previous next

[382] Northern States. “We shall never be able to defend a post!” --so wrote John Adams in a private letter. He was at that time President of the Board of War--would to heaven our Board of War had such a head!--“we shall never be able to defend a post till we shoot a general.” Disasters, the unavoidable result of weakness, were ascribed to the incapacity or cowardice of the officers. Suggestions of treachery were even whispered, and the prejudices of the New Englanders against Schuyler — for even the North, at that time, was divided and distracted by bitter sectional prejudices, of which now, fortunately, hardly a trace remains — broke out with new violence. But all this disaster and confusion did not prevent, within two or three months after, the glorious days of Bennington and Bemis Heights, and the total capture of all Burgoyne's invading army.

Not to dwell any further upon the disasters of the war of the Revolution, of which it would be easy to multiply instances, let us now cast a cursory glance at some of the occurrences of the war of 1812.

Let us note, by the way, a curious circumstance with respect to that war — a circumstance eminently instructive as to the total change which has taken place of late years in the objects, ends, and aims of leading Southern politicians. That war, as everybody knows, was preeminently a Southern measure, of which the great object, and leading end and aim, by which it was alone justified as an expedient undertaking, was the conquest and annexation of Canada. That attempt, had it been successful, would have added so much to the strength and population of the free States as effectually to have curbed all the slaveholding pretensions of the last forty years to govern the nation, and now, failing that, to sectionalize and divide it. Nor is it unreasonable to suppose that such men as Clay, Calhoun, Cheves, Lowndes, and Grundy, who urged the conquest of Canada as the means within our reach to punish the maritime aggressions of England, could have failed to foresee the inevitable consequences of that enterprise had we succeeded in it. They were patriots who sought the glory, welfare, and greatness of the united nation, not the base and selfish aggrandisement of a section and a faction. Unfortunately they failed to conquer Canada, but in the impulse which the war gave to our domestic manufactures, and to the growth of our navy, they aided greatly to create the means which will now enable the nation to put down speedily with a strong hand the insolent traitors who have fallen away so rashly from the spirit and example of their noble fathers, and, deserting the altars of republican liberty at which they worshipped, have hastened to pass themselves, and are attempting to compel us and our children to pass through the fires of the Moloch of slavery.

The first efforts of land warfare in the war of 1812 were signally unsuccessful, due, as is now universally admitted, to the incapacity of the Government, and the want of spirit and enterprise on the part of the general in command. Hull was sent to Detroit with a very inadequate force, under order to invade and conquer Upper Canada. Hull's troops were eager for action, and had Amherstburg — the post of the enemy nearest to Detroit, and held by a weak garrison — been attacked immediately, it might have been taken; but, ignorant of the weakness of the enemy, though fully conscious of his own, and discouraged by his isolation from means of succor — for he was 200 miles distant from the nearest frontier settlements, and 500 from any source of effectual support, much worse off in that respect than any of our present generals — Hull wished to fortify his camp, to get his cannon mounted, to give time for the operation of a formidable proclamation which he had issued. While he was thus employed, the British General, Proctor — for Proctor we might read Johnston — arrived at Amherstburg with reinforcements, followed, first by General Brock, and then by Tecumseh, a noble Indian, any parallel for whom we should seek in vain in the ranks of our rebels. Hull thereupon gave over the invasion of Canada and retired to Detroit, where he shortly after ingloriously surrendered to the approaching British and Indians, whereby not only Detroit, but the whole peninsula of Michigan, passed into the hands of the British.

Great was the astonishment and anger of President and Cabinet — though they themselves, by the inadequacy of the forces which they had placed at Hull's disposal, were greatly to blame for it — great the astonishment and anger of the people at the mortifying termination of the first attempt to conquer Canada. But, so far from checking the ardor of the western people, it stimulated them to fresh exertions, and before long a force was placed at the disposal of Gen. Harrison, who succeeded to Hull's command, by which, in the course of the next year, Michigan was recovered, the battle of the Thames was fought, and Upper Canada temporarily occupied.

We might cite other incidents of this war, including the conquest of Washington itself by the enemy, the burning of the national capitol — then, as now, in an unfinished condition — and the coming together of Congress, the blackened ruins of the capitol still smouldering, in the patent office, the sole remaining public building, hastily and scantily fitted up for the reception of the national legislature. Worse and more alarming than all, we might picture the fierce contentions and embittered spirit of party by which the national legislature was divided when thus assembled in this hour of disaster to quarrel over the past, and with specie payments suspended, and national credit at the lowest ebb, to provide as well as they could for the future. We prefer, rather, to quote a few extracts from Madison's message sent to Congress at that meeting, and which are not without

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Hull (6)
Proctor (2)
Tecumseh (1)
Schuyler (1)
Lowndes (1)
Joseph E. Johnston (1)
James T. Harrison (1)
Grundy (1)
Clay (1)
Cheves (1)
Calhoun (1)
Burgoyne (1)
Brock (1)
John Adams (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1812 AD (2)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: