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War of 1812: American Mobilization & Strategic Planning

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  • War of 1812: American Mobilization & Strategic Planning

    Well fellow Covid lock-downers. It is Oh-fishill. I am bored. So to placate a little of that boredom, I plan a series of long posts on the aforementioned subject over the next week or so starting with this little tome. Enjoy (or rot in hell).
    American Mobilization and Strategic Planning in the War of 1812


    At the time that Madison sent his annual message to Congress at the beginning of November, 1811, the Army existed in two establishments. The Peace Establishment had two infantry regiments and one regiment of artillerists (which was twice the size of an infantry regiments with 20 companies). The Additional Force of 1808 (authorized for five years) consisted of the 3rd-7th Infantry and Rifle Regiments, the Regiment of Light Artillery (horse artillery), and the Regiment of Light Dragoons. Of the former, the Regiment of Artillerists was scattered in a wide circumference of one company posts along the Atlantic Seaboard and around the far frontier posts. The 1st Infantry was in single company outposts on the Northwestern Frontier. The 2nd Infantry was mostly concentrated in southwestern Mississippi Territory facing Mobile, while the 3rd,5th, 6th, and 7th Infantry Regiments were on the lower Mississippi in the region of Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The Rifle Regiment was scattered in posts throughout the southern frontiers. The Dragoons and Light Artillery were scattered throughout the U.S. proper. Only a little over 200 men were stationed along the Canadian-American frontier.

    Madison’s message (his intended “Big Stick” in his negotiations with Britain) asked for a further increase in the Army (no numbers mentioned, but behind the scenes 10,000 were intended), the existing establishments brought up to strength (10,000 of which about 5,000 were in service), and 50,000 volunteers. Because the way the army was deployed, and it was felt that the troops in the Southwest could not be brought northward without compromising the safety of the southwestern frontier (matters were rocky with Spain, and had been for some time), any offensive aimed at Canada would have to come from newly raised forces.
    As it turned out Congress took a month in just agreeing to the bringing up the Army to full strength, but then spent an another entire month arguing over the size of the army, and it was not until near mid January of 1812 that the Additional Force of 1812 was authorized (but not funded), and it would not be until the first week of February that the Volunteer Act was passed. Madison had wanted a small force of about 10,000 men (adjuncts to the existing establishments) to be quickly raised for a quick attack on Canada before the British could reinforce. However, Congress found that it was too small, and eventually agreed on 25,000 new troops, and in the Volunteer Act required a one year term of service, which disappointed Madison. He felt that neither the regulars could be raised “in season,” nor would men turnout to volunteer for such a length of service; most of the population were farmers, and that would have meant that they could not attend their crops properly. In the end Madison was correct.

    Curiously enough, and probably because it appears that the original 10,000 men were to essentially be Second Battalions to the existing regiments, Congress’ authorization called for the infantry to be organized into ten regiments (8th-17th) of two nine company battalions in lieu of the existing ten company regiments. This would help to cause a great deal of confusion in the initial mobilization of the regiments. Also authorized was another two regiments of artillerists (2nd and 3rd) which were to serve as foot or garrison artillery (or infantry) as needed. Another dragoon regiment (2nd) was also created.
    It was not until March, 1812, that officer appointments were begun to be made as the process generally required somebody to contact their Congressman or Senator, and for the name then to be sent to the Secretary of War who then sent the names to the President who then officially sent them on to the Senate for confirmation. Unlike today, the Senate was very hands on, and often debated each officer down even to the lowly rank of Ensign (and sometimes denying the application).
    In the meantime the Secretary of War, William Eustis, had begun the tedious work of pre-mobilization logistics. In January he let contracts to provide three million rations to be pre-positioned in the Albany-Lake George-Lake Champlain region, and ordered land to be purchased, and barracks erected near Albany for a large cantonment. Large orders were sent to the Purveyor of Public Supply, Tench Coxe to provide for materials to make 25,000 uniforms, camp equipage for same (1000s of tents e.g.).

