James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Jones, 27 March 1813

From William Jones

March 27. 1813


You will perceive by the enclosed letters1 that the note you sent for my perusal2 was written under a mistaken idea that the firing of the British Barges on the schooners captured in the mouth of James River was an action between our Gun Boats & the enemy Frigate. I am satisfied that the object of an attempt to ascend James River is solely with a view to draw the Gun Boats from Norfolk.

I shall write Captain Stewart to confine his attention to Norfolk.3 He has orders to recruit complete crews for the Gun Boats and if he does not succeed we have no resource but to send the crew of the Adams from this place which would render it utterly defenceless by water. Indeed I think the Naval force at Norfolk adequate to its defence much larger than the military force. I am very respectfully your Obed Servt

W. Jones

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM. For enclosures, see n. 1.

1Jones evidently forwarded at least two of the three letters he had recently received from Charles Stewart, dated 17, 22, and 24 Mar. 1813. Stewart reported on 17 Mar. that he had withdrawn the U.S. gunboats from Craney Island to Norfolk because they were undermanned. His letter of 22 Mar. stated that he had been able to arm and fully man only seven of the gunboats, but the British frigates and tenders still avoided confrontation with this small fleet. On 24 Mar., Stewart informed Jones that “the Enemy this morning took three river Craft in the mouth of James river,” and that a British frigate and five tenders were sailing up the James with the apparent intent of going to Richmond. Stewart recognized that this expedition might be a feint intended to “divert the force from Norfolk,” but concluded that “such is the weak state of our force here, that we dare not budge with it … through a liability of our return being cut off” (DNA: RG 45, Captains’ Letters; letters of 17 and 22 Mar. printed in Dudley, Naval War of 1812, 2:315–17).

2For the note to which Jones probably referred, see St. George Tucker to JM, 24 Mar. 1813, n.

3Jones advised Stewart on 27 Mar. that “considering the present force of the enemy, the defence of your present position is the object of chief solicitude” (DNA: RG 45, Letters to Officers; printed in Dudley, Naval War of 1812, 2:317).

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