« ForrigeFortsett »
boats too, with our provisions of rations, forage, and military stores, could be more easily covered and protected, as the line of march could be invariably nearer the river. Lieutenant colonel Barbour, with one battalion of his regiment, had command of the 7 boats, and encamped with us, on the bank of the river, almost every night. This so protracted our march, that we did not reach the Prophet's town until the 19th : on the morning of this day, I detached 300 men to surprize the Winebago town, lying on Ponce Passu creek, one mile from the Wabash, and 4 below the Prophet's. This party, commanded by general Butler, surrounded the place about break of day, and found it evacuated. There were in the main town about 40 bouses, many of them from 30 to 50 feet in length; besides many temporary huts in the surrounding Prairie, in which they had cultivated a great deal of corn.
On the 20th, 21st and 22d, we were employed in the complete destruction of the Prophet's town, which contained about 40 cabins and huts, and the large Kickapoo village adjoining below it, on the west side of the river, consisting of about 160 cabins and huts; finding, and destroying their corn, reconnoitering the circumjacent part of the country, and constructing works for the defence of our boats and the army.
Seven miles east of us, on the Ponce Passu creek, a party of Indians were discovered they had fired on a small party of ours on the 21st, and killed a man by the name of Dunn, a gallant soldier in captain Duvall's company. On the 22d, upwards of sixty horsemen, under the command of lieutenant colonels Miller and Wilcox, anxious to bury their comrade, as well as gain a more complete knowledge of the ground, went on to a point near the Indian encampment, fell into an ambuscade, and 18 of our party were killed, wounded, and missing. Among these, are three hopeful young officers, and one private from the 8th (Wilcox's) regiment, viz Mars, Edwards, Murray, and the private Webb, presumed to be killed; the other 14 were of the rangers. On the return of this party, and the information of a large assemblage of the enemy, who, encouraged by the strength of their camp, appeared to be waiting for us, every preparation was made to march early, and engage the enemy at every risk; when, from the most violent storm, and fall of snow, attended with the coldest weather I ever saw or felt, at this season of the year, and which did not subside until the evening of the 23d, we were delayed until the 24th. Upon arriving on the ground, we found the enemy had deserted their camp before the fall of snow, and passed the Ponce Passu. I have no doubt but their ground was the strongest I ever have seen; the deep, rapid creek spoken of, was in their rear, running in a semicircle, and fronted by a bluff 100 feet high, almost perpendicular, and only to be penetrated by three steep ravines. "If the enemy would not defend themselves here, it was evident they did not intend fighting at all. After reconnoitering sufficiently, we re-
turned to camp, and found the ice so accumulated, as to alarm us for the return of the boats. I had fully intended to have spent one more week in endeavouring to find the Indian camps; but the shoeless, shirtless state of the troops, now clad in the remnants of their summer dress; a river full of ice; the hills covered with snow; a rigid climate, and no certain point to which we could further direct our operations ; under the influence of the advice of every field and staff officer, orders were given, and measures pursued for our return, on the 25th. We are now progressing to fort Harrison, through the ice and snow, where we expect to arrive on the last day of this month.
From Vincennes I shall have the honour of addressing your excellency again: but, before I close this, I cannot forbear expressing the merits of the officers and soldiers of this command. After leaving at fort Harrison all unfit for duty, we had in privates of every corps, about 1000—in the total, 1250 or thereabout. At the Prophet's town, upwards of 100 of these were on the sick report. Yet, sir, have we progressed in such order as to menace our enemy, from any annoyance. Seven large keel boats have been covered and protected, to a point hitherto unknown in Indian expeditions. Three large Indian establishments have been burnt and destroyed, with near three miles of fence, (and all the corn, &c. we could find, besides many smaller ones ; the enemy have been sought in their strong holds, and every opportunity afforded them to attack or alarm us; a march on the east side of the Wabash, without road, or recognizance of the country, fully 100 miles perfected; and this was done with a naked army of infantry, aided by only about fifty rangers and spies: all this will have been done in twenty days—no sigh, no murmur, no complaint.
