James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Jones, 6 June 1813

From William Jones

June 6th 1813


I send the enclosed letters for your perusal. James T Leonard was next in command to Com Chauncey until arrested upon charges of misconduct and is now under arrest waiting the investigation of a Court martial.1 I know not who was the commanding naval officer that so precipitately destroyed the stores, nor is it possible to anticipate the consequences as it respects the equpment of the New Ship. I know that a considerable quantity of important stores for that purpose are now on the way from New York and trust the loss in that respect will not be very serious altho the destructon of the stores captured at york must prove an immense loss.2 Captains Jones & Biddies letters show that some of the Razees have arrived on our Coast.3 I am this moment told that a handbill from Boston has been reced. stating that a British Frigate came into Boston Bay—that Captain Laurence with the Chesapeake slipped his cables, went out, brought her to action which continued for a considerable time but had ceased—the issue not known.4 I am respectfully your obedt. Servt

W Jones

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM. For enclosures, see nn. 2 and 3.

1Commodore Isaac Chauncey arrested Leonard, a master commandant, on 13 Apr. 1813 at Sackets Harbor on charges of “Disobedience of orders,” “Neglect of Duty,” and “Dissolute and immoral practices.” The letter of arrest specified that Leonard had violated orders by not sleeping on his ship, had failed to protect his ship from danger caused by weather conditions, and had allowed his mistress to pass as his wife and continued to live with her “in the most public manner” after it became known that they were not married. Chauncey ordered him to remain in the vicinity of Sackets Harbor until his court-martial was held, which did not occur until early December 1813. Found guilty on all three charges, Leonard was sentenced to be suspended from service for a year dating from his arrest and to be “publicly reprimanded by the Secretary of the Navy, in a general order to be read on board every Ship in the Navy of the United States” (DNA: RG 125, Records of General Courts Martial and Courts of Inquiry, vol. 4). For further details of Leonard’s case, see Dudley, Naval War of 1812, 2:441–44.

2Jones apparently enclosed Leonard’s two-page letter to him of 29 May 1813 reporting that U.S. forces had repulsed a British attack on Sackets Harbor on 29 May but that during the battle “the Naval officers at this station had prematurely set fire to the Naval store hou⟨se⟩ & the Marine barracks & have destroyed all the stores taken at York & the few stores we had on hand besides” (DNA: RG 45, Letters from Commanders).

3Jones probably enclosed letters from James Biddle, 2 June 1813 (3 pp.; ibid.) and Jacob Jones, 2 June 1813 (2 pp.; DNA: RG 45, Captains’ Letters). Biddle, commander of the Hornet, stated that on 1 June he had attempted to get to sea from Long Island Sound with the United States and the Macedonian but that the American vessels were “chased into” the New London harbor by a British ship of the line and a frigate, the latter of which was “so large as to induce us to beleive She is one of the Razees Expected out on this Station.” Jones, captain of the Macedonian, related the same events and concluded that the frigate was “one of the razie mentioned in the British papers—& is a very superior sailing ship.” It was actually the Acasta, which had been cruising American waters at least since July 1812. A British squadron consisting of the Acasta, Valiant, Ramillies, and Orpheus menaced New London and the ships in its harbor until 12 June, when the Valiant and Acasta sailed for Halifax. Trapped by the continued British blockade, the three U.S. ships remained at New London, where the United States and Macedonian were finally dismantled and laid up in April 1814 (Dudley, Naval War of 1812, 1:214–16, 2:134–38, 3:66 n. 4).

4Jones had sent Capt. James Lawrence to Boston in May 1813 to refit the Chesapeake, with orders to sail as soon as possible. On 1 June, having commanded his ship less than two weeks, Lawrence sailed from Boston Harbor in pursuit of the British frigate Shannon. He was mortally wounded in the ensuing battle, and the Chesapeake, unable to match the Shannon’s expert gunnery, was soon boarded and captured. The British reported eighty-four killed and wounded; the Americans suffered 146 casualties (Dudley, Naval War of 1812, 2:126, 133 n. 2, 133–34).

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