    A side note on the military procurement process. The Army at the time did not have a quartermaster corps (though Eustis tried to get one established in 1810, but was turned down by Congress). Instead it relied upon a system of public agents (some military, but mostly civilian) to procure military stores, and independent contractors for provisions. The office of the Purveyor of Public Supply (based in Philadelphia) purchased military stores, uniforms, munitions etc., and then gave them over to the Superintendent of Military Stores (Callender Irvine), also out of Philadelphia, who then distributed them. A series of Military Agents and Assistant Military Agents existed throughout the country to buy locally procurable items. A series of magazines existed for the storage of material and munitions, and were cared after by Military Storekeepers.

    It turned out that it was beyond Coxe’s talents (he had been in office since 1795) to oversee such a major mobilization, and would be slow in getting orders out to manufacturers. The U.S. was pretty self sufficient in most things, but not in woolen products. Nearly all wool was imported from Britain. Blue wool was in particularly short supply. Eustis would spend much of the late winter and spring of 1812 nursemadeing Coxe and his department (which, by the by existed under the Treasury Department and not the War Department) until a Quartermaster’s Department was created (authorized in March, but not activated until June, and not really fully organized until after war was declared).

    As a result, although rations were coming in, and encampments were constructed, it was not until April that the first recruiting depots were opened, and not until May that they were well underway. In 1812, the country was divided into a series of recruiting departments, usually with a general in command. As officers accepted their appointments, they were ordered to open recruiting depots in those areas “best calculated to produce recruits.” Recruiting was very slow. The pay was horrid at $5.00/month whereas a general laborer made six times that much on average (there was an acute labor shortage in the U.S. at this time). The five year enlistment term was not liked (as was the notion of serving under regular army discipline), and so that in April Congress authorized that up to 15,000 men could be enlisted for only 18 months. Did not help much.

    The silliness of the French style organization was not undone until Eustis could get Congress to reorganize the infantry into eighteen new 10 company regiments, which did not occur until a week after the declaration of war.
    As for the existing establishments. The 5th and 6th Infantry Regiments transferred their men to the 3rd and 7th, and the officers returned north to recruit their regiments anew. The 6th in the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-New York City vicinity, and the 5th primarily in Virginia. Light artillery and dragoon companies in the south likewise followed suit.

    I have not found any document that actually states any particular plan (beyond suggestions by a number of people), but it is fairly well discerned in the correspondence and actions taken as a result. Henry Dearborn was commissioned Major General, and was to command the Northern Department of the Army. The bulk of the troops would be assembled at Albany, New York, where they would later move north to Plattsburgh and Burlington. The troops would mostly come from those troops of the Additional Army of 1812 raised north of North Carolina. The 9th (Massachusetts-Maine District) and 11th (Vermont and New Hampshire) were to assemble at Burlington, Vermont. The 5th and 6th Regiments of the 1808 army, and the 12th and 20th Regiments (Virginia), 13th & 23rd (New York), 14th (Maryland), 15th (New Jersey), 16th (Eastern Pennsylvania), 21st (Massachusetts proper), and the 25th (Rhode Island and Connecticut) were all to be established at Albany. The Regiment of Light Artillery, 1st Dragoons, and a squadron of the 2nd Dragoons were also to muster in the Northern Army.
    Volunteers and Militia were to provide security at Sackets Harbor, Oswego, and on the Niagara. To this end, late in March, Eustis ordered the Governor of New York (Daniel Tomkins) to call out 1,600 one year volunteers organized into three regiments for that very purpose. None of the detached militia was called out until after the declaration of war.

