James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Paul Hamilton, [ca. 20 October] 1812

From Paul Hamilton

[ca. 20 October 1812]

All the public vessels, worthy of repair, have been put in requisition—& the following are now in actual service,

frigate President
United States
Ship— John Adams
" Wasp
" Hornet
Brig Siren
" Argus
" Vixen
" Enterprize
" Viper
" Oneida

& all the gun boats

The frigates Constellation & Chesapeake have been repaired & are expected to sail in a few days.

The frigate Adams is now repairing; but will probably not be ready for sea before spring.

*At new orleans, in consequence of the late Hurricane, heavy expenditures became necessary & were authorized1—& in addition to the naval force stationed in those waters, two block ships, & as many small vessels as might in the opinion of the commg military & naval officers be deemed essentially necessary for the defence of n’orleans; were authorized.

At new York, Telegraphs have been established to convey information from the Hook—fire ships have been authorized to be built; & all the public vessels have been put in requisition for the defence of that harbour.

On the Lakes Ontario & Erie, extensive naval operations have been authorized—with the view to our obtaining the Mastery on those Lakes.2

On Lake Champlain—the same.3

At Charleston—12 barges have been authorized—six of which are stationed at Sunbury.4

Note. None of these expenditures,5 were contemplated in the Estimate for the year 1812—of course they are all extraordinary—their amount will probably not fall short of $750,000.

In our operations against the Enemy, we have lost

The brig Nautilus6 of 12 guns—commd. by Lieutt Crane.7 The result of a court of Enquiry leaves us no cause to blush on that occasion! All acted well. She was captured by a squadron of large ships.

We have captured

The Alert—a national brig of 18 guns—captd by the Essex.8

The Guerriere a national frigate of 49 guns—" Constitution9

& 22 merchant Vessels.

Lieutt. Elliott,10 on the 8th Octr., proceeded with 2 boats to Fort Erie, & cut out two British vessels of war, viz. brig Detroit (late U S brig Adams) & brig Caledonia. This enterprize was effected under circumstances very perilous & highly honorable to the Party performing it.

RC (DLC). Undated; dated 1812 in the Index to the James Madison Papers; date assigned here on the assumption that news of the 9 Oct. 1812 capture of the Detroit and the Caledonia on Lake Erie could not have reached Washington before mid-October and that Hamilton submitted this report to aid JM in the writing of his annual message to Congress of 4 Nov. 1812. Unsigned.

1On 19 Aug. 1812 a hurricane struck the Mississippi Delta, seriously damaging U.S. gunboats and other vessels at anchor. On 25 Sept., after the news had reached Washington, Hamilton authorized the commanding officer in New Orleans, John Shaw, to “make every necessary provision to supply the place of any boats, that may have been lost, & to defend the Water passes to new orleans” (Dudley, Naval War of 1812, 1:407).

3On 28 Sept. 1812 Hamilton ordered Lt. Thomas Macdonough to assume command on Lake Champlain, where he was to oversee the preparation of two gunboats and six vessels then under construction. Hamilton also directed thirty seamen under Commodore Chauncey’s command to be sent for Macdonough’s immediate service and promised Dearborn’s assistance as well (Dudley, Naval War of 1812, 1:319–20).

4On 9 July 1812 Hamilton ordered John H. Dent to send six completed barges to Sunbury, Georgia, and to build an additional six for Charleston (DNA: RG 45, Letters to Officers).

5Above the line here Hamilton wrote, “from *.”

6On 16 July 1812 Capt. Philip Broke’s squadron captured the Nautilus less than a day out of New York, marking the first U.S. naval loss in the War of 1812. On 26 Sept. a court of inquiry was held aboard the United States in Boston (Dudley, Naval War of 1812, 1:209, 476 n.).

7William M. Crane (d. 1846) received his lieutenant’s commission in 1803. During the War of 1812 he rose through the ranks quickly, becoming a commander in 1813 and a captain in 1814 (Callahan, List of Officers of the Navy description begins Edward W. Callahan, List of Officers of the Navy of the United States and of the Marine Corps from 1775 to 1900 (New York, 1900). description ends , 137).

8On 14 Aug. 1812 the U.S. frigate Essex, commanded by Capt. David Porter, captured the first British vessel in the war, forcing the Alert to surrender after less than ten minutes of battle (Dudley, Naval War of 1812, 1:218–19 and n. 1).

9For the capture of the Guerrière, see Monroe to JM, 4 Sept. 1812, nn. 2 and 3.

10Lt. Jesse D. Elliott (d. 1845) participated in the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813 and was promoted to the rank of master commandant in July of that year. He became a captain in 1818, despite alienating many of his peers by his quarrels with popular naval leaders, particularly Commodores Perry and Decatur (Callahan, List of Officers of the Navy description begins Edward W. Callahan, List of Officers of the Navy of the United States and of the Marine Corps from 1775 to 1900 (New York, 1900). description ends , 181; Dudley, Naval War of 1812, 1:327).

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