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No period casts upon the United States a more justifiable shadow than the one which includes the second war against Great Britain. Almost thirty years had passed since the first one, when nearly 400,000 frantically raised soldiers had sought to drive little more than 40,000 of the enemy from our shores. At the end of this illuminating interval, the government found itself with larger resources and a firmer control, but with nothing that might be mistaken for trained forces. Men of the type of Washington, Steuben, Greene and Morgan had passed out. There had meanwhile been no incentive to produce soldiers technically schooled for battle and campaign. Bereft of ordinary means of keeping afloat, the country was about to plunge into war.
The opening of 1812 saw the army almost as heterogeneously organized, or disorganized, as when Steuben appeared at Valley Forge. Congress had established companies ranging from 64 to 100 men; and regiments, from 10 to 20 companies. Although the regular establishment had been raised to 11 regiments, less than one fifth of the added numbers had been recruited and no provisions had been made for a competent staff to handle the increase. Only 71 cadets had so far been graduated from a Military Academy of irregular and infantile curriculum. Even if such men as Thayer, Swift and Totten were beginning to give good accounts of themselves, they were so young and few that they scarcely formed a nucleus.
The several thousand regulars were chained to the frontier forts and the coast line. They could not be withdrawn for combined use without inviting massacres of the frontiersmen and the loss of possessions. The First, Fourth and Fifth regiments p117 of infantry were scattered in small groups along the vast stretch of territory on the edges of the Great Lakes and on the borders of Ohio and Indiana; the Seventh was spread through Kentucky; the Sixth was found in the southwest; the Second in the vicinity of New Orleans; and the Third along the frontier of Georgia and Florida. The artillery in small detachments was dotted along the coast from Maine to Georgia and the regiment of dragoons was broken up and used as foot troops with the infantry.
Off in their primitive inclosures, the little companies, platoons and sections formed their ranks for morning parade with white belts immaculate, breast plates polished and "silk" (or "plug") hats shined to a gloss. The musketeer in his blue coatee with bullet buttons and herring-bone buttonholes, the rifleman in the full-dress gray coat of a modern cadet, and the officer in his high black boots with gilt spurs marched solemnly and punctiliously before the commanding officer. If from the blockhouse there came the cry "Indians" the scene suddenly took on more action. Each man knew his part. The hunting shirt and nankeen overalls replaced the coatee and the tight-fitting breeches. The dress quickly changed, but the discipline remained. Through straining days and nights the meager garrison watched every loophole for the fatal or the crawling redskin. After hours of sleeplessness, hunger and oftentimes fever, the defenders finally convinced the savage of the futility of his errand. Then came the battles, the ministrations to the sick and the repairs to the stockade. The few, who had become fewer, returned to the routine of toil and isolation.
1812 To help in the protection of these frontiers Congress authorized the enlistment of 6 companies of "Rangers" for twelve months. Jan. 11
1812 Then, because of threatening war with England, it added to the regular troops 10 regiments of infantry of 18 companies each, 3 regiments of artillery of 20 companies each and a regiment of light dragoons of 12 companies. After the increase, the army theoretically consisted of 17 regiments of infantry, 4 of artillery, 2 of dragoons and 1 of rifles, together with a corps of engineers composed of 16 officers and 4 cadets.1
The new legislation amounted to paper energy. If sufficient recruits could not be had for the former army certainly the acquirement of fresh ones on the same conditions was ridiculous. In this strait, Congress, instead of raising the inducement for men who could be held long enough to be trained,
1812 resorted to calling out 30,000 volunteers. This move gave the same reaction as Glendower's "spirits from the vasty deep."
However, from the mist of these legislative acts there did arise a Quartermaster's Department.
1812 Although imperfectly created, it was the first legal recognition of an actual supply staff. Military agents were supplanted by a quartermaster-general, with rank of brigadier, four deputy quartermasters and an elastic number of assistants, depending upon the requirements of public service. The act itself looked very well, but it had so many "riders" pertaining to the ordnance and subsistence branches that confusion and delay ruled. Some one said it should truly have been entitled "An act for the speedy enrichment of contractors and the periodical starvation of the troops of the United States." But it was at least a step toward making an organized supply department.
1812 Finding out for certain that it could not raise the army it had voted, Congress now hedged on its original idea by reducing the period of enlistment for 50 per cent of the volunteers to eighteen months. Finally it threw up its hands altogether and passed its responsibility to the States April 10
1812 by asking the Governors to have 80,000 officers and men ready to march at a moment's notice. What came of this request will be seen later.
1812 The signal legislation of this period was the improvement that Congress, under the direction of President Madison, made in the Military Academy. The authorized number of cadets was raised to a maximum of 250. The Corps of Engineers was increased by 6 officers. A force of 94 enlisted men was p119 formed into a "company of bombardiers, sappers and miners," who afterwards gave actual demonstrations to the cadets.
The instructional staff was augmented by a professor of natural and experimental philosophy with rank and pay of lieutenant colonel, a professor of mathematics, and a professor of the art of engineering, the last two with rank and pay of major.2 Cadets were placed under the established discipline of academy regulations, were to be organized by the superintendent into companies, were to be encamped three months out of the year and were to be "trained and taught all the duties of a private, noncommissioned officer and officer." Although this uplift to the Academy was not to bear fruit in this war, it was to be a boon to the next one and to the interval between.
1812 The eve of war saw another development in the staff. The Ordnance Department made its appearance. Its head was to be styled commissary-general of ordnance, and to have the rank of colonel, an allowance of $500 a year and 4 rations a day for clerks. He was to have associated with him 1 assistant with the rank of major, 4 with rank of captain and as many with rank of second lieutenant as the President saw fit to give.
The first activity of the yeara was instituted in the west before war was declared. Colonel William Hull, a valiant officer during the Revolution and then governor of Michigan, was requested by the Secretary of War to take command of the western forces, to accept a commission as brigadier general and to lead the troops to Detroit. Well knowing the situation and the kind of untrained men upon whom he had to reply, he refused the appointment. But upon being importuned later, he accepted. Late in May he arrived at Dayton, Ohio, and took charge of 1,200 militia who were hopelessly ill‑supplied.
1812 With these he reached Urbana, where he was joined by the Fourth Infantry of regulars, numbering only 300 effectives. From there he started to cut his way through •200 miles of wilderness. With a large proportion of undisciplined, hungry men who had to be urged along often at the point of the bayonet by p120 the regulars, he attempted to work north and at the same time protect his rear. Naturally, the progress was slow when he had to cut roads, build bridges and garrison the blockhouses he constructed.
In the east General Dearborn, who was in command of the army, could not obtain even poor troops.
1812 When he called for some of the 80,000 the President had requisitioned, in conformity with the recent law, he was met with a cold rebuff. The governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut would not, on the express order of the Secretary of War, send a single soldier. They stated that since their particular states were in no danger of invasion they could not comply, and then rested their case on constitutional nicety and legal minutiae.
General Hull was in almost as awkward a position as General Dearborn. The authorities in Washington, without any realization of his obstacles, were urging him by heavy packets of correspondence to hasten his advance to Detroit. Such governmental heckling was so usual it would not here be commented upon, were it not for a blunder of criminal omission.
1812 Of the declaration of war no mention was made in those letters carefully sent by messengers. That vital information was intrusted to the public mails and to such conveyance as chance in a rugged country provided. As a consequence the commander of our army in the field did not know of the existence of a state of war until July 2, several days after the Canadian government had been discreetly apprised of the fact by our Secretary of the Treasury. Such conscientious consideration of the enemy to the exclusion of our own troops did not raise the spirits of General Hull's force.
1812 Once the struggle had started Congress realized that although an army scattered in little detachments might resist savages successfully with conglomerate regimental organizations, some sort of uniformity was necessary to make them operate as a team. Accordingly the strength was set at 10 companies per regiment, more nearly conforming to Steuben's idea.3 Why such an obvious detail had been ignored in peace, admits of but one answer.
1812 A little later other legislation gave the President authority to appoint two more brigadier generals, to place federal officers over volunteers and to confer honorary brevet rank for over ten years' service in any one grade and for "meritorious conduct." This attempt to better the officer personnel without spending money proved to be more harmful than helpful. The honor was empty and rank became confused.
1812 Hull finally arrived at Detroit. When a few hundred Michigan militia had joined him, he crossed into Canada in spite of the fact that 180 of the Ohio volunteers refused to accompany him.
In the vicinity of Sandwich he spent about a month supplying himself off the country, trying to win over the inhabitants and seeking to get some howitzers and cannon which he lacked. Finally he decided to attack the British post at Malden. But on the eve of the venture, being apparently impressed with the caliber of his troops and the fall of Michimackinac,4 the key to the trade routes, he returned to Detroit with his whole force.
After he had placed his troops behind fortifications of the strongest type, about 1,300 British and Indians threatened to attack him.
1812 Though well armed and equipped, Hull surrendered without any show of resistance. Detroit fell and the northwest passed into the hands of the British. What the British commander thought of the militia at the capitulation is shown by the ease with which he allowed them to go home, whereas he took the regulars as prisoners to Montreal, where, after many hardships, they were finally exchanged. Much has p122 been written of this disgraceful capitulation both in condemnation and defense, but whatever has been said on either side has never been at variance with one fact: the government trusted to senility in command and inexperience in panic and file — about all that it had allowed itself to have.
The operations of other American commands during the remainder of the year were almost as futile. Along the Niagara frontier General Stephen Van Rensselaer had been attempting to collect a central army.
