James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Richard M. Johnson, 14 July 1813

From Richard M. Johnson

Camp on the Road to Piqua. July. 14th. 1813.


Upwards of thirty days had elapsed from the date of your order thro the Sec of war to General Harrison ordering the M Regt. to Kaskaskias1 before it came to me, then at the M: of Huron with the main body of the Regt a party being as low down as Cleaveland. The situation of our horses &c as represented to Heneral [sic] Harrison the position of the Regt. being at least 650 miles from Kaskaskias & the desire of going with the N. W. Army to Detroit & Maldin induced me to solicit the priviledge of remaining on the Station where we were—but as General Harrison did not think he could take upon himself such responsibility as your order was peremtory, I am happy to inform you, that we are attempting to execute your order with dispach & from the great personal sacrifices the wealthy of the Regt are making to get horses for the dismounted & from other arrangements I am animated with a hope that we shall carry to Kaskaskias about 800 efficient men—on the 14th I left Huron & I am now within 28 miles of Piqua. I shall commence the line of march from Greenville to Vincenns by way of the Wabash & Fort Harrison with a view of protecting the Frontiers as much as possible as small parties have been troublesome, in that quarter. And altho we left the N. W. Army with some reluctance owing to considerations urged in my letter to Genl. Harrison who promised to transmit a copy to you,2 I now feel perfectly satisfied & happy in the order, which we recd. to march to the mississippi. We are happy to learn you are recovering from your indisposition—which has given us much concern. Your friend & sert.

Rh. M. Johnson3

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1John Armstrong to William Henry Harrison, 9 June 1813 (DNA: RG 107, LSMA).

2In his letter to Harrison of 9 July 1813, Johnson argued that his mounted regiment would be rendered ineffective if sent to Kaskaskia, because the men’s term of service would expire soon after they arrived and it would be much more difficult to provide for their horses there. Johnson added that recent information, “not known to the President when he gave the order,” indicated that few Indians were actually threatening the Indiana and Illinois frontiers, and asked that Harrison keep the regiment in the Lake Erie region or make Johnson himself responsible for the decision (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, H-179:7). On 12 July 1813, Harrison forwarded to Armstrong a copy of Johnson’s letter (Esarey, Messages and Letters of William Henry Harrison, Indiana Historical Collections, 2:490).

3Richard M. Johnson (1781–1850) was born in Kentucky, attended Transylvania University, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1802. A Jeffersonian Republican, he served in the Kentucky General Assembly from 1804 to 1806, and from 1807 to 1819 in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he voted in favor of the declaration of war in 1812. As a colonel of Kentucky volunteers, Johnson led his regiment in the Battle of the Thames on 5 Oct. 1813, during which he was severely wounded and reportedly killed the Indian leader Tecumseh. Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1819, he retained his seat until 1837, when he became vice president under Martin Van Buren. After one term in that office, he returned to the Kentucky legislature for several years. The military reputation he gained in 1813 served him well politically, but its effect was partially negated by public knowledge of his relationship with Julia Chinn, whom he inherited as a slave and by whom he had two daughters (John E. Kleber, et al., eds., The Kentucky Encyclopedia [Lexington, Ky., 1992], 475).

Index Entries