October 31 1812: Napoleon at Viasma

On October 31, 1812, Napoleon makes his headquarters at Viasma. Caulaincourt describes the scene:

On the following day, the thirty-first, the headquarters and the Guard were stationed at Viasma, where we stayed through the first of November. The Emperor did not even make a guess at Kutusof's march, and Kutusof left us very quiet. The weather was fine. The Emperor repeated more than once that the Russian autumn was like the autumns of Fontainebleau; and judging what the weather would be like in ten days' or a fortnight's time by what it was on that particular day, he said to the Prince of Neuchatel that this was just the weather one had at Fontainebleau around St. Hubert's day, and that the stories people told about the Russian winter would only scare children.
Despite the bravado,  Napoleon  is now wearing a fur trimmed bonnet and not his usual Swiss-style civilian hat. 

At the same time, parts of the Grande Armée, commanded by Marshal Victor are engaging the Russian army under General Wittgenstein at Czasniki. French forces fail to block the Russian army and are forced to retreat east. Victor's new position is now close to Napoleon's intended line of withdrawal. Wittgenstein  is now within range to attack Napoleon's main force.  


Armand de Caulaincourt, At Napoleon's Side in Russia (Enigma Books, 2008), pgs 167-168.
Paul Britten Austin, 1812 The Great Retreat told by the Survivors, (Stackpole Books, Pennsylvania  1996, page 61 
The drawing can be found here.

October 30 1812: Byron's Blow to the Head

On October 30 1812, Lord Byron writes to Lady Melbourne and relates a story of receiving a blow to the head from a stone thrown by a child. He writes:  
The Country round this place is wild & beautiful, consequently very delightful: I think altogether preferable even to Middleton (where the beauties certainly did not belong to the landscape) although the recollection of my visit there will always retain its “proper” preeminence – – I am at present however a little laid up, for a short time ago I received a blow with a stone thrown by accident by one of the children as I was viewing the remains of a Roman encampment. – It struck me – providentially – though near the eye – yet far enough to prevent the slightest injury to that very material organ, & though I was a little stunned & the stone being very sharp the wound bled rather profusely, I have now re==covered all but a slight scar, which will remain I rather think for a considerable time. – It just missed  an Artery, which at first from the blood’s flowing in a little spout, was supposed to be cut, but this was a false alarm, indeed I believe it has done me good, for my headachs have since entirely ceased. – This is my old luck, always near something serious, & generally escaping as now with a slight accident. – An inch either way, – the temple – the eye – or eyelid – would have made this no jesting matter – as it is – I thank my good Genius that I have still two eyes left to admire you with, & a head (uncracked) which will derive great benefit from any thing which may spring from your own. 
Byron's letter is reproduced below.

October 29 1812: Peaceful Vermont Border with Canada

On October 29, 1812, Aaron Loveland of Norwich, Vermont, writes to his older brother Joseph in Detroit. Joseph had accompanied Hull`s army to Detroit and was there when Hull surrendered to Brock.  Aaron Loveland appears to be a Federalist and  is critical of  President Madison for the conduct of the war. He writes: "This certainly looks a little as if the President of the United States or some of his officers of the government under him were rather negligent of their duty, and renders it quite probable that if Hull had at least fought ever so well, he might, after all, have been destroyed or forced to surrender before sufficient supplies and reinforcements would have reached him." As for the relationship with Canada, he writes:

There were a good many people in this State very much alarmed when war was first declared, and some on the Canada line actually moved their families, but some men turned out and got them back to their homes and pacified them a little, and their neighbors in Canada agreed with them to mind their own business on both sides and behave as well as they could, and all went on well. 
Aaron`s letter is reproduced below.

October 28 1812: Te Deum

On October 28, 1812, in St Petersburg, John Quincy Adams writes in his diary the following  entry :
28th. About noon I went with Mr. Smith to the Kazan Church, and attended the Te Deum for Marshal Koutouzof's, or rather for General Benningsen's victory, and for the delivery of Moscow. The Duke of Serra Capriola and Baron Armfeldt were in the highest exultation of glory. Armfeldt had a letter from his son, who was with Benningsen at the battle, written the day after, in all the insolence of victory. Armfeldt went about reading it to anybody who would hear him. Without moving from where I stood, I heard him read it seven times. Prince Plato Zuboff, the last favorite of Catherine, was also there. I had seen him at Berlin in 1797 and 1798. I did not know him again, and asked who he was. He has been in disgrace ever since the present Emperor's accession, but his estates in Poland, where he resided, being now overrun, he is again admitted at Court. Count Romanzoff apologized to me for having permitted Mr. Harris yesterday to take me a paper with bad news. I congratulated him on the occasion of the Te Deum, which he said it was to be hoped would be followed by important consequences, and especially that it would correct some opinions concerning the Russians, which had been industriously disseminated. I suppose he alluded to the reputation of the military skill of their generals. The music of the Te Deum was remarkably fine. After it was finished, the Emperor, the Empress and Empress-mother, the Grand Dukes Constantine, Nicholas, and Michael, and the Grand Duchess Ann, made their prostrations and adorations to the miraculous image of the Virgin. When the Emperor left the church to return to the palace, he was greeted with three shouts by the crowd of people who surrounded the church. The city was illuminated again in the evening.

