with Tecumseh and assembled chiefs to explain his plan for invasion of the United States. The native leaders agreed to the plan, and committed their warriors to the attack.

The combined force of British and native troops terrified General William Hull, commandant of Fort Detroit. Without any loss of life, Brock and Tecumseh captured Detroit. In one story of the war, Brock marked the significance of their allegiance by giving his sash to Tecumseh. In another anecdote, Tecumseh said to Brock, “I have heard much of your fame, and am happy again to shake by the hand a brave brother warrior.” Although British soldiers and native warriors had fought together before, Detroit was the first place where their alliance had devastating consequences for the Americans.

Last updated: August 15, 2017