SHORT: MICHIGAN’S BRIEF, BUT BLOODY SECESSION FROM THE UNION

A few years after Michigan achieved statehood in 1837, Governor Epaphroditus Ransom declared secession from the Union in response to a lack of support by the Federal Government in Michigan’s claims over a boundary dispute with Canada.

Early map, wrong placement of St Mary’s River

Everybody has heard of the Michigan-Toledo War over a disputed boundary line that would decide who would get Toledo and the lucrative Maumee Bay region. Ohio won, but Michigan was given the vast wilderness of the Upper Peninsula. Few people,  however, have heard how that conflict extended into the little-known Canadian – Michigan War.

It was, as many wars are, about a boundary (a good metaphor that is right there). The dispute arose over the exact location of the St Mary’s River in the Upper Peninsula (UP) which connects Lakes Superior and Huron.

Its seems simple enough; Canada to the north of the river, the U.S. and it’s territories to the south.But nothing is simple when politics becomes the vehicle for greed and ego.

The problem was that early cartographers put the river further south than its actual location. In 1812 the error was correct but nobody cared. When Michigan was awarded the UP, still nobody much cared who got what of the vast nothingness. But when copper and iron were discovered, well, the third of seven deadly sins reared its greasy head and was unchained.

Michigan felt very strongly about honoring the actual St Mary’s River boundary line. Canada felt the original line, even though not a river, should be honored. What was at stake was a chunk of land half the size of Denmark and whatever buried treasure it may hold.

Still stinging from the loss of the Toledo and Maumee Bay commerce, Governor Ransom ordered the formation of militias in response to reports that Canada was assembling forces along the St. Mary’s River. Things soon escalated to the point of Michigan having 8,000 troops stationed in St. Ignace with Ransom himself as Commander-in-Chief.

Things were getting out of hand and President John Tyler tried persuading Ransom to remove the troops and pursue more peaceable terms.

Avarice, called for reinforcements and the Fourth Deadly Sin, Pride, came roaring in.

Governor Ransom drafted twenty-four claims for Michigan’s right to secede from the Union to pursue their own sovereign interests in a document titled “The Cause for Independence.”

It all came to a head in the Upper Peninsula’s town of Rudyard. Canadian troops had advanced quickly into the heart of the U.P. surprising Ransom’s troops. But Ransom held a significant size advantage. Ransom surrounded the town where the Canadian troops had holed up and the battle ensued.

The results were grim with few Canadians surviving. Then, in a sapsm of conspiratorial paranoia, Michigan’s militia went through the town apprehending anyone suspected of aiding the Canadians. An estimated 80-120 citizen were seized.

Epaphroditus Ransom

It all came to an end a month later in Detroit when Federal Troops stormed where Ransom had been staying and captured the Governor. He was taken to Steubenville, Ohio, tried for treason and quietly hung.

So ends the little-known Michigan-Canadian War. Only it didn’t end, because it never began.

The whole thing is a lie. Written in 2013, the entire story is from an intricately fabricated Wikipedia page on The Canadian-Michigan War complete with false storyline, footnotes, references and links, but with real persons and half-truths created by one imaginative man.

As far as deceptions go, it is impressive, which makes it difficult to believe it is in fact a lie.

Oh the lengths we can go to weave our webs.

Be careful out there.