I have the honour to be, yours, &c.
SAMUEL HOPKINS. His excellency Gov. Shelby.
CAMP, NEAR BUFFALOE, December 4th, 1812. SIR,
The troops, under my command, having been ordered to hut themselves for the winter, it becomes my duty to report to you the proceedings had here, since I took command on this frontier.
On or about the 26th of October, I ordered that 20 scows should be prepared for the transportation of cavalry, and artillery, and put the carpenters of the army upon that duty. By the 26th November, ten scows were completed ; and by bringing boats from lake Ontario, the number was increased to seventy.
I had issued an address to the men of New York; and perhaps 300 volunteers had arrived at Buffaloe. I presumed that the regular troops, and the volunteers, under colonels Smith and M-Clure, would furnish 2,300 men for duty; and, of general Tannehill's brigade, reporting a total of 1,650, as many as 413 had volunteered to cross into Canada. I deemed myself ready "to cross with 3,000 men at once,” according to your orders. Preparatory thereto, on the night of the 27th of November, I sent over two parties; one under lieutenant colonel Boerstler ; the other under captain King, with whom lieutenant Angus, of the navy, at the head of a body of seamen, united.
The first mentioned party was to capture a guard and destroy a bridge, about five miles below fort Erie; the second party were to take, and render useless, the cannon of the enemy's batteries, and pieces of light artillery. The first party made some prisoners, but failed to destroy the bridge. The second party, after rendering unserviceable the light artillery, separated by some misapprehension. Lieutenant Angus, the seamen, and part of the troops returned, with all the boats, while captain King, captain Morgan, captain Sproul, Lieutenant Houston, and about sixty men, remained. Captain King, notwithstanding, with those under his command, advanced to the enemy's batteries, attacked and took two of them in succession, rendered unserviceable the cannon, and took a number of prisoners. In descending the Niagara some distance, two boats were found, on board of which captain King sent his prisoners, all his officers and half his men; - his high sense of honour would not allow him to quit the remainder-he was captured with them.
Orders had been given, that all the troops in the neighbourhood should march at revellie to the place of embarkation. A part of the detachment sent in the night, having returned, and having excited apprehensions for the residue, about 250 men, under colonel Winder, put off in boats, tor the opposite shore; a part of this force had landed, when a superior force, with a piece of artillery appeared :-a retreat was ordered, and colonel Winder's detachment suffered a loss of six killed, and 22 wounded; of whom, three were officers. The general embarkation commenced as the troops arrived; but this being the first time the troops had embarked, the whole of the scows were occupied by about onethird part of the artillery; while about 800 regular infantry, something upwards of 200 twelve month's volunteers, and perhaps 200 of those militia who had volunteered their services for a few days, occupied all the boats that were ready. The troops then embarked, moved up the stream to Black Rock, without sustaining loss from the enemy's fire. It was now the afternoon, and they were ordered to disembark, and dine. The enemy showed a force, estimated at five or six hundred men, drawn up in a field, at some distance from the river; and had one piece of artillery, said to be a nine pounder, ready to fire on our troops.
There remained, unembarked, a part of the artillery; a few cavalry; the volunteers under colonel M'Clure, amounting, on that day, to 340 men; a detachment from general Tannehill's brigade, (number unknown, and little relied on ;) there were also
sundry crowds who might perhaps have followed the army, if it was successful.
