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March 13, 2014

British Attack in North

Cooperstown Crier

---- — From the Otsego Herald

for Saturday, March 12, 1814

Compiled, with comments



The Plattsburgh Republican, of the 26th ult. [February] says, that on the 19th, the enemy from Cornwall and Coteau de Lac, having learned that our troops had left French Mills, on the15th, crossed the St. Lawrence, and visited the French Mills, Malone and Chateaugay, and had “carried off between 150 and 200 barrels of provisions, good and bad, public and private.”

“Owing to the precaution of the enemy, (adds the Republican) or the defection of the people in the quarter invaded, the intelligence of this invasion was not known here before...Monday the 21st; and it was then reported that the enemy, from two to three thousand strong, with eight pieces of artillery, and a body of dragoons and Indians, had camped the night before...three miles east of Chateaugay....

“Gen. Wilkinson instantly mounted his horse...and...3000 men meet the foe...with seven pieces of artillery. The general followed...with the head of the front column, when he was met with the advice that the enemy had commenced their retreat...and...cut down the bridges which our troops had left for their passage.... The detachment was...remanded to their quarters—the enemy being forty miles ahead of them, and the pursuit of course vain.... It is stated by a gentleman who left Malone day before yesterday, that the enemy did not destroy the arsenal at that place.”

COMMENT: Much of the population along the northern border of New York State were engaged in smuggling goods to the British enemy across the St. Lawrence River, and if anything opposed any American military activities in the area. A well-known 1860 New York State Gazetteer noted in a footnote about this affair that: “There is good reason to believe that some of the inhabitants were traitors to their country, and supplied the enemy with cattle and provisions and kept them informed with regard to public movements.”

Electioneering Rules

Letter from Mr. Dexter. To the Electors of Massachusetts.

The delicate propriety established by usages, in our country, forbids that a man standing as a candidate for office, should address the electors. If the Subscriber had consented to be placed in that situation, this rule would bind him to silence.— Though he answered while at home, that he was not a candidate for office, republican newspapers in the vicinity of government [Boston], where he now is, have published an opposite statement....

The principal subjects, on which politicians at present divide, are the system of restriction on our commerce, and the war with G. Britain. On the former, the writer differs radically from the party called republican, and he chuses they should know it.

At the same time he is utterly unable to reconcile some of the leading measures of the federalists, as to the hold sacred the union of his country.... It is this opinion, probably, that has produced the singular fact of his being nominated for the first office [i.e., Governor] in the Commonwealth by a political party to which he does not belong.... Washington, Feb. 14, 1814.

COMMENT: Samuel Dexter (1761-1816), of Boston, had been a Federalists Congressman and Senator between 1795 and 1800, after which he served in the Cabinet of Federalist President John Adams. He ran unsuccessfully for Governor of Massachusetts in 1816, just before his death. This item is interesting in stating the standard practice of political candidates in early America to refrain from any personal electioneering, and to remain silently at home while their supporters campaigned for them.

Prisoner of War Revolt

Chilicothe, (Ohio) Feb. 15.... On Friday last, information...was received...that the British prisoners encamped in this neighborhood, had laid a plan to rescue their officers from the custody of the marshal, and with them to force their way to Canada.... It had been decided that the [men] the night seize their [guards’] arms, after releasing their officers to set fire to the town, and then proceed to some part of the British dominions....

This attempt, desperate as it may appear, might probably have been carried into execution, had...not...two of the British officers...disclosed their intentions, under an injunction of secrecy, to a gentleman of this town, who, being a federalist, they considered as a common friend.

This gentleman, however...acquainted Col. Campbell therewith, who...put the British officers in irons; the prisoners guard was doubled; and militia called out,...and every preparation taken to avert the impending danger....

Yesterday afternoon the British officers who were in close confinement here, were sent to Frankfort, (Ky.) under a strong escort.

COMMENT: Among the British officers thus placed in irons was John Richardson (1796-1852), the first Canadian-born novelist, who wrote a long history of the British campaign, including his own capture and imprisonment.

“Volunteer Bill”

The bill for raising 4000 volunteers, as substitutes for militia requisitions, and for frontier defence, was referred to a committee in Assembly, who have reported an entirely new bill differing in two essential points from that which passed the senate; It provides, that the general, field, and staff officers shall be designated by the council of appointment; and declares, “that it shall not be lawful for the said corps, or any part thereof, to be ordered, taken, marched or employed, or to act or serve, either voluntarily or by compulsion, in or upon any service or employment whatever, any where out of the United States, at any time, for any purpose, or upon any pretence whatever;” or even out of this state except on certain contingencies.

These amendments are calculated either to defeat the bill, or its object. – Albany Argus

COMMENT: The Senate was controlled 26-5 by the pro-war Republicans; the Assembly 58-48 by the anti-war Federalists, as was the Council of Appointment.