October 28 1812: Grande Armée Again at Borodino

On October 28, 1812, Napoleon's Grande Armée, retreating, marches again on old battlefield of Borodino. The historian, Adam Zamoyski, writes:  
The spirits of the army were further lowered when, shortly after, rejoining the Moscow-Smolensk road at Mozhaisk on 28 October, they found themselves marching across the battlefield of Borodino. It had never been cleared, and the dead had been left where they lay, to be pecked at and chewed by carrion crows, wolves, feral dogs and other creatures. The corpses were nevertheless surprisingly well preserved, presumably by the nightly frosts. "Many of them had kept up with one might call a physiognomy," recorded Adrien de Mailly. "Almost all of them have large open staring eyes, their beards seem to have grown, and the brick-red Prussian blue which marble their cheeks made them look as though they had been horribly sullied or luridly daubed, which made on wonder if this were not some grotesque travesty making fun of misery and death- it was odious!" The stink was indescribable, and the sight cast a pall over the passing. 
Philippe-Paul de Segur describe the day further:

October 27 1812: USS Constitution and Fall of Detroit

On October 27, 1812, in St Petersburg, John Quincy Adams receives confirmation that the the American USS Constitution has indeed captured the British frigate Guerriere.  Earlier, when he had heard rumors that this had happened, he had thought it was a joke. Adams also learns of the surrender Fort Detroit to the British. "It would be useless," he writes, "and the attempt would be vain, to express my sensations upon this event. There are scarcely any details of the affair given. The honor of my country—O God! suffer it not to go unredeemed".  

Adam's diary entry for this day reads in part: 
27th. About noon this day the report of cannon from the fortress announced that important and pleasing intelligence from the armies had been received; about half an hour after, Mr. Harris, the Consul, came in. He had just come from Count Romanzoff's, where he had been with his nephew upon a visit of taking leave. The news was a great victory of Marshal Koutouzof over the King of Naples (Murat), and the retaking of Moscow by General Wintzingerode's corps, though in achieving it Wintzingerode was himself taken prisoner. In the evening I received from the Grand Master of the Ceremonies a notification to attend a Te Deum to-morrow morning at the Kazan Church, on account of these events. The city was illuminated by night. Mr. Harris lent me an English Courier of 6th October, which he had borrowed from Count Romanzoff, containing a confirmation of the capture of the "Guerriere" frigate; but with it an account of the surrender of General Hull and his army, and of the taking of Fort Detroit by the British. It would be useless, and the attempt would be vain, to express my sensations upon this event. There are scarcely any details of the affair given. The honor of my country—O God! suffer it not to go unredeemed.

October 26 1812: Capture of Guerriere an American Joke

On October 26, 1812, in St Petersburg, John Quincy Adams is told a "story of the capture of the British frigate "Guerriere" by our frigate Constitution." He had heard the story before and considered it a "joke invented by some of the Americans here." The diary entry reads:

October 25 1812: All Canada Mourns Her Truly Gallant Brock

On October 25, 1812, Major Lovett, writes to his friend Joseph Alexander in Albany.  Lovett writes about the Battle of Queenston and recalls the death of Brock.  Lovett writes: 
All Canada mourns her truly gallant Brock and Col. McDonald, his Aid-de-Camp, was the Attorney General of the Province, their second Idol. I knew him. Two Indian Chiefs fell — we took one. The Armistice which was agreed upon after the Battle for three days, has been continued, and now exists: when it will end I cannot say. Since the Battle every thing has been conducted in that character which will forever honor civilized nations. The Salute which we fired at Brock's Funeral, almost overwhelmed General Sheaffe. With sensibility which almost choked his utterance, he exclaimed to an officer standing by him: "Noble minded as General Brock was, he would have ordered the same had a like disaster befallen the Enemy." On hearing this Genl. V. R., was almost overwhelmed. My friend, the scenes of war are trying, and where, where in God's name, are they to end? My soul is in agony while I review the situation of our Country.
Lovett's letter is reproduced below. 

Oct 25 1812: War News

On October 25, 1812, in St Petersburg, John Quincy Adams writes the following diary entry
25th. Received a notification, from the Grand Master of the Ceremonies, of a Court to be held to-morrow at the Winter Palace, at noon, it being the Empress-mother's birthday, and at the same time a Te Deum for the victory of the General of Cavalry, Count Wittgenstein, over the French commanded by Marshal Gouvion St.-Cyr, and for the taking by storm of the fortified city of Polotzk. I had visits from Mr. Montreal and from Mr. Laval, who has postponed his departure for five or six days longer. He is not quite so sanguine as Lowenhielm that the French army will inevitably be destroyed, but he thinks the present prospects of the Russian cause superb. He still dreads the genius and resources of Napoleon more than they deserve.The accounts are so numerous and so uniform that his army is famishing, that he has proposed to Koutouzof, by Count Lauriston, an armistice, that his retreat through Smolensk is impossible, that they are no longer mere rumors. Koutouzof has received a reinforcement of twenty-four regiments, eighteen thousand men—Don Cossacks. The Novogorod armament, eighty thousand men, are rapidly advancing to Moscow from this side. Many of Napoleon's couriers, and mails with letters, have been intercepted; all complaining that they are in want of everything—one from the Bavarian General to the King of Bavaria, in which he complains that the allies are not allowed to forage, and that they are starved that the French soldiers may be fed. Koutouzof has reorganized the army and filled up the vacancies in the regiments from the Moscow armament. The answer to the proposal for an armistice was a mere reference to the Emperor Alexander's declaration at Wilna that he would not make peace while an armed enemy should remain on the Russian territory. Such is the change from despondency to confidence effected by the storm of Polotzk.