1812 About this time it numbered altogether 691 men — unpaid, unfed, un‑everything as was the custom. It, therefore, had to wait until later for any activity. At Ogdensburg General Jacob Brown of the New York militia had driven off from behind earthworks a superior force of British, but the numbers engaged were so small as to make the effect on the war very little. In the west, General Hopkins with 4,000 Kentucky militia attempted to punish the hostile Indians along the Wabash and Illinois rivers. Oct. 10
1812 The state volunteers assembled at Fort Harrison with enthusiasm. But on the march the hardships on these undisciplined men brought insubordination and disobedience. In five days they had abandoned their General and dispersed to their homes.
1812 General Van Rensselaer having later collected at Lewiston about 2,500 New York militia and 450 regulars — mostly recruits — planned to take the heights of Queenstown across the river. His idea was to send over 600 of the best troops first. Oct. 13
1812 But boats seemed to be lacking at the last minute so that only about 225 made the crossing. This little force gallantly attacked and took the heights. There they withstood charge after charge throughout the day, vainly hoping for reënforcements. Overpowered at last by superior numbers, most of them were either killed or captured. During these terrible hours an overwhelming force of American militia on the New York side looked on calmly at the slaughter.
"They were ordered, threatened and entreated. The militia, nevertheless, were not disposed to move. As one half of the boats had drifted away or been swamped in the confusion, the men pleaded the want of means to carry them over. It was then suggested that they should cross in detachments; and as p123 the general became still more urgent in his entreaties, he so far prevailed, as to induce a militia company handsomely equipped to consent to go. Just as they were entering the boats, however, a firing was heard from the opposite side of the river; and these gallantly arrayed soldiers halted and firmly stood their ground, declaring they would not cross. Moreover, they took occasion to express their scruples about invading foreign territory and affirmed that they, as militia, had constitutional objections which no general could induce them to waive on that occasion."
Corporal Stubbs in his diary seems to corroborate this account from a different standpoint, the standpoint of the gallant fellows on the Canadian shore:
". . . But we were now in our turn unfortunate, for one half of our army was yet on the other side of the river, nor would the cowardly dogs come over to assist us when they saw the d–––––––––––––d redcoats cutting us up like slain venson! — The enemy now doubled their numbers while every shot diminished ours, in truth they got the better of us, and again got possession of their batteries altho we let fly showers of ball and buck shot into their very teeth and eyes! AH! the poor yankee lads, this was a sorry moment for ye! they dropped my brave companions like wild pigeons, while their balls whistled like a northwest wind through a dry can brake! — our Commander ordered a retreat, but nature never formed any of our family you know for runners, so I wadled along as well as I could behind, but the redcoat villains overhaul'd me, and took me prisoner! but not until I had a fare shot at their head commander General Brock, who galloping his horse after my retreating comrads, bellowed out to 'um like a wounded buffalo to surrender, but I leveled my old fatheful bess, which never disappointed me in so fare a mark, and I heard no more of his croaking afterwards — of 1,000 which crossed over but a few escaped biting the dust! As for porr me, I expected they'd kill and scalp me, but after stareing at me as if I had been born with two heads, and enquiring of what nation I was, and from what part of the world I came, their Colonel ordered me liberated, who said to me, 'old daddy, your age and odd appearance induces me now p124 to set you at liberty, return home to your family and think no more of invading us!' — This I promised him I would do, but I didn't mean so for I was determined I wouldn't give up the chase so, but at 'um again."
So Queenstown added another humiliation to our arms and revealed the shocking fact that untrained men would not even go to the rescue of their stricken comrades. An effort in the west did not turn out much better. General Harrison tried to lead a column into Canada.
1812 His call for recruits brought the quick response that is usual with men who know nothing of the hardships of campaign. About 10,000 militia of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and Pennsylvania started to plod through the cold swamps of the north. A slight fray with the Indians was the test of their endurance. Some deliberately returned to camp and others to their homes. The remainder stayed only at the earnest entreaties of their officers. At any rate the numbers dwindled to such an extent that the work of the year for these troops stopped.
General Dearborn, the commander in chief of the northern department, had 6,300 troops along the northern boundary. With 2,200 at Sackett's Harbor, under the immediate command of General Smythe,5 and 5,000 at Plattsburg he controlled an army over six times as strong in man power as all the Canadian forces. Had they been trained, combined and hurled as a single unit against the enemy, one campaign would have sufficed for the war. But General Dearborn was satisfied with fractions and small ones at that. He reserved for himself the force at Plattsburg. Although the 5,000 there were sufficient in themselves to take Montreal, he was content with using only 1,500 under Colonels Pike and Clarke for an expedition against a small British post on the river La Colle.
1812 Subdividing this command still further into two detachments he sent them out in the nighttime. One drove the small force of Indians and Canadians away without capturing them. The other, hearing the firing, mistook the assaulting troops for the enemy. The p125 resulting picture discloses two American commanders firing into each other effectively while the enemy escaped.
General Dearborn and his troops now being weary went into winter quarters at Plattsburg.
General Smythe remained the one hope of the year. So far he had been content with issuing soul-stirring proclamations to the surrounding inhabitants. "Volunteers!" he had written, "I esteem your generous and patriotic motives . . . You will show eternal infamy that awaits the man who, having come within sight of the enemy, basely shrinks in the moment of trial. Soldiers of every corps! it is in your power to retrieve the honor of your country."
By means of such turgid outflow, he had induced at least 4,500 men to come to him. After the repose of General Dearborn, he burst into fresh torrents of words, plainly admitting the defects of previous commanders and his own eminent fitness to gain the victory.
Having collected at Black Rock seventy rowboats and numbers of bateaux, he announced the exact date of invasion to be November 28. On the eve of the appointed day, he sent over the river under cover of the night a small advance guard which spiked the enemy's cannon and returned in safety.
The next day 2,000 men under General P. B. Porter took to the boats early in the morning preparatory to rowing across the stream. General Smythe with the remaining number (over 3,000) paraded in full view of the enemy's forts. To the hostile cannonade his batteries replied with a fire of shells and red‑hot shot. All seemed to be ready for attack. But throughout the morning the troops waited for the order to proceed. In the afternoon General Smythe, without explanation, gave instructions for the vanguard to disembark and for all to return to their quarters.
So openly resentful were some of the men who had been wheedled into leaving their firesides, that the General promised to invade Canada at a later date.
1812 Accordingly three days afterwards the command was drawn up as before. Again the boats were entered and again the troops waited for the order to proceed. This time the General was conducting a council of war. He had forgotten up until p126 that time that an invasion was not to be undertaken without the approval of his principal officers. His real reason was that now that some of his troops had refused to enter the boats he was mistrustful of the stability of his men. At any rate, as afternoon approached, he again ordered the troops to disembark and to be informed that the invasion was given up for the season.
"The scene of discontent which followed was without a parallel. Four thousand men without order or restraint indignantly discharged their muskets in every direction. The person of the commanding general was threatened. Upward of 1,000 men of all classes had suddenly left their homes and families, and had made great sacrifices to obey the call of their country under General Smythe's invitation."
Scorned and hunted, Smythe finally took refuge in his own home in Virginia. Having "come within sight of the enemy" and "basely shrunk" he became the victim of his own words. On the other hand, he possibly had a just fear that the militia would desert him at the last moment.
The closing year saw the militia dispersed, the regulars in winter quarters and Congress again casting about to get soldiers.
1812 Legislative efforts resulted in raising the pay on a scale ranging from $12 for a sergeant major to $8 for each "private, driver, bombardier, mattross, sapper and miner." But the act was a little late to do much good.
1813 At the opening of 1813 a detachment of General Harrison's force, command by General Winchester, made its way through a •two‑foot snow and high drifts on its way to the rapids of the Maumee. The men, having harnessed themselves to sledges in order to transport their own baggage, covered the required distance of •forty miles in ten days. One soldier described his difficulties on this march as follows:
"Our tents were struck, and in half an hour we were on the road. I will candidly confess that, on that day, I regretted being a soldier. We marched •thirty miles under an incessant p127 rain (on the day before the snow had fallen so deep as to be up to a man's waist), and I am afraid you will doubt my veracity when I tell you that in •eight miles of the best of the road, it took us over the knees and often to the middle. The Black Swamp would have been considered impassable by all but men determined to surmount every difficulty to accomplish the object of their march. The water was •about six inches deep on the ice, which was very rotten, often breaking through to the depth of •four or five feet. The same night we encamped on very wet ground, but the driest that could be found, the rain still continuing. It was with difficulty we could raise fires; we had no tents; our clothes were wet; no axes; nothing to cook with, and very little to eat. A brigade of pack-horses being near us, we procured from them some flour; killed a hog; our bread was baked in the ashes, and our pork we broiled on the coals — a sweeter meal I never partook of. When we went to sleep, it was on two logs laid close to each other, to keep our bodies from the damp ground."
While gathering supplies6 from the surrounding country, General Winchester was informed that the Americans at Frenchtown •thirty miles away were in need of succor.
1813 Abandoning much of his work of provisioning the northwestern army, he sent Colonel Lewis with 550 men at once to the town. This force with reënforcements of 150 men attacked with such vigor that it drove the British and Indians away. Nor could the enemy retake the position after repeated assaults.
But discipline and training tell more sometimes in sealing a victory than in gaining it. After the enemy had apparently left the field, the inflated officers and soldiers neglected all caution.
