July 31 1812: Napoleon's Indecision

On June 31, 1812, Napoleon is at Vitebsk. Napoleon uncharacteristically is uncertain as what to do next. On July 28, Philippe-Paul de Segur [1] has him saying: "Here I stop! I want to collect myself, rally my forces, rest my army, and organize Poland. The campaign of 1812 is finished. The Campaign of 1813 will do the rest." Later, Napoleon is heard to say: "For we shall not repeat the folly of Charles XII." This King of Sweden had been crushed by venturing too far into Russia in 1709. De Segur captures Napoleon's indecision, with what amount of truth or art we cannot now know, when he writes
In this state of perplexity he spoke in a few disconnected words to whomever he chanced to meet."Well, what we are going to do?... Shall we stay here? Shall we advance?... How can we stop now on the road to glory?" Without waiting for an answer, he would move on, seeming to be looking for someone or something that could help make up his mind.
Napoleon's dilemma is that he has been able to move his army great distances, claiming places on the map, but the Russian armies remain in tact moving deeper into the ancient provinces of Russia and still undefeated. Meanwhile, the resources needed to keep the Grande Armée on the field continue to become ever more difficult to find. Napoleon has to decide whether to bring matters to a conclusion by trying to defeat the Russian armies on the battlefield or basically declare victory and consolidate his gains. He will remain in Vitebsk for weeks agonizing over the decision he alone can make. In the words of the historian Adam Zamoyski:"This proverbially decisive man seemed panicked by the very fact that he could not reach a decision." 

None of this is reflected in the Tenth Bulletin De La Grande Armée dated July 31, 1812 which continues the propaganda war for Napoleon and is reproduced below.

July 31 1812: Prevost and Martial Law

On July 31, 1812, Sir George Prevost writes to Major General Isaac Brock, in Upper Canada. Prevost thinks that Brock can declare martial law without the need of the legislature. He writes: "I believe you are authorized by the Commission under which you administer the Government of Upper Canada to declare Martial Law in the event of Invasion or Insurrection it is therefore for you to consider whether you can obtain any thing equivalent to that power from your Legislature, I have not succeeded in obtaining a Modification of it in Lower Canada and must therefore upon the occurrence of either of  those calamities declare the Law Martial unqualified, and of course shut the Doors of the Courts of Civil La he also advises Brock about the repeal of the Orders in Council." Prevost's letter is reproduced below. 

July 30 1812: Parliament Prorogued

On July 30, 1812, the archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor, the Earl of Harrowby, the Earl of Westmoreland, and the Earl of Liverpool, take their seats in their robes, as his Majesty's commissioners for notifying the royal assent to a Bill, and for proroguing the parliament.

Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, is sent to the Commons to require their attendance.

Shortly afterwards the Speaker, and several members of the House of Commons, came to the bar. A commission for giving the royal assent to a Bill was read by the reading clerk at the table.  The royal assent was notified, in the usual form, to the Insolvent Debtors' Bill for England.  The Lord Chancellor in the name of his Royal Highness the Prince Regent, delivered the following Speech and then Parliament was prorogued[1]:

July 29 1812: Speak Loud and Look Big

On July 27, 1812, Major Brock writes another letter to Colonel Baynes where starts with some choice rants before getting down to business of choosing officers.  The rants are more fun. Brock writes: 

"My situation is most critical, not from any thing the enemy can do, but from the disposition of the people — the population, believe me is essentially bad— a full belief possesses them all that this Province must inevitably succumb—this pre possession is fatal to every exertion — Legislators, Magistrates, Militia Officers, all, have imbibed the idea, and are so sluggish and indifferent in their respective offices that the artful and active Scoundrel is allowed to parade the Country without interruption, and commit all imaginable mischief — They are so alarmed of offending that they rather encourage than repress disorder or other (im)-proper acts. I really believe it is with some Cause they dread the vengeance of the democratic party, they are such a set of unrelenting villains."

He then explains his main strategy: "Most of the people have lost all confidence," he writes, "I however speak loud and look big."  Brock's full letter is reproduced below.

