September 1 1812: Not Our Fault

On September 1 1812, General Stephen Van Rensselaer, at Lewiston, is writing to his commanding general and Governor. He if fearful of his position. That day four or five vessels arrive at Fort George in Upper Canada with troops from Montreal. He has also just received General Dearborn's letter advising him that the Armistice is to come to an end once he receives the reinforcements from Colonel  Fenwick. His letters to General Dearborn and to Governor Tomkins are reproduced below. 

In his letter to his wife, Solomon Van Rensselaer betrays a sense of frustration together with a sense that he would be happy to wash his hands of the war. He writes: "If nothing is done it will not be our fault, but that of Government; by Express and by almost every Mail the Governor and Genl Dearborn have been informed of our situation." This is not a ringing statement of leadership. His letter is also reproduced below.

Major General Van Rensselaer to Major General Dearborn. 
Head-Gluarters, Lewiston, 
1st September, 1812. 

Sir,- I have just received your letter of the 25th ult. I shall ascertain the movements and situation of Lieut. Col. Fenwick, with the cannon and stores ; and as soon as he can 
be considered safe, I shall terminate the armistice in the manner prescribed. 

Upon this occasion, I conceive it a duty I owe to my country, to the troops under my command, and to my own character, to state, that we are not, on this Frontier, in that condition which the approaching crisis will require. My force of militia, rank and file, now fit for duty, is six hundred and ninety-one, as will appear by the inclosed return; these have to guard a line of thirty -six miles. My sick list is more than one hundred. Many of the men are without shoes, and all clamorous for pay. Besides, it is a fact that cannot be concealed, that the surrender of General Hull's army has spread great alarm among the inhabitants on this Frontier, and I every day perceive strong symptoms of distrust among the troops. They have seen their countrymen surrendered without a single effort, and marched, prisoners, be fore their eyes. They cannot comprehend it. 

At this hour, I have received no reinforcements of men, no supplies of ordnance, tents, nor ammunition. There are not ten rounds per man, on the Niagara Frontier ; nor have we lead to make cartridges. We are extremely deficient of medicine and Hospital stores: of lint and bandage cloth we have none, รข€” nor any surgical instruments. Lieut. Col. Swift's regiment, at Black Rock, and the troops in garrison at Niagara, have no tents to take the field ; unless Bloom's regiment, and the troops with Lieut. Col. Fenwick have tents with them, they cannot be covered. This is a brief sketch of our condition. Our enemy are every moment on the alert ; they hold a very commanding position on the high ground above Queenstown ; and are daily strengthening it, with men and ordnance. Indeed, almost every point of any importance from Fort Erie to Fort George, is in some state of defence. At each Fort on the Lakes, their shipping is ready to act. The troops which had been detached from this quarter to act against General Hull, have returned and may now be concentrated at this point. Before the termination of the armistice, I must change my position, and can only act on the defensive, until I shall be reinforced with troops, well disciplined, and commanded by able officers. I am, with respectful consideration, &c.  General Dearborn. 

From Major General Van Rensselaer to His Excellency Governor Tompkins. 
Headquarters, September 1st, 1812. 

Sir -In the letter, which I yesterday had the honour to address to your Excellency, I mentioned the general alarm which the surrender of General Hull's army had spread through the Frontiers. 

The inhabitants every where think themselves in danger. This is particularly the case in the County of Chautauque; in consequence of representations made to me by the inhabitants of that county, I had on the 27th ult. issued an order to Lieut. Col. John Mc Mahon, to order into service two full companies of his regiment for the protection of the inhabitants. This morning again, I have been called upon by Captains Baldwin and Mack, gentlemen of respectability, from that county, very earnestly soliciting, in behalf of the inhabitants, still further force for their protection, and I have issued another order to Lieut. Col. Mc Mahon, to detach one captain, two sergeants, two corporals, and twenty-six privates more, for the service aforesaid, until your Excellency's pleasure can be known on the subject. 

Col. Van Rensselaer to his wife. 
Lewiston 1st September, 1812.

Dear Harriet - I wrote you yesterday from this place by the mail, in which letter I gave you an account of all that was passing here, this day we received an Express from Genl. Dearborn that the Armistice was at an end. But at the time he was despatched from Green Bush they knew nothing of the Surrender of General Hull and his Army, and what effect that information will have on the measures of a weak and despicable General and Government, time only will determine. We shall at all events go on and make all the arrangements in our power to meet the Crisis which in all probability is approaching. If nothing is done it will not be our fault, but that of Government; by Express and by almost every Mail the Governor and Genl. Dearborn have been informed of our situation * * * The express Lt. Smith returns immediately to Albany by whom I send this, I could not let him leave this without again expressing my anxiety for your health and happiness. I am all solicitude on your account and wish sincerely I was with you until that certain e ent was over, but keep up your spirits and think of your children and me. I hope happier and more comfortable times will attend us. Our General is more than fond of me, he leaves everything to me and has not on any occasion found fault; he is very amiable and I can truly say of him, what he has on many occasions said of me that " I did not know the man." Lovett and myself live like Brothers, and if I could be but informed of your true situation I should be happy, as far as the late unhappy event at home would suffer me to be, but the Clover-lot is ever before me. Kiss the children for me and attend to your health. Remember me to all friends and believe me in whatever situation I am placed, I am ever the same to you, your affectionate & sincere. 


  1. this kind of blogs will give the information at the same time the importance of the persons also.

     General Letters 

  2. wiw =good i like ur post ur post is really so informative thanx dear share the good post....
    tooth extracting forceps