November 4 1812: Lovett's Take on Queenston

On November 4 1812, Major Lovett, stationed in Buffalo, continues to trying to explain the loss of the Battle of Queenston Heights. "I saw the Boats, on both sides, idle. The Eternal Truth is that the men who had solemnly pledged themselves to go over, would not". He also anticipates that a new attack on Canada is coming led by General Smyth. He writes: "That the Pennsylvania Militia are looked for with solicitude, in short, that movements warrant the expectation that the descent upon Canada will shortly be renewed in this neighborhood."

Lovett's letter  is reproduced below. 
Major Lovett to Joseph Alexander. 
Buffalo, 4th November, 1812.

Dear Alexander - I have, somewhere, heard something said about "Man's last Speeches, and dying words" of Dr. Baxter — Again; I remember that stuttering Larrabe wanted to speak a few words before he began; Now why may not I, upon some analogous principle, speak a few words after I have done? In my last, I desired you not to write any more surely not because I did not wish to hear from Albany, for our solicitude is a perfect Book. Even the humblest Satellites of Jupiter, could they reason, would never be indifferent to the fate of the glorious luminary round which they revolve; but must shudder at the very idea of an eternal eclipse of that body whose rays they once had the glory of reflecting. However, reposing ourselves upon the consciousness of having faithfully discharged our duty to our Country, to our friends, and to ourselves, we shall meet with firmness whatever decision the world may make upon the conduct of General Van Rensselaer. We feel, and know that we are not destitute of common sense: we know that we have better knowledge of the Campaign than any other men; and this enables us to speak with confidence as to the result of Genl. Van Vensselaer's command. Should his own modesty, or perseverance in his determination of enduring everything himself, rather than to expose the folly, weakness and wickedness of others, cast a mist over him, for the present (which, by the bye, I neither expect, or believe}, the day is not far distant when the Sun of truth will burst thro' and dissipate the fogs of error, and the clouds of delusion. I repeat it, again, the Campaign will explain itself; this you will see in 60 days; and say that Genl. V. R. did all that could be done; saved all that could be saved. Being, now, out of the Cabinet, I know nothing that is in it. My chance is only that of a common spectator, and hardly that: for, with my Earblinders yet tight buckled down, I can only hear what people bawl, and, tho' Bawling is the order of the day, it becomes very necessary, now I imagine, to u bawl" without " crying aloud."

I understand that General Smyth is getting together all the Boats he can [" General Van Rensselaer has been censured for not having boats enough. It was no fault of his. There were only thirteen, but this inadequate number of boats was owing to remissness in Quarter-master general Porter's department. The quarter-master, then stationed at the Fall, had written to Van Rensselaer, ' I can furnish you boats at two or three days notice to carry over 1200 or 1400 men/ A sufficient number for six or seven hundred were ordered, but he had forwarded only thirteen at the appointed hour."] That the Pennsylvania Militia are looked for with solicitude, in short, that movements warrant the expectation that the. descent upon Canada will shortly be renewed in this neighborhood. I have before advised you as to an opinion upon that subject. Experiment is the touchstone of opinion. Gen. Van Rensselaer had his opinion as to the best place for crossing the Niagara, he tested his opinion — the result is known ; and Gen. Smyth has, certainly, the same right to his opinion that Gen. V. R. had to his) and when both are tested the world will be prepared to decide. I have but one hope — one prayer in either case, which is for the best interest of the service; the highest honor of our arms and' the greatest weal of our Country.— What our Militia will come to I know not — a daring Mutiny broke out three days ago in Miller's Brigade. 100 stacked their arms and marched off; 100 more stacked their arms and stood by them. The Genl. and his principal officers came forward, and with great efforts persuaded the men to return to their duty, on the Promise of Barracks and better Quarters, in a very few days* This may be relied on, as I have it from the mouth of one of the first officers of the Brigade. Genl. Miller is dismissed, and has retired; his Brigade is now consolidated with Col. Dobbin's Regiment. The Firing mentioned in my last was a Sham Battle of Col. Winder's Regiment, at Fort Niagara.

Colonel Van Rensselaer hobbles, on two Crutches, in great style — prospects warrant a belief that we may leave this in five days. I confess to you I am all alive with solicitude — public and private—-the Presidential Election; our Legislature, the war, the general disturbance of the Country, my family; the approach of winter, the uncertainty of my hearing again, all close in upon me, and require all the firmness I can muster. Altho' your solicitude for our flesh and bones, the viler part, may have subsided yet I trust in heaven, that as far as the conduct of the Campaign is justifiable that cavilers will be met in the gap : and that if anything remains doubtful the arm of Charity will, with patience, support the beam until Justice shall have cast in all the weights, and truth shall have footed up the tally, and then, my head to the block, and my word to the wind if there be not a unanimous verdict of honest men Should any man say we had not Boats eno', the truth is not in him: the river is not, where the troops crossed, 300 yards wide; a passage might easily be made in five minutes — we had 12 Boats which would carry 30 men each, and 2 which would carry 80 each. If on the Heights of Queenstown there had been a sight to gratify curiosity, every man of the Army might have been over before 11 oclock. I saw the Boats, on both sides, idle. The Eternal Truth is that the men who had solemnly pledged themselves to go over, would not.

I saw a Field Officer [Major Morrison] who had yelped his lungs sore, to go over, tied up his temples on the day of battle, and at night told me he had "hardly been able to keep off his bed the whole day" But eno', eno', the General is with you: he has all, and knows all. I am sick of rolling and tumbling in the frothy billows, with fleet Indians, ragamuffins, vagabonds, and slubber-de-gullions who whirl in the eddies of Niagara. Do tell my dear Wife that I long to return to a land where the people fear the Lord and acknowledge his government. That the cord of my affection is stretched to' the last I will reel it up upon my heart as fast as possible, till she can reach, and roll it upon her own heart, and there let it continue until death knots off skeins to warp the woof of eternal happiness. Your ever true
John Lovett.

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