H. M. (Henry Marie) Brackenridge.

History of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: online

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had ever experienced so much good faith and forbearance from
Great Britain, as to justify such confidence? But was she
not the aggressor, by her own acknowledgement? for, by the
repeal of the orders in council, if on our account, she acknow-
ledged herself to have violated our neutral rights. Moreover,
it was well known that she had, at that moment, more than
two thousand impressed American seamen, confined as prisoners
of war, and persisted in refusing every arrangement which
might remedy in future the odious practice. So strangely in-
consistent are the pretexts of injustice. These attempts at
reconciliation had failed, when the emperor of Russia inter-
posed his mediation : which, on the part of our government,
was instantly accepted; but, on being made known to England,
was declined, as being incompatible with her naval interests.
She professed a willingness, however, to enter into a direct
negotiation ; which, it will be seen, was merely thrown out as
a pretext, to prolong the war at her pleasure.

A most important change had taken place in the affairs of
Europe. Napoleon had experienced a reverse, proportioned to
the vastness of his designs. This man, intoxicated with his for-
mer success, and with the vile flattery which is always paid to the
despot who is the fountain of honour, and official emolument and
power, had begun to think himself more than mortal. It is
thought that he had conceived the idea of universal empire ; natu-
rally enough the ultimate object of a conqueror — for what con-
queror ever set bounds to his ambition? The vanity of the
scheme, if any such ever entered his head, of bringing all Europe
to his feet, of mastering the fleet of England, and then extending
his power over the globe, was now fully demonstrated. The joy
which many of our fellow citizens expressed on this occasion,
was perhaps ill judged. The fall of a despot and a tyrant, is cer-
tainly an agreeable theme to a republican ; but the immediate
connexion of this event with our welfare, was not easily traced.
It was very evident that the enmity both of France and England
towards this country, proceeded from the same cause; and,
considering human nature, a very natural cause ; to wit, the
circumstance of our prospering and growing rich from their
dissensions. We had but little to fear that we should be
molested by any European power, attempting to conquer our
vast country; and as to universal dominion, England, in her
claim to the sovereignty of the seas, already possessed it, as
far as the thing, in its nature, was capable of being possessed.
As to Europe, the mad attempt of Napoleon had been followed
by an overthrow so complete ; that so far from being dangerous


Measures for carrying on the War Blockade of our Coasts.

to its repose in future, it became a matter of doubt with enlight-
ened politicians of the day, whether he would be able to maintain
his own ground, and whether, if France were reduced to a se-
cond rate power, Europe would not have to fear a more for-
midable enemy in Russia. Nothing but the pacific temper of
its present sovereign, would be a guarantee to the safety of the
neighbouring nations. The consequence of the rapid decline
of the power of Napoleon, would be highly favourable to Eng-
land, in the disposal of her forces against this country ; and
elated by her success against France, it was not probable that
she would feel much disposition to treat with us on reasonable

The first business, on the meeting of congress, with a view
to the war, which now occupied its chief attention, was the
providing an additional force. Enlistments had been extremely
slow, and sufficient encouragement had not been held out for
recruits. It was proposed to receive into the service of the
United States, twenty thousand volunteers, for a year, to be
clothed and paid in the same manner as regular troops. The
inefRcacy of mere militia, under no discipline, and under no
control, had been sufficiently seen, both during the present and
the revolutionary war. But there was no mode of remedying
the evil; for regular soldiers could not be raised, or at least, in
sufficient numbers.

The navy attracted much attention. On this subject there
prevailed the most perfect unanimity; and it was resolved, that
it should be fostered, as the best and safest reliance of our
country. Such as liad once been inimical to it, became its
warmest friends. The national legislature now engaged with
great assiduity, in devising such measures as were necessary,
for a vigorous prosecution of the war, and as would tend to
remedy the evils already experienced.

