James Madison Papers

From James Madison to James Monroe, 21 September 1812

To James Monroe

Washington Sepr. 21 1812

Dear Sir

Not a word from abroad, or the West, since you left us. Dearborn has still one eye on Montreal, and the other on Niagara: forcing the attention of the Enemy to both, with a purpose, doubtless of striking, himself, at either or both according to circumstances.1 The story of an armament agst. Plattsburg is groundless. Niagara was very weak at the last date, and more in danger of attack, than Plattsburg. But Dearborne counted on about 3,000 regulars & 4000 militia, as soon to be there. Proofs multiply daily, of the difficulty of obtaining regulars, and of the fluctuating resource in the Militia. High bounties & short enlistments, however objectionable, will alone fill the ranks; and these too in a moderate number. This plan wd. have give [sic] us a greater force in July, when the Enemy were unprepared, than we shall have in Novr. when it is possible reinforcements may have reached Canada from England. D. has allotted a Brigade at Niagara, to Smith. This has given rise to the pretensions in his letter to you;2 which I am persuaded go beyond the intentions of Genl. D, as well as beyond military rules. How Van R. is to rank, without commanding him in a conjoint operation, is not understood; or why he shd. not do so without the limits of the U. S. if under their Govt., any more than without the limits of N. Y: as in the case of such an operation in Vermont, is also to be explained. Besides, an older Brigadr. as Winchester, may take the Command of the regulars at that place. If you answer his letter, I think it wd. be best to refer him to Dearborne for explanatory directions on those points; with an intimation not to act on his own ideas in the mean time. Affecte. respects

James Madison

RC (DLC: Monroe Papers).

1In his 14 Sept. 1812 letter to Eustis, Dearborn declared that he could “calculate on no movement, with any prospect of success, unless we can ultimately succeed at Niagara.” The general also discussed troop movements, his decision to give the command of a brigade at Niagara to Brig. Gen. Alexander Smyth, and his belief that command of the upper lakes should constitute an urgent strategic goal. He informed Eustis of his plan to send nearly 5,000 regular troops and militia to Plattsburgh under Brig. Gen. Joseph Bloomfield, with orders to draw British forces away from Upper Canada (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, D-168:6).

2Letter not found.

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