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To James Madison from William Jones, 1 August 1814

From William Jones

Augt. 1. 1814

Dear sir

The enclosed is from Doctor Buchanan of the Navy Com Chaunceys Physician.

Chauncey has doubtless been very ill and I suppose his officers were unwilling to commun[i]cate his case to the Department until he was convalescent.

Shall I countermand Decaturs order or let him proceed for fear of a relapse?1

Chauncey however cannot take umbrage at the order as it is framed with the strictest regard to his feelings. Should Decatur arrive at the Harbour and find Chauncey recovered he may not explain the cause of his visit and Chauncey may be left to suspect something of an unfriendly nature.

Had I better send him a copy of the order which sufficiently explains the motive and confirms the confidence you have allways had in him?2 Personal feeling participates so largely in human actions that too much attention cannot be paid to it. Our officers are proud and justly so. Very Sincerely & respectfully yours

W Jones

P S. The information derived from the intercepted letters perhaps renders the delay of two or three days in the sailing of the Squadron less important.3

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM. Enclosure not found.

1For the order, see Armstrong to JM, 28 July 1814, and n. 1. Capt. Stephen Decatur replied on 2 Aug. 1814 from New York (DNA: RG 45, Captains’ Letters), stating that he believed Capt. Isaac Chauncey was recovering, but that he would start immediately for Sackets Harbor if the next mail brought news of a relapse. He requested from Jones an explicit order to take command of the Lake Ontario squadron, which Jones sent on 5 Aug. (DNA: RG 45, Confidential Letters Sent). Ready to leave New York four days later, Decatur canceled his journey upon receiving a first-hand report that Chauncey had sailed on 1 Aug. (Decatur to Jones, 8 and 10 Aug. 1814, DNA: RG 45, Captains’ Letters).

2Perhaps at JM’s behest, Jones did not mince words in his next communication with Chauncey. On 3 Aug. 1814 he informed the captain of “the extreme anxiety, and astonishment, which the protracted and fatal delay of the Squadron in port, has excited in the mind of the President” and emphasized the entire inadequacy of the excuse that there had been a “delay in obtaining blocks and, iron-work” given in Capt. Jacob Jones’s letter of 25 July 1814 (for the letter, see William Jones to JM, ca. 31 July 1814, n. 1). The navy secretary stated his assumption that Chauncey’s illness was the reason the fleet had not sailed; pointed out that its inactivity had enabled the British to convey reinforcements across the lake to Niagara, endangering Maj. Gen. Jacob Brown’s army; and chastised Chauncey for failing to inform the government that he was sick and for not sending the squadron out under Jacob Jones’s command (DNA: RG 45, Confidential Letters Sent; printed in Dudley, Naval War of 1812, 3:556–57).

3For the letters, see Jones to JM, ca. 31 July 1814, n. 1.

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