The seaboard, although sometimes threatened by the enemy,
had not yet experienced any serious molestation. In the month
of December, the whole coast was proclaimed in a state of
blockade, but with no force actually applied. This paper
blockade had no pretence of retaliation, like that declared against
the coast of France ; and the United States did not choose to fol-
low an example so contrary to the laws of nations, and in turn
declare the coast of England in a state of blockade, and under
that pretence interrupt the commerce of neutrals going to her
ports. The British vessels were chiefly employed in the pro-
tection of her commerce against our cruisers ; and her attention
was so much taken up with the mighty affairs which were then
passing on the continent, that we fortunately remained, during


War with the Southern Indians.

this season, unmolested ; at least our homes and our firesides
were not disturbed.

A war, however, threatened us in another quarter, to which
we now looked with no small anxiety. The southern Indians,
equally ferocious in their modes of warfare, and perhaps more
daring than the northern, began to exhibit signs of hostility.
No people had ever less cause to complain. Tlie Creeks
within the territorial limits of the United States, had been uni-
formly protected by the Americans; intruders upon their lands
were turned off at the point of the bayonet; immense sums
were expended in teaching them the arts of civilized life ;
persons were employed to reside among tliem, for that pur-
pose, and implements of agriculture were furnished at the
public expense. This humane system, commenced by Wash-
ington, was strictly pursued by subsequent administrations;
and the effects were visible in the course of a few years.
Their country and climate, probably the best in the United
States, were capable of affording every thing essential to their
happiness. The domestic arts had taken root amongst them ;
that strong stimulant to industry, separate property on the soil,
was beginning to be understood ; they possessed numerous
herds, and all the domestic animals ; their situation was, in
every respect, equal to that of the peasants in many parts of
Europe. They had thrown off their clothing of skins, and
wore cottons of their own manufacture ; and their population
was rapidly increasing. They had always lived on terms of
friendship with the United States ; their lands had never been
encroached upon; and they had become considerably intermin-
gled, by marriages, with the whites. According to one of their
laws, no white man, except the Indian agent, was permitted to
reside in their territory, unless married to a native.

The benevolent societies of the United States, had opened
schools through the country, for the purpose of giving the finish
to this state of manners; for in every other respect they
had entirely thrown off their savage habits. Nearly the same
state of improvement existed amongst the other tribes, the
Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Cherokees. The same regular
industry was visible in the villages of these people, in their
daily occupations, in their cultivation of the soil, in their atten-
tion to their lands, and even in the construction of their dwell-
ings, which, in many cases, were built by white carpenters
employed for the purpose, and were little inferior to those of
the generality of white settlers.

To seduce these people into a war, would be an act of cru-
elty to them ; and hostilities on their part would be the extreme


Tecumseh's Visit to the Creeks.

of folly. For although, if united, their number would be thrice
that of the northern Indians, yet being completely surrounded
by white settlements, their destruction must be inevitable. The
United States agent, colonel Hawkins, an enlightened man,
had devoted his life to the civilization of these unfortunate peo-
ple, and had acquired a considerable ascendency over them.
But, among them, there was a large proportion of the idle and
the worthless, who had not acquired any property, and who
were inclined to return to the old state of savage manners, as
more favourable to their loose, unrestrained propensities, than
the habits newly introduced, which they pretended to despise.
During the summer, while war raged on the northern frontier,
the disorderly Creeks began to show much uneasiness; they
collected in small bands, roamed about the country, committed
depredations on the property of the well-ordered class, and
often upon the whites. Shortly after the surrender of Hull,
this disposition broke out into open violence. A party of these
vagabond Muscogees fell upon some people, who were descend-
ing the Mississippi, and murdered them near the mouth of the
Ohio. The affair was represented to the nation, who caused
the perpetrators to be seized and put to death. A civil war,
soon after, was the consequence, in which the savage part, as
might be expected, prevailed ; and the greater number of those
who had been friendly to the United States, were either obliged
to fly, or to join their standard.