1813 When General Winchester with another detachment of 350 had joined them, they became so reckless that they straggled all over the country at will and established no outpost. Jan. 22
1813 In this condition they were surprised in the early morning by about a thousand British and Indians, who had arrived within gunshot before they were discovered by the Americans.
1813 In the action that followed, half the command was easily captured by the enemy because it had taken up a hasty and untenable position, and the next day the whole of General Winchester's previously successful force was surrendered.7
1813 Legislation during this inconsequential excursion was exercising itself just as effectually; $24 in addition to the existing bounty of $16, three months' pay and •160 acres of land were offered to a recruit, and $4 to the officer who procured him. To each regular regiment there was added 1 major and to each troop or company 1 third lieutenant and 1 extra sergeant. A member of the militia was allowed to enlist in the regular army; heretofore, by existing law, he had been prohibited from so doing. Jan. 29
1813 Twenty extra regiments were to be raised for one year and 6 major generals and 6 brigadier generals were added to the army.
1813 The appointees to the higher grade were Harrison, Wilkinson, Hampton, Lewis, Davie and Ogden; to the lower, Izard, Pike, Winder, M'Arthur, Cass and Howard.
The written strength of the regular army was now 44 regiments of infantry, 4 regiments of artillery, 2 regiments of dragoons, 1 regiment of rifles, 1 corps of engineers and the staff. It is doubtful if a sixth of this 58,000 men was ever recruited.
A New System of Discipline for infantry being adopted, the drill of that time was returned to the French system. Companies and platoons were formed in 3 ranks at •2 feet distance. A regiment was organized into 1 or 2 battalions, depending on the number of companies. A platoon consisted of 32 men and a section of 8 men. In wheeling, the front rank moved on a circle, the middle rank on a "less circle to the front" and the rear rank on a "circle still less." The maneuvers were, in general, so complicated that they were difficult for the recruit to master.
Smith's Artillery Tactics conformed more nearly to Steuben's principles. A company of 1 captain, 2 lieutenants, 4 sergeants, 4 corporals, 6 gunners, 6 bombardiers and 32 mattrosses paraded in 1 rank; a company of double that size, in 2 ranks. p129 In wheeling, receiving and manning the piece at the park and in limbering and unlimbering the pieces, the movements were precisely worked out in detail. The batteries were taught to fire while advancing and retreating, to move with either the right or left in front and to "display" pieces either to the left or right. Chisel marks were placed on the "base ring" and "swelling of the muzzle" of the gun in order to get a proper line of sight and elevation for firing at a target. The system for so doing was elaborate. Because the guns were not uniformly made, each piece had to have its own chisel marks, carefully and mathematically worked out by the battery officers, or the shooting with cannons would be ineffective. It is needless to say in this undisciplined fracas that the artillery did not figure greatly.
1813 One of the very few land successes of this war was an expedition led by General Pike8 against York (Toronto). With about 1,700 picked men he attacked a stronghold garrisoned by about 850 Canadians and Indians, mostly militia. Under a trained officer, the Americans advanced bravely and would have taken the fortress without much loss had not a magazine within the works of the enemy accidentally exploded. The havoc and death resulting on both sides were tremendous. General Pike and about 280 of his men were killed. But since the United States troops were the first to rally they charged the place and took it. With greater numbers and more training than the enemy, our forces gave a good account of themselves.
1813 Shortly after this victory the War Office printed the Military Laws and Rules and Regulations for the Armies of the United States. The initial appearance of such a work was the forerunner of the present Army Regulations. At that time it comprised information such as the rank of regiments and officers, duties of the staff departments, rules governing promotion and other instructional matter. The following extract marks an advance in prescribing punishments:
"And be it further enacted, That in lieu of whipping, as provided by several of the rules and articles of war, as now p130 used and practiced, stoppage of pay, confinement, and deprivation of part of the rations, shall be substituted in such manner as is hereinafter provided."
Just how much this substitution was observed will be seen later.
The Army Register appeared also. It contained a complete list both of regular and volunteer officers and showed a conglomerate mixture of elements making up the army: 1 regiment of artillery; 2 regiments of dragoons; 1st, 2d and 3d regiments of light artillery; 25 regiments of regular infantry; a rifle regiment; 14 regiments of one‑year infantry; 5 regiments of volunteer infantry for the war; 12 companies of rangers; 4 regiments, 1 battalion and 1 company of "United States volunteers" and 5 companies" of "sea fencibles." It also showed the country to be divided for military administration into nine districts with a brigadier general in charge of each.
1813 The uniform regulations were issued in most specific form. Just how many inches a button should be placed from the bottom of a coat was carefully shown. Blue was prescribed for infantry and artillery. Any ornament such as red collars and cuffs or lace was forbidden. Leather caps were substituted for felt.9 Generals in dress uniform were to be distinguished by cocked hats and other officers by the long chapeaux similar to the one worn in recent years by the naval officer in full dress. Cotton pompons were substituted for feathers. The standing collar was to reach the tip of the ear, and the coats themselves were to be decorated with horizontal tape, buttons and blind buttonholes.
The firelock was practically the same as the one used during the Revolution. Most of the powder was obtained from Kentucky where it was greatly needed and largely manufactured. Although another arsenal was established at Rome, New York, the making of arms and ammunition for the army was mainly carried on by private plants.
In the west the British and Indians to the number of over 2,000 were laying siege to Fort Meigs which had been built and was now defended by Harrison. When he heard that General
p131 Clay with about 1,200 Kentuckians was coming to his rescue he determined on an offensive.
1813 A part of the approaching reënforcements was directed to spike the enemy's guns and immediately join the main body under Harrison. But the 800 untrained men, after having wrought the necessary harm to the hostile artillery, disobeyed orders by attacking the enemy. The consequence was that they were surrounded and over 80 per cent of them either killed or captured. General Harrison being left in the lurch, could do no more than carry on a passive defense. May 9
1813 The hostile Indians having no liking for siege warfare soon caused the abandonment of the investment of Fort Meigs, much to the unexpected relief of the American troops.
1813 In the north General Dearborn, against little resistance, occupied Fort George and other smaller strongholds on the Niagara frontier. During these operations Generals Winder and Chandler were taken prisoners, and Colonel Boerstler, thinking on slight cause that he was surrounded, immediately surrendered himself with 542 men.
1813 However, General Brown did repulse a force from Canada at Sackett's Harbor. The defensive action of his troops may be judged by this officer's official report of the affair:
"My orders were that the troops were to lie close and reserve their fire until the enemy had approached so near that every shot might hit its object. It is, however, impossible to execute such orders with raw troops, unaccustomed to subordination. My orders were, in this case, disobeyed; the whole line fired, and not without effect; but in the moment while I was contemplating this, to my utter astonishment, they rose from their cover and fled. Colonel Mills fell gallantly in brave, but vain endeavor to stop his men. I was, personally, more fortunate. Gathering together about one hundred militia, under the immediate command of Captain McNitt, we threw ourselves on the rear of the enemy's left flank, and, I trust, did some execution. It was at this last moment that the regulars under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Backus, Light Dragoons, first engaged the enemy, nor was it long before they defeated them. Hurrying to this point of action I found the battle still raging, but with obvious advantage to our side."
About a month after this General Dearborn on account of illness requested to be relieved.
1813 General Wilkinson was chosen to succeed him. Age and infirmity gave place to age and fatuity. The result hereafter treated should not be surprising.
While the larger forces were being collected and demoralized, some smaller units of the regulars were giving good account of themselves. For example, in the west a young officer by the name of Groghan with 160 regulars was attacked at Fort Stephenson by over twice that number of British. By resolution, foresight and uncommon bravery he and his men drove off the enemy. His only cannon was a six‑pounder gun loaded with slugs and grapeshot, which he used very ingeniously. The effect on the surrounding community was a discreet withdrawal of hostile marauders.
In contrast to this action was an affair in another part of the country. The Creek Indians in the south were brandishing their red war clubs. Fort Mims, •about 40 miles northeast of Mobile, was garrisoned by about 240 Mississippi militia, who with about 300 women and children occupied the stockade. Although many well-founded reports of a coming Indian attack should have warned the inmates, the news made little impression on these untrained men.
1812 At 11:00 o'clock in the morning 600 savages came within ten yards of the stronghold without discovery. Swarming through the open gate they succeeded in killing about 400 souls. As a result the whole southeast was in a state of fury and panic.b
While the south was in chaos over this unnecessary massacre General Harrison undertook an offensive in the north. Having managed to collect, feed, hold, and transport to the southern side of Lake Erie about 7,000 troops of whom about one fifth were regulars,
1813 he landed on the Canadian shore only to find the British General Proctor fleeing before his superior force. The Americans proceeded to take Malden and Sandwich without a skirmish. Oct. 5
1813 At the Thames River they caught up with the enemy, consisting of 800 British and about 1,500 Indians, who were defensively disposed between the banks and the marshes. A cavalry charge by the mounted Kentuckians and the killing of Tecumseh gave the greatly superior force of Americans the victory. However, the fighting was hard and credit should be p133 given the partially disciplined troops of Harrison, who stood their ground well.
Since the massacre at Fort Mims, General Andrew Jackson had been at work collecting militia at Huntsville. In spite of petty interference by the Secretary of War, Armstrong,10 Jackson had been successful in rounding up about 2,500 men.
