« ZurückWeiter »
then next session of Congress. That bill received the assent of the majority of the House of Representatives; but it was lost in the Senate ; the vote in that body being eighteen against the bill, and but sixteen in favor of it. The act of the present session gave great power to the President; and allowed him to employ numerous agents, who did not fail to exercise their power in many instances by needless severity, or unjust partiality. It was repealed, however, on the 14th of April, following; but the non-importation act, as to British goods and merchandise, was continued.
Acts of Congress were passed, in January, 1814, for making additions to the regular army; for raising several regiments of riflemen; for extending the term of enlistments from one year to five years, or during the continuance of the war, and for giving higher bounties than had before been offered; viz. one hundred and twenty-four dollars to every individual, one hundred of which to be paid on his enlisting and being mustered. The President was also empowered to receive volunteer corps into the public service; provided they would engage to serve for five years, or during the war; and they were to receive the same bounty provided for those of the regular army. An additional act to provide for calling forth the militia was passed, at the same session, in which the militia, so detached or drafted, when called into the service of the United States, were made subject to courts martial, on a charge of misconduct, in the manner required by the articles of war, in cases of courts martial for the trial of delinquents in the regular army. This law caused much alarm and complaint in some parts of the country; especially in Pennsylvania, where are found great numbers of the society of Friends. In some places, members of that sect were pressed into military service, and treated with great severity. But the instances were very few.
Notwithstanding the boast of success in prosecuting the war, by the friends of the administration, and the public declarations of the President, that it must be continued so long as the causes which led to it were not removed, additional Envoys were appointed early in 1814 to join those previously commissioned, and new instructions given them, permitting
be ineffectual to coerce foreign nations, if executed—that it is unjust and oppressive to the commercial part of the community, as it destroys invaluable interests which the federal government is bound to protect—that it sacrifices our principal source of revenue, and reduces us to depend on meagre supply from internal taxation, or to accumulate an enormous public debt by loansthat it aims a fatal blow at our progress in wealth and general improvement."
them to make peace, without insisting on all the terms before advanced, as indispensable. Messrs. Adams, Bayard, and Gallatin* had been appointed in April, 1813; in January, 1814, Messrs. Clay and Russell were added to the embassy. The negotiators, both British and American, met at Ghent, in August, 1814; and concluded a treaty between England and the United States, in December following; and the ratification took place in February, 1815, to the great joy of the people of both nations. No new principle was recognized or admitted, and no new regulation made on the important subject of impressment of seamen, which was the principal, and at one time the only, reason given for the war; but the treaty was silent on that question. Besides the restoration of peace, it was little more than a treaty of limits and boundaries. A commercial treaty between the two countries was to be adjusted at a future day. The American Envoys were instructed to make peace on the most favorable conditions to be attained; but to make peace; and there can be no reason to doubt, that they were urged to do this, from the consideration of the increasing unpopularity of the war in the United States; and of the loss of political power in Europe by the French Emperor. If he had not been loved, he had been feared; and if it was not intended to aid him in his ambitious projects, it was evidently proposed so far to favor him, as to secure his influence in opposing Great Britain.
During the year 1814, however, the war was prosecuted with great exertions and zeal. The means for supporting it were augmented by the federal goverument in every possible way; and the British, particularly on the ocean, acted with more efficiency than in the early period of hostilities. Their ships of war hovered upon the coasts of the United States, in almost every part; and often entered harbors, and landed large bodies of men, who destroyed much property, and alarmed and distressed the inhabitants. They took possession of Eastport, and of Castine; and there were no troops of the United States prepared to prevent the capture, or to dispossess them afterwards; and the militia could do little without a suitable naval force.
The regular troops of the United States were again collected on the north west frontiers, early in 1814. Some of
These appointments were made by the President, when the Senate was not in session. And afterwards, when the nominations were laid before the Senate, there were objections and much delay in the appointment of Mr. Gallatin.
them were assembled at Sacket's Harbor; some at a place about ten miles east of Lewistown; and some within a similar distance of Buffalo; while Plattsburg was considered the head-quarters. As soon as the lakes were navigable, the British appeared in considerable force on Ontario, and the naval armament of the United States there was not sufficiently powerful to meet them. There was great alarm at Sacket's Harbor, and other places in the vicinity, from the expectation of an attack from the enemy, who were in large force at Kingston, on the Canada shore. The place was much exposed; but for some reason, no part of the army, under Wilkinson, was sent there for its defence. His aim appeared to be another attempt to invade Canada, farther north. He soon after met the British on his march, and was obliged to return to Plattsburg, with the loss of some cannon and about eighty men. At Plattsburg and 'at Sacket's Harbor, there were heavy complaints heard against the American generals, for want of judgment and energy, in this military enterprise.