July 29 1812: Threatened Visit of a Lady

On July 29 1812, Lady Caroline Lamb, fearing that her lover Lord Byron is about to flee to Harrow, disguises herself in men's clothing, and appears at the door of Byron's rooms at No. 8 St James Street, London. It is twelve o'clock. Byron and John Cam Hobhouse are indeed preparing to leave for Harrow to "avoid the threatened visit of a lady." Several thundering raps are heard. Lady Caroline, in a disguise that fools no one, walks in, sees Bryon and Hobhouse, runs up the garret stairs, and into Byron's bedroom. There she takes off her disguise to reveal a page's dress underneath. Hobhouse leaves Byron to go to Mr. Dollman's hat shop downstairs, and orders a hat. He is about to leave when he decides that he has to assist his friend. Together they spend the day trying to get Lady Caroline to leave. At one point, Byron agrees to elope with her, and then doesn't. The story is best told by Hobhouse, who describes the day's events in full in his diary [1] as follows:

July 12 1812: Militia to March

On July 29, 1812, Major General Isaac Brock, in Upper Canada, again writes to Sir George Prevost, in Lower Canada this time to update him on the capture of Fort Mackinac in Michigan.  Brock writes: "The Capture of Michilimackinac may produce great changes to the Westward — The actual invasion of the Province justifies every act of hostility on the American territory." He notes that the Militia is now willing to march. Brock`s letter is reproduced below.

July 28 1812: Dearborn's Confusion

"Who is to have command of the operations in Upper Canada?" General Dearborn the Senior major general in the United States Army in command of the northeast sector asks the Secretary of War Eustis in a letter on July 28 1812.  He then remarkably answers his own question,"I take it for granted that my command does not extent to that distant quarter." This is extraordinary. Henry Adams describes the failure in his inimitable style:

July 28 1812: Brock's Awkward Predictament

On July 28, 1812, Major General Isaac Brock, in Upper Canada, again writes to Sir George Prevost, in Lower Canada to update him the on the parliamentary session. Brock writes:

A more decent House has not been elected since the formation of the province — but I perceive at once that I shall get no good of them.
They, like the magistrates and others in office, evidently mean to remain passive. The repeal of the Habeas Corpus - will not pass, and if I have recourse to the Law Martial I am told the whole armed force will disperse. Never was an officer placed in a more awkward predicament — The Militia  cannot possibly be governed by the present Law — all admit the fact, yet the fear of giving offence, will prevent any thing effectual from being effected — I entreat the advice of Your Excellency!
Brock`s letter is reproduced below.

July 27 1812: A Defiant Brock

On July 27,  1812 Major-General Brock returns to York from Fort George to attend an emergency session of the Upper Canada's House of Assembly. He opens the session with a rousing speech. "By vigour in our operations, we may teach the enemy this lesson, that a country defended by free men enthusiastically devoted to the cause of their king and constitution, can never be conquered!"

The speech was well received but this does not mean that the Assembly will pass the legislation that Brock wants. Brock will be disappointed because the assembly will not agree to suspend habeas corpus and is reluctant to impose martial law. The defeatist attitude of many in Upper Canada needs to be emphasized to allow for some appreciation of Brock's achievement. 

July 26 1812: A Father's Grief

On July 26 1812, Joseph Alston, Governor of South Carolina, writes to his father in law, Aaron Burr (on the left), the former Vice President of the United States, now living in New York City and recently returned from Europe. Alston writes about the death of his son,  Aaron Burr Alston, who was Burr's only grandson. His son had died of malaria on June 30, 1812 at the age of ten. Alston writes that he and his wife Theodosia, Burr's beloved daughter, are grieving. "One dreadful blow has destroyed us;" Alston writes, "reduced us to the veriest, the most sublimated wretchedness". The full letter is reproduced below.

July 25 1812: The Te Deum and Kutuzov Prays

On July 26 1812, John Quincy Adams in St Petersburg, Russia writes about his attendance at a Te Deum for the peace concluded with the Ottoman Empire. A Te Deum is a religious service based upon the Te Deum hymn, an early Christian hymn of praise, and is held to bless an event or give thanks. Also present was Count Maistre, the counter-enlightmnent philosopher, and ambassador to Tsar Alexander in St Petersburg for the exiled King of Piedmont-Sardinia. Adams records a conversation with him as follows: "Count Maistre said, if the Emperor Alexander was in such a position we could not sleep for anxiety. "Mais — voila ce que c'est — I'etoile de cet homme. And, what is strange, the private letters from the officers in the army are written in the finest spirits imaginable — gay as larks; wherever they go, the ladies and gentlemen of the vicinities go into the cities with them and make agreeable society; and they have charming music.'' It is also of interest to note that General Koutouzof (also known as Mikhail Kutuzov) was present. Adams writes,"General Koutouzof himself also apparently had a private act of devotion of his own to perform, for he went alone into the sanctuary". Tsar Alexander will soon appoint Kutuzov as commander-in-chief of the combined Russian armies that will face Napoleon's Grande Armée. A little prayer cannot hurt. The fuller excerpt of Adams entry for this date is is reproduced below.