Other causes contributed to bring about tliis ruinous state of
things. The celebrated chief, Tecumseh, had, the year before,
visited all the southern tribes, for the purpose of kindling a
spirit unfriendly to the United States. This savage Demos-
thenes, wherever he went, called councils of their tribes, and
with that bold and commanding eloquence, which he possessed
in a degree infinitely superior to what had ever been witnessed
amongst these people, exhausted every topic calculated to ope-
rate on their minds, and alienate their affections from their
benefactors. Among all these nations his speeches had great
effect, but with the Creeks particularly, although the more
considerate rejected his interference. Amid the usual topics
of his discourses, he was in the habit of reproaching them with
their civilization; and in the keenest and most sarcastic manner
contrasted their degenerate efleminacy, with every thing that
was great and noble in the opinion of Indians. Demosthenes,
in his reproaches of his countrymen, was not more terribly vehe-
ment and audacious. Against the United States, he pronounced
the most furious invectives, which might be compared to the


War with the Seminoles.

Philippics of the Grecian orator ; and he unquestionably left a
strong impression on the minds of the southern Indians.

There existed, however, another and more immediate cause
of their enmity towards us. The Seminoles, and the tribes of
the Creeks who resided within the territory of Spain, were
frequently supplied with arms and presents from the British
government, with a view of engaging them to make war upon
the United States, and also to prevail upon the other Creeks to
join them. The town of Pensacola, which was then, to every
purpose, under the control of Great Britain, was the usual
place at which these presents were distributed, and where the
vagabond Indians could be supplied with arms ; and they
resorted to it, from all the different tribes, for the purpose of
receiving them. It was no difficult matter, thus to excite hos-
tilities; and the attempt, unfortunately, proved but too success-
ful. Such was the disposition of the southern Indians, during
the first year of the war.

The Choctaws, Chickasaws and Cherokees, the latter par-
ticularly, being further removed from British influence, and
within reach of our power, were disposed to be friendly ; but
many of their restless young men, in spite of the nation, strayed
off and joined our enemies. Hostilities did not commence on
the part of any of these Indians, within our territory, during
the first year of the war. The government, however, fearing
the worst, called on the governors of Georgia and Tennessee,
to hold their militia in readiness ; and general Jackson, at the
head of two thousand men, early in the spring, marched through
the Choctaw and Chickasaw country to Natchez, a distance of
five hundred miles ; but every thing appearing peaceful in this
quarter, he shortly after returned. This expedition had the
effect of fixing the tribes through which it passed, and of retard-
ing the Creek war. The tribes within the limits of the
Spanish part of Florida, on the contrary, declared themselves
at once, and brandished the scalping knife against the frontier
of Georgia.

The Seminoles, very soon after the declaration of war, began
to make incursions into Georgia, accompanied by a number of
negro runaways, who had taken refuge amongst them. They
proceeded to the usual work of murdering the inhabitants, and
plundering their property. Early in September, a party of
marines, and about twenty volunteers under captain Williams,
were attacked near Davis's Creek by about fifty Indians and
negroes. After a desperate resistance, in which captains Wil-
liams and Fort were both severely wounded, the party retreated,
leaving the savages in possession of their wagons and teams.


War with the Seminoles.

On the 24th of the same month, colonel Newman, of the
Georgia volunteers, with about one hundred and seventeen
men, marched to the attack of the Lochway towns. Wjien
within a few miles of the first of these, he met a party of one
hundred and fifty Indians on horseback, who instantly dis-
mounted and prepared for battle. Colonel Newman ordered a
charge, and the Indians were driven into one of the swamps
which abound in this part of the country. As they fled, the
fire of the musketry did considerable execution, and, amongst
others of the slain, they left their king in the hands of the
whites. The Indians discovering this, with a spirit which
deserves to be admired, made several desperate cliarges, in
order to recover the body of their chief, and were eacli time
driven back. But in another attempt, still more desperately
furious, they succeeded in carrying off the dead body ; v/hen
they retired from tlie field, after a severe conflict of two hours.
'J'his, however, did not free the Georgians from iheir unplea-
sant situation. Before night, tlie Indians returned witli con-
siderable reinforcements of negroes ; and after a loss more severe
than the first, they again fled. The volunteers now found
their situation becoming every moment more critical; the num-
ber of their wounded, would neither permit them to retreat
nor to advance, and the enemy was hourly increasing on all
sides. A messenger was despatched for reinforcements ; and
in the meanwhile, they threw up a small breast-work. Here
they remained until the 4tli of October, waiting for assistance;
having in the meantime repelled numerous assaults from tlie
Indians, who continued to harass ihcm day and niglit. The
Indians, observing that a perfect silence prevailed within the
breast-works, suspected that they had been deserted in the
night; and approached under this assurance, until within thirty
or forty paces, when the Georgians suddenly showed them-
selves above the breast-work, fired their pieces, and sent them
yelling to the swamps. The volunteers then decamped, and
reached unmolested the village of Peccolatta, whence they had
set out. Intelligence of this afiair reached the government
about the commencement of the session of congress, and it
was found necessary to make suitable preparations to meet a
war in this quarter. The defence of this important frontier
was assigned to general Pinckney, of South Carolina, a gentle-
man of great distinction and ability, who was appointed a briga-
dier in the service of the United States.

