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August 26 1812: Turmoil, Mortification and Humiliation

On August 26 1812, the effects of Brock's capture of Detroit is being felt across the Niagara River at Lewiston. Its Commander Major General Van Rensselaer writes to Dearborn that:"The surrender of General Hull's army excites a great deal of alarm in this vicinity." This is also expressed by Major Lovet who writes "I cannot say: it was a day of turmoil, mortification and humiliation through our Camp. Such a flood as the consequences of Gen. Hull's surrender poured in upon us that it required considerable nerve to meet every thing." The two letters are reproduced below. 

Major General Van Rensselaer, commanding Lewiston.
Gen. Van Rensselaer to General Dearborn.
Head Quarters, Lewiston, 26th August, 1812.

Sir, I have the honour to enclose you a copy of a Proclamation, which I this day received from Major General Brock, under cover of his letter of this date to me; a copy of which letter, I also transmit to you. My letter to Major General Sheaffe, of which mention is made, was to disavow an imprudent act of a subaltern officer, who, with a few soldiers and citizens, passed over, since the Armistice, to Buckhorn Island, and there surprised a sergeant and five men, of the enemy, and brought them off, together with their boat, which men I ordered to be immediately released and the boat restored.

The surrender of General Hull's army excites a great deal of alarm in this vicinity. I shall, however, as far as in my power, check and keep it under. I have the Honour, &c.

S. Van Rensselaer.
*****

Major Lovett to Joseph Alexander.
Head Quarters, Lewiston, August 26, 1812.

Dear Sir - Yesterday I wrote you, Mr. Van Vechten and Col. Westerlo, but what I wrote I cannot say: it was a day of turmoil, mortification and humiliation through our Camp. Such a flood as the consequences of Gen. Hull's surrender poured in upon us that it required considerable nerve to meet every thing: and unluckily, Col. Van Rensselaer had gone to Buffalo to make some arrangements with Swift's Regiment which is getting down fast with sickness, and I might say too great a want of discipline. Yesterday, the first we saw was a guard of about 50 men passing with some waggons on the opposite shore: it was the victorious Brock returning to Fort George. He sent over Col. McDonald, his Aid-de-Camp, and Major Evans, two strapping lads in scarlet, gold and arms, to make a Communication to General Van Rensselaer. I went to meet them at an Inn near the shore to learn their pleasure; but finding it was general and verbal; it could not be received. They were, however, very modest, very respectful; and altho' I constantly barred any communication, they still kept bowing and saying that "Gen. Brock only wished to acquaint Gen. Van Rensselaer" of this, and that, and that &c. &c. In this way they convinced me that Brock had not learnt any thing of the Armistice until he arrived in this Neighbourhood. That but a very small force was left behind, that Brock, learning the Armistice felt very friendly disposition &c. I made my best bow, and scraped as fast as I could; but a poor private Secretary, alone against too such Scarlet-cla'l Champions had, as you may suppose, an indifferent chance. We parted: but I think Gen. Van Rensselaer will shortly receive some written communication from Gen Brock. In the evening a number of Hull's Officers, on parole, visited Gen. V. R. They were very cautious of their words, but I could discern a degree of disaffection towards Hull. Gen. Hull will probably be sent to Quebec. The Militia captured I understand are sent home, that's all. Indeed I have not either time or patience to examine into this most nameless affair. I feel what you may suppose. I need say no more.

I was ever proud of my Country, and as an American could look any man, of Any Nation, at least horizontally in the face. But, yesterday,my eyes seemed to have acquired a new attachment to the ground. I sent Van Vechten a paper giving the detail of the surrender; sent by an express to overtake the Mail, hope he got it. And now, my friend, what think you of our situation? It is true we are all tied up by the Armistice, but either party may throw it off by 4 days notice. I don't believe the Enemy will throw it off. Nevertheless we have to cast about a little. This part of the Country now think their whole salvation rests upon our little raw army. I think I know the fact, that after Brock had taken Hull, he expressed his determination to return and take Niagara. I think his mind is altered by the Armistice: but he can take Niagara any hour he pleases. Yes my friend, we can't defend Niagara one hour. And as for our present Camp, I now write with one eye on a single gun on yon hill in Queenston, which would rout us all in 3 minutes; and we have only two Grass-hoppers to return the fire. The Ohio Officers, prisoners, also were last evening with us, say that the Indians with Brock are the finest fellows they ever saw, a size larger than they ever saw, they are commanded by the Prophet's Brother Tecumsich, he is hourly expected at Fort George, 7 miles from us, about near enough, and it is said the tawny Host is to follow. Well! be it so; one thing our friends may be assured of, we are not scared yet. We shall never be Hulled. Our General is thoughtful but firm. We have been reconnoitering this morning; and shall probably this afternoon, fix upon a spot to which we shall remove in case the Armistice is broken off. We have a piece of ground in view where our little force may make a tolerable stand, and then secure our retreat unless they flank us wider then I believe their force will admit. At any rate we will not be Hulled, they may pound us, or grind us. Be all of you of good cheer as respects us, and use the fate of the other army as you ought. Now don't let my good wife get fidgety about me in this new predicament tell her I am well, and can run like a Boy, and will not be taken. I confess we are very solicitous to hear from Washington and know what we are to do, and take our measures accordingly. The night before last one of our rash Subalterns with a dozen men, went upon Bnckhorn Island, surprised a Sergeant and 5 men and brought them off. We broke the Armistice; but Gen. V.R. restored the men and wrote Gen. Sheaffe commanding Fort George and Dependencies &c. &c. &c. [Kites fly best with long tails,] 120 of Swifts little Reg. sick I told you so, but I am well. The d—1 seems to have got into every body. I am still john lovett


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