After the American Revolution, the Detroit River marked the boundary between the American frontier outpost of Detroit and the British Canadian communities of Sandwich (present-day Windsor, Ontario) and Fort Amherstburg. For more than a generation, American citizens, British subjects, French settlers, Native Americans, and African slaves and freedmen routinely crossed the border while living and working together in one of the most diverse regions in North America. That tranquility ended suddenly with the War of 1812. Cross-river neighbors transformed into enemies as the previously ignored border became fraught with new political significance.
The result of a year-long community history partnership between the Detroit Historical Society and Wayne State University, Border Crossings uncovers the personal and group interactions often ignored in standard histories of the War of 1812. In August 1812, U.S. General William Hull surrendered Detroit to the British under General Isaac Brock. For more than a year, until September 1813, Detroit remained in the hands of the British. Americans then occupied settlements on the Canadian side of the Detroit River until July 1815-well past the official end of the war. These multiple "border crossings" had profound implications for the diverse inhabitants of the Detroit River region, including widespread privation, imprisonment, enemy attacks, and dispossession of homes and land.show more