MONROE, James. Letter signed ("Jas Monroe") as Secretary of State and acting Secretary of War, to Major General Henry Dearborn (1751-1829), "War Department," [Washington], 19 January 1813. 1 2/3 pages, 4to, integral leaf with descriptive docket, in fine condition.
MILITARY CONCERNS IN THE WAR OF 1812: MONROE REPORTS THAST "THE PRESIDENT FEELS GREAT ANXIETY ON ACCOUNT OF THE EXPOSED SITUATION OF OUR VESSELS"
The early military campaigns of the War of 1812 proved disatrous for the United States. Operations in the East met with nothing but failure and, in the northwest, the vital American position at Detroit was given up without a fight by General William Hull, who surrendered his entire force. Dearborn had been directed to seize Montreal, but because of logistical setbacks, that plan too, floundered.
Monroe, who took to his War Department tasks "with an energy impressive to the most hardened congressmen" (Ammon, James Monroe, p. 315), writes to Dearborn in Albany, passing on the President's concerns about the military situation on the Great Lakes: "I have to state to you that the President feels great anxiety on account of the exposed situation of our vessels of war on the Lakes, and directs that an adequate force be stationed at all those places, which unguarded, would invite an attack from the Enemy, as well at Buffaloe, & the Strait of Niagara, as at the other posts below." The Great Lakes borders with British-held Canada were, naturallu, a major focus of the war. "Because of the dense wilderness and lack of good roads, the lakes offered the only efficient means of moving men and material along the northern frontier" (Hickey, The War of 1812, p. 127). They would remain one of the most active theaters throughout the ensuing conflict.
Monroe bluntly informs Dearborn of the pending court-martial of General Hull, for trhe surrender of Detroit: "A Court Martial has been ordered on General Hull, to sit at Philadelphia." Hull and his men will be exchanged for British prisoners taken by the Essex, under proptocols agreed with the British Admiral, so that Hull can be tried.
General William Hull (1753-1825) was charged for treason, cowardice and neglect of duty, found guilty on the latter two counts and sentenced to be shot. The sentence was stayed by the intervention of President Madison, who cited the general's prestigious career in the Revolution.
Provenance: Kenneth Rendell, 1981.