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but the preponderance of strength against it was overwhelming, and opportunities did not occur for those even-handed encounters in which it had previously won so much reputation. On Lake Champlain, however, came a bright flash of former success. The victory of McDonough at Plattsburgh, achieved just a year and a day after that of Perry on Lake Erie, approached the latter in brilliancy, and preserved for our navy its darling place in the national pride and affections.
On land, where our real strength lay, the campaign was checkered with successes and reverses. Our National Capital, then an unfortified village, suffered the humiliation which nearly every European capital had suffered within a few years, of being captured by an enemy. But it encountered a barbarity which neither Cossack nor Jacobin had inflicted on any capital of the Old World, in having its public, and a portion of its private, edifices, first rifled and then burnt to the ground—altogether “an enterprise,” as Sir James Mackintosh well remarked in the British House of Commons, “which most exasperated a people, and least weakened a government of any recorded in the annals of war.”
But the generals had now been found who, to recur to Jefferson's phrase, were “marked in the forehead.” The battle of Chippewa, where a superior body of veteran English troops was nearly routed; Bridgewater or Lundy's Lane where midnight darkness did not arrest the hand to hand strife, or hush the roar of battle rising high over the eternal thunder of Niagara; the splendid sortie of Fort Erie; the victory of Plattsburgh— the adjunct of McDonough's victory in the bay; Jackson's train of unexampled successes in the South, ending with the crowning triumph of New Orleans—demonstrated what American troops could do when properly commanded. No pretence could now be set up by enemies without or British idolaters within, that we overwhelmed our enemy by numerical superiority—or by possessing the advantage in point of discipline. In these encounters, the British had the larger force. Nor is this all. British official statements will show that their regular troops employed in Canada during 1814, outnumbered all the regulars of the United States."
* Their newspapers and their officers talked of making a serious “invasion” of the
Lieutenant General Drummond was acting on the offensive when the actions in the Canadian peninsula, which have been mentioned, were fought. He was attempting to drive before him a comparative handful of American troops, under General Brown, preparatory to an anticipated descent upon the State of New York. He consequently had his choice of time for fighting, and in making all the important dispositions of the campaign.
On the score of time of service, and seasoning in practical war, the British troops also possessed a decided advantage. Napoleon was a prisoner. England was pouring the veterans of the Peninsular war into Canada—and had her existence as a nation been staked on the result, she could not have sent choicer or more honorably distinguished troops. The very men who had rushed to the assault at Ciudad Rodrigo, and quelled the murderous defence of Badajos; the very horses that had charged, the sabres that had flashed, and the cannon that had thundered at Corunna, Talavera, Salamanca and Vittoria—rushed to the assault, charged, flashed and thundered at Chippewa, Bridgewater, and New Orleans. When at Chippewa, Major Jessup, leaping from his second horse, ordered the 25th United States regiment of infantry to cease firing and to try the bayonet, his completely successful charge was directed against the far fuller 100th British regiment of infantry, commanded by the Marquis of Tweedale, who had been an aid-de-camp of Wellington in Spain, and learned his lessons of war under that great commander." Brown, Scott, Ripley, Porter, Miller, Brady, Nicholas, Jessup, Leavenworth, McNeil, McRee, McFarland, Wood, Hindman, Arrows with, Austin, Jones, Smith—not to mention such subordinates as Worth, Towson, Ritchie, IIarris, Bliss, Biddle, and that young and gallant inheritor of a great name, who here found his last field, Ambrose Spencer—all these" and the men they commanded at Bridgewater, where bayonet constantly crossed bayonet; where, in the language of General
United States—and some of the former, apparently in earnest, ventured amusing speculations on the probability of the United States being wholly, or in part, reconquered.
* The present Duke of Wellington married a daughter of the Marquis of Tweedale.
* We name the most conspicuous American officers engaged in the action, except those below the rank of captain—without intending to make any distinction between those of the same rank, by the order in which we have placed their names. All may be said to have distinguished themselves equally according to rank. , And as we have not searched for the names of our commanders beyond two or three historical accounts of the battle lying at hand, it is altogether probable we have omitted names as well entitled to be in the list, as those placed there.
Drummond's official report, “in so determined a manner were the American attacks directed against his guns, that his artillerymen were bayoneted by them in the very act of loading, and the muzzles of the American guns were advanced within a few yards of his own;” when in the thick darkness regiments fired and charged by the light of each others volleys; when but one out of four of the whole American force escaped death or wounds; and when the Americans drove their enemy entirely from the field, and then retired at their own time, and in perfect order, to their camp—they were opposed to a superior number of the same officers and men who had aided to tame the pride of Victor, Massena, Marmont and Soult." The war of 1812 closed in a blaze of American triumph. The incidents of the negotiation and the particular terms of the treaty do not belong here. The latter was concluded in December, 1814, and proclaimed in the United States in February, 1815. It left the boundaries and relations of the two nations as before the war. As it contained no stipulations against British impressments, it has been often asserted by the detractors of Mr. Madison's Administration and of the Republican party, that it failed in securing the first and principal object for which the war had been undertaken. Those who take this view, look at the form, and disregard the substance. The orders in council had been repealed. Impressments ceased. It is true, that with the peace then reigning in Europe, England had no further immediate occasion for impressment; but if she renewed it, we could also renew the war with the return of the occasion— strengthened by our intermediate growth, and by the assistance of her enemy, whose hostilities should again force her to resort to this method of filling her navy. Our resistance and retaliation would thus be at least co-existent with the practical aggression. Jefferson, so peculiarly decided on the subject of impressment, approved of the peace.on the terms in which it was made, and by one of those felicitous characterizations habitual to him
* And in illustration of the material of the American soldier, the statement ought not to be omitted that six or seven hundred of those who won the field of Bridgewater, were volunteers. They took full part in the action, and the commander-in-chief himself tore witness that “Porter's volunteers.” “were not excelled by the regulars in meeting the charge," that “precipitated by the incitement of their gallant commander,” they fell upon the enemy's line hand to hand, broke it, and compelled many to surrender. The literal massacre of New Orleans, inflicted in part by irregular troops, also fell upon the English veterans from Spain, three to one more numerous than the victors.
