James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Harry Toulmin, 14 September 1813

From Harry Toulmin

Mobile 14th Sepr. 1813

Dear Sir

Since the letter and P.S. accompanying this were addressed to your Excellency;1 I have received letters from Govr. Holmes & Genl. Claiborne, of which I do myself the honour to inclose copies:2 and have this day been favoured by Major Gibson with a letter addressed to him by Coll. Bowyer, and which he has been kind enough to give me for the purpose of its being forwarded to you.3 You will not doubt of the distress which we feel on these alarming accounts. To defend the country is impossible with the force existing here, which is daily diminishing by the expiration of the volunteers’ terms of service: and where to flee to for safety to our helpless families; I have no idea.

I trust to God that this express may safely reach Georgia, so that you may receive early intelligence of the alarming state of things in this quarter. Would to heaven that there was any one among us authorized to prevent the Choctaws from falling into the snares of the enemy; and who coul’d in the name of the Government invite them to come forward for our protection! I have the honour to be with the highest esteem & most respectful consideration, your Excellency’s dutiful and most obedt sert

Harry Toulmin

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, TP, Mississippi). For enclosures, see n. 2.

2David Holmes’s letter to Toulmin of 3 Sept. 1813 (2 pp.) stated that Holmes had ordered the assembly of several companies of Mississippi Territory militia for defense against the hostile Creeks and was on the verge of marching with them to the vicinity of Mobile when he received word from Brig. Gen. Thomas Flournoy that the general did not consider himself authorized to call out the militia, that he could not credit reports that the Creeks planned a large-scale attack on U.S. settlements, and that if he found more defense was needed on the frontier he would send the Seventh Regiment. Since the government of the Mississippi Territory had no funds to pay the expenses of the militia, the assembled companies could not march. Holmes was still determined, however, to send a company of dragoons to the frontier, and stated that he would fund them through his own private means if necessary.

The enclosed extract of Brig. Gen. Ferdinand L. Claiborne to Toulmin, 12 Sept. 1813 (4 pp.), transmitted Holmes’s letter of 3 Sept. and conveyed Claiborne’s approval of Toulmin’s plan to send an express to the governor of Georgia in order to counteract the effects of Benjamin Hawkins’s “civil war story.” Claiborne relayed reports that thirty Choctaws had joined the hostile Creeks, who were planning an attack on St. Stephens or Mount Vernon “in 10 days,” and expressed his conviction that “nothing will save the country, but marching immediately into the nation” with 1,500 soldiers. A visit from Flournoy would “inspire the people with great confidence,” Claiborne wrote, but if Flournoy could not come to Mount Vernon, Claiborne would go to Mobile to see him. In conclusion, Claiborne lamented the “untimely death” of Capt. James B. Wilkinson, whose willingness to provide arms and ammunition for the settlers’ self-defense had made him very popular.

3Lt. Col. John Bowyer’s 14 Sept. 1813 letter to Maj. George Gibson of the Seventh Regiment of Infantry reported the presence at Pensacola of a British armed schooner “with arms, Ammunition, clothing and Blankets for the Hostile Indians.” The Seminoles, Bowyer wrote, were “certainly for War” and argued that “the Americans commenced the War” with the assault on the Creeks at the Battle of Burnt Corn. He believed that “the Hostile Creeks expect a large support from all the Southern Indians, as well as those living to the west of the Mississippi,” and that the latter were planning to assail the Mississippi settlements as soon as the inhabitants there were distracted by the hostilities near Mobile. The Indians, he concluded, were “only waiting for supplies to commence an attack on every part of our Frontiers” (DNA: RG 59, TP, Mississippi).

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