July 26 1812: Hull Learns of Fall of Fort Mackinac

On July 26 1812, General Hull in Sandwich, Upper Canada learns that Fort Mackinac on the Mackinac Island has fallen on July 17 to a British and Native force. The fort was strategically important controlling navigation between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. It also controlled access to the northwest. The fall of the fort allowed the British to cement their alliances with Native nations.  The effect on Hull was devastating. He begins to be paralyzed with a fear that he will be encircled by "savage" Natives.  It does not help that  his forces suffered some of their first casualties the day before to Native warriors. 

On the 26th, Hull is also burying Avery Powers, perhaps the first American soldier to die in combat as a result of the War of 1812 [1]. Powers was the son of Avery and Dorothy Powers and wasborn on January 22, 1772 in Norwich, Connecticut. On April 29 1812,  he had prepared his last will and testament and on his death he left behind him 485 acres, his wife Prudence, and three children Benjamin, Mary, and Hiram. Robert Lucas briefly notes his funeral in his Journal:  
[Sunday, July the Twenty -sixth]

26 This morning we inter [r]ed our mes[s]mate, Avery powers with the honours of warr — there was a vessel Seen Coming down the River with British Coulors she was fired upon and brought to She proved to be one of the american vessels that had be[e]n taken at Michil[l]imac[k]a-nac[k] 1 and had been Cartailed as private property she.  had on board Som[e] of the prisoners that was taken when the garrison at Miohil[l]imackin[ack] was taken, she was ordered under our Battery and there to remain —
Meanwhile, General Dearborn, the senior major general in the United States Army in command of the northeast sector from the Niagara River to the New England coast arrives in Albany unsure if he has authority to go into Canada. Hull is truly alone. 

1. If not the first, he was among the first.

July 25 1812: Napoleon reaches Beshenkoviche

On July 25 1812, Napoleon reaches Beshenkoviche and learns that Barclay has eluded him. Barclay is at Vitebsk waiting for Bagration to join him with the Second Army, and apparently preparing to fight. Barclay has left Count Ostermann-Tolstoy with about 12,000 men at Ostrovno to delay any French[1] advance. Napoleon is cheered with news that the Russians are going to fight and writes: "We are on the eve of great events." Napoleon's letter is reproduced below.   

July 25 1812: Marshall Marmont's Excuses

On July 25, 1812,  Auguste Frédéric Louis Viesse de Marmont, the Duke of Ragusa, French General, nobleman and Marshal of France, tries to explains to Napoleon the French army's loss at the Battle of Salamanca under his command. Marmont explains but for the fact that he had been gravely injured he would have won. He writes: 
"I was proceeding to lead them and to take the immediate command of this part of the battle, when, by a cruel accident, at the moment when my presence was most required, a round of grape-shot threw me over, shattering my right arm, and inflicting two severe wounds in my side, thus rendering me incapable of taking any part in the command. The anarchy consequent upon this accident and on the wound of General Bonnet, my next in command as the senior general of division, who was struck a few instants afterwards, prevented the execution of my orders; so that General Maucune, notwithstanding the brilliant success which he had obtained, was forced by superior numbers to retire."
Marmont's letter is written to King Joseph of Spain, Napoloen's brother, but Marmont knew the letter would be sent to Napoleon. In fact, Napoleon received Marmont's  letter on September 2 1812 in Russia, just prior to the Battle of Borodino. He was not happy. Marmont's letter is reproduced below. 

July 25 1812: Brock to Prevost

On July 25, 1812, Major General Isaac Brock, in Upper Canada, again writes to Sir George Prevost, in Lower Canada. Brock writes that he had intended to move west to attack General Hull but has now been informed that a majority of the Native nations are going to remain neutral. As a consequence, the men of the militia will not move with him. In an angry tone he writes: this unexpected intelligence has ruined the whole of my plans. The militia, which I destined for this service, will now be alarmed, and unwilling to leave their families to the mercy of 400 Indians, whose conduct affords such wide room for suspicion; and really to expect that this fickle race will remain in a state of neutrality in the midst of war, would be truly absurd." The mutual fear and animosity in the uneasy alliance of Natives, Upper Canadians and the British comes to fore in away that is not flattering to Brock. In his defence, Brock also had an unfavourable view of the residents of Upper Canada. Brock writes this letter on the same day that Native warriors have checked the advance of American forces at Turkey Creek Bridge, near Sandwich, with American troops suffering some of their first casualties. Brock`s letter is reproduced below.

