James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Charles Scott, 25 August 1812

From Charles Scott

Frankfort Augt. 25th. 1812.


Since I had the honor of addressing you under date of the 14th. Inst.1 feeling the urgent necessity from every information representation and appearance of taking Some decisive and efficient Measure for the relief of the North Western Army under the Command of Brigadr. Genl Hull and well knowing how important an early Step must be to effect this object—Weighing responsibility agt. love of Country; and conceiving that it is of the highest consequence to the Government, and the Successful and Speedy termination of the contest in which we are engage⟨d⟩ which the first impressions Shall make of success or disaster, I have been to [sic] induced to call to My aid some of the most respectable and Sincere Friends to the Common Cause, and to Conform to their advice.2

Enclosed I beg leave to Submit to you the results of their opinions & advice on this interesting and unexpected State of affairs. The Officer who waits at his post for orders, does well in the General, but cases must & do arise where all is lost to wait for them; and where to anticipate is to obey. The distance of the Seat of Government from the Scene of operation, the thousand unforseen and material occurrences, which call necessarily for some discretion, and the great Stake we have depending—Acting Solely under the Earnest and Ardent desire I have for the prosperity of my Country—all these must be my apology for the course I have ventured to pursue. My own Judgmt. however, much as I distrust it, has been Supported by men in whom the utmost confidence is deservedly placed. Numerous difficulties are not wanting, to carrying the proposed measure into effect. The means of procuring Supplies—who are to furnish them; the want of authority in Settling the command, all Standing in the way. But Something was deemed essential to be done. The force mentioned in the inclosed document, Signed by the Gentlemen,3 will be immediately (no doubt) completed, if not exceeded including Some Indiana Troops ordered on by Governor Harrison to join the Detachment. The asst. or Depy Commissary, Col. Buford has been requested or rather advised, to furnish the necessary Supplies.4 It is also evident that a description of force not authorised by any existing regulation, will be highly useful and contribute to the immediate relief proposed: that is mounted infantry or riflemen Say to the number of 500. I have, so far as I could authorised their Employmt. and they with many others must look to the justice of the country for compensation.

The arrangements I have made await the Sanction or disapproval of your orders & pleasure. They were intended merely as provisional, and to meet the pressing exigencies of the case. There is great reason to believe from the enclosed copies of Letters I send you from Officers of Genl Hulls army that it is in extreme danger, and that he has lost their confidence.5 If the latter be the case; with a more adequate; better Situated; and better appointed force; but little indeed could be expected. You will perceive that many of these Letters contain a freedom of Expression which should be considered confidential, although Copies of them, to be sent to you, Seemed to me necessary, to develope the true temper & situation of the army. A strange and accountable series of failure, or bad management Seem to me also to require a change and point to the necessity of a differen[t] Commander in chief in that Quarter. Their confidence in Govr. Harrison and indeed that of the Western people generally is almost a guarantee for his Success should he be appointed to Command there. Indeed I view it as of so much importance, that the protraction or speedy termination of the war there may depend on it. Enclosed you have a copy of my instructions to him.6 You will not fail to perceive the necessity of your orders respecting his Command, and of the supply of the Troops with him, being forwarded as speedily as may be, so as if possible to reach him before arriving at Detroit. In all things I have endeavored to act for the best under Existing circumstances. Mr. Clay has written a Letter to my old Friend Col. Monroe on this Subject to which I beg leave to refer you.7 As I this day close my Administration and shall not from My advanced age, be able again to engage in public life, permit me Sir to express my earnest Wishes for a continuance of your health and useful Services to your Country in the high office you now so ably & satisfactorily fill. I have the honor to be with high respect & consideration, Yr. Mo. Obt. Servt.

Chs. Scott

P. S. From the information recd the detachment of Mila. under Genl Payne8 (1800 or thereabout fine fellows) left cincinnati on their march yesterday they got supplied with arms &c. They will not be delayed by the addition. The Inda. Mila. will join them at Dayton & Poages9 Regt. before then, the horsemen will soon overtake them, & by the time you receive this they will without an accident be within 100 miles of Detroit.

RC and enclosures (PHi: Daniel Parker Papers). Recorded in the Registers of Letters Received by the Secretary of War (DNA: RG 107) as received in the War Department on 12 Sept. 1812. For surviving enclosures, see nn. 3 and 6.

1Letter not found.

2Having received dispatches from Detroit reporting that the situation was grave, Scott called a meeting in Frankfort of Kentucky political leaders on 25 Aug., the last day of the governor’s term of office. At the meeting were members of the state’s congressional delegation, including Henry Clay, Richard M. Johnson, and Stephen Ormsby. Also present were the incoming governor, Isaac Shelby, and Jesse Bledsoe, John Fowler, former governor Christopher Greenup, Martin Hardin, Samuel Hopkins, Harry Innes, William Logan, and Thomas Todd. Collectively they advised Scott to commission William Henry Harrison as a brevet major general in the state militia, despite the fact that Harrison was not a resident of Kentucky, in order to permit him to command the reinforcements being raised to relieve Hull at Detroit. The meeting also decided to increase the number of those reinforcements from 1,500 to 3,400 (Henry Clay to Monroe, 25 Aug. 1812, in Hopkins, Papers of Henry Clay, 1:719–20, 721 nn.).

3Scott enclosed a copy of a letter to Thomas Buford signed by the thirteen members of the meeting (1 p.; marked “(No. 3)”), advising the deputy commissary that as the requirement for reinforcements to Detroit had been increased from 1,500 to 3,400 men, Buford should increase supplies for the army accordingly.

4See n. 3, above. Thomas Buford had been appointed a deputy commissary of purchases for Kentucky on 4 June 1812 (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.; Washington, 1903). description ends , 1:260).

5Enclosures not found.

6Scott enclosed a copy of the letter he wrote to William Henry Harrison on 25 Aug. (3 pp.; marked “(No. 2)”), in which he notified Harrison of his appointment as brevet major general of the Kentucky militia. Scott also directed Harrison to take command of the reinforcements being raised for Detroit and authorized him to accept the services of up to 500 mounted volunteers, with the proviso that it would be up to Harrison to guarantee any compensation that might be paid to the latter body of troops. Scott further stated that Harrison was “to receive and confirm [sic] to the orders of the President.” “In the mean time” he was to conduct himself in ways “so as most effectually to accomplish the views of the Government, and to protect our exposed frontiers.”

7Henry Clay to Monroe, 25 Aug. 1812, in Hopkins, Papers of Henry Clay, 1:719–20.

8John Payne (d. 1854), a general in the Kentucky militia, served under Harrison at the Battle of Mississinewa and the Battle of the Thames (Collins’ Historical Sketches of Kentucky [1878 ed.], 2:93).

9Robert Pogue was a Kentucky militia colonel (Esarey, Messages and Letters of William Henry Harrison, Indiana Historical Collections, 2:143, 149).

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