James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Armstrong, 14 April 1814

From John Armstrong

War Dept 14th April 1814.


I have the honor to transmit herewith a letter from Major General Wilkinson of the 31st. Ult. detailing the circumstances of his late affair with the enemy at Le Cole.1

To this I beg leave to add a Copy of my letter to the General of the 12th. Ult.2 alluded to in his statement and am Sir, With the highest respect, Your most Obedient & very humble servant

John Armstrong

RC (DNA: RG 59, ML); letterbook copy (DNA: RG 107, LSP). Letterbook copy dated 11 Apr. 1814. Enclosures not found, but see nn.

1Armstrong wrote Maj. Gen. James Wilkinson on 24 Mar. 1814, relieving him of command of the Northern Army and informing him that a court of inquiry would investigate his conduct (DNA: RG 107, LSMA). On 30 Mar. 1814, however, before he had received Armstrong’s letters, Wilkinson attacked the British outpost at Lacolle Mill, which guarded the route from Lake Champlain to Montreal. Having been delayed by incompetent guides, the Americans found the British well prepared. Despite the great numerical superiority of his army, Wilkinson failed to prevent the arrival of British reinforcements or to pursue them when they retreated. The Americans bombarded the thick stone walls of the mill to no avail until evening, when Wilkinson ordered his troops to withdraw with losses of about one hundred and fifty (Quimby, U.S. Army in the War of 1812, 2:481–84; Skeen, John Armstrong, 176–77).

2On 12 Mar. 1814 Armstrong advised Wilkinson to take a position “within striking distance” of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, which would also enable him to prevent the British from entering Lake Champlain. He cautioned the general to be sure that U.S. artillery could “command the Strait” from such a position (DNA: RG 107, LSMA).

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