    The situation in the Northwest was dicey since the Battle of Tippecanoe. In December of 1811, it was decided to send the 4th Infantry (then in Indiana) to Detroit (which had but one company of infantry and one company of artillery in garrison), but that could not occur until the new companies of Rangers and a newly recruited company (Zachary Taylor’s) of the 7th Infantry could be raised, and sent to replace the 4th. Both that December, and later in March, William Hull (governor of the Michigan Territory who was then on furlough in Washington) had sent two very well thought out, and detailed memorandums for the defense of the Michigan Territory, the situation of the British in western Upper Canada, and suggested the taking of the town of Malden and its fort (Amherstberg) in order to cut the main source of Indian supply and provision in the Northwest. Hull also remarked that if successful, he could then march overland to Niagara and seize the Provincial Marine vessels on Lake Erie (thus providing the U.S. with ready made naval vessels for the Upper Lakes). [N.B. that most histories omit this, because they use Hull’s version of the letters in his post war apologia which omits that line].

    Therefore in late March, Eustis called on the governor of Ohio (Return J. Meigs Jr.) for 1,200 volunteers (three regiments) to march to Detroit. Initially it was planned that Colonel Jacob Kingsbury of the 1st Infantry (who was on furlough, but had his HQ at Detroit) would command the troops at Detroit, but Kingsbury fell ill, and Hull was commissioned as Brigadier General, and given the command.

    When war was declared on June 18th, not a single company of the Additional Force of 1812 had been formed, and the only new raised company of the old army was Taylor’s company of the 7th which was formed from all the recruits that had been raised in Kentucky and Ohio including some for the Rifle Regiment. This company was sent to Vincennes, Indiana Territory, in order to allow the 4th Infantry to march to Detroit via Cincinnati. By mid July some companies of the 23rd had been assembled on the Niagara to reinforce Fort Niagara. For the most part, new recruits remained at their recruiting depots or rendezvous. The first priority after the declaration of war was to secure the seacoast and ports. New York City and Norfolk having the top priorities. New York assembled several volunteer regiments of artillery and infantry to garrison NYC, while a brigade of militia was called out in large numbers to reinforce the few regulars at Norfolk (along with NY, the main U.S. naval base). Recruiting continued to go on slowly so that by July only five thousand or so had been raised.

    Meanwhile, the Ohio volunteers were ready to move to Detroit by late May, but Hull decided to await the 4th Infantry, and so did not begin his march until near mid June. Hull received firm orders to march directly to Detroit on the 26th of June, and arrived at Detroit on July 5th. The force under his command then numbered around 1,600 Ohio volunteers, about 525 regulars, 300 Michigan volunteers, and more than 300 Michigan militia would soon be called to duty. He also had at its disposal 39 pieces of artillery (though not all of them mounted) including nine 24 pounders. Opposing him was about 300 British regulars of the 41st and Newfoundland Regiments, less than 800 militia (the entire muster of the Western District of Upper Canada), and about 300 Indians. Hull’s first message to Eustis was that he would not be able to take Malden for want of troops. At that time Fort Amrherstberg was in poor condition, and lacked several of its curtains and bastions.
    On July 12th, Hull crossed the Detroit River with 1,800 men, and then stopped to entrench. By July 15th two-thirds of the Canadian militia had deserted and the rest had fled from Sandwich. The Indians under Tecumseh, Round Head, and Main Poc were down to 230 warriors. Between the 16th and 19th several skirmishes were fought along the Canard River just four miles from Malden, but Hull refused to allow his troops to cross, and even recalling them after they had initially seized a bridge head. On the 19th he wrote to Eustis crying for more troops and a diversion on the Niagara (even though he was supposed to be the diversion).