October 25 1812: Annabella's Ideal Husband


On October 25, 1812, Annabella Milbanke writes a letter to Lady Melbourne enclosing a page where she has written the qualities of that she is looking for in a husband. Lady Melbourne responds by proving her comments to Annabella's list. The list and response provides an illuminating glimpse of both women and the nature of marriage at the time. Everywhere Lord Byron haunts the discussion. It has to be assumed that Annabella concluded that Byron lacked the qualities in her list. Lady Melbourne's responses make it clear that she thought that Annabella was too rigid in the qualities that she was looking for in a husband. She writes: "On [the] whole it appears to me that it is almost impossible while you remain on the Stilts on which you have mounted, [that] you should ever find a person worthy to be [your] Husband."

I have reproduced below Annabella's list [1] together with Lady Melbourne's written comments in response.

October 24 1812: Byron onto Eywood and Lady Oxford

On October 24, 1812, Lord Byron goes to Eywood, to visit Lord and Lady Oxford at their Hereforedshire estate. Byron is having an affair with Lady Oxford. Lord Oxford appears to have accepted the affair. On this day, Byron writes to Lady Melbourne to advise her of his trip. He disguises the destination in the first line of his letter in case Lady Caroline Lamb finds his letter. It is clear that fear of Caroline still preoccupies Byron.

Byron's letter is reproduced below.

October 24 1812: Napoleon, Fortune and Providence

On October 24, 1812, in St Petersburg, John Quincy Adams writes about the latest war news and contemplates the career of  Napoleon.  He writes:
...But he had then, and has now, his greatest of all resources, a battle. His fortunes and existence are staked upon that, and he has so long abused the favors of Fortune that she will certainly finish by jilting him; or rather Providence (such is my belief), after using him for the purposes he is destined to answer, will exhibit him, like another invader of Russia, "to point a moral or adorn a tale."
The last line that Adams quotes is from Samuel Johnson's The Vanity of Human Wishes. The line refers to Charles XII of Sweden, who had been defeated by Russia in the eighteenth century. The lines from Johnson's poem read: 

His Fall was destin'd to a barren Strand,
A petty Fortress, and a dubious Hand;
He left the Name, at which the World grew pale,
To point a Moral, or adorn a Tale.

The full diary entry is reproduced below.

October 23 1812: Captain John Ellis Wool

On October 23 1812, Captain John Ellis Wool writes to Colonel Van Rensselaer. Wool was wounded at the Battle of Queenston.  He would go on to serve in the American army until the American Civil War, where at the age of 77 he was the oldest general on either side.  

Wool`s letter to Colonel Van Rensselaer is reproduced below.

October 22 1812: Arrangements for Passports

On October 22, 1812, in St Petersburg, John Quincy Adams writes the following diary entry
22d. I called at eleven o'clock this morning upon Count Romanzoff, and told him that young Harris was going to America, and that I proposed sending by him duplicates of my last dispatches to the American Government. I asked him if he would by the same occasion send duplicates of his dispatches to Mr. Daschkoff, and on that account give him a passport as a messenger dispatched by him. This the Count said he could not do. Mr. Harris being an American, he could not give him a passport as a Russian courier, and if he should, the English would pay no regard to it. He had already found himself engaged in a discussion with the British Ambassador on the subject of passports. He had asked the Ambassador for his visa to one. The Ambassador had answered in the most obliging manner possible as to the forms, but had been, "quant au fond, assez sec." He had offered very readily to give his indorsement, but observed at the same time that the English cruisers might pay no attention to it, as they acted under their instructions from home, governed by the English laws. But, the Count said, he would send duplicates of his dispatches to Mr. Daschkoff by Mr. Harris, and in his courier's passport would have it inserted that he was also bearer of his dispatches to the Russian Minister in America. The Count himself had, in our first conversation concerning the mediation, proposed to me to give the messenger I should send a passport as a Russian courier, and it was on that suggestion that I asked it for Mr. Harris. But the Count then did not know the difficulties started by the British Ambassador. Perhaps the insertion which he offered may answer the purpose as well as a formal passport; and I readily accepted the offer. After I came home, young Mr. Harris called upon me, and I informed him of what the Chancellor had said to me.

October 21 1812: Necessity of Battle

On October 21 1812,  Major Lovett, writes to Honourable Abraham Van Vechten about the Battle of Queenston Heights. Lovett tries to explain that General Van Rensselaer was forced into a battle that he did not want:"The Battle was by no means a matter of choice, but absolute necessity with Genl. Van Rensselaer." The full letter is reproduced below.

