James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Armstrong, 9 November 1813

From John Armstrong

Albany 9th. Nov. 1813.

Dear Sir,

I have this evening received the enclosed letters from Gen. W.1 From the 3d. to the 9th., both days included, the weather has been as good as we could wish. By his calculation, he would, on the 8th., arrive at Hamilton. The 9th. would carry him to the Coteau de lac, where circumstances may, & probably will, render it necessary for him to debark. From this place to the Grand river, the country is open & very favorable to the movement of troops. I therefore take for granted that no extraordinary accident occurring, he will on the 10th. reach Grand river & on the 11th. & 12th. establish himself on the Island of Montreal. Gen Hampton has been instructed to approach the St. Laurens & to take a position which shall enable him to effect a junction with the main army. All I know of the manner in Which this order has been executed, is from the publication of Adjt. Gen. Baines, transmitted to you this morning.2 If the Gen. has fallen back, it has not been from the resistance made by three companies of Canadian Militia, but on calculation & from a belief that his approach may be better made by some other route, or perhaps, that Sir Geo. might be induced to follow him, & thus leave open the road to Montreal in his rear. From Baines’s statement, the position of Sir Geo. is badly chosen, unless he mean to seek and to fight Hampton before the arrival of Wilkinson 1st. because as a position of mere defense, it may place him between two Corps either of Which is able to beat him in the field—2d. because it abandons Montreal to our incursion & 3d. because it makes his retreat to Quebec difficult, if not impracticable, provided we seize Montreal & the water-passages below it.

If Commodore Chauncy has expressed the opinion ascribed to him, he has recently adopted it. He expressd none such to me. Perhaps the encrease of force at Kingston may excite apprehensions for the Safety of his fleet during the winter, but for this, provision has been made. The whole disposable force of Gen. Harrison’s division is ordered to Sacketts harbor & with Scot’s detachment & three hundred Convalescents, will give a regular force of 2500 Men. Winter Quarters for these are now preparing.

My last letters from the Niagara state that the enemy have entirely abandoned the peninsula. I am dear Sir, with the utmost respect, Your Obed. & faithful servt.

John Armstrong

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM. For enclosures, see n. 1.

1Armstrong probably enclosed James Wilkinson’s letters to him of 28 Oct. and 1 and 3 Nov. 1813 (DNA: RG 107, LRUS, W-1813). In the first, Wilkinson reported bad weather and sickness that had impeded the movements of his army, and dissatisfaction among the troops related to the commands of colonels Isaac Coles and James P. Preston. On 1 Nov. he stated that he would “yield [his] Judgement, to … the executive inclinations” communicated in Armstrong’s letter to him of 20 Oct. 1813 (ASP, Military Affairs, description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States … (38 vols.; Washington, 1832–61). description ends 1:473, in which Armstrong argued that Wilkinson should attack Montreal rather than Kingston). Capt. Isaac Chauncey, Wilkinson wrote, disagreed with the decision not to attack Kingston but would nevertheless move his squadron into the St. Lawrence to protect the army’s descent towards Montreal. Finally, on 3 Nov., Wilkinson requested that Armstrong inform Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton where his army was to meet Wilkinson’s, rather than requiring Wilkinson to do so, since Hampton had “treated [Wilkinson’s] authority with contempt, & … acted exclusively under [Armstrong’s] orders.”

2Armstrong probably referred to British adjutant general Edward Baynes’s general order of 27 Oct. 1813, in which Baynes reported that Canadian forces on the Chateaugay River had held their position against an attack by Hampton’s much larger army, subjecting the Americans to “complete disgrace and defeat” while losing only five killed, sixteen wounded and four missing (Niles’ Weekly Register 5 [1813–14]: 202–3).

Index Entries