Recollecting your instructions "to cross with 3,000 men at once," and to consult some of my principal officers in “all important movements,” I called for the field officers of the regular and twelve month's volunteers embarked; colonel Porter not being found at the moment, captain Gibson was called, as the next senior officer of artillery. These questions were put:“ Is it expedient now to cross over? Is the force we have, sufficient to conquer the opposite coast ?" The first question was decided in the negative, by colonels Parker, Schuyler, Winder, lieutenant colonels Boerstler and Coles, and major Campbell. Colonel Swift, of the volunteers, alone gave an opinion for then crossing over. The second question was not decided : colonel Parker, colonel Schuyler, lieutenant colonel Coles, and major Campbell, were decidedly of opinion that the force was insufficient. Colonels Winder and Sinith, lieutenant colonel Boerstler, and captain Gibson, deemed the force sufficient. I determined to postpone crossing over, until more complete preparation would enable me to embark the whole force at once, according to your instructions. The next day was spent in such preparations, and the troops were ordered to be again at the place of embarkation, at 8 o'clock on the morning of the 30th November. On their arrival they were sent into the adjacent woods, there to build fires, and remain until 3 o'clock in the morning of the 1st of December, when it was intended to put off two burs before daylight, so as to avoid the fire of the enemy's cannon, in passing the position which it was believed they occupied below; to land above Chippewa, assault that place, and, if successful, march through Queenstown, to fort George. The contractor was called on to furnish rations for 2500 men, for four days; when it was found, he could furnish the pork, but not the flour; sixty barrels were required, and only thirty furnished. The embarkation commenced; but was delayed by circumstances, so as not to be completed until after day-light, when it was found, the regular infantry, 688 men, the artillery, 177 men, colonel Swift's volunteers, about 230, six companies of federal volunteers, amounting to 276 men, about 100 militia, of colonel Dobbins's regiment, and a few men in a boat with Mr. P. B. Porter, contractor's agent, who was to pilot the enterprize, had embarked ; the whole on board, without the commissioned officers, being 1500 men; and it was now two hours later than the time fixed on for setting out.
There were some groups of men not yet embarked. They were applied to, requested, and ordered, by the brigade major, to get into the boats; they did not. He estimated their number at 150: it was probably greater.
It then became a question, whether it was expedient to invade Canada, in open day-light, with 1500 men, at a point where no reinforcement could be expected for some days. I saw the number of regular troops was declining rapidly. I knew that on them I was chiefly to depend.
I called together officers commanding corps of the regular army. Colonel Parker being sick, those present were colonel Porter, of the artillery, colonel Schuyler, colonel Winder, and lieutenant colonel Coles. I put to them this question :-"Shall we now proceed ?” They unanimously decided that we ought not. I foresaw that the volunteers, who had come out for a few days, would disperse. Several of them had on the evening of the 25th broken their muskets, because they had not seen a batile; I foresaw that the number of regular troops would decrease ; the measles had affected them generally; the constant use of fresh meat had produced dysenteries, and they were now in tents, in the month of December. I informed the officers, that the attempt to invade Canada would not be made, until the army was reinforced, and directed them to withdraw their troops, and cover them with huts immediately. The volunteers and neighboring people were dissatisfied, and it has been in the power of the contractor's agent to excite some clamor against the course pursued; he finds the contract a losing one, at this time, and would wish to see the army in Canada, that he might not be bound to supply it. I am sorry that the situation of the force under
command, had not been such, as to make the propriety of a forward movement obvious to all. Circumstanced as we were, I have thought it my duty to follow the cautious counsels of experience, and not by precipitation, to add another to the list of our defeats.
You will perceive my motives by my letter of the 30th October, wherein I said “ I would cross in three days, if I had the means; without them, it would be injustice to the nation and myself, to attempt it.-I must not be defeated.”
Allow me to recommend to your attention, and that of the Secretary of War, captain W. King of the 15th regiment infantry, as an officer of the first class. His dauntless bravery, refined mind, high sense of honour, and ambition to distinguish himself, render him a fit subject for promotion ; and he is perhaps the best disciplinarian in the army. I have a wife and children; I have not seen them for fourteen months ; I ask permission now to visit them. I have the honour to be yours,
&c. ALEXANDER SMYTH,
Brigadier General. Major General Dearborn,