1813 With these he started his march through Tennessee toward the Coosa River.
While General Jackson, with his arm in a sling, was thus moving at the head of his troops in the south, General Hampton near Lake Champlain, with about 5,000 freshly recruited men, and General Wilkinson at the foot of Lake Ontario, with about 8,000, planned a joint invasion of Canada. Added to jealousies and bickerings between these two officers was the unwelcome presence of a third party, Armstrong,
1813 who had left Washington to meddle at the front. The troops were all recruits, even to the Fourth Regular Infantry whose trained men had been taken to Canada after Hull's surrender. Affairs were generally in disorder. Colonel Swift, the first graduate of the Military Academy, and then chief engineer of this army, on his arrival at Sackett's Harbor
"found everything in a most disgraceful and deplorable condition; no plan of campaign studied or definitely fixed; the enemy's positions unknown, and the St. Lawrence unexplored; supplies deficient through neglect or incompetency of the War Department; expense of transportation enormous, that of a single field-piece costing over a thousand dollars; our troops mostly recruits, and sick from eating contract provisions."
In this chaos General Hampton marched quickly and eagerly on Montreal before Wilkinson would be able to gain honors. It looked as though the great force under Hampton would be able to consume the paltry 800 Canadian regulars at that place. But the British Commander took a chance on the quality of the United States troops.
1813 He played the old, simple trick of Gideon's Band.c Distributing his buglers well over separated positions where they independently sounded their p134 calls, he led the American commander to believe that a large force was assembled. Although the barest common sense should have convinced Hampton that the British had less than 5,000 men, he immediately withdrew and went into full retreat, thankful that the enemy did not pursue. Thus the Americans gave up without firing a shot.
Meanwhile, Jackson in the south had arrived in the vicinity of the Indians' rendezvous. Having learned that the Creeks had posted themselves at the Tallasahatchee, he sent General Coffee with 900 mounted troops to destroy them.
1813 The natives were decoyed much as the men of Ai in the Bible.d Enticed from their wigwams by a few interpreters, who fled before the savages, the Creeks found themselves suddenly in the midst of an overwhelming force of Americans who promptly exterminated them.
A few days later while Jackson's force was building Fort Strother, he was notified that another body of hostile Creeks was besieging friendly ones at Talladega.
Nov. 7, 8
1813 Not waiting a moment he set out with 2,000 men. When he found the river too deep to ford, he crossed it by setting a foot soldier on a horse behind a mounted one. He thus succeeded in the dark in getting all his floundering soldiers on the other side.
While he was reconnoitering the enemy's position and was resting his wearied troops who had marched all night, he was suddenly informed that General Cocke had called away General White's column which Jackson was commanding and which was to protect his rear. Such ignorant meddling left Jackson completely cut off in the wilderness. In this predicament he did the only sensible thing. He immediately, in the nighttime prepared for the attack. Again following out the tactics of Joshua against the men of Ai he would have annihilated the savages,
1813 had it not been for the fact that some militia of Roberts' brigade gave way and Colonel Bradley, a recent soldier, refused to move forward because he claimed he need not fight until attacked. Even at that, the Indians were driven away with loss. Jackson's training and determination accounted for the flight of the hostile tribe.
1813 General Wilkinson in the north finally started his movement toward Canada. At Chrystler's farm near Williamsburg his p135 advance guard of about 1600 men met a force of 800 British regulars. Nov. 12
1813 After two hours' fight, in which the Americans came off second best, his superior force retired to their boats. A few days later, having heard of Hampton's refusal to join him, he gave up the idea of invasion and went into winter quarters. Although 8,000 men were at the disposal of the American commander to meet no more than 2,000 British, he recoiled and sought comfort in blaming Hampton.
Whereas the northeast found neither real leaders nor soldiers, the south found a leader but few trained soldiers. Yet demoralization in both cases was evident. The speed of the march and the hunger of the ill‑supplied camp was too much for Jackson's untried troops. When they attempted to leave him, he barred the path of the militia with the muskets of the volunteers; and likewise the volunteers, with the militia. He had to resort finally to persuasion and promises. When only 190 men consented to remain, he placed himself at the head of the departing troops and said he would go with them. But he made them promise that if provisions were met on the way they would return. When they did come up with a drove of cattle, nothing but a threat to shoot them down kept them with the colors. They then made the plea that their enlistments were expiring and that they should be allowed to go home.
1813 Several threats to open fire on the mutineers finally quelled their intention.
After the complete subsidence of any aggressiveness on the part of the northern troops who had quailed before an inferior enemy, the Canadians openly accepted the tacit invitation to pillage the shores of the United States. Our lack of training and discipline was to waste more lives and property. The winter coming on, the armies of Hampton and Wilkinson dwindled to several thousand men.
1813 General McClure wantonly abandoned Fort George which had been won at so much sacrifice; and then for no legitimate reason burned Niagara, thereby making homeless several thousand innocent inhabitants during a cold winter. In or about the army there was little spirit or system. Dec. 30
1813 Small bands of British took Fort Niagara with scarcely any opposition, occupied Lewiston, Youngstown and Manchester and burned Black Rock and Buffalo.
p136 Thus the year passed out with very little save disgrace for the undisciplined and ill‑managed American soldiery.
1814 General Cass wrote to the Secretary of War as follows:
"I have passed this day the ruins of Buffalo; it exhibits a scene of distress and destruction such as I have never before witnessed. . . . From the most careful examination, I am satisfied that not more than 650 men, of regulars, militia and Indians landed at Black Rock. To oppose these, we had from 2,500 to 3,000 militia. All, except a very few of them, behaved in the most cowardly manner. They fled without discharging a musket."
In the south General Jackson was no better off for troops than the northern generals. Bereft of all at soldiers of the year before, he was reduced to 900 raw militia. However, he did have some experienced officers.
Jan. 21, 22
1814 With their aid he was able to lead his troops against the Indians, whose detachments on two occasions he put to flight.
1814 By this time it was so difficult to get recruits that the $16 and 3 months' pay for enlistment were raised to $124 cash, of which $100 was to be paid immediately upon the soldier's entry into the service. Men did not care to become part of a disgraceful mob. The term of enlistment for the 14 regiments of one‑year men was raised to five years. Feb. 10
1814 By way of increase, 3 regiments of riflemen, consisting of 10 companies (each company having 1 captain, 1 first, 1 second and 1 third lieutenant, 1 ensign, 5 sergeants, 4 corporals, 2 musicians and 90 privates) were also authorized.
General Wilkinson having prolonged the inactivity of his 4,000 men longer than was seemly, determined now to prevent the British from entering Lake Champlain by the river Sorel. Accordingly his force marched to attack 200 of the enemy in a fortified mill called La Colle. Trees had been felled across the Americans' path.
1814 The mire was so heavy in the woods that the large guns broke down. The lighter artillery could scarcely be dragged. The men when they reached their destination had to stand in snow •a foot deep and fire through a forest so dense that the enemy was screened from view. On the other hand, the p137 British with deadly aim wrought so much havoc that Wilkinson decided to withdraw, going back later to Plattsburg where he failed to renew hostilities; 4,000 Americans withdrew before 200 of the enemy. Although Wilkinson received so much blame for this that he was forced to retire, it should be noted in his favor that he had found it necessary during the engagement to place a sergeant behind each platoon with orders to shoot down any man attempting to flee.
1814 Congress during these flights of soldiery was ever ready to vote splendid organizations. The first, second and third artillery regiments were reorganized into 12 battalions with 6 lieutenant colonels in command. Each company was to have 1 captain, 1 first lieutenant, 1 second lieutenant and 1 third lieutenant, 5 sergeants, 1 quartermaster's sergeant, 8 corporals, 4 musicians and 100 privates. The 2 regiments of dragoons were combined into 1 consisting of 8 troops. Each troop was to have 1 captain, 1 first lieutenant, 1 second lieutenant, 1 cornet, 5 sergeants, 8 corporals, 1 riding master, 1 master of the sword, 2 trumpeters, 1 farrier, 1 blacksmith, 1 saddler and 96 privates. Officers were given allowances for "waiter" or servant hire. A major general was entitled to wages for four and the officer personnel of a company to three. No soldier from the line was permitted to act as a waiter. An attempt was also made to equalize promotions by an adjustment of the relative rank of officers. For the first time major generals in the selection of their aides were confined to captains or subalterns of the line, and brigadiers to subalterns.
1814 Theoretically, the army at this time consisted of 44 regiments of infantry, the corps of artillery, 1 regiment of light artillery, 1 regiment of dragoons, 4 regiments of rifles, the corps of engineers, the rangers and the sea fencibles.
After an unsuccessful attempt to recapture the post of Mackinaw, when our forces acted as ignorantly as Braddock and were slaughtered by the enemy with as much ease as the "venson" of which Corporal Stubbs spoke, the operations of the north concentrated themselves on the force of General Brown. About 3,500 men had been collected at Buffalo in the early spring and summer under the direct supervision of Brown, Scott and Ripley. After two years of war the training and p138 discipline that had been discarded as lost arts after the Revolution were brought from their hiding places. These young generals personally and studiously taught and trained their men, giving those rudiments whose knowledge would have saved many lives in the preceding years of this war, and incidentally have gained the aim of the United States.
When these troops were sufficiently able to handle themselves they were taken by boat to Fort Erie which surrendered without resistance. They then pushed a detachment of the enemy •over fifteen miles to the Chippewa and there engaged a force of 5,000.
1814 A bold attack, complete response to trained officers, the use of the bayonet, with which the Americans were now completely armed, drove the superior numbers of the Canadians from the field.
