December 16 1812: Sheaffe to Prevost

On December 16 1812, Major-General R. H. Sheaffe  writes to Sir George Prevost:

Major-General R. H. Sheaffe to Sir George Prevost.
Fort George, 16th December, 1812.

Sir,— Captain Gray arrived here on the 14th and delivered to me Your Excellency's despatch of the 15th November. Lieut.Colonel Myers will set out as speedily as possible for the Lower Province, and will take with him all the information that can be collected of the means which this Province can furnish for aiding in the execution of the plan which is proposed for the improvement of our marine establishment, to such an extent as shall at least raise it to an equality with the force preparing by the enemy, but for this important purpose it must be owned that assistance of the njost essential kind must be drawn from sources that are not even under Your Excellency's control. Besides shipwrights, rigging, guns, and equipment of various sorts which the Lower Province may be able to supply, officers and seamen from the Royal Navy will be required. An addition of some heavy guns will be necessary for the defence of the posts of Kingston and York. It is desirable, too, to have some gun-boats, carrying guns of a large calibre, but the construction of these must probably be deferred as a secondary consideration, as it is not to be expected that we shall be able to engage at once in preparing every kind of vessel which may be deemed useful. Captain Gray will return to York and Kingston to give the necessary directions for commencing the work and for putting in a state of active operation all the aids that we can command for contributing to its progress.

The details of the proposed plan will be taken down by Lieut. Colonel Myers. I have the honor of enclosing a general sketch of it.

It mortifies me extremely to have to report to Your Excellency that both sickness and desertion increased among the militia after the date of my last despatch; indeed the desertion was chiefly owing, I believe, to the distress in their families from sickness, &c„ the want of assistance in various ways either for providing for their comfort or their subsistence during the winter. It must be confessed, too, that the militia were but ill-prepared for such cold weather as we have experienced. The clothing for them came up so late that with our defective means we could not get it made in time, and it unfortunately happened that but a small part of the shoes provided for them had arrived at Kingston when Lieut.Colonel Nichol sailed from thence with the supplies he brought up. The aid that we could obtain in shoes and leather from the neighboring posts of the Province was too scanty to answer the demand, especially as a considerable number of Indians, too, were to be supplied. The consequence was that a deficiency of shoes was rapidly increasing, and some men were disabled from doing duty for want of them. Under all these circumstances, it became necessary to adopt the means of giving my sanction to the absence of the battalion companies and to one flank company of each regiment, in order to prepare the way for an arrangement for rendering the militia force on this frontier more numerous and efficient at a short distance of time. I hope to have it effected in the course of two or three weeks, and that the enemy in the meantime will not be in a state to make an attack in such force as to overpower the resistance that can be opposed to them. I ought not, however, to conceal from Your Excellency my opinion that we must continue to be befriended by good fortune as well as by the defective plans and organizations of the enemy to enable us to maintain this position through the winter, even with all the aid that the best exertions of the militia may afford us, for it appears probable that the efforts of the enemy will be directed to this point, where it must be known that we are weak in number, with but little hope of reinforcement.
B. General Smyth is reported to have returned to Buffalo.
Captain King, who commanded the American troops in the attack on our batteries near Fort Erie, and is now a prisoner here, has applied to be liberated on his parole, which I have declined granting until it shall be authorized by Your Excellency. He is a bold and enterprising spirit, and appears to be held in high estimation on the other side. A private of the 49th pretends that he saw him some years since at Portsmouth under sentence of transportation, that he is an Irishman and his true name Mafrey. The soldier is at Fort Erie. I have sent for him that I may interrogate him myself on the subject.
I have ordered a General Court Martial to be assembled for the trial of three deserters, taken in arms against us: one at Michilimakinac, one at Queenston, and one with Captain King. (Canadian Archives, C. 677)

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