James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Smyth, 5 February 1814

From William Smyth

New Glasgow Amherst Cy. Va. Feby. 5th. 1814

Y⟨r⟩ Excellency.

I am not envious that the Goverment has remunerated Capt. Moor (with the Collector⟨s⟩ office at Baltimore) for a wound he recd. the same day with myself at the taking of york u.c. Tho with this material difference I was wounded in close and actual conflict with the British Granadiers & Kings 8th Regt. having killd two with my Rifle before Genl. Pike or Capt. Moor had landed their troops—he Capt Moor was wounded out off Battle & after we had driven the enimy.1

Now Sir may I hope that the wound recd. in actual & close fight with a musket Ball will be equally noticed & not be deemed less honorable than the wound recd by explosion half a mile from the fight & after the enimy had run. These facts were neglected in the official report of the Cold Hearted & unfeeling Genl. Dearborn who never mentioned a wounded officer but Gel. Pike.2

I should hope Sir I have equal claims on my Govt. wi[t]h Capt Moor tho my friends are now out of Congress & ⟨none⟩ to ⟨bless⟩ my Service. I recd. a Ball thro the sinews of my right wrist which has disabled me from writing much & weakend the arm very much. You’l find by a report of that Battle that Major Forsyths ⟨letter? little?⟩ Ba⟨tallion?⟩ the greater part of which my Company composed did susta⟨in⟩ the whole Batt[l]e & defeated the enimy before the main bod⟨y⟩ Genl. Pike or Capt Moor had landed3—the debility of hand from the Ball passing thro the sinews has enducd me to solicit yr. excellcy for some small place or appt. of ten or twelv⟨e⟩ hundred dollrs. pr. yr. to enable me to live, soothe my feelings & encourage others to fight as I have done to support th⟨e⟩ honor & rights of my Country.4 My friends being out of Congress has laid me unde[r] the painfull necessity of stating what wd. have come much better from them. With great Consideration I have the honor to be yr. excellencys Most Ob. Srt.

Wm. Smyth Capt.

U.S. Rifle Regt.

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM. Damaged by removal of seal.

1Capt. Stephen H. Moore of the Baltimore Volunteers lost a leg in the explosion of the British magazine at York on 27 Apr. 1813. JM nominated him as collector of direct taxes and internal duties at Baltimore in a message dated 17 Jan. 1814, and the Senate confirmed the appointment on 21 Jan. (Baltimore Patriot, 18 May 1813; Senate Exec. Proceedings, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends 2:454–56, 460–61).

2In his 28 Apr. 1813 letter to John Armstrong reporting the U.S. victory at York (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, D-125:7), Maj. Gen. Henry Dearborn stated that Maj. Benjamin Forsyth’s rifle corps landed first and held their own for half an hour against superior numbers of British and Indians, who retreated when Brig. Gen. Zebulon Montgomery Pike’s troops came onshore. Dearborn particularly commended the rifle corps for their “great firmness … under circumstances that would have tried the firmness of veterans.” The report appeared in the Daily National Intelligencer on 12 May 1813.

3In an account of the battle published in the Baltimore Patriot on 31 May 1813, a member of Pike’s staff reported that having landed following the rifle corps, his infantry platoon “had not time to form … completely when the British grenadiers shewed us their backs—at the moment of their turning tail upon us the sound of Forsythe’s bugles was heard, with peculiar delight, as it was the indication of his success.”

4Smyth remained in the army and was honorably discharged on 15 June 1815 (Heitman, Historical Register, description begins Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, from Its Organization, September 29, 1789, to March 2, 1903 (2 vols.; 1903; reprint, Baltimore, 1994). description ends 1:906).

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