1814 Afterward General Scott in pushing across the Chippewa was practically hemmed in by overwhelming odds. His force not only attacked and held its own, but General Brown displayed uncommon teamwork in marching to Scott's aid. When darkness stopped the battle of Lundy's Lane the British had sustained more losses than the Americans. The bravery and skill of this action can be determined from the following:
"All that remained of the brigade after that terrible conflict did not exceed 220 men — the Ninth, Eleventh and Twenty-second regiments consolidated under Major Leavenworth, not altogether 100. Many of the cartridges with which the Americans fired, when attacked on the hill, were taken from the cartridge boxes of the English lying dead around them. Men and officers, after five hours' constant fighting, were completely exhausted, and many almost fainting with thirst. There was no water nearer than the Chippewa."
A small force of trained soldiers had met superior numbers on hostile soil and won victories. Although compelled on account of its size to retire from the Canadian shore after the siege of Fort Erie,11 it nevertheless had saved depredations in the United States and given a distinct setback to the boldness p139 of the enemy. A short continuance of such efficiency on the part of the army would have ended the struggle.
But it was very hard to get Americans to train, as will be seen by the coming experience of men dressed in soldier's uniform. The crowning disgrace of the war was yet to take place.
1814 In the Tenth Military Distinct12 which had just been formed, little anxiety had been felt over 3,000 British troops who had been hovering about in the Chesapeake for over a year. A large force of trained and hostile British soldiers was within modern artillery range of the nation's capital. A dilatory circular was finally issued by our government calling upon the Governors for 93,500 men. A dribbling arrogant as to the number of troops to be employed occupied several weeks, the Secretary of War contending that not over 3,000 should be called out. General Winder saw no reason why 4,000 militia could not do the work. A state of restless recruiting resulted. During this time the British were marching uninterruptedly through the very heart of the country and heading directly for Washington. Just outside of that city at the little town of Bladensburg, 5,400 American militia, 400 regulars and 600 sailors and marines were finally collected. Aug. 24
1814 Indeed, they were slung into camp just a few hours before they were called upon to do battle with the approaching enemy. Tomes has described the conditions of the camp as follows:
"While their leaders were stupid with perplexity, the soldiers were wild with disorder. A veteran officer declared that the camp resembled a race-field, and that it was as noisy as a fair. The militia and the sailors, overflowing with drink, were boisterous with mirth and quarrel; and the countersign was given so badly by the unsoldierly sentinels, that it could be heard at a distance of fifty yards."
As the enemy was nearing this American assemblage, the President borrowed a pair of dueling pistols from the Secretary p140 of the Treasury, who felt he had better not go, and then accompanied the Secretary of War and General Winder to the proposed battlefield. Aroused to the fact that the British were really coming, these men of state, since they could almost hear the rifles of the enemy, hurried from the Capitol. When the 1,500 trained British soldiers were almost at Bladensburg, these three gentlemen fell to arguing and discussing the situation as if it were something quite new. Three thousand American militia and a few hundred sailors and marines were somehow posted on the heights above the river — badly. Orders were issued by one commander and countermanded by another. Troops moved here and there without plan or regularity. The British regulars came over the bridge steadily in the face of heavy losses. At this and the sight of harmless hostile rockets the American militia scampered like errant schoolboys, spreading the contagion of flight to General Winder's forces who were poorly posted in rear. The artillery could fire only to the front because the pieces had been scattered between the intervals of improperly selected positions. No one seemed to know what to do except disappear. General Winder,13 who had been a lawyer up until the war, reported the flight by saying, "To my utter astonishment and mortification — when I regained my position, I found the whole of these regiments were flying in the utmost precipitation and disorder." In speaking of the Eighth Maryland he showed that "this corps which had heretofore acted so firmly, evinced the usual incapacity of raw troops to make orderly movements in the face of the enemy and their retreat in a very few moments became a flight of absolute and total disorder." Of the whole of the troops he said that "such of them as could be halted, instead of making efforts to rally, gave themselves up to the uncontrolled feelings which fatigue, exhaustion and privation produced, and pursued their way, either toward home, or in search of refreshments and quarters." In stating p141 his defense of this flight he maintained that "no advantage of position is proof against groundless panic, and a total want of discipline, skill and experience." But such opinions did not prevent General Winder himself from issuing orders for the retreat through Washington and Georgetown. This hodgepodge army actually fled through the capital of the nation and left it open to plunder and rapine. Over twice as many Americans as the enemy left their own homes open to loot, and did so without having made more than a pretense of defense. Picture the newly dressed militiamen zealously slinking homeward or lolling about the streets of the city with a wary eye for the enemy; wagons and carts burdened with snatched household effects; darkey and aristocrat jostling one another in precipitate escape; Mrs. Madison looking vainly through a spyglass for her husband, the President; and secretaries and generals fleeing in carriages this way and that. Behold Brussels during Waterloo! Why the enemy chose to be satisfied with burning the public buildings has never been explained. The "defenders" certainly gave a wider invitation.
How unnecessary was the flight, is shown by the figures. All told there were only 66 casualties out of 5,000 American soldiers. Of this loss the large percentage was borne by sailors, marines and regulars. It is almost certain that no more than 8 militiamen were killed.
Small successes by detachments of trained troops could not compensate for the fall of Washington.
1814 Although the Second Infantry at Fort Bowyer in the south and a few hundred under General Macomb at Plattsburg were making gallant defenses against Indians and British, the effects were local. As far as the war was concerned, it was affected very little by such minor actions.
1814 It came to an end with inconsequent attempts at tardy reconstruction. Several proposals for general conscription were given to Congress and rejected. Two new arsenals were established at Watervliet, New York, and Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. The recruiting laws were revised to allow a recruit under twenty‑one to have four days' grace before he was sent to his organization, Dec. 10
1814 to allow a master to receive part of the bounty money of an enlisting apprentice, to raise the land bounty •from p142 160 to 320 acres and to permit a civilian to hire a substitute to go to the front in his place. But nothing was mentioned with reference to the training.
1814 Such futile acts only accentuated the weak military situation and were appropriate concomitants of the sad ending of an inglorious war. For humiliating as it is for the land forces to acknowledge, it is only true and fair to state that hostilities stopped solely on account of political conditions and a successful navy.
1814 After the peace had been signed, General Jackson at New Orleans, ignorant of the state of international affairs and momentarily expecting an advance by the British against the town, used his great energy and skill in building up the morale of the citizens and collecting more troops. He gave New Orleans a touch of discipline in stating that those who were not for the cause were against it. Accordingly many were compelled to join the ranks. He took over the entire district with dispatch and ruled it with an iron hand.
1815 When Pakenham, the brother-in‑law of the Duke of Wellington, landed with about 8,000 British troops, he found himself in low swampy ground affording no cover nor means of retreat. His position was as unfavorable as could be imagined for a military leader.
On the other hand, Jackson, knowing that he could not trust his 5,000 militia in the open, bent all his energies to making more impregnable, a natural defensive position between the Mississippi and a cypress swamp. The merits of his selection were heightened by a deep canal, a sort of moat which ran along the front of the proposed parapet. He reënforced this natural barrier until it partook of the nature of a redoubt. Behind it, he placed his untrained riflemen so that certain fractions could load while the others were discharging their pieces. By such disposition he could keep up a continuous fire. He so protected and pointed his cannon that they could sweep any attacking columns with cross fire. In addition, he had the gunboats in the river and the fort from the opposite bank prepared to rake the enemy.
1815 In spite of the Americans' formidable position and his own lack of scaling ladders, Pakenham in utter foolhardiness attacked. p143 Naturally his men suffered over 2,000 casualties in a few minutes.
But Jackson could not trust his troops to pursue the fleeing British. He had an object lesson at this time across the river. A few hundred of the enemy were easily putting to flight an overwhelming number of Louisiana and Kentucky militiamen who had been forced into the open. He was thus prevented from clinching his victory because of the unreliability of his own troops. So he had to allow Pakenham to withdraw the remaining British forces.
After peace was generally known to exist, the army began to fall off in numbers until it totaled 33,424 out of a possible 62,773.
1815 Several attempts by Congress and army were made to overcome by quality the lack in quantity. Feb. 8
1815 The Ordnance Department, for example, was placed on a firmer basis by making it consist of 1 colonel, 1 lieutenant colonel, 2 majors, 10 captains, 10 first lieutenants, 10 second lieutenants and 10 third lieutenants. But the new urge came too late to be of value in a disgraceful and ignominious war that should have ended in a few months had George Washington been heeded and Steuben's training continued after the Revolution.
A board of officers consisting of Generals Scott and Swift and Colonels Fenwick, Cumming and Drayton,
1815 who had been ordered "conformable to the House of Representatives" to prepare a set of Infantry Drill Regulations "after the pattern of the Rules and Regulations for the Field Service and Manoeuvres of the French Infantry," now submitted the results of their labor. This was the first work of its kind actually prepared by a regularly constituted board of American officers.
William Duane's Hand Book for Infantry which had been approved by the Secretary of War in 1812, had been in use. It had since 1809 provided for 3 ranks in a company; had done away with the oblique step, the lock step and the deploy step. In firing, the front-rank man loaded and fired his own piece, the middle-rank man fired both his own and his rear-rank man's piece and the rear-rank man merely loaded the middle-rank man's gun. Thus the middle-rank man fired almost twice as fast as his front-rank man and loaded every other time the piece he fired. Volley firing was discouraged.
p144 In presenting his volume to the public, Lieutenant Colonel William Duane showed the spirit of the times three years before the War of 1812:
"There is no discipline; there is even no system; and there are gross misconceptions on the subject. There appears to have been a disposition to discourage the acquisition of military knowledge."
