It was during President Madison’s first term that war broke out. Ever since the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the British had secretly excited the Indians against the Americans. This was easy to do, because the Indians were already angry at the rapid advance of the settlers. In 1800, so many Americans had gone to live in the Northwest Territory that it was cut in two. Three years later, one part of it became the state of Ohio, while the rest was called Indiana Territory. Although the white men had paid the Indians for part of this land, the red men would not give it up. They were encouraged in behaving so by the British, and, led by their chief, Tecumseh, they prepared for war. But the governor of Indiana Territory was William Henry Harrison, son of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He was very brave, and, meeting the Indians at Tippecanoe, in 1811, he won a great victory over them.
The people in the West agreed with those along the seaboard, in 1812, that it was now time to prove to Great Britain that they would no longer submit patiently to insult and unfairness. So, after all means had been vainly tried to bring about an honorable peace, the “War Congress” directed Madison to begin fighting.
As this struggle began and ended while Madison was President, you will often hear it called “Mr. Madison’s War;” and because its object was to win commercial freedom for our country, it is also known as the “Second War of Independence.” When it began, three armies were sent out to invade Canada, and punish the British agents there, who had bribed the Indians to rebel. These three armies were to attack Canada at different points; but the first, under Governor Hull of Michigan, soon retreated to Detroit. There, instead of defending the place bravely, Hull surrendered without firing a shot. But this surrender made his soldiers so angry that he was never allowed to command again. It has since been said, however, that Hull yielded only because he fancied the British force larger, and feared lest the Indians with them would kill all their prisoners.
General Harrison, who took Hull’s place, started to recover Detroit, but on the way thither part of his troops were conquered by a large force of British and Indians on the Raisin River. Here the Indians were allowed to kill and scalp their prisoners of war. This act of cruelty so angered the Americans that the cry: “Remember the Raisin!” was ever after the signal for desperate fighting on their part. The British not only held Detroit, but, becoming masters of all Michigan, soon pushed on into northern Ohio. But there they met patriots who would not yield, and who managed to defend Forts Meigs and Stephenson against forces three times larger than their own.