July 25 1812: First American Casualties of the War

On July 25 1812, the Americans suffer the first casualties on the war. There had been periodic skirmishes on the border,  near the River Canard, since the invasion of Upper Canada by General Hull. According to Robert Lucas, the night before, Major Denny with a detachment of about 150 men had gone out for the purpose of Waylaying and Cutting of a Detachment of Indians that was reported to be ranging in the woods. The next day Major Denny was ambushed by native warriors near Turkey Creek Bridge. Lucas reports that six American soldiers were killed while others say four Americans were killed. One of the dead was Avery Powers who received several shots thought his body was tomohawked but not scalped. According to some the ambush of the American force had been organized by Tecumseh. The Americans fought back but eventually retreated back to Sandwich. Lucas reports that some native warriors were killed and one was scalped. Lucas writes: Capt McCollock this day killed and Scalped an Indian it being the only Scalp that was taken. This appears to have been the first recorded scalping of the war. An excerpt from Robert Lucas`Journal is reproduced below describing the day in more detail. 

July 24 1812: Wellington Triumphant

On July 24, 1812 Wellington writes to the Earl of Bathurst to report on the Battle of Salamanca.  He describes in some detail the movements of the battle.  In particular, he describes the decisive attack on the French army`s left which completely succeeded. Wellington concludes with a list of individuals who acted with distinction. As for the French, he writes: It is impossible to form a conjecture of the amount of the enemy's loss in this action; but, from all reports, it is very considerable. We have taken from them 11 pieces of cannon, several ammunition waggons, 2 eagles, and 6 colors; and 1 General, 3 Colonels, 3 Lieut. Colonels, 130 officers of inferior rank, and between 6000 and 7000 soldiers are prisoners ; and our detachments are sending in more at every moment. The number of dead on the field is very largeWellington`s letter is reproduced below. 

July 23 1812: Southey writes to Edith

On July 23 1812, Robert Southey writes to his wife Edith, born  Edith Fricker, was the sister of Coleridge's wife, Sara Fricker.  Southey`s letter is reproduced below. 

My dear Edith,

We left St. Helen’s after an early breakfast on Tuesday, with Tom in company; looked at Raby and Bernard Castle, and made our way to the porter’s lodge at Rokeby near that fine bridge over which we past in the rain. A sturdy old woman, faithful to her orders, refused us admittance, saying that if we were going to the Hall we might go in, but if not we must not enter the grounds; nor would she let us in till we had promised to call at the Hall. Accordingly, against the grain, in observance of this promise, to the house I went, and having first inquired if Walter Scott was there, requested permission to see the grounds. Mr. Morritt was not within, but the permission was granted; and in ten minutes after, the footman came running to say we might see the house also, and we might fish if we pleased. 

July 23 1812: Kinkaid the Day After Battle

On July 22 1812, Sir John Kincaid  describes the day after the battle of Salamanca :
We started after them at daylight next morning and, crossing at a ford of the Tormes, we found their rearguard, consisting of three regiments of infantry, with some cavalry and artillery, posted on a formidable height above the village of Serna. General Bock, with his brigade of heavy German dragoons, immediately went at them and, putting their cavalry to flight, he broke through their infantry and took or destroyed the whole of them. This was one of the most gallant charges recorded in history. I saw many of these fine fellows lying dead along with their horses, on which they were still astride, with the sword firmly grasped in the hand as they had fought the instant before, and several of them still wearing a look of fierce defiance which death itself had been unable to quench. 

July 23 1812: Gallant Harry Smith has Boils

On July 23, 1812, the day after the battle of Salamanca, the gallant Harry Smith is suffering from boils. He will recall:
Next morning soon after daylight she joined me on the march. I was at that time so afflicted with boils, I could hardly live on horseback. I had eleven immense ones at the time on my legs and thighs, the excruciating pain of which is not to be described. Our surgeon, old Joe Bowker, insisted on my going to Salamanca, and one particular boil on the bone of the inside of my knee proved a more irresistible argument. So to Salamanca I had to go, my brother Tom doing my duty. I stayed fourteen days at Salamanca, a time of love and excitement, although, so distressed was the army for money, we lived almost on our rations, except for a little assistance from the lady of our house in coffee, etc. Wade, Sir Lowry Cole's A.D.C., lent me one dollar out of forty which he had received to support his General (who had been severely wounded in the battle), and his staff. In such times of privation heroism is required which our countrymen little dream of.
At the end of the fourteen days I had as many boils as ever, but, boils and all, off we started, and rode some terrible distances for three or four days. We overtook the Division, to the joy of the soldiers, before we crossed the Guadarama Pass [11 Aug.] There had been no fighting in my absence, thank God.

