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much praise cannot be bestowed on the officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates under my command for their gallantry and good conduct during the siege.
Yours, with respect,
Major 17th U. S. Infantry comdg. L. S. Major Gen. Harrison, commanding N. W. army.
Correspondence between the Secretary of War and major general Wilkinson.
Submitted to the President by the Secretary of War, on the 23d July, and communicated to general Wilkinson on the 5th of August, 1813.
The time at which we have reason to expect an ascendency on lake Ontario has arrived. If our hopes on that head be fulfilled, though but for a short period, we must avail ourselves of the circumstance, to give to the campaign a new and increased activity.
For this purpose our forces on the Ontario should be concentrated, because neither section of them, as they are now divided, is competent to any great object.
The point of concentration is more doubtful: 1st. If at Fort George, our utmost success can but give us the
con mand of the peninsula, which, if general Harrison succeeds against Malden, will be of diminished interest, both to us and to the enemy: to us, because Malden will more completely cover our western frontier and control the savages than Forts George and Erie: to the enemy, because Malden lost, our inread upon the peninsula, will but have the effect of shortening, not of dividing, the enemy's line of operations; in a word, success at this point will not give to the campaign a character
of recisive allrantage. 2d. If, on the other hand, we make Saekett's Harbor the point of
concentration, Kingston may become the object of our attack, which, by the way, will but be returning to the original plan of campaign, prescribed to general Dearborn. This place is of much importance to the enemy, and will no doubt be defended by him with great obstinacy, and with all the resources which can be safely drawn from other points. That it may be taken by a joint application of our naval and military means, is not however to be questioned. The enclosed diagram will show the number and character of the enemy's defences. His batteries on No. 1 cannot be sustained but by his fleet. These carried, he is open to a descent at Nos. 2 and 3. If he divides his force between both, we oppose one half of his strength with the whole of ours. If he concentrates at No. 2, we seize No. 3, and command both the town and the shipping.
he concentrates at No. 3, we occupy No. 2, and with nearly
the same results. Contemporary with this movement, another may be maile on the
side of lake Champlain, indicating an intention of attacking Montreal and its dependencies, and really attacking them, if
to save Kingston, these posts have been materially weakened. 3d. Another and different operation, to which our means are
competent, would be a movement from Sackett's Harbor to Madrid on the St. Lawrence. At this place the river may be most easily crossed. The ground opposite to it is a narrow bluit, skirted by the river on one side, and a swamp of great extent and of difficult, passage on the other. This gained and fortified, our fleet continuing to command the water line from the head of the river to Ogdensburg, and lake St. Francis occupied with a few
gun boats and barges, the army may march against Montreal, in concert with general Hampton. The only natural difficulty to the execution of this plan, would be presented by a branch of the Grand river which must be crossed; but at this season, though deep, it is believed to be fordable. Under the preceding supposition it is respectfully submitted, whether it will not be most advisable to make Sackett's Harbor the point of concentration, and leave to the commanding general an election (to be determined by circumstances) between the two plans suggested under the 2d and 3d heads.
JOHN ARMSTRONG. Approved and adopted, July 23d, 1813.
WASHINGTON, August 6th, 1813. SIR,
I have examined the projects of the campaign, intended for the past and ensuing stages of it, on the side of Canada, which you put into my hands yesterday. The novelty of the subject to me, and the pressure of time, will prevent the deliberate consideration of it which its importance merits; and therefore I shall confine myself to a few brief observations touching the project of the 23d ultimo.
1st. If we command lake Ontario (without which the project is impracticable), and our force be competent to carry Kingston, the incorporation of our troops should take place at Sackett's Harbor, and the attack be made as promptly as possible.
2d. On the contrary, should our combined disposable force be deemed incompetent to the certain and speedy reduction of Kingston, then it may be preferable to strengthen our force at Fort St. George, cut up the British force in that quarter, destroy the Indian establishments, and (should general Harrison fail in his objects) march a detachment to capture Malden,
While these operations are pending, a bold feint or provisional attack on Montreal, by major general Hampton, will certainly call sir George Provost to that place, and it is presumable, that seeing our movements directed towards Erie, he may carry his best troops with him from Kingston.
These suggestions spring from my desire to hazard as little as possible in the outset, and to secure infallibly whatever may be attempted, with the intention to increase our own confidence, to diminish that of the enemy, and to popularise the war.
After our operations on the peninsula have been closed, we may raze the works there under your provisions, leave our settlements on the strait in tranquillity, and like lightning must direct our whole force against Kingston; and having reduced that place, and captured the shipping, we may descend the stream, and form a junction with the column of general Hampton in the neighbourhood of Montreal, should the lateness of the season permit, by which all our movements, after the conquest of Upper Canada, must be governed.
To give general Hampton's movements a menacing aspect, and to enable him to profit by events, he should take with him a heavy train of battering cannon and mortar pieces, which will be found indespensable in the attack of Montreal; and to weaken that place, and to favour a protracted season, I would advise that a heavy column of militia or volunteers, if engaged for three months only, should be put in motion from the vicinity of lake Memphramagog, to descend the river St Francis, and take post on the right bank of lake St. Petre, with a battering train of travelling carriages, organized and equipt, either to keep post or retire, when the season or other circumstances should render expedient.