His work consisted of seven parts, touching on almost every phase of contemporary military education. But it was complicated and the natural result of the state of the times he shows above.
1815 The newly adopted regulations edited by the Board of Officers simplified Duane's system principally on account of the sad experiences of an ill‑conducted war. Battalions were divided into 8 companies each. The first and second companies were formed into one grand division, the third and fourth into another, and so on. There were 4 officers to a company: 1 captain, 1 first lieutenant, 1 third lieutenant and 1 ensign. For the first time the instruction was divided into three schools — the soldier, the company and the battalion. The commandant of each regiment was enjoined to assemble at his quarters all the officers of the command so as to explain to them what these three schools meant. Commands of "caution" were distinguished from those of execution by different kinds of type. The length of the ordinary step was increased to •28 inches and the cadence to 90 per minute. The manual of arms continued the practice of Steuben in having the intervals between motions a second of time. The execution of the motions was practically the same as in the Revolution. However, emphasis was placed upon taking extra time with priming, putting the cartridges into the barrel and ramming home. Officers to‑day can be glad that there is such a thing as fixed ammunition when they read the following problems confronting the drill master in 1815:
"The instructor will remark, that the soldiers who, without apparent hurry, load with steadiness and coolness, are those who load best and quickest; because they turn the ramrod without p145 catching against, or interfering with those of the men beside and before them; because they enter it, without frequent attempts, at once into the muzzle, and in returning it into the pipe; because they ram home best; because they do not spill the powder in priming; and because, finally, they do not let fall cartridges in taking them out of the cartridge‑box; all essential objects, on which the instructor must make the recruits bestow the utmost attention."
A single method of firing on the part of a company was enunciated. The right file was to fire first, the next file on the left was to aim the instant the first had fired, and this process was to continue toward the left of the company. After each file had fired once, each man was to load and fire at will. The fusillade was stopped by a ruffle of the drum.
With the noise of black powder and the long firelocks the recruit had difficulties that seem absurd to us as we withdraw the bolt and look in the chamber. His perplexities had to be definitely guarded against as follows:
"When the firings shall have been executed, it shall be required of the soldier to be attentive in observing, when he half-cock, whether smoke proceeds out of the touch-hole, which if it does, indicates certainly that the piece has gone off. If the smoke does not appear, the soldier, in lieu of reloading, will turn off to the rear, in order to prick the touch-hole, and prime a second time. If the soldier thinks he has fired, and proceeds to load again, he ought, at any rate, to discover his mistake, if any exists, in ramming home from the length of ramrod projecting out of the muzzle; and he would richly merit punishment, were he to load a third time under all these circumstances."
The normal formation of a company consisted of 2 ranks. However, provision was made for "the occasional order of 3 deep."14
p146 Target practice was suggested. Each battalion was encouraged to provide several targets, •5 feet 10 inches in height and •22 inches in width. "They must be marked by 3 stripes •4 inches broad, drawn horizontally across the target and of striking color, one stripe across the top, another across the middle and a third across an equal distance from the top and middle." The soldiers were to be practiced at a distance between 60 and 300 yards, "aiming at different heights according to the distances."
There were two main elements of instruction emphasized. The trigger was to be pulled forcibly with the forefinger without stirring the head or altering the direction of the firelock, and the balls fired off were to be carefully gathered in order to be used again. As a reward to the best marksmen in each company, their names were to be "taken down."
In the war just passed the army had played its part in burlesque and tragedy. It had been more pitiful than in the Revolution. Yet when the affair was over, the country did not absurdly disband its force, principally because there was the fresh memory of a sound spanking.
1815 Instead, a law was passed limiting the army to 10,000 men and a corps of engineers.15 The corps of artillery was organized according to the law of March 30, 1814, and the regiment of light artillery, to that of April 12, 1808. A regiment of infantry was newly made up of 1 colonel, 1 lieutenant, 1 major, 1 adjutant, 1 quartermaster, 1 paymaster, 1 surgeon, 2 surgeon's mates, 1 sergeant major, 1 quartermaster sergeant, 2 principal musicians and 10 companies. Each company consisted of 1 captain, 1 first lieutenant, 1 second lieutenant, 4 sergeants, 4 corporals, 2 musicians and 68 privates. There were 6 general officers all told, 2 major generals and 4 brigadiers. The pay went back to the low rates of the acts of March 16, 1802, and of April 12, 1808, except for major generals who received the modern pay of the act of Jan. 11, 1812. Supernumerary officers and men had to be discharged by May 1, the "deranged" officers being accorded three months' pay.
Some sinister effort must have been at work to deprive all p147 the old regiments of their traditions and spirit. For no plan could have more shrewdly damned any existing pride and affiliations than the following:
The old 1st Infantry went into the new 3d Infantry; the old 2nd went into the new 1st; the old 3rd, into the new 1st; the old 4th, into the new 5th; the old 5th, into the new 8th; the old 6th, into the new 2nd; the old 7th, into the new 1st; and the old 8th, into the new 7th. The new 1st was then made up of the old 2nd, 3rd, 7th and 44th; the new 2nd, of the old 6th, 16th, 22nd, 23rd, and 32nd; the new 3rd, of the old 1st, 17th, 19th, and 28th; the new 4th, of the old 12th, 14th, 18th, 20th, 36th, and 38th; the new 5th, of the old 4th, 9th, 13th, 21st, 40th, and 46th; the new 6th, of the old 11th, 25th, 27th, 29th, and 37th; the new 7th, of the old 8th, 24th, and 39th; and the new 8th,16 of the 5th, 10th, 15th, 31st, 33rd, 34th, 35th, 39th, 41st, 42nd, 43rd, 45th.
Not only were the units of the army diabolically jumbled but its size had to shrink to about one‑sixth of its former self. Officers and men had to be ejected and the remainder readjusted with a natural wrecking of ambition and spirit.
1815 Neither was there any solace to the remnants in being sent in small scattered fractions to lonely frontier posts and fortifications. The First Infantry, for instance, being deprived of all the officers of the old First, Second and Seventh was sent to Pass Christian, Louisiana. The Second in the same way was stationed at Sackett's Harbor and Plattsburg, N. Y. The Third was scattered along the Great Lakes in small forts such as Detroit, Mackinac, Howard, Dearborn, Knox, Harrison, Wayne and Crawford. The Fourth was charged with the small posts on the frontier of Georgia and South Carolina. The Fifth and the Third had their headquarters at Detroit and helped in garrisoning the western forts above mentioned and Fort Armstrong, Atkinson, Brady, Gratiot, Howard, Winnebago. The Sixth went to Governors Island, N. Y. The Seventh went to Fort Gibson, Arkansas, and the stockades in that vicinity.
p148 The artillery corps garrisoned the seacoast forts from Mobile to Boston and the regiment of light artillery was parceled out with the infantry, as was also the regiment of rifles. The corps of engineers was stationed at West Point, N. Y., its officers being taken for duty in constructing forts and improvements at various places in the United States.
1815 So the year passed out with the various little groups plodding to their posts and building their lonely log cabins and stockades.
The Register of the Army having made its first appearance before the end of the year showed the 2 major generals to be Jacob Brown and Andrew Jackson, and their brigadier generals to be Alexander Macomb, E. P. Gaines, Winfield Scott and E. W. Ripley. The ordnance, medical, apothecary, pay and purchasing departments were all tabulated in detail. Although the apothecary department had an apothecary general, the medical department seemed to have no head. There was, in addition to the office of "adjutant and inspector general," that of a plain "adjutant general."
Discussions with reference to supplies of ordinance were prolific at this time. One concerning hand grenades is worth quoting in the light of recent events:
"Washington, January 23, 1816.
"In former times the hand grenade was used as an arm for a portion of the infantry. It is entirely gone out of use for that purpose. Grenadiers are now armed with the musket, and in some services (as the French) with a sabre also.
"They are picked companies of stout men, usually placed on the flanks of the battalions, and being generally chosen to form the storming party in the attack of fortified places, they retain the name of grenadiers from the former use of those troops, and the weapon with which they were then armed. The superiority of the musket had caused it to supersede the hand grenade as an arm for troops. The grenade may be put in numbers into the ditches and passages where the troops are collected.
p149 "For this purpose proper provision is made in our service. The six‑pounder shell is used as the hand grenade, and shells of any caliber as rampart grenades."
This extract, though it gives a glimpse into the historic cycle of the hand grenade, shows more fully the discussions in these times over arms and ammunition. There seemed to be a feeling among the legislators that deficiency in military operations was due to lack of supplies. Few realized yet that training was the all‑important step toward efficiency. Armories and seacoast material were voted almost in prodigality.
1816 And then the building craze seized our lawmakers. For a time it was difficult for artillery and ordnance experts to keep the authorities from building a lot of useless structures instead of manufacturing a sufficient quantity of needed materials.
