James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Armstrong, 20 May 1814

From John Armstrong

20th. May 1814 War Dept.

Dear Sir,

The three last mails from Sackets harbr. brought nothing in addition to what I have communicated. There is reason to believe the enemys flotilla on Lake Champlain is in motion; a report prevailed at Albany on the morning of the 16th. that McDonough has taken from them a Sloop and four gallies.1 Izzards account (enclosed) of the state in which he found the troops on Lake Champlain is most painful & shews the incompetence, or inattention, or both of his predecessor (W.).2

Scots representation of his brigade as to cloathing is also bad and would be unaccountable, but for the fact he states, that the Stores at Albany were emptied by the orders of Gen’l Wilkinson & carried to Lake Champlain.3 But if so why the nakedness of the Division there?

Genl. Winchesters arrived here two days ago. He demands an enquiry into his conduct, and asserts, that he had orders to go on &c. He is under much excitement. I have answered that a court could not be given during the Campaigns. He then asked permission to see his family. This has been given to him.

Gen’l. Harrison resigned his Mil. appointment on the 11th inst. and expects to be releived on the 31st. in the command of the 8th Division.4 Mc.Arthur is next to him in rank but being destined to the command of the Brigade composed of Pauls & Millers Regiments, he will not be long in the District5 and in his absence, the command devolves on Genl. Howard, of this officer I have heard nothing latterly. The presumption is that he has gone on to St. Louis.

I find by letters to the Sec. of the Treasury that Tennessee is a good deal on edge that Jackson had not been associated with Pinckney & Hawkins for making the treaty with the Creeks. It does not appear that Gen. Pinckney communicated the last order given to him on this subject (I knew h[e] recieved it). In the new form prescribed (that of a military submission) there was no room for objection or complaint.6 My own opinion however is that he percieved symptons [sic] of discontent with regard to himself and fearing that a discovery of the last order would not mend the matter he not only declined shewing it, but withdrew from the business altogether.

The English papers indicate a good deal of preparation for the next Campaign in this country. The fleet on the coast is to divert us from Canada, & frigates in fragments to be sent to the Lakes.7 This was the plan before the allies enclosed Paris. They will now be at liberty to adopt other & greater means. With the highest respect I am Sir, Your Obt. & faithful servt.

(Signed) J. Armstrong

Tr (DLC). For enclosure, see n. 2.

1The Albany Gazette published this report on 16 May 1814 and retracted it on 19 May, noting: “Our fleet is not yet out.”

2Armstrong enclosed Maj. Gen. George Izard’s 7 May 1814 letter to him (4 pp.) reporting that he had found the U.S. regulars at Plattsburgh inadequately clothed and poorly disciplined. So many were sick or about to be discharged that he was unable to “produce an aggregate Force of more than 2000 Effectives” (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, I-466:7). Armstrong may have enclosed, as well, Izard’s 9 May 1814 letter (1 p.) adding that the dragoons at Lake Champlain were “without clothing,” their weapons largely “unfit for use,” and that neither they nor the riflemen had been paid for months (ibid., I-465:7).

3Armstrong referred to Brig. Gen. Winfield Scott’s 17 May 1814 letter to him stating that no fewer than 100 of the 1,624 U.S. soldiers on the Niagara Peninsula were “not reported for duty from an absolute deficiency of clothing” (ibid., S-489:7).

5Armstrong referred to George Paull and James Miller, colonels in the Nineteenth and Twenty-first regiments of Infantry, respectively. The latter regiment and a portion of the former were commanded by Brig. Gen. Eleazer W. Ripley on the Niagara Peninsula in the summer of 1814. Contrary to Armstrong’s statement here, he informed Harrison on 28 May 1814 that Brig. Gen. Duncan McArthur was assigned to commmand the Eighth Military District (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 1:710–11, 776; Quimby, U.S. Army in the War of 1812, 2:514–19; Esarey, Messages and Letters of William Henry Harrison, Indiana Historical Collections, 2:651).

6For Armstrong’s initial instructions to Maj. Gen. Thomas Pinckney regarding a peace treaty with the hostile Creek Indians, see Armstrong to JM, 16 Mar. 1814, and n. 1. Armstrong modified his orders on 20 Mar. 1814, informing Pinckney that “the proposed treaty with the Creeks should take a form altogether military & be in the nature of a capitulation—in which case, the whole authority of making & concluding the terms will rest in you exclusively, as commanding general” (DNA: RG 107, LSMA).

7On 20 May 1814 the Daily National Intelligencer published accounts from Liverpool and London of troops, ships, and supplies destined for North America, including “the frames of two frigates of 32 guns each, two brigs of war, and every description of naval stores, for the equipment of a numerous and most efficient flotilla for the lakes of Canada.”

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