James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William D. Lawrence, 24 January 1814

From William D. Lawrence

New York 24th. Jany. 1814


By what I learn from Col. W. Scott of the 2d Regt. of Artillery, I am convinced improper means have been used, to prevent my promotion, and this is my apology for making application, for what the justice of Government would have granted me ere this, had they not been imposed upon, by false reports to my prejudice.

The Affair of Queenston, tho’ unfortunate to our Country, must ever be considered honorable to the few regular troops concerned in it.1 I was among the number and suffered by the loss of an arm, but find myself passed over in the late promotions and low on the list of Captains, when almost every officer concerned in that engagement has received promotion; this is to me a serious reproach and for a time was a mystery I could not unravel.

Whether I am entitled to the patronage of Government the letter from Col Scott will show,2 this and other information concerning me will be furnished you by Genl. Van Ness, who does me the favour to hand you this—to him I beg leave to refer you.

My present disabled state will prevent me from joining the regt. but it does not disqualify me for a staff appointment, that of Asst. I⟨ns⟩p Genl. to the 3d. District is at present vacant.3 Mr. Tillotson, Nephew to the Secy. has been assigned to it, but tells me he would prefer the duties of the field. This station would be a desireable one to me at the present time. I have the honor to be with much respect and consideration—Your Mo. Obt. Servt.

Wm D. Lawrence

Captn. 13th. U.S. Infy.

RC and enclosure (DNA: RG 107, LRUS, L-1814). For enclosure, see n. 2.

1For the Battle of Queenston, see Henry Dearborn to JM, 24 Oct. 1812, PJM-PS, description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (7 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984–). description ends 5:410–11 and n. 1.

2In the enclosed letter to Lawrence, 14 Dec. 1813 (4 pp.), Winfield Scott explained that he had not known the names of the officers who served under him at Queenston and therefore had not been able to correct the mistake when Lawrence, who had performed gallantly, was confused with another officer whose conduct Scott had criticized. Upon being introduced to Lawrence later, Scott recognized the error. He believed that Lawrence was qualified for a general staff appointment, Scott wrote, and that he deserved one in recognition of having been wounded.

3As of 1 June 1814, this position had not been filled (Army Register for 1814 [Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 33019], 3). Lawrence did not receive a general staff appointment and remained at the rank of captain until honorably discharged on 15 June 1815 (Heitman, Historical Register, description begins Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, from Its Organization, September 29, 1789, to March 2, 1903 (2 vols.; 1903; reprint, Baltimore, 1994). description ends 1:619).

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