James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from John Armstrong, 4 September 1814

From John Armstrong

Baltimore 4th. Sepr. 1814.


I have given to the late occurrences at Washington, in relation to myself, all the consideration Due to them, as well on public as on private grounds, and have determined to resign my appointment as Secretary of the War Department.1 This I hereby do and pray you to accept with it, the assurances of my great respect & consideration.

John Armstrong

RC (DLC); Tr (DLC: George W. Campbell Papers). RC docketed by JM. Minor differences between the copies have not been noted.

1On 5 Sept. 1814 the Baltimore Patriot & Evening Advertiser published a 3 Sept. 1814 letter from Armstrong, explaining why he had left the War Department and defending his conduct with regard to the British attack on Washington. He gave an account of his 29 Aug. conversation with JM similar to that recorded by JM in his own memorandum of the discussion (see Memorandum of a Conversation with John Armstrong, 29 Aug. 1814) but omitted JM’s comments about Armstrong’s failure to prepare adequately for the attack, and added the observation that succumbing “to the humors of a village mob, stimulated by faction and led by folly” would not have served the public interest. Moreover, Armstrong wrote, he had since learned that a deputation of Georgetown residents, including Federal Republican editor Alexander C. Hanson, had visited JM on the morning of 29 Aug. and successfully demanded that Armstrong “should no longer direct the military defences of the District.” Noting that he need not comment on this “fact,” Armstrong went on to deny various charges raised against him: that he had ordered the army to retreat at Bladensburg, had prevented Brig. Gen. William H. Winder from “defending the Capital,” had ordered the abandonment and destruction of Fort Washington, was responsible for the burning of the navy yard, and had not provided for a military force adequate to defend the city. Finally, Armstrong blamed the soldiers who fled from battle for the defeat, commenting that “if all the troops assembled at Bladensburgh, had been faithful to themselves and to their country, the enemy would have been beaten, and the Capital saved.”

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