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The Patriot War

Immediately following the "Toledo War," Michigan became a state on January 26, 1837. A year later, January 1838, the militia, under the state organization, was in active operations during the "Patriot War." Although it was not a major campaign, this war did furnish some action for the soldiers.


The "Patriot War' was brought about by some residents of both upper Canada and the United States, of Irish descent or birth, and United States citizens who had moved to Canada. These "Patriots," as they called themselves, planned to detach the peninsula lying between the Michigan frontier and the Niagara frontier from Canada and attach it to the United States. Their base of operations was located in Michigan and they were organized into secret groups known as "Hunters Lodges."


The points of assembly were Fort Gratiot (Port Huron), Mount Clemens, Detroit, and Gibraltar. Meetings were called, secret military organizations created, and Dr. E.A. Theller, an Irish enthusiast for anything opposed to Great Britain, committed some overt acts for which he was arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to the citadel of Quebec; he later escaped and fled to Detroit.


In the early winter of 1837-38, straggling parties of armed men waited along the border for the ice to form on the St. Clair river. This was the route over which they planned to enter Canada, unfurl their flag, and establish a temporary government in rebellion against the British crown. They attempted to seize Fort Gratiot, but were foiled by a detachment of the Brady Guards. Their arms and ammunition were taken to Detroit.


In the latter part of December 1837, the "Patriots" used a small steamboat to cross into Canada and landed a short distance above Windsor. They marched down to the village opposite Detroit and in the engagement that followed--the Battle of Windsor--a number of men on both sides were killed and wounded. The "Patriots" scattered to the woods.


A plot was then discovered to capture the United States Arsenal at Dearborn and take possession of the arms stored there. To thwart this action, a company of the Michigan Militia was assigned guard duty at the arsenal. The excitement continued through 1838, however the "Battle of Windsor" is considered the closing of the war.


During its fourth session in 1839, the state legislature enacted legislation that provided more effective defense for the state. This action, most likely inspired by the frontier troubles during the "Patriot War," provided for the organization of a brigade of "State Guards." These troops were to be a sort of superior militia and were to have the preference in the distribution of arms and accoutrements.


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