October 21 1812: Prevost's Dispatch

On October 21, 1812, General Sir George Prevost, having received General Sheaffe's report, writes a dispatch to Britain announcing the victory over another American army in Canada at the Battle of Queenston. The dispatch reads, in part, as follows:
I have the satisfaction of reporting to your Lordship, that his Majesty's forces, aided by the Militia and Indians stationed on the Niagara frontier, have completely repelled a second attempt of the enemy to invade Upper Canada; and that a victory has been gained, which has left in our possession nine hundred of the American army, and their Commander, Brigadier Gen. Wordsworth, who surrendered himself, on the field of battle, to Major General Sheaffe His Majesty, and the country, have to deplore the loss of an able, and most gallant officer, in Major General Brock, who fell early in the battle, at the head of the flank companies of the 49th regiment, while nobly encouraging them to sustain their position, in opposition to an infinitely superior force, until the reinforcements he had ordered to advance to their support should arrive.

October 20 1812: Lord Byron and Lady Oxford

On October 20, 1812, Lord Byron continues his correspondence with Lady Melbourne with respect to Annabella. Byron also lets Lady Melbourne know that he has moved on and is having an affair with Lady Oxford. Byron writes:
I mean (entre nous my dear Machiavel) to play off Ly. O against her, who would have no objection perchance, but she dreads her scenes, & has asked me not to mention that we have met to C. – or that I am going to E. – where by the bye I am not sure that I am going. – – In short if not by yourself – cannot any of your friends intimate or subordinate “varnish this tale of truth” for her, if it was a fiction there would be no difficulty, but certainly truth is an Artichoke particularly to her. – Not a word of Ly. O. for the present to C. & certainly to no one else. – When C. returns she will commence some furious flirtation elsewhere which will give me the opportunity of breaking at once.
Lady Oxford at 40 is 16 years older than Byron at 24. He will spend most of November at Eywood with her.

Byron's letter is reproduced below.

October 19 1812: Byron and Food

On October 19 1812, John Cam Hobhouse writes to Lord Byron after along silence between the two good friends. Hobhouse had received a brief note yesterday and today he responds. He writes of of the opening of Drury Lane and Byron`s Address. Hobhouse also mention`s France`s invasion of Russia: "Here are the French soundly beaten and taking their enemy’s capital. "

Hobhouse ends the letter by a quip about Byron`s well known abstemiousness with respect to food. "I fear you are still living without eating and drinking, and that I shall see you deserving of every one of the lean epithets bestowed by Falstaff upon Prince Henry," Hobhouse writes.  Byron was something of a vegetarian though he usually ate fish. He had been told that such a diet would help his kidney stone problems. Thomas Moore writes of a famous dinner when he first met Byron:
As we had none of us been apprised of his peculiarities with respect to food, the embarrassment of our host [Samuel Rogers] was not little, on discovering that there was nothing upon the table which his noble guest could eat or drink. Neither meat, fish, nor wine would Lord Byron touch; and of biscuits and soda water, which he asked for, there had been, unluckily, no provision. He professed, however, to be equally well pleased with potatoes and vinegar; and of these meagre materials contrived to make rather a hearty meal...
We frequently, during the first months of our acquaintance dined together alone. . . . Though at times he would drink freely enough of claret, he still adhered to his system of abstinence in food. He appeared, indeed, to have conceived a notion that animal food has some peculiar influence on the character; and I remember one day, as I sat opposite to him, employed, I suppose, rather earnestly over a 'beef-steak,' after watching me for a few seconds, he said in a grave tone of inquiry, - 'Moore, don't you find eating beef-steak makes you ferocious?' "
Hobhouse`s letter to Byron is reproduced below.

October 19 1812: Napoleon Leaves Moscow

On October 19, 1812, Napoleon leaves Moscow with about 100,000 men and 40,000 wagons overflowing with looted spoils. The sun was shining that day. Philippe-Paul de Segur provides a description of the army as it leaves:  
In the southern part of Moscow, near one of its gates, one of its most extensive suburbs is divided by two high roads; both run to Kalouga: the one, that on the right, is the more ancient; the other is new. It was on the first that Kutusoff had just beaten Murat. By the same road Napoleon left Moscow on the 19th of October, announcing to his officers his intention to return to the frontiers of Poland by Kalouga, Medyn, Yuknow, Elnia, and Smolensk. One of them, Rapp, observed that "it was late, and that winter might overtake them by the way." The Emperor replied, "that he had been obliged to allow time to the soldiers to recruit themselves, and to the wounded collected in Moscow, Mojaisk, and Kolotskoi, to move off towards Smolensk." Then pointing to a still serene sky, he asked, "if in that brilliant sun they did not recognize his star?" But this appeal to his fortune, and the sinister expression of his looks, belied the security which he affected.

