James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Armstrong, 24 November 1813

From John Armstrong

Albany 24th Nov. 1813

Dear Sir,

I hasten to forward to you Wilkinson’s dispatch received late last night.1 I have forwarded supplies of provision, amunition, & hospital stores &c. Instructions adapted to his new situation are also given.2

Without the limits of my Dept. but closely connected with it, are several thing’s deserving immediate attention. Your fleet must be increased on Ontario. One ought to be created on Lake Champlain. Cables, anchors & guns for these, should be sent from N.Y. before the river closes. This will save much expence of carriage. Row gallies should be built on Lake St. Francis. Guns &c. will be wanted for these. To the West, the Indians should be invited to join us. They should be let loose on the B. frontier. This alone will save us from another Indian War. Yours with the greatest respect

J. Armstrong

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

1Armstrong probably enclosed Maj. Gen. James Wilkinson’s letter to him of 16 Nov. 1813, covering Wilkinson’s journal of events since his army had begun its descent of the St. Lawrence, and a return of U.S. casualties in the Battle of Chrysler’s Farm, describing the battle, and reporting his response to Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton’s decision not to join him (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 1:475–78). British forces from Kingston had followed the Americans down the river, Wilkinson wrote, and on 11 Nov. 1813 he received reports that convinced him they intended to attack. He therefore ordered Brig. Gen. John P. Boyd, in command of U.S. troops on the Canada shore, “to march upon the enemy, out flank them if possible, and take their artillery.” During the “sharp and galling” two-and-a-half-hour action that followed, Wilkinson wrote, the British were “forced back more than a mile” but then held their ground; when the firing stopped, the Americans returned to their boats and continued down the river without further interference. Wilkinson estimated that not more than 1800 U.S. troops participated in the battle, against approximately 1600 British, and reported U.S. losses of 339 killed and wounded. The affair was creditable to his “undisciplined” and “inexperienced” troops, Wilkinson argued, because they had not fled or surrendered; moreover, he claimed a victory because the British had failed to stop his progress toward Montreal. Upon his arrival at Cornwall on 12 Nov. 1813, Wilkinson wrote, he received word that Hampton would not be joining him and promptly called a council of officers, which decided to abandon the attack on Montreal and encamp the army for the winter.

2Armstrong’s letter to Wilkinson of 25 Nov. 1813 ordered him to reorganize his troops into complete regiments, to assign any extra officers to recruiting duty and other districts, to attempt to reenlist the men whose terms were expiring, and to impose strict discipline (ibid., 480).

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