James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Armstrong, 14 November 1813

From John Armstrong

Albany 14 Nov. 1813.

Dear Sir,

My express has this moment returned from Hampton. The Gen. has quitted the Chateauge road & by a rapid movement on that of Acadie, will compell Prevost to give up his fastnesses & either meet him on more equal terms, or retire to Montreal. Wilkinson’s movement will decide him in favor of the latter. You will see by the enclosed letters that the main army passed Prescot in the night of the 6th. & with the loss only of 2 men killed; that on the 8th. it was re-inforced by the Cavalry which had been collected at Hamilton;1 & that a communication, by letter & of respectful character, had begun between the two senior Major Generals.2 Harrison has found his old enemy in a new position, at the head of Burlington bay, and is preparing to attack him. The Gen. cannot be charged with underrating the force of his enemy. He makes it to amount to 2000 men.3 It may be half that number, including militia & Indians. I am Dear Sir, with the highest respect, your faithful & Obed: servant

J. Armstrong

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM. For enclosures, see nn. 1–2.

1The enclosure has not been found, but on 16 Nov. 1813 the Albany Argus printed this news in the form of an extract from a letter written by a source “entirely to be depended on” in Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton’s army.

2Armstrong probably enclosed Hampton’s letter to him of 12 Nov. 1813 (3 pp.), covering copies of Maj. Gen. James Wilkinson’s 6 Nov. 1813 letter to Hampton (3 pp.) and Hampton’s 8 Nov. reply (2 pp.)(DNA: RG 233, President’s Messages, 13A-E1; printed in 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 1:462–63). Wilkinson wrote that he intended to attack Montreal and that Hampton’s army should meet his at a point on the St. Lawrence to be determined by the location of the most expeditious routes. He suggested that if “not in force to face the enemy” alone, Hampton join him at St. Regis (near the border between New York and present day Quebec), where he expected to be by 9 or 10 Nov. Having only fifteen or twenty days’ supply of provisions, he requested that Hampton forward “two or three months’ supply” from Plattsburgh to Montreal. Hampton replied that because his army would have been able to bring no more provisions than “each man could have carried on his back,” and then would have dangerously depleted Wilkinson’s “scanty means,” he had decided to return to Plattsburgh rather than joining Wilkinson. From there he would contribute to the campaign by “falling upon the enemy’s flank, and straining every effort” to get supplies to Wilkinson on the St. Lawrence. On 12 Nov., writing from Plattsburgh, Hampton explained his decision to Armstrong, observing that “the junction would have reduced the stock of provisions to eight or ten days for the whole.”

3After his defeat by Maj. Gen. William Henry Harrison in the Battle of the Thames on 5 Oct. 1813, Maj. Gen. Henry Procter fled eastward. On 19 Oct. he reached Burlington, on the west end of Lake Ontario, with 246 officers and men. There he joined the forces under Maj. Gen. John Vincent (Sandy Antal, A Wampum Denied: Procter’s War of 1812 [Ottawa, 1998], 331–32, 344, 346–47, 357–60). Harrison arrived at Fort George with Brig. Gen. Duncan McArthur’s brigade on 30 Oct. 1813, and informed Armstrong on 8 Nov. that he intended to attack the British at Burlington. He enclosed the report of a deserter stating that the British force consisted of 2,000 regulars and 2,000 Indians. The number of regulars, Harrison concluded, was substantially correct, but the Indian count was “certainly exaggerated” (Quimby, U.S. Army in the War of 1812, 1:351–52; Esarey, Messages and Letters of William Henry Harrison, Indiana Historical Collections, 2:596–98).

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