Oct 19 1812: Quadruple Hearsay

On October 19, 1812, in St Petersburg, John Quincy Adams writes that Mr. Harris has told him 
...that Dr. Creighton had mentioned to him that Sir Robert Wilson, when he was here, had said to him at his table that Mr. Perceval, just before his death, had assured him, Sir Robert Wilson, that it was his intention to make war against the United States of America, and that he had good grounds for the expectation that it would end in the restoration of the British authority over the Northern Provinces of the American Union.
Since it quadruple hearsay, it must be true. The full diary entry reads: 

October 18 1812: Admiration for the Amiable Mathematician

On October 18, 1812, Lord Byron writes again to Lady Melbourne about Annabella Milbanke, or, as he calls her,  "the amiable Mathematician" or "my Princess of Parallelograms." Byron appears to be responding the Annabella's character study of him. He surmises that Annabella is "not disgusted with being admired" which seems to offer him hope for the future.  Byron ends the letter as follows:
"Pray let me hear from you; I am so provoked at the thought that our acquaintance may be interrupted by the old phantasy. – I had & have twenty thousand things to say & I trust as many to hear, but somehow our conversations never come to a clear conclusion. – I thank you again for your efforts with my Princess of Parallelograms, who has puzzled you more than the Hypothenuse; in her character she has not forgotten “Mathematics” wherein I used to praise her cunning. – Her proceedings are quite rectangular, or rather we are two parallel lines prolonged to infinity side by side but never to meet." 
Byron's letter is reproduced below. 

Oct 17 1812: Annabella "Perfectly Right"

On October 17, 1812, Lord Byron writes to Lady Melbourne who has given him the news that  Annabella Milbanke has refused his marriage proposal. Byron responds gallantly saying, in effect, that she was probably right. He assures Lady Melbourne that he is not offended by her niece's refusal. “Cut her!” My dear Lady Melbourne. marry – Mahomet forbid! – I am sure we shall be better friends than before & if I am not embarrassed by all this I cannot see for the soul of me why she should." He adds:"She is perfectly right in every point of view." Later, he adds: "I have lost a thousand women in my time but never had the ill manners to quarrel with them for such a trifle.”

Byron's letter is reproduced below. 

October 17 1812: Lord Byron and the Waltz

On October 17, 1812, Lord Byron writes to John Murray, his publisher, announcing that he has a new poem to send him. He writes:"I have a poem on Waltz for you, of which I make  you a present, but it must be anonymous.” – It is in the old style of E. B. & S. R. [English Bards and Scotch Reviewers] " On the same day, he writes a second letter to Murray where he again mentions the poem: "I have in hand a satire on Waltzing which you must publish anonymously, it is not long, not quite 200 lines, but will make a very small boarded pamphlet – in a few days you shall have it."  The waltz was the most fashionable of dance in London in 1812. Lady Caroline Lamb was one of London's finest waltzers. Byron hated the dance. His club foot meant that he could never excel at it. The poem he wrote in October makes it clear how much he hates the waltz. The poem also has a curiously censorious Byron who is critical of the opportunities for public display and physicality offered by the waltz. He writes: 

Waltz - Waltz alone - both legs and arms demands,
Liberal of feet, and lavish of her hands;
Hands which may freely range in public sight
Where ne'er before - but - pray "put out the light."

The poem will be published anonymously in 1813. It is reproduced below. More information on the poem and Byron is provided by Peter Cochran here

October 16 1812: Brock and Macdonell are Buried

On October 16 1812, a solemn procession proceeds from Government House at Niagara to Fort George for the burial of Major-General Isaac Brock and Lieutenant-Colonel John Macdonell. Thousand crowd the streets. Officers wear crepe on their left arm and on their sword knotsAt the head of the procession Major Campbell leads sixty men of the 41st Regiment. Sixty members of the Canadian Militia follow. The remaining corps and detachments of the garrison with about two hundred Natives line the route as the procession passes. The band of the 41st Regiment plays the Dead March, drums covered with black cloth,  and muffled. Next comes the Late General's riderless horse, fully caparisoned, led by four grooms. 

The body of John Macdonell on a horse drawn wagon is followed his father Alexander Macdonell

The wagon carrying the body of General Brock comes next. Major General Sheaffe and Lieutenant Colonel Meyers are the chief mourners, followed by civil staff and friends. The inhabitants of the province follow at the end of the procession. 

At about 10 o'clock in the morning the caskets are lowered into a single freshly dug grave at the northeast corner of Fort George.   A twenty-one gun salute in three salvos is fired. At 4 o'clock in the afternoon, the American garrison at Lewiston also fires a twenty-one gun salute on orders of Major General Van Rensselaer. Major Glegg, who was responsible for organizing the funerals, would later recall: " pen can describe the real scenes of that mournful day. A more solemn and affecting spectacle was, perhaps, never witnessed". 

October 15 1812: Alexander's Mediation

On October 15, 1812, in St Petersburg, John Quincy Adams writes the following diary entry: 

15th. I received this morning a note from Count Romanzoff, requesting me to call on him at his house on the quay at seven o'clock in the evening. I accordingly went, and he said he wished to consult me as to the manner of sending to the United States dispatches to Mr. Daschkoff, containing the proposal of the Emperor Alexander's mediation between the United States and Great Britain; that with regard to my dispatching a courier directly, he had spoken to the English Ambassador to ask if he would furnish a passport or paper to secure such a person from being taken by the British, which Lord Cathcart answered he could readily do, provided the courier should go by the way of England. But the Count said that he had replied that he could not propose to me to agree to such a condition.

