James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Elijah Mix, 8 April 1813

From Elijah Mix

Washington 8th. April 1813

Respected Sir

I have to inform you that I have entered into a firm resolve With Frederick Weedon of Mathews county Virginia to Never cease our undertaking untill we have Destroyed one of our unprinsepaled enemys, now riding (as they supose) in purfect safty in our hithertoo undisturbed Waters—our first attempt Will be made on the 74 Now laying of New point Within sight of capt Weedons house. But to accomplish this Sir I have to beg of you—(as I am Intirely unprepared for to make the Necessary suplys) to order that som approp[r]iations may be made for the abov enterprize.1

And as the government Will shortly receive more than ten thousand Dollars In condemnations. Which threw my exurtions has been placed there.2 I hope the Necessary suplys may Not be Witholden. The suplys required Will be 4 torpedoes (a little Different from the former constructed ones) two boats one 25 feet Long the other 10 feet but of a Different construction.

Those suplys With two or three hundred fathen of cordage and 1200 or 1500 hundred Dollars to pay expences of 10 men beside Myself Will be all that Will be required—and With your sanction I shall go Imedeately to acomplish our Desine—I have the honor to be With the highest respect your Excellence most Obdent Devoted Servant

Elijah Mix

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1During the spring and summer of 1813, Mix attempted to blow up British warships in the Chesapeake Bay using torpedoes designed by Robert Fulton (for the act of Congress authorizing such efforts, see Fulton to JM, 18 Mar. 1813, n. 2). On 7 May, William Jones instructed Capt. Charles Gordon to provide Mix with “500 lbs. of powder, a Boat, or Boats, and Six men” for a torpedo attack on the British ships near Baltimore. Despite this assistance, Mix destroyed no ships at Baltimore, and later in the summer, off the Virginia capes, succeeded only in dousing the British ship Plantagenet with seawater by setting a torpedo that exploded too soon (Dudley, Naval War of 1812, 2:354–56). Writing Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Crowninshield on 27 Apr. 1815 to request a furlough from his position as sailing master in the navy, to which he had been appointed in June 1813, Mix lamented that despite the “compliment” he had received from JM after his attempt on the Plantagenet, the government had provided no more support for his torpedo project (DNA: RG 45, Letters from Commissioned Officers below the Rank of Commander).

2For Mix’s provision of information leading to the seizure in Boston of two ships with British licenses, to which he probably referred here, see Albert Gallatin to JM, 5 Mar. 1813 (second letter) and n. 1.

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