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CHAPTER VII.

It will be assisting the reader, ere we proceed to detail the operations at the commencement of hostilities, to give a brief description, not only of the lakes and straits which constitute the water boundaries of Upper Canada, and of the towns and military posts distributed along them, as existing in the year 1812, but also of the territory of Michigan, which was surrendered, with Detroit, to Major-General Brock. The distances are given in British statute miles.

The most remote piece of water on this frontier worthy of notice is Lake Superior, a body of fresh water unequalled by any upon the face of the globe. Lake Superior is of a triangular form; in length 370, in breadth 160, and in circumference about 1,550 miles. The water is nearly 800 feet deep, so that its bottom is about 170 feet below the surface of the Atlantic. It contains five large islands, one of which, Isle Royale, is said to be nearly 100 miles long by 40 broad. The lake is well stored with fish, particularly trout, white fish, and sturgeon. Out of Lake Superior a very rapid current flows, over immense masses of rock, along a channel of 40 miles in length, called St. Mary's River, into Lake Huron, at the head of which is the British island of St. Joseph, containing a small garrison. This isolated post is distant about 350 miles by water from Amherstburg, which contained the nearest British garrison.

Lake Huron is in length, from west to east, 220 miles; in breadth, 200, and in circumference, through

its numerous curvatures, about 1,100 miles. It is in many parts 450 feet in depth. Except the island of St. Joseph, and one or two trading establishments belonging to the north-west company, the shores of this lake were in a state of nature, or inhabited only by Indians. When the Americans were allowed to obtain the dominion of Lake Erie, which they did in 1813, it was determined at the close of the following year to create a naval force on Lake Huron in the ensuing season, (1815,) as possessing much greater security for the construction of vessels than Lake Erie, where the enemy could at any time destroy them, in the same manner as their vessels ought to have been previously destroyed by the British. Lake Michigan, which lies wholly within the United States, is connected with Lake Huron at its western angle by a strait 6 miles long by 4 miles wide, in the centre of which is the island of Michilimackinac, (usually called Mackinaw by the Americans,) belonging to the United States, and forming an excellent point d'appui for military or naval operations in that quarter. This island is about 3 miles long and 9 miles in circumference, and, like St. Joseph, its British neighbour, it possessed a small fort and garrison. Michilimackinac is very beautiful, and, when seen from a distance, has the form of a turtle sleeping on the water.* It possesses now no large or lofty timber, but a perpetual succession of low, rich groves. There is on the eastern coast a natural arch or bridge, where the waters of the lake have undermined the rock, and left a fragment thrown across a chasm 200 feet high. By the treaty of the 19th of November, 1794, Michilimackinac, Detroit, Fort

*"The land, in the centre of this island, is high, and its form somewhat resembles that of a turtle's back. Mackinac, or Mickinac, signifies a turtle, and michi (mishi), or missi, signifies great, as it does also, several, or many. The common interpretation of the word Michilimackinac, is the Great Turtle."— Henry's Travels and Adventures in Canada and the Indian Territories, between the years 1760 and 1776.

In Henry's time, fort Michilimackinac was situated on a strait, and distant about two leagues from the island of the same name.

Miami, Fort Niagara, and Oswego, were ceded to the Americans, as within the boundary lines assigned by the treaty of peace to the United States; and they were given up in 1796, when Michilimackinac was strengthened and garrisoned by a detachment of General Wayne's army. While in the possession of the British, this island was the general rendezvous of the North-West traders, and the Indians they supplied. Here the outfits were furnished for the countries of Lake Michigan and the Mississipi, Lake Superior, and the North-West; and here the returns of furs were collected and embarked for Montreal. Lake Huron flows through the river St. Clair, which is in length about 33 miles, into Lake St. Clair, a small circular lake 30 miles in diameter. At the entrance of the river St. Clair, the Americans have now a fort (Gratiot) and garrison; and it is only recently (1845) that orders have been given to fortify Port Sarnia, on the opposite or British side. The beautiful river Thames, in Upper Canada, opens into Lake St. Clair, and it was along the banks of this river that Major-General Proctor retreated in 1813. From Lake St. Clair, the stream, through the Detroit, navigable for vessels not drawing more than fourteen feet water, pursues a course of 29 miles into Lake Erie.t