October 14 1812: Victory Won and Lost

On October 14, 1812, Major General Rensselaer writes to Major General Dearborn to explain the Battle of Queenston Heights. It is a long letter as he has a lot to explain. An argument can be made that the battle could have just as easily been won by the Americans. Van Rensselaer writes: "I can only add that victory was really won; but lost for the want of a small reinforcement. One third part of the idle men might have saved all." The main problem is that Van Rensselaer had proceeded with the attack without there being appropriate co-ordination and without General Smyth's troops being in position. 

Major General Van Rensselaer's letter is reproduced below. 

October 13 1812: Battle of Queenston Heights

On October 13, 1812, the Americans at 3 in the morning begin the invasion of Upper Canada.  Major General Isaac Brock will die in the attack but the Americans will be defeated as a result of their own internal quarrels that divided their forces. John Beverley Robinson,  who was present, wrote the following account in a letter probably addressed to John Strachan on the following day. 
Brown’s Point, October 14, 1812
The affair of yesterday terminated so gloriously for this province, and does so much honour to its spirited defenders, that I hasten to give an account to you, whom I know to be most warmly interested in the present cause of our country.
I am anxious to detail to you the particulars, because I know your heart will glow with fervour at our success, while it feelingly and sincerely laments the price at which it was purchased.
Few things occurred which I had not an opportunity of observing, and what I did see, from its novelty, its horror, and its anxiety, made so awful an impression on my mind, that I have the picture of it all fresh and perfect in my imagination.
About half-an-hour before daylight yesterday morning, (the 13th of October, Tuesday), being stationed at one of the batteried between Fort George and Queenston, I heard a heavy cannonade from Fort Grey on the American side situate on the height of the mountain, and commanding the town of Queenston. The motions of the enemy had, for a few days previously, indicated an intention to attack. The lines had been watched with all the vigilance that our force rendered possible, and so great was the fatigue which our men underwent from want of rest and exposure to the inclement weather which had just preceded, that they welcomed with joy the prospect of a field which would be decisive, and set them more at ease for the future. Their spirits were high, and their confidence in the General unbounded.
Our party, which was merely an extra guard during the night, returned to Brown's Point, our main station, which is about two miles in a direct line from Queenston.

October 12 1812: Quebec`s Prison Ships

On October, 12, 1812,  Surgeon's Mate James Reynolds, an American prisoner of war held in a prison ship in Quebec City (1), makes the following entry in his journal:
12th.—Monday. Clouday and cold. The sail covered with snow. Joseph Quil's child died at 12 o'clock this morning and Saml. Lewis died at half past 12 o'clock. The Surgeon came on bord at 9 o'clock. The men something better. I took from Morgan his scrotum and left the testicles entirely naked.
Reynolds appears to have been captured at the beginning July, 1812, while on board the schooner Cuyahoga Packet as it was sailing up the Detroit River. Cuyahoga was sailing slowly past the British fort when it was captured by the British. The day before General William Hull's American Army of the Northwest had reached Lake Erie. Hull still did not know that war had been declared. He hired the  Cuyahoga and another ship to carry his personal baggage, band instruments and the sick upriver. Reynolds, a Surgeon's Mate, was put in charge of sick. He kept a Journal of his captivity in Montreal aboard a prison ship. He wrote short descriptions of the main events of the day. The American prisoners were kept on prison ships in Quebec. On October 12 there is a particularly gruesome entry.  The complete Journal can be found here.

1. An earlier version of this post mistakently stated that the prison ships were in Montreal. In fact, it appears that there were som ships and sick left in Montreal but that Reynolds was taken with others to Quebec. 

Oct 12 1812: Lord Byron to John Murray

October 12, 1812, Lord Byron writes to his publisher, John Murray, to have the engraving of his portrait destroyed. His Lordship did not like the engraving by Henry Hoopner Meyer from a miniature by George Sanders. Byron is also anxious to hear the reaction to his Address for the opening the Drury Lane Theatre. Lastly, Byron wants information about the recent review of his poem Childe Harold by The Satirist. The review was not without praise but did include  some strong personal criticism of Byron: 
Childe Harold, though avowedly a fragment, contains many passages which would do honour to any poet, of any period, in any country. At the same time we are compelled to remark, that there are others which we must strongly reprobate; and not the less so because it is the thought rather than the expression with which we quarrel. The tone of the whole work is that of melancholy; but we accuse not the noble Lord of servile imitation. It is not often the description of sorrow, demanding sympathy, affected by so many ancient and modern poets. It is too frequently, though not invariably, selfish, misanthropic, unamiable. Lord Byron has contrived also, in other respects, to render some of the best feelings of the human heart hostile to him.  
Byron's letter to Murray is reproduced below.

October 12 1812: Brock's Last Letter

On October 12, 1812, Brock puts pen to paper to begin a letter to Sir George Prevost. This may have been the last letter Brock wrote. He writes:  

The vast number of troops which have been this day added to the strong force previously collected on the opposite side, convinces me, with other indications, that an attack is not far distant. I have in consequence directed every exertion to be made to complete the militia to 2,000 men, but fear that I shall not be able to effect my object with willing, well-disposed characters. Were it not for the numbers of Americans in our ranks, we might defy all their efforts against this part of the province.

