James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Eustis, 5 September 1812

From William Eustis

Washington Septr 5. 1812.


I enclose herewith a Letter from Colo McArthur1 by Mr Huntington who arrived the day before yesterday & who has this morning taken a carriage to bring in Colo. Cass left about 70 miles from the city in consequence of indisposition, and who may be expected in the course of the day. It appears to be an universal sentiment of the Officers who have come in that the surrender of the post & troops was unnecessary & that they were surrendered to an inferior force. Many circumstances are related by Mr H who is from Cleveland in company with Colo. Cass there were fourteen days provision on hand with an abundant supply within controul of the post, a sufficiency of arms ammunition & willing minds for offensive or defensive measures—it is even stated that the capture of Malden was within the power of our troops from the beginning to the capitulation—such are the reports. The arrival of Colo. Cass will throw more light on the subject.

Genl. Wadsworth whose troops are the nearest to Sandusky & the rapids of the Miami will be supplied with 1500 stands of arms ammunition & camp Equipage is requested to march 1500 men to the frontiers to protect the settlements, & to join the army which amounting to upwards of 3000 has marched under Genl Winchester who was at Cincinnati on the 27th of August.2

I am anxious for fort Wayne. Tecumseh told Genl. Brock “You have done as you pleased at Detroit, let me have my way at F. Wayne”:3 but Mr Huntington says that Brock had ordered 250 regulars to accompany him. Gov. Meigs informs me that fort Wayne will be protected & that he had ordered mounted infantry who would march on the day he wrote. May they be in season & in sufficient numbers!4

By the enclosed Letter from General Dearborn it appears that at present he contemplates only the conquest of the South Side of the St. Lawrence to Montreal for which purpose he is directing his main body of regulars by way of Lake Champlain.5

By the mail of this day Letters from General Pinckney are received, enclosing copies of requisitions from the Govr of E. Florida to the Gov’s of Havannah &c. for ⟨pr⟩ovissions.6 These have it is presumed been transmitted from ⟨the⟩ Dept of State, where they were rec’d some says [sic] since.

The Letters from Genl. Wilkinson received by the mail of this morning are transmitted7—as well as those from Genl. Wadsworth,8 Colo. McArthur—& Colo. Worthington at Picqua.9 The return of these Letters with any directions respecting them by as early a mail as may be convenient is requested.

It is mentioned by Mr Huntington that the names of five hundred inhabitants of upper Canada (who had acknowleged allegiance to the U. S. or given some pledge to Gen Hull) had been enrolled in a book, and it was feared that the book had been given up. It is most fervently to be hoped that this may not prove true. The article in the capitulation comprehending “all public records,” may have caused the apprehension.

Mr H. presents me the original articles of capitulation which were given to him by Colo. Cass. They do not vary from those which have been published. That they should have been transmitted in this manner accords with ⟨a⟩ll the transactions relative to this catastrophe. Wheatons ⟨le⟩tter will I fear be found to reveal the secret.10 With perfect respect

W. Eustis

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM; torn. For probable enclosures, see nn. 1, 5, 7, 8, and 9.

1Eustis probably enclosed Duncan McArthur’s two-page letter of 25 Aug. 1812 announcing the surrender of Detroit (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, M-398:6).

2Eustis sent orders to this effect on 5 Sept. to Maj. Gen. Elijah Wadsworth (1747–1817), in command of the Fourth Division of Ohio militia (DNA: RG 107, LSMA; Drake, Roster of Ohio Soldiers in the War of 1812 [1995 reprint], 4).

3On 8 Sept. 1812 the National Intelligencer published an anonymous 28 Aug. report from Pittsburgh that described the fall of Detroit, explaining that Tecumseh had claimed that he “had let the British do as they pleased at Detroit, and he expected the same liberty at Fort Wayne.”

4Gov. Return Jonathan Meigs’s 24 Aug. 1812 letter to Eustis enclosed a 19 Aug. letter he had received from James Rhea, commander at Fort Wayne, which expressed concern that the fort was in danger. Meigs informed Eustis that Ohio troops would be mounted the following morning to defend the post (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, M-393:6).

5Eustis probably enclosed Dearborn’s five-page letter of 29 Aug. 1812, which explained that three infantry regiments under Brig. Gen. Joseph Bloomfield and two regiments of artillery had marching orders for Lake Champlain. Dearborn informed Eustis that if he were given command of two or three thousand extra regular troops as well as the militia from New York and Vermont, he “could clear the Southern Shore of the St, Lawrence, to the river opposite Montreal” (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, D-141:6).

6Thomas Pinckney (1750–1828), brother of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, was a veteran of the Revolutionary War, governor of South Carolina (1787–89), minister to Great Britain (1792–96), and a member of Congress (1797–1801). In 1812 he received a major general’s commission, commanding forces in much of the South throughout the War of 1812 (Edgar et al., Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives, 3:561–63). Eustis probably referred to 27 and 29 Aug. 1812 letters from Pinckney. The 29 Aug. letter had enclosed translated copies of intercepted letters dated 9 Aug. 1812 from the governor of East Florida, Sebastián Kindelán, to the governor of Cuba, Juan Ruíz de Apodaca (3 pp.), and the commander in chief of the Bahamas, Guillermo Vesey Munnings (3 pp.), requesting provisions. After describing the desperate need for food at St. Augustine, Kindelán explained to the British officer in the Bahamas that the depletion of supplies had rendered his forces unable to thwart the hostile activities of the U.S. He informed Munnings that he had broken “the barrier, with which that band of foragers, who oppose me, obstructed our communication with the Indians; and, having attached the latter to our cause, I induced them to begin their hostilities” (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, P-227:6, P-228:6).

7Eustis probably enclosed 4 and 10 Aug. 1812 letters from Brig. Gen. James Wilkinson. The first letter (6 pp.) reported on conditions on the southwestern frontier, including the growing strength of forces gathering under Augustus Magee for an invasion of Mexico. Wilkinson suggested that the administration might seize the opportunity “to extend our occupances to … the Rio Grande.” He also suggested action against Mobile and Pensacola. In the second letter (8 pp.) Wilkinson discussed the defense of New Orleans and requested a ruling on his authority over naval officers (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, W-285:6, W-286:6).

8Eustis probably enclosed 25 and 31 Aug. 1812 letters from Wadsworth (2 pp. each) reporting on his efforts to protect the inhabitants of the Ohio frontier in the aftermath of Hull’s surrender (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, W-283:6, W-284:6).

9Eustis probably enclosed two 20 Aug. 1812 letters from Worthington. The first, written with Jeremiah Morrow, explained that extra caution would be taken to “keep the Indians quiet” in light of Hull’s difficulties. It informed Eustis that British interference and the “unfavourable state of our affairs to the North” would delay the council at Piqua “beyond what might otherwise have been necessary” (printed in Michigan Historical Collections 40 [1929]: 457–58). Worthington wrote again later that day (2 pp.) to address problems of supply and to report rumors that the U.S. intended to go to war with the Indians in the Northwest. He expressed his hope that the U.S. would not be “treating and fighting” at the same time (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, W-288:6).

10No such letter from Joseph Wheaton has been found.

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