 The autobiography of Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Smith, baronet of Aliwal on the Sutlej, G.C.B. by Sir Henry (Harry) George Wakelyn Smith (1788-1860). Ed. with the addition of some supplementary chapters by George Charles Moore Smith (1858-1940). London: J. Murray, 1903)at chapter VIII

July 22 1812: Great Anxiety in Russia

On July 22 1812, John Quincy Adams in St Petersburg, Russia writes:
22nd Morning visit from Mr. Montreal. A new ordinance of  the Emperor concerning foreigners, and particularly Frenchmen, has spread a general alarm, and in its terms is so extremely rigorous that it has been thought necessary to send to the Emperor for an explanation of its extent. Mr. Raimbert went yesterday to the military Governor, Wiasmitinof, to ascertain what was intended. The Governor received him politely, and told him he was waiting for orders, but at all events that he should make himself easy; there could be no danger for him. There is a new levy of five men to every five hundred in the four bordering governments, and a call for money and supplies of grain from others. My coachman was this morning-taken for a soldier, but in the evening was released again upon payment of twenty-five roubles by his master. The official news from the armies is all favorable, and according to the hand-bills they have had nothing but a series of successes from the first day of the campaign. But the Emperor with one army has been retreating from the Niemen River to the Dwina, and is completely separated from the second army under Prince Bagration. He has burnt and destroyed all the towns on his retreat, as well as all the grass and grain standing on the fields. And he must now be compelled to retreat still farther, or to give battle with only a part of his forces, contrary to what has been officially declared to be his plan. There is great anxiety here, but as yet no symptom of discouragement Rumors of disasters both to Prince Bagration's army and to that of the Emperor himself are circulating in whispers, but without any mention of particulars. 

July 22 1812: Battle of Salamanca

On July 22, 1812, the Anglo-Portuguese and Spanish armies under Wellington defeat Marshal Auguste Marmont's French forces on the hills around Arapiles south of Salamanca, Spain. Marmont and the Army of Portugal had been moving south. Marmont saw a dust cloud in the distance and thought that the allies were retreating and that he was facing only a rearguard. Marmont ordered his French army south, then west so he could turn the allies` right flank. This was a mistake. Wellington's army was in fact concealed under a ridge. Wellington ordered an attack when he saw that the French divisions marching along the British and Portuguese front were exposed on their flanks. Wellington was also aided by the fact that Marmont and his deputy commander General Bonet were wounded by shrapnel after the fighting began. The French left wing was routed and Wellington gained total victory on the battlefield. The British suffered losses of 3,129, 6 Spanish and 2,038 Portuguese dead. The French had 13,000. Wellington's victory allowed him to advance on Madrid, and the French had to abandon the Andalusia region. Sir John Kincaid [1] fought at Battle of Salamanca. He describes the battle as follows:

July 22 1812: Brock's Proclamation

On July 22, 1812, Major General Isaac Brock issues a proclamation meant to counter the proclamation of Brigadier-General William Hull.  Brock seeks to rally Upper Canadians who are deserting to the Americans, who are demoralised and believe that defeat is inevitable. Brock gives his word that the colonies will not be abandoned by Britain even if overwhelmed by the Americans. Brock also appeals to French Canadians warning that the Americans intend to return them to France. He warns: "Are you prepared Inhabitants of Upper Canada to become willing Subjects or rather Slaves, to the Despot who rules the Nations of Europe with a rod of Iron? If not, arise in a Body, exert your energies, co-operate cordially with the King's regular Forces to repel the invader, and do not give cause to your children when groaning under the oppression of a foreign Master to reproach you with having too easily parted with the richest Inheritance on Earth.—a participation in the name, character and freedom of Britons." 

Brock also answers directly Hull`s threat to summarily execute any "white man" found fighting alongside any Native warrior. Brock proclaims: "By what new principle are they to be prevented from defending their property? If their Warfare from being different from that of the white people is more terrific to the Enemy, let him retrace his steps—they seek him not—and cannot expect to find women and children in an invading Army; but they are men, and have equal rights with all other men to defend themselves and their property when invaded, more especially when they find in the enemies Camp a ferocious and mortal foe using the same Warfare which the American Commander affects to reprobate.Brock goes on to argue that Hull`s threat is akin to murder and will be dealt with accordingly. "This inconsistent and unjustifiable threat of refusing quarter for such a cause as being found in Arms with a brother-sufferer in defence of invaded rights, must be exercised with the certain assurance of retaliation, not only in the limited operations of War in this part of the King's Dominions but in every quarter of the globe, for the National character of Britain is not less distinguished for humanity than strict retributive justice, which will consider the execution of this inhuman threat as deliberate Murder, for which every subject of the offending power must make expiation."In this, Brock implicitly argues that Hull`s threat of summary execution of prisoners is contrary to the rules of warfare, even the savage rules of war that applied in his time. Hull`s threat also reveals Hull`s  fear of Natives, which Brock would later use. The Proclamation is reproduced below:

