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I had made myself fully acquainted with the situation of the fort and town and the parts relative to each. The cannon of the garrison was on the upper floors of strong blockhouses at each angle of the fort, eleven feet above the surface, and the ports so badly cut that many of our troops lay under the fire of them within twenty or thirty yards of the walls. They did no damage, except to the buildings of the town, some of which they much shattered; and their musketry, in the dark, employed against woodsmen covered by houses, palings, ditches, the banks of the river, etc., was but of little avail, and did no injury to us except wounding a man or two.
As we could not afford to lose men, great care was taken to preserve them, sufficiently covered, and to keep up a hot fire in order to intimidate the enemy as well as to destroy them. The embrasures of their cannon were frequently shut, for our riflemen, finding the true direction of them, would pour in such volleys when they were opened that the men could not stand to the guns. Seven or eight of them in a short time got cut down. Our troops would frequently abuse the enemy, in order to aggravate them to open their ports and fire their cannon, that they might have the pleasure of cutting them down with their rifles, fifty of which, perhaps, would be levelled the moment the port flew open; and I believe that, if they had stood at their artillery, the greater part of them would have been destroyed in the course of the night, as the greater part of our men lay within thirty yards of the walls, and in a few hours were covered equally to those within the walls, and much more experienced in that mode of fighting
Sometimes an irregular fire, as hot as possible, was kept up from different directions for a few minutes, and then only a continual scattering fire at the ports as usual; and a great noise and laughter immediately commenced in different parts of the town, by the reserved parties, as if they had only fired on the fort a few minutes for amusement, and as if those continually firing at the fort were only regularly relieved. Conduct similar to this kept the garrison constantly alarmed. They did not know what moment they might be stormed or [blown up?], as they could plainly discover that we had flung up some entrenchments across the streets, and appeared to be frequently very busy under the bank of the river, which was within thirty feet of the walls.
The situation of the magazine we knew well. Captain Bowman began some works in order to blow it up, in the case our artillery should arrive; but, as we knew that we were daily liable to be overpowered by the numerous bands of Indians on the river, in case they had again joined the enemy (the certainty of which we were unacquainted with), we resolved to lose no time, but to get the fort in our possession as soon as possible. If the vessel did not arrive before the ensuing night, we resolved to undermine the fort, and fixed on the spot and plan of executing this work, which we intended to commence the next day..
The Indians of different tribes that were inimical had left the town and neighborhood. Captain Lamotte continued to hover about it in order, if possible, to make his way good into the fort. Parties attempted in vain to surprise him. A few of his party were taken, one of which was Maisonville, a famous Indian partisan. Two lads had captured him, tied him to a post in the street, and fought from behind him as a breastwork, supposing that the enemy would not fire at them for fear of killing him, as he would alarm them by his voice. The lads were ordered, by an officer who discovered them at their amusement, to untie their prisoner, and take him off to the guard, which they did, but were so inhuman as to take part of his scalp on the way. There happened to him no other damage.
As almost the whole of the persons who were most active in the department of Detroit were either in the fort or with Captain Lamotte, I got extremely uneasy for fear that he would not fall into our power, knowing that he would go off, if he could not get into the fort in the course of the night. Finding that, without some unforeseen accident, the fort must inevitably be ours, and that a reënforcement of twenty men, although considerable to them, would not be of great moment to us in the present situation of affairs, and knowing that we had weakened them by killing or wounding many of their gunners, after some deliberation, we concluded to risk the reënforcement in preference of his going again among the Indians. The garrison had at least a month's provisions; and, if they could hold out, in the course of that time he might do us much damage.
A little before day the troops were withdrawn from their positions about the fort, except a few parties of observation, and the firing totally ceased. Orders were given, in case of Lamotte's approach, not to alarm or fire on him without a certainty of killing or taking the whole. In less than a quarter
of an hour, he passed within ten feet of an officer and a party that lay concealed. Ladders were flung over to them; and, as they mounted them, our party shouted. Many of them fell from the top of the walls,—some within, and others back; but, as they were not fired on, they all got over, much to the joy of their friends. But, on considering the matter, they must have been convinced that it was a scheme of ours to let them in, and that we were so strong as to care but little about them or the manner of their getting into the garrison.
The firing immediately commenced on both sides with double vigor; and I believe that more noise could not have been made by the same number of men. Their shouts could not be heard for the firearms; but a continual blaze was kept around the garrison, without much being done, until about daybreak, when our troops were drawn off to posts prepared for them, about sixty or seventy yards from the fort. A loophole then could scarcely be darkened but a rifle-ball would pass through it. To have stood to their cannon would have destroyed their men, without a probability of doing much seryice. Our situation was nearly similar. It would have been imprudent in either party to have wasted their men, without some decisive stroke required it.
Thus the attack continued until about nine o'clock on the morning of the 24th. Learning that the two prisoners they had brought in the day before had a considerable number of letters with them, I supposed it an express that we expected about this time, which I knew to be of the greatest moment to us, as we had not received one since our arrival in the country; and, not being fully acquainted with the
character of our enemy, we were doubtful that those papers might be destroyed, to prevent which I sent a flag [with a letter] demanding the garrison.
* * * The firing then commenced warmly for a considerable time; and we were obliged to be careful in preventing our men from exposing themselves too much, as they were now much animated, having been refreshed during the flag. They frequently mentioned their wishes to storm the place, and put an end to the business at once. The firing was heavy through every crack that could be discovered in any part of the fort. Several of the garrison got wounded, and no possibility of standing near the embrasures. Toward the evening a flag appeared with the following proposals:
· "Lieutenant-governor Hamilton proposes to Colonel Clark a truce for three days, during which time he promises there shall be no defensive works carried on in the garrison, on condition that Colonel Clark shall observe, on his part, a like cessation of any defensive work,—that is, he wishes to confer with Colonel Clark as soon as can be, and promises
5. The letter addressed to Lieutenant-governor Hamilton read as follows:
"SIR:-In order to save yourself from the impending storm that now threatens you, I order you immediately to surrender yourself, with all your garrison, stores, etc. For, if I am obliged to storm, you may depend on such treatment as is justly due to a murderer. Beware of destroying stores of any kind or any papers or letters that are in your possession, or hurting one house in town; for, by heavens! if you do, there shall be no mercy shown you.
(Signed) G. R. CLARK.” In reply the British officer sent the following:
“Lieutenant-governor Hamilton begs leave to acquaint Colonel Clark that he and his garrison are not disposed to be awed into any action unworthy British subjects.”