October 11 1812: American Attack Postponed

On October 11, 1812, Major General Isaac Brock writes to Sir George Prevost and to Colonel Porter about the American attacks on the British brigs Detroit and Caledonia. Brock is worried that the Americans were trying to gain supremacy of the Great Lakes. 

In fact, the American Commander at Lewiston, General Van Rensselaer, had planned to launch an attack across the Niagara on October 11 at 3 in the morning. Bad weather, and the fact that an American Officer, Lieutenant Sim, took most of the oars for the boats and then deserted, meant that the attack had to be cancelled. A new attack is set for October 13

Brock's letters are reproduced below.

October 10 1812: My Dear Harriot

On October 10, 1812, Colonel Solomon Van Rensselaer, before he joins the American attack on Queenston, writes to his wife, what he thinks may be his last letter:  
My Dear Harriot - This letter may be tho last you will receive from me; If it is, let me beg of you sometimes to cherish my memory and forget any unkindness you may have received from me, for whenever an unkind word has fallen from me, be assured it was not owing to any want of attachment to you, but to the unhappy state of my mind at that moment, owing to my embarrassment and the persecution of my Political enemies who even pursue me to this quarter of the Globe. My attachment to you has ever been warm and undivided and so it Shall Remain to the last moment of my existence and if it should please Heaven to guard me from danger this night, I will when I return shew by my actions what I now express, but should it be otherwise Decreed let me beg of you to think kindly of me and meet my fall with fortitude.

October 10 1812: Reopening of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane

On October 10, 1812, the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane reopens with an Address written by Lord Byron and spoken by the actor Robert Elliston before he plays the title role in that night's opening production of Hamlet. 

The Drury Lane Theatre was one of the two most important theatres in London. The only other "patent or monopoly theatre" was the Covent Garden Theatre. Only in these two theatres could the plays of Shakespeare be played since only these theatres were licenced for the plays of tragedy and comedy.  The two patent theatres, as Peter Cochran notes, "were in competition with at least eight other unofficial London theatres, where spoken dialogue was theoretically forbidden, and which therefore put on harlequinades, operettas, equestrian and other animal shows, pantomimes, clowns, aquatic events, and numerous other entertaining and popular hybrids." 

October 10 1812: Knight of the Order of Bath

On October 10, 1812, the Earl of Bathurst writes to Sir George Prevost to announce that  Major-General Brock has been appointed an extra Knight of the Most Honorable Order of the Bath. The Earl of Bathurst writes:
I have had the honor of receiving your dispatch, dated the 26th of August, together with its enclosures, from Major-General Brock, and I lost no time in laying intelligence so important and satisfactory before his royal highness the prince regent.
I am commanded by his royal highness to desire you to take the earliest opportunity of conveying his royal highness' approbation of the able, judicious, and decisive conduct of Major-General Brock; of the zeal and spirit manifested by Colonel Proctor and the other officers; as well as of the intrepidity of the troops under the command of Major-General Brock.
By the united exertions of this little army, the enterprise of the American army has been defeated; the territories of his majesty in Upper Canada have been secured; and on the enemy's fort of Detroit, important to that security, the British standard has been happily placed.
You will inform Major-General Brock that his royal highness, taking into consideration all the difficulties by which Major-General Brock was surrounded from the time of the invasion of the province by the American army, under the command of General Hull, and the singular judgment, firmness, skill, and courage, with which he was enabled to surmount them so effectually—has been pleased to appoint him an extra knight of the most honorable order of the bath.

October 9 1812: John Quincy Adams

On October 9,  John Quincy Adams writes the following diary entry: 
9th. Mr. Laval sent me word that he had returned home, and I called on him again. I had drawn his certificate according to a form which he had sent me, being the same that had heretofore been used by the French Consul. But it purported that Mr. Laval's Acte de Naissance had been presented to me, and I accordingly asked him to show it to me. He said he had given it to Mr. Lesseps, who had not returned it. I observed that I could not then certify that it had been presented to me. He thought that those were mere words of form, and that I might certify in confidence upon his statement. In the form Mr. Lesseps had used, those words were underscored and minuted as indispensable. I told Mr. Laval that my confidence in his assertion was perfect, but it could not justify me in certifying what was not the fact. I would either omit the words or insert in their stead " deposited at the French Consulate in this city." He preferred the latter, and we appointed seven in the evening for me to call upon him with the new certificate. At seven I accordingly went with it, and he signed it. I left it with him, to be signed by four witnesses as the French law requires. It is for an annuity which his mother receives upon his life. Madame Laval was present, and Count Maistre was there. They are to go in five or six days. They both appear to be much dejected. They are fugitives from one of the most magnificent establishments in St Petersburg, a house where splendor and hospitality went hand in hand. They are going with a family of small children literally they know not where and to return they know not when. Madame de Betancourt and all her children went the day before yesterday; they go to England. We shall have scarcely an acquaintance left.
Baron Blome paid me a long visit; he is much out of health, and no less out of spirits. He thinks the Swedes are going to attack the island of Zealand, and he is very apprehensive they will succeed in taking it. He says they have not the shadow of a complaint against Denmark, and that it will be an attack more treacherous and profligate than that upon Spain. He appears fully convinced that Koutouzof had really won the battle of Borodino, though the world will never believe it. I do not yet believe it myself.  The Baron, however, gives credit to all the stories they circulate here, many of which are without foundation.