Before I close this letter, I will beg leave to call your attention to several specific points, on which I require information and authority, which I deem essential to the salutary discharge of the high and solemn trust about to devolve upon me.
1st. A copy of the instructions to major general Hampton, for my government in the correspondence to ensue between us.
2d. Shall I be allowed a private secretary, which is necessary, and of right belongs to the command on which I am about to enter?
3d. I require permission to take for my aids-de-camp such officers as are best fitted to discharge the important duties of the station.
4th. I ask authority (or is it understood that I possess it?) to sup ply every defect of the munitions of war, and transport by land o water by means of the authorized agents.
5th. I entreat that ample funds may be deposited in proper hands, to give effect to the department of intelligence, without which, the chief will find himself hood-winked.
6th. I trust no order, of whatever nature, will be passed to any officer under my command, but through my hands. This is not
only necessary to the regular conduct of the public service, but it is vitally essential to the preservation of sound subordination, and is conformable to the rules of service in all armies, in as much as he who is responsible for all, should have the controul of all.
7th. I hope I may be expressly authorized to detach from my command, all persons who may manifest a temper or disposition to excite discontents, to generate factions, or embitter the service. This is indispensable to put down seditious spirits, and to harmonize the corps.
8th Should we move against Kingston in the first instance, the withdrawal of our force from Fort George will enable the enemy to re-occupy that point, and for a brief period to harrass our frontier on that strait. May not the militia, or a body of volunteers, be called forth to relieve the regular troops at that place, and prevent discontents and complaints ?
9th. For the maintenance of the necessary authority of the chief, it is hoped the secretary of war will decline and forbid all correspondence with his subordinate oficers, except in cases of personal grievance.
10th. I beg to be advised of the means of communication between our military positions, and particularly from Sackett's Harbor to Burlington, which should be rapid and infallible.
11th. I ask authority to equip the whole of our horse artillery, and to mount the whole of our dragoons, because these arms will be found all-important in every combat which may ensue.
A serious impression of the dread responsibility which awaits me, and a correct sense of the public expectation which accompanies me, must be my apology for giving you so much trouble. With great respect, &c. your obedient servant,
JAMES WILKINSON. Honourable John Armstrong,
Secretary of War.
WAR DEPARTMENT, August 8th, 1813,
I have given to your observations of the 6th instant all the consideration they so justly merit.
The main objection to any plan, which shall carry our operations wide of Kingston and westward of it, is, that in the event of its success, it leaves the strength of the enemy unbroken; it but wounds the tail of the lion, and of course, is not calculated to hasten the termination of the war, either by encreasing our own vigour, or by diminishing that of the enemy. Kingston is the great depot of his resources, and so long as he retains this and keeps open his communication with the sea, he will not want the means of multiplying his naval and other defences, and of reinforcing or renewing the war in the west. Kingston, therefore, as well on grounds of policy as of military principle, presents the first and great object of the campaign.
There are two ways of approaching this : by direct, or indirect, attack : by breaking down the enemy's battalions and forcing his works; or by seizing and obstructing the line of his communication, and thus drying up the sources by which he is nourished and maintained. Circumstances must govern in choosing between these different modes. Were our assembled land and naval forces competent to the object, a direct attack would no doubt be the shorter and better way; but if, on the contrary, our strength be inferior, or hardly equal to that of the enemy, the indirect attack must be preferred. These considerations have suguested the third plan, to be found in my note of the 23d ultimo. To give execution to this, I would collect my force at the head of the St. Lawrence, make every demonstration of attacking Kingston, proceed rapidly down the river, seize the northern bank at the village of Hamilton, leave a corps to fortify and to hold it, march upon Montreal with the main body, effect there a junction with Hampton, and take a position which shall enable you to secure what you gain. On this plan the navy would perform its part by occupying the mouth of the river, and preventing a pursuit by water; by clearing the river of the armed boats of the enemy; by holding, with its own, the passage at Hamilton, and by giving support to that position. If the enemy pursues, it must be by land, without subsistence, (excepting what he carries on his back) and without artillery. If he remains stationary, his situation must soon become even more serious, as the country in which he is cannot long subsist him. It will then but remain for him to fight his way to Quebec, to perish in the attempt, or to lay down his arms.
After this exposition, it is unnecessary to add, that in conducting the present campaign, you will make Kingston your primary object, and that you will choose (as circumstances may warrant) between a direct and indirect attack upon that post.
I have the honour to be, &c.
JOHN ARMSTRONG. Maj. Gen. Wilkinson, comnd'g district No. 9.
WAR DEPARTMENT, August 9th, 1813. In answer to that part of your letter of the 6th instant, which calls for information, &c. on certain enumerated points, I have the honour to state : 1st. That general Hampton's instructions go only to assemble
and organize his division at Burlington. It is intended that he shall operate cotemporarily with you, and under your orders, in prosecution of the plan of campaign which has been given to 3 you.