At a later period in the season, after the northern army was strengthened by new enlistments—for though there had been new proposals for peace, great preparations were deemed necessary on the opening of the year, 1814—Canada was again invaded ; and a detachment from the United States troops, consisting of about two thousand, under General Jacob Brown, crossed the Niagara river, in July, and attacked the British at Chippewa, with great bravery and success. The enemy, with a larger force than General Brown commanded,* offered battle; and it was not declined. The action was very severe, and the loss great on both sides; but the British suffered most on this occasion. Their killed and wounded numbered 400; while those of the Americans were a little more than 200. Generals Ripley and Scott were the next in command to General Brown; and received high praise from him, in his official account of the action, for their bravery and activity.
It was the expectation of General Brown that the United States fleet, then at Sacket's Harbor, would have co-operated, and would assist his continuance and progress in Canada ; but it was not in a condition to command the lake, and could not therefore afford the support and aid desired. General Brown, however, remained in Canada,
* The numbers were variously stated. But it appears that the British troops were about 3000, including Indians ; and the United States forces, under General Brown, about 2000. Chippewa is ten miles from Queenstown.
in the vicinity of Chippawa, for some time, in the hope of receiving assistance from the naval armament on the lake.
On the 25th of July, another battle took place between the British and American troops, near the Falls of Niagara—the British force exceeded three thousand, including a reinforcement after the battle had began, under the command of Lieutenant General Drummond : and the United States troops, not so numerous, under General Brown. The slaughter in this second battle was very great; and the contest was maintained several hours with obstinate bravery on both sides. Ripley and Scott were distinguished on this, as on the former occasion, by their brave and useful services. Generals Brown and Scott, were wounded ; and General Riall, the second in command in the British army, was taken, with twenty other officers. The United States troops fell back to Fort Erie; where, after a few days, they were attacked by the British, but they were compelled to retreat.
In the month of July, the commanders of the British ships of war which had then been in the Chesapeake for several weeks, landed men at various places in Maryland and Virginia, who destroyed both public and private buildings, and carried away cattle and provisions, to a large amount. They entered the Potomac, and ascended as high as Westmoreland, where they burnt the Court house, and about the same time, the Court house in Calvert County, Maryland.* And the government paper expressed great astonishment that the militia did not turn out and prevent these depredations! The militia were called out in the vicinity of the places invaded, and near the coast where the enemy appeared, and a few regular troops were added, making a force of about five thousand. The British landed six thousand; and after attacking some smaller towns, marched to Washington, meeting with little opposition, and burnt the Capitol of the United States, the President's house, t several public offices, and destroyed much other valuable property. The Maryland militia, and volunteers from Baltimore, soon collected and attacked them as they retired, and compelled them to embark on board their ships. Several British vessels of war, however, re
Part were landed by entering the river Patuxent, and a part at Port Tobacco, on the Potomac. Some accounts made their whole number nine or ten thousand.
† The President, his secretaries, and family, had barely notice to retire in safety.
mained in the waters of the Chesapeake, and kept up an alarm among the inhabitants, for some time after the attack on Washington. But the militia of Maryland prevented their penetrating again into the country.
Other States on the Atlantic seaboard were invaded, or threatened with invasion, during the summer and fall of 1814. Massachusetts and Connecticut were particularly exposed. The ships of the enemy had the command of Long Island sound, and were often hovering on the coast of Connecticut, which for a great length lies on that inland
Massachusetts has a seacoast of five hundred miles, Maine being then a part of the State; and the greater part of it was visited or threatened by the enemy's ships. For defence of the people and property near the coasts, the militia were engaged a great part of the season, amounting in the whole to a very large number *-and at an expense of nearly a million of dollars.
The navy of the United States was not inactive during the year 1814; but could not boast of such brilliant success as in the two first years of the war. The British ships were in every sea, and of great force; and it would have been madness designedly to encounter them. When opportunity presented, and not under great disadvantages, from inferiority of size, and guns, they played their part with their wonted bravery. Only one disaster of magnitude befel the American navy. The frigate Essex, which was one of the second rate of ships of that class, was taken by a British ship of war, of much larger force, after a brave and obstinate engagement, on the coast of Brazil. The Essex was attacked by two British ships, one much larger than that vessel; and the other a large sloop of war.
After a severe engagement, between two sloops of war of equal force, in the course of the summer, the American ship was victorious over the British ; which was captured and brought into the port of Charleston. On lake Champlain also, the small United States fleet under Commodore McDonough, after being long in apparent inactivity, but in truth, unprepared for
offensive operations, gained a complete victory over the British force on that lake, in September; and captured all their vessels but three boats. The attack was made by the British commander on the American fleet, near Plattsburg; and a large land army from Canada, had advanced within the territory of the
* The whole number called into service, for longer or shorter periods, was nearly eighty thousand.