in politics, he defined its character, and established a national policy for the future. He wrote to the President, before learning that the treaty was ratified: “I presume that, having spared to the pride of England her formal acknowledgment of the atrocity of impressment in an article of the treaty, she will concur in a convention for relinquishing it. Without this, she must understand that the present is but a truce, determinable on the first act of impressment of an American citizen, committed by any officer of hers.” He wrote to a former member of his Cabinet, General Dearborn, March 17th, 1815:
“Peace was indeed desirable; yet it would not have been as welcome without the successes of New Orleans. These last have established truths too important not to be valued; that the people of Louisiana are sincerely attached to the Union; that their city can be defended; that the Western States make its defence their peculiar concern; that the militia are brave; that their deadly aim countervails the manoeuvering skill of their enemy; that we have officers of natural genius now starting forward from the mass; and that, putting together all our conflicts, we can beat the British by sea and by land, with equal numbers. All this being now proved, I am glad of the pacification of Ghent, and shall still be more so, if, by a reasonable arrangement against impressment, they will make it truly a treaty of peace, and not a mere truce, as we must all consider it, until the principle of the war is settled.”
And the following to another Cabinet associate, Rodney, discloses his secret feelings towards England at this period. After condemning in burning language the conduct of the rulers of both France and England, and the deep “hatred” of the latter towards the United States, he continued :
“What nourishment and support would not England receive from an hundred millions of industrious descendants, whom some of her people now born will live to see here. What their energies are, she has lately tried. And what has she not to fear from an hundred millions of such men, if she continues her maniac course of hatred and hostility to them. I hope in God she will change. There is not a nation on the globe with whom I have more earnestly wished a friendly intercourse on equal conditions. On no other would I hold out the hand of friendship to any. I know that their creatures represent me as personally an enemy to England. But fools only can believe this, or those who think me a fool. I am an enemy to her insults and injuries. I am an enemy to the flagitious principles of her administration, and to those which govern her conduct towards other nations. But would she give to morality some place in her political code, and especially would she exercise decency, and at least neutral passions towards us, there is not, I repeat it, a people on earth with whom I would sacrifice so much to be in friendship.”
The “truce,” or “armistice,” as Mr. Jefferson termed it in other letters, was never broken. Having learned that the United States had finally and firmly resolved to fight rather than endure the impressment of their citizens, England forever relinquished the practice. There were good reasons enough, without treaty stipulations, for her discontinuing a method of recruiting her navy which cost her the lives of more men than she thus obtained, and also ten times the price of obtaining an equal number of men by subsidy.' An “armistice” on purely equal terms was not very discreditable when made with a power which, after twelve years of such war as the world never before witnessed, had finally sent Napoleon a captive to St. Helena, and now had her thousand cruisers, her unemployed armies, and those resources which had subsidized Europe to devote exclusively to the struggle with us. Nor was it very discreditable for the United States to make peace, when the practical causes of the war were removed, though we failed to extort that formal relinquishment from our antagonist which the Armed Neutrality (consisting of Russia, France, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Prussia, Denmark, Sweden, IIolland and Naples) had thirty years earlier failed to extort from the same power. We had achieved our great object—for henceforth we were in fact, as well as in name, an independent nation. Mr. Jefferson's correspondence during 1814 is unusually large and interesting. A letter to Thomas Leiper, January 1st, discloses the fruitful sources of so many contemporaneous and more especially posthumous attacks on himself:
“Thus am I situated. I receive letters from all quarters, some from known friends, some from those who write like friends, on various subjects. What am I to do? Am I to button myself up in Jesuitical reserve, rudely declining any answer, or answering in terms so unmeaning, as only to prove my distrust? Must
Jefferson wrote to the Rev. Mr. Worcester, January 20th, 1816:
“It is alleged that Great Britain took from us before the late war near one thousand vessels, and that during the war we took from her fourteen hundred. That before the war she seized and made slaves of six thousand of our citizens, and that in the war we killed more than six thousand of her subjects, and caused her to expend such a sum as amounted to four or five thousand guineas a head for every slave she made. She might have purchased the vessels she took for less than the value of those she lost, and have used the six thousand of her men killed for the purposes to which she applied ours, have saved the four or five thousand guineas a head, and obtained a character of justice which is valuable to a nation as to an individual. These considerations, therefore, leave her without inducement to plunder property and take men in future on such dear terms. I neither affirm nor deny the truth of these allegations.”
Where he speaks of “making slaves,” he alludes of course to impressments into the British navy.