Congress had not been long in session, when the j)ublic
feelings were once more excited by news of the most flattering
kind. Another naval victory was announced, not less splendid


Third Naval Victory over a British Frigate (the Java).

than that of the United States, and the first of the Constitution :
the flag of another British frigate was transmitted to our capitol,
and was placed amongst the other trophies of our naval prowess.
In October, the Constitution, commodore Bainbridge, and the
Hornet, captain Lawrence, sailed from New York, and were
to efTect a junction with the Essex, captain Porter, which sailed
about the same time from the Delaware ; the object of which
was to cruise in the South Seas, and destroy the British fish-
eries and commerce in that quarter. The junction not happen-
ing at the time and place appointed, commodore Porter passed
round Cape Horn alone. In the meanwhile, on the 29th of
December, a few leagues west of St Salvador, the Constitution,
which had a few days before parted company with the Hornet,
descried a British frigate. Commodore Bainbridge tacked,
and stood for her. At two P. M. the enemy was within half
a mile of the Constitution, and to windward, having hauled
down his colours except the union jack, which was at the
mizen-mast head. A gun was then fired ahead to make him
show his colours, which was returned by a broadside. The
enemy's colours being now hoisted, the action commenced with
round and grape ; but he kept at so great a distance that this
had little effect; and in this position, if he were brought nearer,
the Constitution would be exposed to raking. At thirty minutes
past two, both ships were within good canister distance, when
the Constitution's wheel was shot away. At forty minutes
past two, the fore and main sail were set; and commodore
Bainbridge, being now determined to close with her, luffed up
for that purpose : in ten minutes afterward the enemy's jib-boom
got foul of the Constitution's mizen rigging, and in another ten
minutes his bowsprit and jib-boom were shot away. At five
minutes past three, his maintopmast was shot away just above
the cap. This was followed by the loss of his gaff and spanker-
boom, and soon after his mainmast went nearly by the board.
At fifteen minutes past three, the enemy was completely si-
lenced, and his colours at the mainmast being down, it was
thought he had surrendered: under this idea the Constitution
shot ahead to repair damages ; after which, discovering the
enemy's flag still flying, she wore, stood for him in hand-
some style, and got close athwart his bows in an effectual
position for raking, when his mainmast went entirely by the
board, and he lay an unmanageable wreck. He now struck his
colours ; and being taken possession of by lieutenant Parker was
found to be the British frigate Java, of thirty-eight guns, but
carrying forty-nine, commanded by a distinguished officer,
captain Lambert, who was mortally wounded. She had on

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Third Naval Victory over a British Frigate (the Java).

board four hundred men, besides one hundred seamen whom
she was carrying out to the East Indies for the service there.
The Constitution had nine men killed, and twenty-five wound-
ed ; the Java sixty killed, and one hundred and twenty wound-
ed. She had on board despatches for St Helena, the Cape of
Good Hope, and the different establishments in the East
Indies and China, with copper for a seventy-four, building at
Bombay. There were also on board a number of passengers,
among whom were lieutenant-general Hislop, governor of
Bombay ; major Walker ; and one staft-major ; captain Mar-
shall, master and commander, of the royal navy ; and several
officers appointed to ships in the East Indies.