July 22 1812: Harry and Juanita at Salamanca

On July 22, 1812, Henry ("Harry") George Wakelyn Smith is in the battle of Salamanca  but again is preoccupied with his wife, Juana Maria de Los Dolores de León.  He describes it this way: 

It is difficult to say who was the proudest on the morning of the battle [22 July], horse, wife, or Enrique (as I was always called). She caracoled him about among the soldiers, to their delight, for he was broken in like a Mameluke, though very difficult to ride. (The soldiers of the whole Division loved her with enthusiasm from the events so peculiar in her history, and she would laugh and talk with all, which a soldier loves. Blackguards as many of the poor gallant fellows were, there was not a man who would not have laid down his life to defend her, and among the officers she was adored, and consulted on all occasions of baggage-guard, etc.) Her attendant, who also had a led horse in case of accident, with a little tent and a funny little pair of lanterns, my dear, trusty old groom West, as the battle began, took her to the rear, much to her annoyance, and in the thunder of cannon, the pride of equestrianism was buried in anxiety for him on whom her all depended. She and West slept on the field of battle, he having made a bed for her with the green wheat he had cut just in full ear. She had to hold her horse all night, and he ate all her bed of green wheat, to her juvenile amusement; for a creature so gay and vivacious, with all her sound sense, the earth never produced.

1.    The autobiography of Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Smith, baronet of Aliwal on the Sutlej, G.C.B. by Sir Henry (Harry) George Wakelyn Smith (1788-1860). Ed. with the addition of some supplementary chapters by George Charles Moore Smith (1858-1940). London: J. Murray, 1903)at chapter VIII

July 21 1812: Hull to Secretary of War

On July 21 1812, Brigadier-General Hull writes the Secretary of War Eustis from Sandwich, Upper Canada. He updates the Secretary on a general council of natives at Brownstown:  

Headquarters of the Northwestern Army, Sandwich. 

July 21, 1812. 
Sir:— When I marched from Urhana, I proposed a general council of the Indians at Brownstown to be held the beginning of this month. I have held frequent councils with the chiefs and my proposition to them was neutrality. 

I have just received the result of the council of nine nations counting the Six Nations as one. The nations are the Ottawas, hippewas, Pottawatomies, Delawares, Wyandots, Munsies, some Kickapoos, Six (Sioux?) and the Six Nations. Tarhe or the Crane, Miere or Walk-in-the-water, Blackhoof, Col. Lewis and Wolf have made great exertions to detach the Indians from the British standard. At the close of the coimcil they sent speeches to all the nations informing them of the result. I have now informed them they must proceed immediately to the grand council at Piqua. Tecumseh and Marpot are the only chiefs of consequence remaining with the British. 

July 21 1812: Harry's Wife's Horse

On July 21, 1812, Henry ("Harry") George Wakelyn Smith is preoccupied with his wife's horse, as they both cross the Tormes. Earlier in the year, he had married fourteen year old Juana Maria de Los Dolores de León. She is accompanying him as the army prepares for battle in Salamanca. Harry writes:

My wife could not ride in the least at first, and oh, the difficulty I had! although she had frequently ridden a donkey on her pilgrimage to Olivença, once to avoid the siege of Badajos, and at other times to her grandmother's at Almendrajos. However, ever, I had one of my saddles turned into a side-saddle most ably by a soldier of Ross's Troop of Horse Artillery, and at first made her ride a great brute of a Portuguese horse I had; but she so rapidly improved, took such pains, had so much practice and naturally good nerves, that she soon got ashamed of her Portuguese horse, and wanted to ride my Spanish little fellow, who had so nobly carried me at Redinha and in many other fights. I always said, "When you can ride as well as you can dance and sing, you shall," for in those accomplishments she was perfect. In crossing the Tormes [21 July], the very night before the battle of Salamanca (there are quicksands in the river), her Portuguese horse was so cowardly he alarmed me, and hardly had we crossed the river when a clap of thunder, louder than anything that can be described, burst over our heads. The Portuguese horse was in such a funk, she abjured all Portuguese, and insisted hereafter on riding her own gallant countryman, as gallant as any Arab. He was an Andalusian, which is a thorough-bred descendant of the Moosul horse, which is literally an Arab. The next day she mounted her Tiny, and rode him ever afterwards over many an eventful field, until the end of the war at Toulouse. She had him afterwards at my father's house. The affection between them was of the character of that between spaniel and master. The dear, gallant horse lived to twenty-nine years of age, and died a happy pensioner on my brother Charles's estate.