Upon the western side of the Detroit is situate the American town of that name. Within 4 miles below Detroit, upon the opposite side of the strait, is the British village of Sandwich, then containing scarcely fifty houses; and 16 miles lower, and 3 from the termination of the strait, is the British village of Amherstburg, then containing about one hundred houses, and a fort where a small garrison was maintained, and where the principal vessels for the service

* Sarnia is the ancient name of the island of Guernsey, and the Upper Canadian Sarnia was so named by Sir John Colborne, (the present Lord Seaton,) who was formerly lieutenant-governor of Guernsey.

"The mouth of the Detroit river, in which there are several islands, forms a safe and commodious harbour."-Howison's Upper Canada.

of Lake Erie were constructed. The fort, which was never completed, was above the town, and most injudiciously placed. The proper site for the fortifications is the island of Bois Blanc, immediately opposite to Amherstburg, as this island commands the mouth of the river, and the channel on either side. In the event of another war, or preparatory to it, this island should be fortified, as a battery at each end would prevent the American vessels from passing up and down the river.* The American village of Brownstown stands nearly opposite to Amherstburg, which is distant from Quebec by the nearest route fully 800 miles, from Fort Erie' about 250 miles, and from York 310 miles, all by water.

Lake Erie, from Miamis Bay to the entrance of the straits of Niagara, is in length 257 miles, in breadth 64, and in circumference about 700 miles. The average depth of water is not more than seventy feet, but a very rocky bottom renders the anchorage unsafe in blowing weather. Except Amherstburg, the British had no harbour or naval depôt upon Lake Erie, while the Americans had two or three excellent ones. Presqu'ile harbour is situate on the southern side of the lake, not far from the entrance to the Niagara. It is a safe station, but has a seven feet bar at its entrance, as indeed have all the other harbours on this lake. The town, named Erie, is situate on the south side of the harbour, and contains a dock yard, in which the Americans built their Lake Erie fleet. To the eastward of the town stands a strong battery, and on the point of the Peninsula forming the harbour, a block-house, for the protection of this naval depôt. The rivers Raisin, Sandusky, and Miami, (or Maumee,) the scenes of important operations during the war, discharge themselves into Lake Erie.

On the north-western side of the entrance to the Niagara river stood, at a distance of 560 miles from

* United Service Magazine, June, 1845.

Quebec, the British fort Erie, at best a very inconsiderable work.* Near to the same outlet from Lake Erie is Buffalo Creek, on the border of which is built the American village of Buffalo; and about 2 miles beyond it, Black Rock, where there was a battery, and a ferry, about 800 yards across, to Bertie, in Upper Canada. The Niagara proceeds at a quick rate past several small and one large island, called Grande Isle, 10 miles long; about 2 miles below which, on the American side, and distant 2 miles from the Falls, is the site of Fort Schlosser. At about the same distance from the Falls, on the opposite side, standing on the northern bank of the river Chippawah,+ is the British village of the same name, distant from Fort Erie 17 miles. Chippawah consisted chiefly of storehouses; and near it was a small stockaded work, called Fort Chippawah. At the distance of 23 miles from the entrance to the Niagara, is Goat Island, about half a mile long, and which extends to the precipice that gives rise to the celebrated Falls. The larger body of water flows between Upper Canada and Goat Island, at the upper end of which island the rapids, or broken water, commence. Here the stream passes on both sides of the island, over a bed of rocks and precipices, with astonishing rapidity; till, having descended more than fifty feet in the distance of half a mile, it falls, on the British side 157, and on the New York side 162, feet perpendicularly. The roar of the waters can sometimes be heard at the distance of forty miles.

From the cataract, the river is a continued rapid, half a mile in width, for about 7 miles. At this point stand, opposite to each other, the villages of Queenstown and Lewistown. The latter, situate upon the American side, contained, till destroyed as a retaliatory measure, between forty and fifty houses.

There is at present no defence or military station at Fort Erie, and the position has been abandoned for many years.

† Chippawah is the English corruption of the Indian tribe Ojibwah.

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