The conduct of all the American officers on this occasion,
was as conspicuous for gallantry during the engagement, as for
humanity to the vanquished. It is this true chivalric courtesy
which gives estimation to valour. LiciiK jiant Aylwin, so fa-
vourably known to the reader, received a severe wound, of
which he soon after died. He was in the act of firing his
pistols at the enemy from the quarterdeck hammock, when he
received a ball in his shoulder blade, which threw him on the
deck. Midshipman Dulany, who had fought by his side in
both actions of this ship, ordered two men of his division to
carry him below ; to this he would not consent until lie saw
the issue of the battle, at the same time declaring that no man
should quit his post on his account. Lieutenant l^arker, James
Dulany of Pennsylvania, and James Packett, of Virginia, were
much distinguished ; the latter was afterwards presented with
a sword by his native state, and was promoted to a lieutenancy.
Many extraordinary instances of bravery were manifested by
the seamen, one of whom, after being mortally wounded, lay
upon deck during a great part of the action, apparently expir-
ing ; but no sooner was it announced that the enemy had
struck, than he raised himself up, gave three cheers, fell back
and expired.

On the 1st of January, the commodore, finding the prize in
such a state as to render it impossible to bring her in, and
leaving every thing on board except the prisoners' baggage,
blew her up. On arriving at St Salvador, the commodore re-
ceived the public acknowledgements of governor Hislop, who
presented him with an elegant sword in consideration of the
polite treatment which he had shown. He dismissed the private
passengers without considering them as prisoners; the public
passengers, officers and crew were released on their parol. At
this place the Constitution met with the Hornet ; and leaving
this vessel to blockade the Bonne Citoyenne, the commodore



Disasters of our Arms to the West Harrison returns to Ohio.

sailed for the United States, changing the original destination
for the South Seas.

On the arrival of commodore Bainbridge in the United
States, he was universally hailed by tlie applauses of his coun-
trymen, he received the freedom of the city of New York in
a gold box ; a piece of plate from the citizens of Philadelphia,
and the thanks of many of the state legislatures. Congress also
presented him a medal, and voted fifty thousand dollars to him-
self, officers and crew.

In the midst of these affairs, news of fresh disasters to the
westward, and accompanied by circumstances such as rarely
occur in the annals of history, tended much to temper the
public joy for the second victory of the Constitution.


Harrison returns to Ohio — General Winchester sends a Detachment to the relief of
Frenchtown — Defeat of the British and Indians — Winchester arrives with Reinforce-
ments—Surrender at the River Raisin— Cruelty of the British and Indians at the River
Raisin— Humane Conduct of the People of Detroit — March of General Harrison —
Siege of Fort Meigs— Defeat of Colonel Dudley— Sortie under Colonel Miller— Siege
of Fort Meigs raised— Exploit of Major Ball.

We have seen with what indefatigable industry general Har-
rison was engaged, in placing the western frontier in a posture
of defence, and in attempting to regain what we had lost. 'J'he
Indian tribes had been made to feel the war in their own country,
and were driven to such a distance by the destruction of their
villages, as to prevent them from annoying our settlements;
they were compelled to remove their wives and children to the
distant British establishments, in order to obtain the means of
subsistence. The close of the season Avas now chiefly occu-
pied in strengthening the frontier posts, and in establishing others.
Great exertions were made by governor Meigs, of Ohio, to
keep up the necessary supply of men, and to provide the means
of subsistence. GeneraHiittison established his head quarters
atJEj^arJili^ton, whence he could with greater facility organize
^d distribute to the different forts the reinforcements and sup-
plies which must arrive. His object was to concentrate a con-
siderable force at the Rapids, and thence, unless a change of cir-


General Winchester sends a Detachment to the relief of Frenchtown.

Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeHistory of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: → online text (page 9 of 32)