The autobiography of Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Smith, baronet of Aliwal on the Sutlej, G.C.B. by Sir Henry (Harry) George Wakelyn Smith (1788-1860). Ed. with the addition of some supplementary chapters by George Charles Moore Smith (1858-1940). London: J. Murray, 1903)at chapter VIII

July 21 1812: Armies Approach Salamanca

On July 21, 18123, Wellington writes to the Earl Bathurst, the Secretary of State, about the maneuvers of his army in relation to the French army of Marshall Marmont, confusingly, known as the Army of Portugal. Earlier in the year, Wellington had advanced into Spain and captured Badajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo. Marshal Marmont and his  Army of Portugal was now in front of him between Toros and Tordesillas, near Salamanca. The armies for weeks had engaged in various maneuvers, shadowing each other in an attempt to gain an advantage. On July 21 1812 both armies are marching towards Salamanca. Wellington writes: "I have therefore determined to cross the Tormes, if the enemy should; to cover Salamanca as long as I can; and above all, not to give up our communication with Ciudad Rodrigo; and not to fight an action, unless under very advantageous circumstances, or it should become absolutely necessary." Wellington's letter is reproduced below.

July 20 1812: Brock — I Almost Despair

On July 20, 1812, Major General Isaac Brock writes to Sir George Prevost, in Lower Canada about Hull's invasion of Upper Canada. Brock is upset at the delay in being advised of the invasion. He is also  disappointed in the conduct of the Canadian militia. "Where it possible to animate the militia to a proper sense of their duty, something might yet be done—but I almost despair," Brock writes.  Brock`s letter is reproduced below.

July 19 1812: Beethoven Meets Goethe

On July 19 1812, while at the Bohemian spa town of Teplitz on doctor's advice, Ludwig van Beethoven meets the poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe for the first time. Later, Goethe, will write, “His talent amazed me; unfortunately he is an utterly untamed personality, who is not altogether in the wrong in holding the world to be detestable but surely does not make it any the more enjoyable for himself or others by his attitude.” Richard Wigmore describes the meeting in more detail: 

July 19 1812: Preparing for Siege of Malden

On July 19 1812, Brigadier-General Hull writes the Secretary of War Eustis from Sandwich, Upper Canada. Confidence still high: 

Sandwich July 19, 1812. 
Sir: — The army is encamped directly opposite to Detroit. The camp is entrenched. I am mounting the 21-pounders and making every preparation for the siege of Malden. 
The British force, which was in numbers superior to the American, including militia and Indians, is daily diminishing. Fifty or sixty of the militia have deserted daily since the American standard was displayed and taken protection. They are now reduced to less than one hundred. In a day or two I expect the whole will desert. Their Indian force is diminishing in nearly the same proportion. I have now a large council of ten or twelve nations sitting at Brownstown and I have no doubt the result will be that they will remain neutral.
The brig Adams was launched on the 4th of July. I have removed her to Detroit under cover of the cannon and shall have her finished and armed as soon as possible. We shall then command the upper lakes. 

July 18 1812: Adams and Diplomatic Confusion over Rivers

On July 18, 1812, John Quincy Adams in St Petersburg, Russia writes in his diary of his discussions with Count Lauriston of France. Adams writes about a conversation with Lauriston where the lack of geographical knowledge of various rivers is discussed. He writes: 
18th. Baron Gremp and Mr. St. Genest called upon me this morning, and brought with them the packages which the Ambassador and Count Frohberg had requested me to receive in deposit; being the archives of the French Embassy, of the former Dutch Legation, and of the Wiirtemberg Legation. The French are in a very large wooden chest; the Dutch in. a trunk equally large; and those of Wurtemberg in a small box about the size of a portable writing-desk and covered with oil- cloth. In case of my own departure, they are to be delivered to Messrs. Livio.

July 12 1812: Hull to Six Nations

On July 18, 1812, General Hull writes to the Native Six Nations:

Sandwich, July 18, 1812.

