James Madison Papers

To James Madison from St. George Tucker, 29 March 1813

From St. George Tucker

Wmsburg March 29. 1813.

Dear Sir,

I fear you will think me a troublesome Correspondent, but the Information contained in the enclosed, which I have just taken from the Lips of five deserters from the British Ship Dragon, I apprehend ought to be conveyed to you as early as possible.1 It seems to indicate an attack upon Newyork:2 at least, the taking the Congreve Rockets, out of the Ships on this Station, and sending them to the Northward, has a suspicious appearance; As to the taking of the Acasta frigate by the Cheasapeake, I do not venture to credit it, upon such Information, especially, as by comparing dates, the news of her Capture must have reach’d our Bay, within six days after she sailed from thence for Bermuda.3 I am very respectfully, Dear Sir, Your most obedt. Servt.

S:G: Tucker

RC and enclosure (DNA: RG 107, LRUS, T-1813). RC docketed by JM, with his note: “for perusal of the Secy. of War & Secy. of Navy.” For enclosure, see n. 1.

1Tucker enclosed a deposition and additional information “taken from five Deserters from the British Ship Dragon, who arrived in williamsburg on Sunday the 28th of March 1813” (4 pp.; docketed as received in the War Department in March 1813). The men stated that on 24 Mar. all the Congreve rockets on the British ships at the mouth of the Chesapeake had been put on board the seventy-fours Ramillies and Mulgrave, “both which saild immediately to the northward, towards Newyork.” On 26 Mar. “all the Ships under Admiral Cockburn, viz: the Marlborough, the Dragon; & the Victorious, of seventy four Guns each, and the Junon & Maidstone Frigates” had prepared to get under way. According to the deserters, the British ships were undermanned and short on water and supplies. The men also relayed a report that the British frigate Acasta had been captured by the Chesapeake while convoying prize ships to Bermuda. The Acasta had left the Chesapeake Bay on 15 Mar., they said, and news of its capture arrived there on 21 Mar. via an “English brig from Bermuda.”

2The British did not attack New York in the spring of 1813, but the Ramillies did help to establish a blockade of the city at the eastern end of Long Island Sound (Dudley, Naval War of 1812, 2:134).

3Tucker was right to doubt the report. Capt. Samuel Evans’s 10 Apr. 1813 account of his cruise in the Chesapeake does not mention the Acasta, which arrived at Sandy Hook on 7 Apr. 1813 and participated there in the blockade of New York (ibid., 2:98–101, 134, 347 n. 2).

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