The uniform of the war was to a great measure retained, though some minor changes show a slight departure. A mixture of civilian and military dress was prohibited, except that all military persons, irrespective of the remainder of their dress, were to wear on their hats black cockades with gold eagles. Although collars were to rise to the tip of the ear they were to be only "as high in front as the chin will permit in turning the head." The generals, corps artillery officers and infantry officers wore chapeaux. The light artillery wore round, stiff, black caps, •seven inches high, with a visor. A tassel fell from the top of the right side of this heavy headgear. The mounted men wore pantaloons, and the infantry breeches. The light artillery wore coatees whereas the other branches wore long coats with full skirts. The rifleman and cadet wore gray, the rifleman having a short coat and the kind a coatee. The cadet wore the common round hat with the cockade and eagle, his trousers having black silk lace down the side and an Austrian knot in front. Officers wore sashes when on duty. The Jefferson or high-shoe was prescribed as in 1814.
1816 The Congress added to the "general staff" 1 inspector general, 1 paymaster-general, 3 topographical engineers, 1 quartermaster-general and 1 commissary general of purchases. Official recognition was thus for the first time given to a fairly competent staff. Although citizens and not soldiers were allowed p150 to fill the new appointments, the establishment of the offices themselves was a distinct advance.
1816 As for material, an annual sum of $250,000 was appropriated for purchase or manufacture of arms and equipment for the militia. Out of 18 projected arsenals 5 were completed during the year: at Watertown, Mass.; Frankford, Pa.; Baltimore, Md.; Greenleaf's Point, D. C., and on the James River near Richmond, Va.
1817 The artillery armament comprised 24, 18, 12 and 6 pounder cannon, 8 inch and 24 pounder howitzers and 10 and 8 inch mortars. In the manufacture of so many calibers, the ordnance department claimed there was much useless difficulty and expense. Accordingly there was a decided attempt to reduce the number of different types of large guns.
To show the immaturity of our government in handling military matters in these early times, the method of delivery of orders is a good example. It seems that it had been the custom since the early part of the second war with Great Britain, for the President or Secretary of War simply to send an order to any junior army officer without giving responsible superiors any knowledge of the fact. No attempt was made to inform intermediate commanders of the contents of such instructions. In the meantime the commanders of departments, who were charged with the responsibility for the work of a subordinate, found themselves suddenly deprived of his services. Indeed, in many cases the higher commanders were not aware that important labor had ceased because the responsible officer had gone elsewhere. It was due to just such a case that General Harrison had come into dispute with the Secretary in 1814 and had resigned his commission. Although General Andrew Jackson had had similar trouble at the same time, affairs did not grow serious for him until three years later. An officer under his command who had been making at his direction secret surveys for government purposes was suddenly spirited away by the War Department to New York City where the surveys were exposed. Jackson, not knowing of the officer's absence, was going on the assumption that his subordinate was proceeding with the important and delicate work he, Jackson, had assigned; when one day he was surprised
p151 to read in public print of the officer's presence in the north and of the exposure of the survey.
1817 Accordingly the general issued an order in the Division of the South that no officer would obey any order "emanating from the Department of War," unless it came through the proper channels. Soon afterward General Ripley, who was serving under Jackson, received instruction from the War Department which he refused to obey on the ground of General Jackson's order. Before a decision could be reached, Mr. Calhoun became Secretary of War and in his usual far‑sighted manner adroitly put a quietus on the unbusinesslike procedure.
In the wilderness of military chaos of these early years, the voice of a real prophet rose to do signal good for future army officers and scientific men. Since Steuben's arrival at Valley Forge no more valuable asset had been given to the military service than that which was added about the middle of this year.
1817 Captain Sylvanus Thayer became the fifth superintendent of the Military Academy. His advent marks a new era not only for the army but for education in general. He organized the corps of cadets into a battalion of 2 companies commanded by a cadet colonel. He created the office of commandant of cadets who was responsible for the tactical instruction and discipline. It was during his superintendency that the cadets were taken on practice marches to Boston, Philadelphia and Princeton in order to widen their scope of training. He introduced the section and section-room method, the weekly standing reports, the scale of daily marks, the dependence of class rank upon scholarship, the blackboard system and the Annual Register. A very few students were grouped under a single instructor, who marked their recitations accurately. By such a system a maximum amount of thoroughness and individual effort was required of the cadet.
Captain Thayer had traveled in Europe and studied at its best schools. From abroad he imported among other things analytical mathematics. In short, he gave to America its first scientific school which stood alone for almost half a century in the Western Hemisphere.
But even beyond these improvements, by his wisdom and human dignity he laid the foundation for the development in p152 the youth of that marvelous thing — character. He understood how quibbling, vacillation, or a false statement might be the ruin of a whole campaign. He saw that, whereas in other professions such weaknesses might lead to the loss of property or money, in the business of arms the lives of stalwart men and a nation's standing were at stake. Honor, therefore, was to be the first consideration of the soldier and the guardian of his every act. Character was to be built carefully. So the West Point cadet came to be tenacious above all else of the "honor of the corps" in general and of his own straightforwardness in particular. Later, the motto of the Academy — "Duty, Honor, Country" — grounded itself in lives of sacrifice. The stamp of Thayer and his doctrines is recognized in the names of such graduates as Lee, Grant, Sherman, Longstreet, Jefferson Davis, Sheridan, Stonewall Jackson, Meade, McClellan17 and a host of others.
1817 While this great foundation was beginning to be laid at the Military Academy, Mr. Calhoun became Secretary of War as the year closed. He found an army which actually numbered 8,221 men and another arsenal established near Augusta, Ga. He also found the brewing strife with the Seminoles across the border in Florida.
What General Jackson did in that southern conflict is so well known in the country's history that a word about the army here is sufficient. The Seminoles had fallen upon and massacred 47 men and women moving on a peaceable errand. Other smaller depredations had been numerous. When finally General Gaines with 600 men was besieged at Fort Scott by several thousand Indians, General Jackson, without first asking the Governors, quickly called out the Tennessee militia and marched on the enemy. With the Fourth and Seventh Infantry, one battalion of artillery and several thousand militia and friendly Creeks he invaded Florida, defeated the hostile tribes, captured the Spanish strongholds and executed two British subjects who had abetted the outrages of the Indians.
1818 In the first three months of this year General Jackson by cutting p153 a little red tape put an end to the atrocities in the south with almost no bloodshed.
Shortly after these activities, Congress made some rather constructive laws for the military establishment.
1818 It created the office of surgeon-general18 and a chaplain at the Military Academy who should be professor of geography, history and ethics. It improved the quartermaster, subsistence, inspector and adjutant general departments April 16
181 and provided a Judge Advocate for each territorial division. It gave to those officers holding "brevet" rank, the pay and emoluments of that higher grade, so long as they had a command commensurate with it. Legislation also limited the artillery corps company to 1 captain, 2 first and 2 second lieutenants and the light artillery company to 1 captain, 1 first and 2 second lieutenants.
1818 One of the lieutenants in each case was to act as a "conductor of artillery or ordnance officer" and to receive $10 per month extra.
Uniform standards of manufacture and collection of war materials seemed to be wanting.
1818 The expenses of the arsenal at Springfield, Mass., were $162,500 for manufacturing 12,500 stands of arms — about $13 per stand. The figures reveal that about the same number were manufactured at a cost of a little over $15 apiece at Harper's Ferry. Aug.
1818 A contract with a private concern was made for 180 field-pieces and for 50 tons of shot and shell for the militia. Later 150 tons of heavy cannon and mortars and 50 tons of heavy shot and shell were added to the contract. The specifications called for little more than caliber and weight. Dec. 2
1818 At the end of the year Pittsburg Arsenal had about 12,000 stands of arms, New Orleans 20,000, Newport, Kentucky, 4,000 and Detroit, 3,000.19
The movement of the Sixth Infantry from Plattsburg, N. Y., to St. Louis, Mo., illustrates the distances traversed by the army and the progress of the frontier westward.
1819 The regiment marched from Plattsburg through New York and Pennsylvania, and arrived at Pittsburg where it encamped. Early May
1819 It then embarked on small transport boats, moved down the Ohio and encamped at Belle Fontaine, Mo. June 8
1819 Almost three months were required for the journey.
1819 Captain Long with his company made an exploration into the region of the Colorado. Making surveys and notes, he explored much of the country others had missed, and discovered the mountain which still bears his name. He completed this work in 1820.
During this year two arsenals were established (though apparently not completed) at Baton Rouge, La., and Detroit, Mich.
1819 Complaint came from the Ordnance Department, however, that there was a deficiency of cannon, shot and shell, and that it would be provident to get these "not perishable" articles in peace when prices were low. The economy of this measure was urged especially since the government had no arsenals for big guns.
1819 The handling of the larger weapons was given great attention. During the year there appeared a Treatise upon Artillery by H. Lallemand, who acknowledged on the title page that he was an "ex‑general" of the French Imperial Guard and that the work had been translated by "M. de Russy under the eye of the author."e However, the production, whether authorized or not, was comprehensive. Its four volumes20 covered about p155 all that any artilleryman should then know. The quick match pouch, the leather thumb piece which the gunner put over his fingers when he "shut close" the touch hole, the bricole to draw the pieces, the locking chains, the sponges and rammers, the copper ladles which served "to load the pieces in case of need," the priming horn containing powder to pour into the vent, the mortar ladle to clean the chambers of mortars and howitzers, the splints which wedged in the bomb in the mortar, the spatula, a shovel-like instrument, which drove in the splints, the stone mortar tapeon upon which the stone basket was laid before it was fired, were some of the various instruments used in discharging cannon. Fuses were placed in bombs before they were fired from howitzers and mortars. The mattrosses sponged, loaded, rammed, pricked, primed, fired and furnished ammunition. The gunners tended the vent and elevated or gave direction to the piece. An artificer or corporal attended the caisson and issued ammunition. Batteries were preferably horse drawn. Positions of the gun detail were established with great nicety. On the carriages were two trunnion plates, one for traveling and the other for action, so that the piece had to be carried a certain way on the march and a different way during combat. The changing of these positions was accomplished with great accuracy and ceremony.
