James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Jones, 14 August 1813

From William Jones

Navy Department Augt. 14. 1813


The enclosed extracts and copies from Com Chauncey & Captn Perrys letters and from the private letters of General Williams to the Secretary of War will convey to you the state of things on the Lakes.1

The prospect is propitious whatever may be the result. The presence of the British fleet on the Lake is I take it a desperate (but successful) effort to relieve the forces at the head of the Lake by drawing off our Squadron and it certainly was a judicious one in which there was not so much risk as at first view may be supposed, for (not as on the ocean) the chase is short and if the enemy kept at 10 Miles distant when it commenced and our Squadron outsailed his at the rate of half a knot an hour he would reach Kingston the most distant port on ⟨the⟩ lake before he would be overtaken.

A change of wind or other fortuitous circumstance may bring them together which I most fervently hope.

Perry you will perceive has been over to long point in pursuit of the enemy and has returned without seeing him, but my mind is relieved from a heavy pressure by his letter announcing the approach of Lieut Elliot and his detachment and his determination to wait their arrival.

This will completely officer and man his squadron—Elliott himself is worth 100 Men.

Chauncey has delayed the reinforcements too long, but the new ship at Malden cannot yet be ready, and the appearance of the Enemys Fleet on Lake Ontario has relieved me from the apprehension that reinforcements of Seamen had been detached from that fleet to Malden.

I dispatched the whole of Capt Morris’s detachment on thursday for Annapolis 220 Strong and yesterday 100 Marines and Lieut Miller and as nothing unfavorable has been heard from thence they will have arrived in time.

Lieut. Hyde of the Marine Corps of whom you enquired I find has gone to Lake Ontario.

The enemy have sent some reinforcements of seamen to Champlain and he has made an ineffectual attack upon Burlington. More seamen and officers have gone on to Champlain from New York and McDonough will in a few days (if not now) be Master of the Lake. I am respectfully Your Obdt Servt

W Jones

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, ML). For surviving enclosures, see n. 1.

1Jones enclosed copies of two letters to him from Oliver H. Perry, both dated 8 Aug. 1813 (1 p. each). In the first, Perry reported that he had “returned from Long Point without having seen the Enemy” and was preparing to sail again in hopes of meeting the British before their new ship could join the fleet. Perry’s second letter, written at 11 p.m., stated that he had just learned that eighty-nine seamen led by Lt. Jesse D. Elliott were on their way to join him, and that he would delay his departure until they arrived. Jones also enclosed extracts of two letters from Brig. Gen. David R. Williams, at Fort George, to John Armstrong. In the first, dated 7 Aug. 1813 (1 p.), Williams reported that Commodore Isaac Chauncey had begun to fire on the British fleet and that the high morale of the U.S. officers and seamen justified “an expectation of the happiest results.” But the second letter, dated 8 Aug. (2 pp.), stated that the British commander on Lake Ontario, Sir James Yeo, had fled rather than accepting Chauncey’s challenge, that the Americans had pursued the British fleet in vain, and that Yeo might be scheming to separate the U.S. fleet by inviting a chase.

Jones may also have enclosed an extract from or copy of Chauncey’s letter to him of 4 Aug. 1813 from Niagara (DNA: RG 45, Captains’ Letters; printed in Dudley, Naval War of 1812, 2:528–29), in which Chauncey reported that he and Col. Winfield Scott had captured or destroyed a substantial amount of British provisions and ammunition at York, that he had sent Elliott’s detachment to reinforce Perry on Lake Erie, and that he planned to blockade Yeo in Kingston if he did not meet the British fleet on his way back to Sackets Harbor.

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