James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from Albert Gallatin, [ca. 26 August] 1812

From Albert Gallatin

[ca. 26 August 1812]

Dr. Sir

Is not the within important?1 And Might not the Navy dept. give immediate authority to Capt. Chauncey?2

A. G.

RC and enclosure (NHi: Gallatin Papers). RC undated; date assigned here on the basis of JM’s reply of the same day. For enclosure, see n. 1.

1The enclosure was a 24 Aug. 1812 letter written from New York by John Armstrong to Gallatin (2 pp.). Armstrong relayed the substance of a conversation with Commodore Isaac Chauncey to the effect that on 1 July 1812, Lt. Melancthon Woolsey had applied to Chauncey for a supply of cannon to arm merchant vessels on the Great Lakes and at Sackets Harbor. Chauncey had responded that he lacked the authority to grant the request, which he had referred “to the proper departt. from which he has since heard nothing.” Armstrong endorsed the request “out of a belief that it is not yet too late to effect Woolsey’s object.” “It’s effects will be—to give us the exclusive use of the lake during the Campaign; to give to the Western extremity of your line of operations, (between Lake Ontario & Montreal), an excellent point of support & lastly to cut asunder your enemy’s line of communication. Whether Gen. D. operate between the Lakes, Erie & Ontario, or between the latter & Montreal, the advantage will be the same. In both cases the two Canadas will be disjointed and Brock & Prevost will be unable to succor each other.”

2Isaac Chauncey (1772–1840) had served aboard a number of U.S. naval vessels before advancing to the rank of captain in 1807. JM placed Chauncey in command of naval forces on the Great Lakes on 31 Aug. 1812. Based in Sackets Harbor, Chauncey’s forces built up a naval presence, cruised Lake Ontario, occasionally engaged the enemy, and lent support to land forces, but were never able to gain full control of those waters. Commodore Stephen Decatur received orders to replace him in 1814, but the change never took place (Hamilton to Chauncey, 31 Aug. 1812 [Dudley, Naval War of 1812, 1:297–301]; A. T. Mahan, Sea Power in Its Relations to the War of 1812 [2 vols.; Boston, 1905], 1:361–63, 365–66, 2:36–41, 51–61, 299–300).

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