James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Jones, 8 June 1813

From William Jones

Navy Depmt June 8, 1813


I enclose for your perusal the official letters of Commodore Chauncey 27, 28, 29. June which the bearer will take to the printers after you have perused them if you think proper.1

I also enclose a letter from Com Bainbridge covering Commodore Brooke Challenge which I am happy Captain Laurence did not receive as the post mark is the day after the Battle.2

I also enclose Com. Decaturs letter.3 The Secy of War has ordered the Cannon &c from New York to New London. These letters please return as soon as may be convenient. I am very respectfully your Obdt Servt

W Jones

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM. For enclosures, see nn. 1–3.

1Jones probably enclosed Isaac Chauncey’s letters to him of 27, 28, and 29 May 1813 (DNA: RG 45, Captains’ Letters; printed in Dudley, Naval War of 1812, 2:463–64, 480). On 27 May (1 p.), Chauncey reported that “the American Flag is flying upon Fort George.” His letter of 28 May (5 pp.) relayed details of the battle for the fort, during which effective fire from the commodore’s fleet enabled U.S. troops to defeat the British defenders so handily that Chauncey did not even need to land with the 400 seamen he had planned to lead. On 29 May (2 pp.), Chauncey informed Jones that Oliver H. Perry, whom Chauncey had ordered to take charge of the U.S. fleet at Black Rock, with an eye toward gaining control of Lake Erie, would probably be ready to sail for Presque Isle “about the 3d. or 4th. of June.” The lines immediately following are bracketed: “[provided I can get the Gun Carriages up, which I brought from Sacketts Harbor for the Vessels at the Rock—we are however still much in want of Men, and if none arrive before my return to Sacketts Harbor I shall be obliged to dismantle the Fleet upon this Lake, to man that upon Erie].” An asterisk placed before the bracketed portion refers to a note by Jones in the lower margin: “between the brackets not to be published.” The three letters, minus the bracketed portion of the third, appeared in the Daily National Intelligencer on 9 June 1813.

2The enclosure was probably William Bainbridge to Jones, 3 June 1813 (3 pp.; DNA: RG 45, Captains’ Letters), covering Philip B. V. Broke to James Lawrence, dated June 1813 and postmarked 2 June (3 pp.; ibid.; printed in Dudley, Naval War of 1812, 2:126–28). Broke challenged Lawrence to “meet the Shannon with [the Chesapeake], Ship to Ship, to try the fortune of our respective Flags.” Commenting that “perhaps … some stronger assurance of a fair meeting” was necessary than that given to Commodore John Rodgers, who had “eluded” the British when sailing from Boston, Broke enumerated the guns and crew aboard the Shannon and assured Lawrence that he would “send all other Ships beyond the power of interfering with us” or “sail with you, under a truce Flag, to any place you think safest from our Cruizers.” He asserted, “You must, Sir, be aware that my proposals are highly advantageous to you” since the Chesapeake otherwise risked an encounter with an overwhelming British force, and supposed that Lawrence would “feel convinced that it is only by continued triumphs in even combats, that your little Navy can now hope to console your Country for the loss of that Trade, it can no longer protect.” In his covering letter, Bainbridge criticized Broke’s statements, insinuated that the Chesapeake’s defeat was due to the British commander’s use of a dishonorable “stratagem” during the battle, and offered to command the Constellation in a contest with “the finest 38 Gun frigate” the British could provide. For the battle between the Shannon and the Chesapeake, see Jones to JM, 6 June 1813 (second letter), n. 4.

3Jones apparently enclosed Stephen Decatur’s letter to him dated June 1813 (3 pp.; DNA: RG 45, Captains’ Letters; printed in Dudley, Naval War of 1812, 2:135–36) describing the British pursuit of the United States, Hornet, and Macedonian into New London Harbor on 1 June (see Jones to JM, 6 June 1813 [second letter], n. 3). Decatur reported his efforts to improve the defenses of New London, which suffered from a shortage of artillery, and requested that “twenty pieces of heavy cannon, 18 or 24 pounders” be sent there “from New York or elsewhere.”

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