James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Armstrong, 17 May 1814

From John Armstrong

17th. May 1814 W. Dpt.


I had the honor of forwarding to you some days since (I think on the 9th. instant) several letters from Gen. Pinckney & a correspondence between Major Gen. Izzard and Gen. Wilkinson,1 from information given by the Secretary of State, I suspect that these dispatches have not reached you. Of the packet from the South, I have no memorandum in writing. They announced the dispersion of the savages. The Gen’s intention to repair to the Sea Coast—the return of Gen. Jackson & the Tennessee Militia to their homes & the location of the other corps composing the Army. These subjects are continued in the dispatch now enclosed from the same quarter with some new matter—the principal points of which are—the feeding of such of the hostile Indians as have come, or may come, into our camps, & the treaty to be held with the Creek nation.2 The former of these is, I conclude, indispensable, though very inconvenient & the latter (the appointment of Commissioner or Commissioners to hold the treaty) of the same character. The difficulty is to get men who would be well qualified & able to present themselves promptly for the business. The choice is still farther narrowed by Georgia & Tennessee politicks. May not Hawkins & Mc.Kee the two Indian Agents be employed, with Gov. Holmes of the Missisippi Territory?

I shall present to you in a day or two the substance of the other communications which I suppose to have been lost.

The Intelligencer of yesterday & to-day give all we know in relation to the Oswego business—excepting that Gen. Brown says in his letter of the 7th. that “it is reported to me this morning that the enemy’s 60 gun ship left Kingston yesterday.”3 I think it probable that so long as the attacks of the enemy were direct on the Fort, Mitchel kept his ground & with considerable advantage—but that so soon as the enemy effected a landing out of reach of his guns—he would retire to the Falls, 13 miles in the rear of the Fort, & put the river between himself and them, untill by reinforcements, he would be able to drive them off. That the Fleet has returned to Kingston we know. On the whole, the attack has failed—their object was to capture the guns of our new Frigate & a store of army provisions. The last had been got down to Sackets harbor. I am Sir with the highest respect Your obed. & faithful servt

J. Armstrong

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM. For enclosures, see n. 2.

1See Thomas Pinckney to Armstrong, 18 Apr. 1813, and n. 1, Armstrong to JM, 9 May 1814, and n. 1, and JM to Armstrong, 17 May 1814, and n. 4.

2Armstrong evidently enclosed Maj. Gen. Thomas Pinckney’s letters to him of 26 Apr. and 6 May 1814. In the first (3 pp.; DNA: RG 107, LRRS, P-479:7), Pinckney enclosed a copy of a letter he had written to Benjamin Hawkins, U.S. agent to the Creek Nation, regarding the situation of the Indians [not found], and a copy of a 26 Apr. 1814 report from Hawkins (3 pp.) on the case of Hoboheilthle Micco, a ninety-four-year-old Creek chief “known by the name of the ‘Talesee King,’” who had recently been surrendered as a “peace offering” to U.S. forces and their Creek allies by former members of the hostile Creek faction. Hawkins explained that the chief had been a loyal U.S. partisan during the Revolutionary War, that the U.S. agent to the Creeks appointed thereafter had insulted and ignored him, that Hawkins had won back his friendship, but that Hoboheilthle and his associates had then “deceived, divided, & ruined the Nation” by attempting to use for their own political purposes the “fanaticism” propagated by Tecumseh and the British. The United States’ Creek allies had requested that the chief “be delivered over to the Nation to be tried for his crimes,” but Hawkins was protecting him, and asked Pinckney to decide what should be done with him. Pinckney referred the decision to JM. He enclosed, in addition, copies of his general orders for the allocation to various forts of the troops who had fought in the Creek War (3 pp.), and of a 25 Apr. 1814 letter from Hawkins to Pinckney (2 pp.) reporting Hawkins’s discussions with the friendly Creeks on the terms of peace and whether or not the hostile Creeks would accept them. In his letter of 6 May 1814 (4 pp.; ibid., P-478:7), Pinckney reported that the Indians were starving because those of them who wished to eradicate “civilized life” had destroyed all the livestock, food crops, and agricultural implements in the area, and that he had authorized the distribution of provisions to the United States’ Indian allies as well as to the hostile Creeks now willing to “submit to the Terms granted to them.” He asked Armstrong to inform Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins directly as to whether or not JM approved this course of action. In addition, Pinckney repeated his request that commissioners be appointed to “arrange all the concerns” of the Creek Nation.

3On 16 May 1814 the Daily National Intelligencer published several conflicting and unconfirmed reports regarding the outcome of the British attack on Oswego, whether or not substantial amounts of U.S. ordnance and stores were there, and which of the new British ships were involved. The following day, two letters on this subject from Capt. Isaac Chauncey to William Jones appeared (see William Jones to JM, 16 May 1814, n. 1), along with an extract of Maj. Gen. Jacob Brown’s 7 May letter to Armstrong (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, B-500:7) stating that British attempts to land troops at Oswego on 5 May had failed, but the outcome of further efforts was unknown.

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