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Josiah Meigs to Thomas Jefferson, 25 August 1813

From Josiah Meigs

Cincinnati, Ohio, Aug. 25, 1813.

Mr. Meigs having noticed an attempt of the Enemy to throw the blame of his late atrocities at Hampton on Foreign Troops in his service, is led to state the following facts, and he communicates them to Mr. Jefferson, presuming that it will be ascribed to a wish that the truth may be not concealed.—

Mr Meigs resided in the Island of Bermuda from December 1789 to May 1794—He was during that period a Counsellor at Law, and was in habits of intimacy with the Governor Henry Hamilton, & a number of the officers of the British Navy & Army. At the table of Bridger Goodrich Esq., formerly of Portsmouth in Virginia, who joined Lord Dunmore in the commencement of the revolutionary war, he heard the following recitals—

Major Andrew Durnford of the Corps of Engineers, related that he had the command of the detachment which was intended to surprise and capture Major General Putnam, at Horseneck;—that the General having escaped by descending a dangerous precipice on horseback, his men took the wife of the Minister of the Parish, Mrs. ________ into the School House in that Village, and that to his knowledge about twenty-eight of them ________ passed over her. Goodrich exclaimed, “You and your men ought to have been d—d” Durnford laughed it off as a mere bagatelle. Goodrich observed that the British had in many cases disgraced themselves, and the human character by similar atrocities, and to confirm it, said, that while he was serving on board the Roebuck Frigate commanded by Sir Andrew Snape Hammond, in Chesapeake Bay, a canoe, with two persons on board was seen passing a small river or inlet; that a boat from the Frigate having brought the Canoe along side of the ship, it appeared that a young man was conveying his sister, a handsome, neatly dressed young woman to the other side of the water to be married to her lover that day—The young man was ordered off with his canoe,—the young woman was taken into the Cabin by the Officers, where she was kept about three weeks, and then sent ashore ruined, humbled and lost.—

Henry Hamilton, who was then Governor of Bermuda was formerly Governor of Upper Canada and was taken, (in 1777—I think), by George Rogers Clarke, whose Nephew, the gallant Major Croghan has nobly signalized himself in the late bloody repulse given the Enemy at Fort Stephenson on the River Sandusky—

After having written the foregoing Mr. M. doubts whether it will not be deemed improper to transmit it to Mr Jefferson—but the truth ought to be known—

Mr M. is certain that Mr Jefferson will hear with pleasure that he and his family enjoy health, and has the honour to be

with Esteem, Affection & high Respect
his obliged & obedient servant

Josiah Meigs.

RC (DLC); addressed: “The honourable Thomas Jefferson, Esquire Monticello Virginia”; franked; postmarked Cincinnati, 26 Aug. 1813; endorsed by TJ as received 14 Sept. 1813 and so recorded in SJL.

British admiral Sir John Borlase Warren largely blamed the atrocities committed during the 26 June 1813 sack of Hampton on a unit made up of French prisoners-of-war, the so-called Canadian Chausseurs or Chausseurs Britanniques (Heidler and Heidler, War of 1812 description begins David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler, eds., Encyclopedia of the War of 1812, 1997 description ends , 225). In February 1779 General Israel Putnam barely escaped capture by a force of British cavalry at horseneck (now part of Greenwich), Connecticut (William Farrand Livingston, Israel Putnam: Pioneer, Ranger, and Major-General, 1718–1790 [1901], 388–92). Henry Hamilton had been taken at the fall of Vincennes early in 1779, not 1777 (PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 34 vols. description ends , 2:256–8, 286–7). Forces under the command of Major George Croghan repulsed a British attack on fort stephenson (present-day Fremont, Ohio) on 2 Aug. 1813 (Heidler and Heidler, War of 1812 description begins David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler, eds., Encyclopedia of the War of 1812, 1997 description ends , 489–90).

Index Entries

  • Clark (Clarke), George Rogers; 1779expedition of search
  • Croghan, George search
  • Dunmore, John Murray, 4th Earl of; colonial governor of Va. search
  • Durnford, Andrew search
  • Fort Stephenson, Ohio search
  • Goodrich, Bridger search
  • Great Britain; atrocities committed by search
  • Hamilton, Henry; captured at Vincennes search
  • Hamilton, Henry; governor of Bermuda search
  • Hammond, Andrew Snape search
  • Hampton, Va.; British attack on search
  • Meigs, Josiah; and British atrocities search
  • Meigs, Josiah; health of search
  • Meigs, Josiah; letters from search
  • Putnam, Israel; British attempt to capture search
  • Roebuck, HMS (frigate) search
  • War of1812; British attack on Hampton, Va. search
  • Warren, John Borlase; British naval commander search
  • women; raped by British servicemen search