Aside from its employment in furthering military technic, the army was used in the construction of public p156 works. The government partially realized its economic value in the expression of the following enactment:
1819 "That, whenever it shall be found expedient to employ the army at work on fortifications, in surveys, in cutting roads, and other constant labor, of not less than ten days, the noncommissioned officers, musicians, and privates so employed shall be allowed fifteen cents, and an extra gill of whisky or spirits, each, per day, while so employed."
But the country had reached that psychological stage after a war where it was recumbent and fat. Peace seemed to be assured, and the returns for army expenditure looked indistinct.
Secretary Calhoun had been met with the usual cry from Congress for the reduction of the army or at least a reduction in costs. In reply he showed conclusively that the armed forces were doing more for the country than any civilian body, that the ordnance, engineer and artillery officers were filling as great a civilian need as military, that the frontier posts were being pushed along the Mississippi, Missouri and Red rivers in order to protect our trade and that a thinner line would be wasteful. In spite of his cool and absolute logic Congress demanded the army's reduction to 6,000.
1820 Accordingly Mr. Calhoun was forced to suggest palliative measures in order to keep the force from falling below that figure. In doing so he gave utterance to a truth which has been ignored ever since to the nation's sorrow:
"Economy is certainly a very high political virtue, intimately connected with the power and the public virtue of the community. In military operations, which, under the best, management, are so expensive, it is of the utmost importance; but by no propriety of language can that arrangement be called economical which, in order that our military establishment in peace should be rather less expensive, regardless of the purposes for which it ought to be maintained, render it unfit to meet the dangers incident to a state of war.
p157 During the years after the second war with Great Britain the army tried to bring itself out of the ignorance and decadence into which it had been tossed after the Revolution. What trained forces remained to the country were used almost ceaselessly in defending and developing our wild frontier. But the only civilians who knew the army's work and understood the nation's need were a limited few like Calhoun. Politics did not know, need to heed nor care to consider the necessity for trained fighting men. The farce of 1812 had made little impression upon the general public. We had come out all right — that was enough. Just why or how we had "come out" was a matter of little concern. That with 527,654 so‑called soldiers we had been unable to defeat not over 5,000 British Regulars, that for two years and a half so small a hostile force had brought devastation within our borders and had killed and wounded 5,614 Americans and that our nation had uselessly spent for all this discard of training over $50,000,000, had not come to be realized by the voter. He was developing the inside of the country without much thought of its edges. But out there the army, having passed through its nameless period, was growing in quality while the government was looking with skeptical eyes at its size. It was too much to expect over 7,000,000 people to support 10,000 soldiers.
1 "Sec. 3. That to each regiment raised under this act, whether of infantry, artillery or light dragoons, there shall be appointed 1 colonel, 2 lieutenant colonels, 2 majors, 2 adjutants, 1 quartermaster, 1 paymaster, 1 surgeon, 2 surgeon's mates, 2 sergeant majors, 2 quartermaster sergeants, and 2 senior musicians."
Other sections allowed 2 major generals and 5 brigadiers, and fixed the pay at the prevailing rate for all except the major general who was to receive $200 for pay, $20 for forage, and 15 rations per month.
2 If these professors were selected from the Corps of Engineers instead of the line they were to retain their rank in that corps but to have the same pay and emoluments as those of the rank indicated for the professorships.
3 "Sec. 1. That the infantry of the army of the United States shall consist of twenty-five regiments, and that a regiment shall consist of one colonel, one lieutenant colonel, one major, one adjutant, one paymaster, one quartermaster sergeant, two principal musicians, and ten companies.
"Sec. 2. That each company shall consist of one captain, one first lieutenant, one second lieutenant, one ensign, four sergeants, six corporals, two musicians, and ninety privates.
"Sec. 4.º That each troop of cavalry, or light dragoons, shall consist of one captain, one first lieutenant, one second lieutenant, one cornet, four sergeants, six corporals, two musicians, one master of the sword, one saddler, one farrier, one blacksmith, and sixty-four privates; and the pay and emoluments of a master of the sword shall be the same as those of a riding-master, and the pay and emoluments of a blacksmith shall be the same as those of a farrier.
(June 26, 1812.)
4 Mackinaw, a regular army frontier post •about 270 miles northwest of Detroit. The small garrison completely unaware of the existence of war had been on July 17 surprised and captured by a Canadian force familiar with the state of hostility.
5 General Van Rensselaer had resigned in chagrin after Queenstown. General Smythe was his successor.
6 Had not General Harrison made himself a glorified supply officer in this campaign the soldiers would have had nothing to eat.
7 Killed, 397; wounded, 27; prisoners, 522.
8 Zebulon Pike, for whom the famous peak was named.
9 The tall "tar‑bucket" seen at a cadet full-dress parade.
10 Author of the Newburgh addresses and member of the Conway Cabal.
11 The 1st Regular Infantry was present at this siege.
12 It consisted of Maryland, District of Columbia and part of Virginia now separated from the former 5th District.
13 "His appointment had been 'based not on the ground of distinguished professional service or knowledge,' but simply on a presumption that, 'being a native of Maryland and a relative of the governor, Brigadier Winder would be useful in mitigating the opposition to the war, and in giving an increased efficiency to national measures within the limits of the State' " (Upton).
14 The manual consisted of the following positions: Present arms, shoulder arms, advance arms, order arms, pile arms, take arms, support arms, carry arms, fix and unfix bayonets and secure arms. Priming and loading was done still by twelve commands.
15 The engineers were to remain as already organized.
16 Some of these remnants the Eighth was supposed to take over had never been organized. The list included rifle regiments, making a theoretical 48 to account for.
17 Most of these were cadets during Thayer's superintendency or shortly thereafter.
18 Salary $2,500 per annum as others of "General Staff."
19 Mostly muskets. The model "1817, Harper's Ferry" rifle had the following characteristics:
"Total length •about 51½ inches. Length of barrel •about 36 inches. Calibre of bore without grooves .52. The bore is heptagonal and the seven narrow grooves are at the apices. Of course they are quite necessary. The depth of the grooves is •one‑hundredth of an inch. The pitch is one turn in •50 inches. Weight of the rifle with its steel ramrod •10 pounds. It was not at first supplied with a bayonet, but later a •ten‑ounce socket bayonet was issued with it for certain special demands of the service. The charge was 90 to 100 grains of fine grained powder and a •half ounce spherical bullet loaded bare. Loading became difficult after fouling accumulated. The muzzle velocity was about •2,000 f.s" (Sawyer)
20 "The first volume contains a general description of cannon, projectiles, caisson, gun, and other carriages, with small arms; on the organization, instruction, and position of the personnel (these articles form the basis of a system of artillery), a nomenclature necessary in the field, the exercise of cannon in the field, at sieges, in fortified places, and in sea coast batteries; the school of field guns, in plain and mountain countries; maneuvres of horse and field artillery; the maneuvres of force (or the application of the mechanical powers to artillery), and the construction of batteries.
"The second volume contains a sketch on the composition and division of armies; it treats of the quality and distribution of artillery in an army; its conduct in the field, its position and duty in action, as well as in the attack and defense of field works; the theory and tables for firing, the charges and ranges of cannon; construction of artillery bridges; charging and packing caissons, and other carriages; composition of the equipage, ammunition, and supplies for field, siege and garrison artillery; preparing all kinds of fixed ammunition and fire works; instructions for the chief inspectors, and for conductors of artillery and convoys; finally, practical rules founded on experience.
"The third volume treats on field fortifications, comprising the trace, the dimensions, and the secondary means of defense; summary of permanent fortification; on the execution and service of artillery in the attack and defense of places, and on their supplies of provisions; Castrametation; military reconnoitrings; method of solving, by means of a cord and stakes, the most necessary geometrical problems, for field purposes.
"In the fourth volume, I enter into details on the constructions of gun constructions, caissons, etc, etc. I treat upon the cordage, iron, and the wood used in the artillery; on the manner of keeping magazines, arsenals, depots of arms; on the fabrication and receipt of guns and small arms; on projectiles, iron, steel and lastly, on the fabrication of powder. These establishments are not always under the direction of artillery officers; but they should, notwithstanding, possess a sufficient knowledge to enable them, when necessary, if not to direct, at least to inspect them."
(Extract from introduction of volume itself.)
a This chapter of course only summarizes the War of 1812, and only the land war at that. A good detailed account of the war, both land and sea, is given onsite by Beirne's book The War of 1812.
b A good detailed account of the Fort Mims massacre is given by Beirne, The War of 1812, pp235‑238.
c The Biblical passage is Judges 8:16‑22. For an ancient Roman example, 109 B.C., see Frontinus, Strategemata, II.4.3.
d Joshua 8:20. For an ancient Greek example, 4c B.C., see Frontinus, Strategemata, II.4.3.
e Lallemand's work first appeared in 1819, in four volumes, translated by the elusive M. de Russy; elusive because although I strongly suspect the translator to have been one of the De Russy brothers — René, or much more probably Lewis, who in 1819 was a young artillery officer — I've been unable to confirm it.
The following year the translation was recast by James Renwick, expanded but bound in only two volumes, the introduction stating it was modified to suit American needs.
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