October 9 1812: A Soldier's Life

On October 9, 1182, Private William Wheeler, serving in the British army on the Iberian Peninsula, writes to his family. He is now at a Camp near Almos, Spain. His camp is close to the Castle of Burgos, which is under siege by a Anglo-Spanish-Portuguese army led by Wellington. The siege is not going well. Wheeler begins his letter in a self-consciously literary style:    
What a chequered life is a soldier's on active service. One moment seeking the bubble reputation at the cannon's mouth. The next courting some fair unknown damsel, sometimes scorched alive with heat, then almost frozen to death on some snowy mountain, at one time the inmate of a palace, then for months, the sky is his only covering. Hunting the enemy like a greyhound, and in return as often being hunted by the enemy. These thoughts naturally arise when from the midst of ease and plenty, we find ourselves transported as it were by magic, close to the enemy in another part of the country, at a distance of  three hundred miles. Such is our case at present.

October 8 1812: Appalling the Minds of the Canadians

On October 8, 1812, General Van Rensselaer, at Lewiston near Niagara, writes to General Dearborn. Van Rensselaer lays out the plan and the justification for crossing the Niagara and seeking to take the heights of "Queenstown". Van Rensselaer is motivated by the "disgrace" of the loss of Detroit. "The blow must be struck soon," he writes, "or all the toil and expense of the campaign go for nothing or worse than nothing, for the whole will be tinged with dishonour." The main objective of the attack appears to be to shake the morale of the Canadians or, as he describes it, "appalling the minds of the Canadians". Rensselaer writes:
The proposal which I shall submit to the Council will be, that we immediately concentrate the regular force in the neighborhood of Niagara and the militia here, make the best possible dispositions, and at the same time, the regulars shall pass from the Four-mile Creek to a point in the rear of the works of Fort George, and take it by storm: I will pass the river here, and carry the heights of Queenstown.
Should we succeed, we shall effect a great discomfiture of the enemy by breaking their line of communication, driving their shipping from the mouth of this river, leaving them no rallying point in this part of the country, appalling the minds of the Canadians, and opening a wide and safe communication for our supplies. We shall save our own land, wipe away part of the score of our past disgrace, get excellent barracks and winter quarters, and at the least be prepared for an early campaign another year. 
Van Rensselaer's letter is reproduced below.

October 7 1812: Rapp Not To Be Killed In War

On October 7 1812, General Jean Rapp, of the Grande Armée, has recovered sufficiently from his wounds sustained at Borodino to write to Baron Deportes:
Moscow, October 7, 1812. 
It is a month to-day since the Emperor won the finest and most terrible battle ever fought since the Revolution. General Compans having been wounded, his Majesty had given me the command of that fine Division; but in my turn I was hit four times in an hour and a half; first, in the arm by a spent pistol-ball; secondly, by a pistol-shot in the thigh ; thirdly, by a cannon-ball in the left arm, and fourthly by grape-shot in my left hip. That knocked me off my horse, and obliged me to give up the game. Luckily no bones were broken and I am almost well again. Every one declares I am not to be killed in war. 
True to his word, Rapp did not die in war but in Rheinweiler, Baden on November 8, 1821.

October 6 1812: Brock's Birthday

October 6, 1812, Major General Isaac Brock celebrates his 43rd birthday. Brock was born on the Island of Guernsey, which is a Channel Island, on October 6, 1769. 

Brock has one week to live. Americans are working on plans to cross the Niagara and take the heights near Queenston. Brock will die on those heights on October 13, 1812.  

In Britain, the Earl of Bathurst, on this day, writes to Wellington:
I send you our American news. Major-General Brock seems to be a man of energy and resource: I wish we had had him at Alicante. This news is a great relief to me. After the strong representations which I had received of the inadequacy of the force in those American settlements, I know not how I should have withstood the attack against me for having sent reinforcements to Spain instead of sending them for the defence of British possessions.
Wellington could use Brock on this day. He is engaged in the Siege of the Castle of Burgos in Spain. Things are not going well. He wants the  other forces to assist by blocking the attempts of the French to concentrate their armies. Wellington on October 6 anxiously records the movement of French forces in his own letter to the Earl of Bathurst.  

The letters of the Earl of Bathurst and Wellington are reproduced below.

October 5 1812: Beethoven- Genius as An Officious Prick

On October 5 1812, Ludwig van Beethoven arrives in Linz, Bohemia to confront his younger brother. Beethoven has heard that his brother Nikolaus Johann van Beethoven intends to marry his housekeeper, Therese Obermayer. Beethoven left Teplitz, where he had been staying for health reasons, to stop the wedding. 

Johann is a successful  apothecary in Linz. He is not troubled by the money problems that afflicted his more famous older brother. Beethoven stays over a month at Johann's house but is not able to persuade him not to marry Therese. Beethoven's objects to Therese because he does not think she is a suitable wife. She is a housekeeper! More distressing, she has given birth to a daughter out of wedlock some four years earlier, when she had been a housekeeper at another house. She had been 19 years old at the time. Her daughter's name is Amalia.