James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Jesse Bledsoe, 18 June 1814

From Jesse Bledsoe

Lexington. Ky. June 18th. 1814


I feel no Small Scruples in presuming to address you on a subject where it may well be Supposed my Sensibility is concerned. I beg for a moment to invite your attention to the late derangement of Officers in the army.1 I am not ignorant of the manner in which this thing is done. It has been unfortunate for the country it has not been better done. The best Officers have been dismissed from the Service—the worst retained. Details would be tedious & unpleasant. Be assured of the fact So far as comes within my Knowledge. I am told Boys who have been promoted to be inspectors make private reports of Such as they deem worthy or Otherwise. I believe it is a bad prospect to form an Army on such reports.

Will you pardon me when I ask why almost all the officers who fought at Lower Sandusky are dismissed.2 In any other Country they would have been promoted. What reward is valor to look to? If disgrace it has met it. This augurs ill. Something is wrong. Cyrus A. Baylor is my nephew. He was the only officer who spoke in council at Sandusky to defend the fort. Col Croghan Knows it. He fought bravely; his Father is now lame of a cannon shot at Germantown.3 Yet this young man acknowledged to be one of the best Officers of his grade in the Army is dismissed4—Not Sir by your Order—I Know it could not have been with a Knowledge of facts. These things create Sensibility here. It is not confined to me. The Secy of War Will brew a storm which will Shake the Admn. I beg again you will pardon me. I do feel, and I fear my Country will have more occasion to do so. With Sincere respect I have the honor to be your Friend & obt. Servt.

J: Bledsoe5

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1For the consolidation of regiments to which Bledsoe referred, see JM to John Armstrong, 24 May 1814, and n. 7.

2For the Battle of Fort Sandusky, 2 Aug. 1813, see Daniel Parker to JM, 11 Aug. 1813, PJM-PS, description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (7 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984–). description ends 6:511, 511–12 n. 1, 512 n. 2.

3Bledsoe referred to the Battle of Germantown, 4 Oct. 1777, in which confusion caused by thick fog doomed to failure the American attack on a reduced corps of British troops near Philadelphia (Abbot et al., Papers of George Washington: Revolutionary War Series, 11:393–97).

4Baylor, a first lieutenant in the Seventeenth Regiment of Infantry, had received an honorable discharge on 1 June 1814 (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 1:200).

5Jesse Bledsoe (1776–1836), a native of Culpeper County, Virginia, moved to Kentucky, where he studied at Transylvania Seminary, read law, and joined the bar around 1800. He held several positions in the state government both before and after serving as a U.S. senator from 4 Mar. 1813 until his resignation on 24 Dec. 1814. A gifted orator, he also drank excessively. In 1822 he was appointed a circuit court judge in Lexington and a law professor at his alma mater, now Transylvania University, holding the latter position until 1825. He subsequently became a minister in the Christian Church, migrating near the end of his life to Mississippi and then to Nacogdoches, Texas, where he died (Kleber et al., Kentucky Encyclopedia, 88; Walter Wilson Jennings, Transylvania: Pioneer University of the West [New York, 1955], 20–21, 34–36, 240).

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