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Bill Thayer

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Tarnished Warrior
James Ripley Jacobs

[image ALT: A photograph of an oil painting, a portrait of an old man, balding and overweight, with a self-satisfied, alert and ever so slightly amused expression; he wears an early‑19c high-collared military dress uniform jacket with heavy tasseled epaulets and a large oval brooch or clasp, but it is for the most part unbuttoned and shows the shirt beneath. It is Major-General James Wilkinson, a controversial figure in American history.]

Major-General James Wilkinson
from a portrait by Gilbert Stuart.

Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Henry G. Allen, New Orleans, La.

"Some men are sordid, some vain, some ambitious. To detect the predominant passion, to lay hold of it, is the profound part of political science." Wilkinson to Gardoqui, Jan. 1, 1789, in Fortier, A History of Louisiana, II, 141‑142.


Doctor by Profession, Soldier by Choice




An Ardent Duelist Acquires a Thankless Job


Merchant-Politician of Kentucky


A Rising Officer of Regulars


Baiting a General and Hoodwinking a Baron


The New General-in‑Chief Inspects and Disposes


Federal Commissioner in the Reach for Dominion


In and Out with Burr


A Better Lawyer Than General


Promotion and Failure


The Ex-General Turns to Books and Foreign Travel



facing page

The campaigns of Arnold and Gates in the country of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Champlain


Map of the Battle of Trenton


Campaigns of Generals Harmar, St. Clair, and Wayne


Map of the Battle of Freeman's Farm


Map of the Battle of Bemis Heights


Map of New Orleans and the lower Mississippi


Map left by Aaron Burr, just before his arrest near Coles Creek, Mississippi


Theatre of Wilkinson's Operations in 1813 and 1814


Other Illustrations

Major-General James Wilkinson from a portrait by Gilbert Stuart


facing page

Major-General James Wilkinson from a miniature by Gilbert Stuart


Mrs. Ann Biddle Wilkinson


Don Esteban Miró


Don Francisco Louis Hector, Baron de Carondelet de Noyelles, Seigneur d'Haine Saint Pierre


Wilkinson's Commission as Lieutenant Colonel


Fort Washington


Major-General Wilkinson, 1808, from a portrait by St. Memin


General Anthony Wayne


The home of Mr. Duplantier near New Orleans, once occupied as headquarters by Major-General Wilkinson


New Orleans in 1803


Aaron Burr from a painting by John Vanderlyn


Panorama of Vera Cruz in 1846


Major-General Wilkinson from a portrait by Charles W. Peale

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Technical Details

Edition Used

The edition transcribed here is the first printing by The Macmillan Company, 1938, but the copyright was not renewed in the appropriate year (1965 or 1966) so the book is now in the public domain: details here on the copyright law involved.


As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

My transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

The printed book was well proofread; the few typographical errors are marked, when important (or unavoidable because inside a link), with a bullet like this;º and when trivial, with a dotted underscore like this: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the bullet or the underscored words to read the variant. Similarly, bullets before measurements provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles.

A number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked.

Any over­looked mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have a copy of the printed book in front of you.

Pagination and Local Links

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is shown in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line); p57  these are also local anchors. Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the author's own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.

[image ALT: A tondo portrait, in right profile, of an old man of military bearing, and wearing a military uniform recognizable only by the tasseled epaulet. He is mostly bald, overweight, and rather expressionless. It is the 19c American general James Wilkinson; the image serves as the icon on this site for the biography of him by James Ripley Jacobs.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is a sepia-toned rendering of the portrait of Wilkinson facing p146, one of three portraits of him in the book.

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Site updated: 4 Oct 10