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Commodore Sinclair's struggle for the Upper lakes

Commodore Arthur Sinclair's struggle for the Upper lakes

"The Naval war of 1812"

In the summer of 1814 Captain Arthur Sinclair took over Perry's campaign on
the upper lakes, attempting to recapture the strategically important Fur
trading Fort on Mackinac Island. Chauncey and Perry had both intended to do
this in 1813. Sinclair's expedition failed, and the Upper Lakes remained in
British Hands.

One of the most significant events in the war occurred on 17 July 1812 at a
place far removed from the focus of action. A weak company of British
regulars, supported by nearly 200 Fur traders and twice that number of
Indians, captured the American post on Mackinac Island. The Island lay on
the trading route to the western regions and was the rival of the British
post at St Joseph's Island, fifty miles to the northeast.

No attempt was made by the Americans in 1812 to regain Mackinac. When
William Jones replaced Paul Hamilton in 1813 as secretary of the Navy, he
promoted recapture of the Island as a priority, pointing out that "This
commanding position.. gives to the enemy the absolute control of the
Indians. The importance of Mackinac also rested on it's role as a fur
trading center.

Early in June 1814, presidents cabinet finally set it's objectives for the
summer campaign, among which were the recapture of Mackinac and the
distruction of a royal navy base said to be under construction at Georgian
Bay. Arthur Sinclair who had been the flag Captain aboard Commodore
Chaunceys's "General Pike" the previous year, took over the command of the
squadron at Erie. By Mid summer he sailed on to Lake Huron with 1000
soldiers crowded aboard the brigs "Lawrence", "Niagara" and the "Caledonia",
along with the schooners "Tigress" and "Scorpion".

The first task at hand was  Machedash Bay, the rumored location of the Naval
yard on Georgian Bay. A lack of knowledgeable pilots prevented Sinclair from
finding it. He decided to turn back, but not before he burnt the abandoned
British fortress on St Joseph, captured a pair of small lakers and then
steered for Mackinac, arriving there on the 26th July.

Intent on fulfilling his mission, Sinclair and his military colleague
Lieutenant Colonel George Groghan, landed their force on the opposite side
of the Island, hoping to force McDouall to march out to do battle, which he
did with about 150 of his troops, supported by the native allies. The dense
forest made tactics difficult and the men ran into an Indian ambush. After
some brief but deadly exchanges, they retreated and the attack on Mackinac

The decision was made to send the "Lawrence" and the "Caledonia" back to
Lake Erie with the 70 casualties who suffered in the fighting. Sinclair
returned to Georgian Bay in search of another Fur trading vessel, the
schooner, "Nancy". He was successful in finding the schooner in the
Nottawasaga river where Lieutenant Worsely and about 20 seaman  had being
operating the schooner for several weeks. When Sinclair launched an assault
, Worsely offered some resistance, but finally retreated as the Americans
plundered the Nancy and burnt her.

Sinclair headed back for Erie in the "Niagara" after rightly concluding that
no Royal Navy base existed on Georgian bay. He left behind the "Scorpion"
and "Tigress" to blockade the approaches to Mackinac. Worsely  heard of the
schooners positions and headed to Mackinac Bay with 50 men from the Royal
Newfoundland Regiment, along with their Lieutenant Bulger. They attacked the
"Tigress" after dark on 3rd September, capturing her in a fierce hand to
hand combat. Two day later the "Scorpion" suffered the same fate, after
Worsely calmly sailed the "Tigress" down to her sister ship, fired the 24
pounder long gun at the unsuspecting crew and then sent his men swarming

This ended the American's plans to starve out the garrison at Mackinac and
interfere with the Fur trade on the upper Lakes.


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