My Brethren of the Six Nations:! —
The powerful army under my command is now in possession of Canada. To you who are friendly it will afford safety and protection. All your lands and all your rights of every kind will be guaranteed to you if you will take no part against us. I salute you in friendship and hope you will now act such a part as will promote your interest, your safety and happiness. May the Great Spirit guide you in person.

Governor of the Territory of Michigan and
Commander of the Northwestern Army
of the United States.

July 17 1812: Beethoven- My Dear Friend!

On July 17 1812, Ludwig van Beethoven sends a letter thanking Miss Emilie, a young pianist and admirer, for her gift of an embroidered pocketbook. Beethoven is still at Teplitz, Bohemia. He writes:
My Dear Good Emilie, My Dear Friend!

I am sending a late answer to your letter; a mass of business, constant illness must be my excuse. That I am here for the restoration of my health proves the truth of my excuse. Do not snatch the laurel wreaths from Handel, Haydn, Mozart; they are entitled to them; as yet I am not.

Your pocket book shall be preserved among other tokens of the esteem of many people, which I do not deserve.

Continue, do not only practice art, but get at the very heart of it; this it deserves, for only art and science raise men to the level of the gods. If, my dear Emilie, you at any time wish to know something, write without hesitation to me. The true artist is not proud, he unfortunately sees that art has no limits; he feels darkly how far he is from the goal; and though he may be admired by others, he is sad not to have reached that point to which his better genius only appears as a distant, guiding sun. I would, perhaps, rather come to you and your people, than to many rich folk who display inward poverty. If one day I should come to H., I will come to you, to your house; I know no other excellences in man than those which causes him to rank among better men; where I find this, there is my home.

If you wish, dear Emilie, to write to me, only address straight here where I shall still be for the next four weeks, or to Vienna; it is all one. Look upon me as your friend, and as the friend of your family. 


July 17 1812: Fort Mackinac Captured

On July 17 1812, a combined British, Canadian and Native force of seventy war canoes and ten bateaux under the command of Captain Charles Roberts attack Fort Mackinac. Roberts' force has come from Fort St. Joseph landing on the north end of Mackinac Island. His men march two miles to the fort. The town's inhabitants are taken from their homes for their protection. Two cannons are positioned to target the fort. Americans, under Lieutenant Hanks, unaware that war has been declared, are taken by surprise. Hanks surrenders and signed Articles of Capitulation reproduced below. Captain Roberts then writes to Colonel Baynes and Brigadier General Brock. The letters are reproduced below. 

July 16 1812: Tsar, Emperor and Soldier

On July 16 1812, Russia's First Army of the West completes its evacuation of Drissa led by Barclay de Tolly. Tsar Alexander accompanies the army as far as Polotsk. Alexander has decided, at the urging of his generals, that his place is not with the armies but in Moscow to rally the Russian people. The historian, Adam Zamoyski [1], writes:

A couple of hours later he [Tsar Alexander] mounted his horse and rode out to see Barclay, whom he found having a frugal supper in a stable. They spent an hour together, and when they emerged from the stable Alexander embraced Barclay, saying, "Farewell, General, once more farewell, au revoir. I commend my army to your keeping. Do not forget that it is the only one I have." He mounted his horse and rode back to Polotsk, where he have orders for his departure for Moscow the next day.
On the same day, Napoleon finally decides to leave Vilna or Vilnius to take personal charge of the hunt for the Russian Armies.

Also, on that day, a soldier by the name of Kunkel [2], from Marburg, Kingdom of Westphalia, serving in the Grande Army, writes home:
... Here there is a lack of all foodstuffs. The bread that is delivered is so bad that one can’t eat it, yet very dear to buy, one bread is paid eight pennies, it is baked from chaff and at that it is not baked through, it lies like lead on the stomach. Hunger drives it down though. Meat is also very bad, half smelly, and yet it has to be eaten. What else can one eat? Our march from Warsaw was good and bad, we quartered under the free sky, God was our host. Thunderstorm rains have at times drenched us thoroughly. For four days I did not have a single dry thread on me and then nothing in the belly but a gulp of wutki [vodka] and a piece of dark bread...
Our good life has ended since we left Warsaw. Now one has to learn to suffer hunger and thirst. Our faces look different. Brown in the face like a chestnut and a mustache under my nose have completely disfigured me. Thank God that I am in health, I bite at times in the old army bread, so that it rattles, and drives the hunger away.
1. Adam Zamoyski, Moscow 1812. Napoleon’s Fatal March, New York 2004, pages 1712-173
2. The Diary of Napoleonic Foot Soldier by Jakob Walter, (Penguin Books), pages 142-43