    Hull’s cries for assistance fatally altered the Campaign of 1812. Not only were 2000 troops (1,600 Kentucky militia and 400 recruits of the 17th Infantry) and 500 more Ohio militia (as well as two more months of rations (Hull then had three months plus supply on hand, but was misleading both Washington and the contractor (Augustus Porter) as to the number of troops...insisting he had only about 1/3 of his actual strength), but troops began to be diverted to the Niagara, and Dearborn was definitively ordered to make a demonstration on the Niagara. Already 1,500 troops were on the Niagara (militia, regulars, and recruits), and Dearborn was ordered to send on one of his newly arrived Lt Artillery companies with two companies of the 6th Infantry recently arrived. In all about 300 men plus several artillery pieces (heavy and light). By the beginning of August Hull was claiming he was cut off and the army must soon starve (not true with regards the latter), and Dearborn called upon Governor Snider of Pennsylvania for 2,000 men to be sent to Buffalo. The 13th Infantry (that which had been raised) was mostly sent to Fort Niagara.

    Finally, in mid August it was determined to assemble whatever recruits on hand, and have them rendezvous at Albany. Unlike the Revolutionary War where all the officers and companies were mustered with whatever number of recruits they had, the Army in 1812 only marched companies once complete (or near complete) thus no regiment marched with a full complement of companies. At the time Hull surrendered a brigade equivalent of troops was in the process of being diverted to the Niagara, but the regiments were only partial. The 5th Infantry marched with 5 companies. The 12th with two companies and the 20th with three companies (formed into a provisional battalion), and the 14th with four companies. The 22nd would not leave Pittsburg until much later and not arrive until November with just two companies. The 13th only had three or four companies (about 350 men). Only two companies were ready from the 2nd Artillery, and they were sent to Black Rock near Buffalo.
    The same went for the troops that were arriving at Albany. The 15th Infantry had seven companies, but only after taking in many recruits meant for the 16th, so that regiment would not be ready to march for another month or so. The 9th and 11th only amounted to a battalion between them. The 6th had at least six companies plus two on the Niagara, and the 23rd only had several companies in service. The 21st and 25th would amount to only about a battalion each. In total by the end of October Dearborn was only able to muster (including cavalry and artillery) about 3,500 regulars (all new recruits) at Plattsburgh. He also had around 2000 New York militia and 2000 Vermont militia, but only a few companies of volunteers from New York to Virginia had been assembled, and those sent to the Niagara. By early September Dearborn was informing Eustis that a campaign could not be mounted against Montreal that season. Opposing him in Lower Canada were around 4,500 British regulars, and around 1000 provincials (i.e. Canadian Lt Infantry, Glengarry Lt Inf, and Canadian Fencibles).

    In the meantime the War Department was busy trying to recover Detroit and the misfortunes in the Northwest. The difficulties of a trackless wilderness, over a mild wet (and hence very muddy) autumn pretty much kept the U.S. out of Detroit. In addition to the 2000 Kentucky and Ohio militia called up in July, another 1500 Kentucky militia joined the Northwestern Army as well around the same number from Ohio (the Second Detachment). Moreover 3,000 more were called up from Virginia and Pennsylvania, and about 600 regulars of the 17th and 19th Regiments were formed during the course of the campaign. In Illinois and Indiana yet another brigade of Kentucky militia (1,500 men) and a short lived force of about 1000 more mounted rifles served as well as some hundreds of Illinois and Indiana militia. This was very costly. Too costly, especially as most had to go home without seeing action.

    As a result of the debacles at Detroit and on the Niagara, the failure to kick off the main campaign against Montreal, and the failure to recapture Detroit in 1812, Eustis was sacked. He was temporarily replaced by Secretary of State James Monroe. Monroe pushed through Congress a new plan of mobilizing “volunteers,” and the Volunteer Act of 1812 was repealed (though several regiments of 1 year volunteers were still serving with some coming into service just before the repeal). Instead, fifteen new regiments of one year volunteers would serve under Federal officers, and the new regiments would be designated from the Regular Army. Thus the 26th-40th Regiments were authorized for one year. Monroe was also able to push through a much larger force of general officers (as 1812 showed a great need for more general officers).
    Unlike the Additional Force of 1812 where the regiments were raised in an alternating pattern of south north (e.g. the 8th in Georgia, 9th Maine, 10th North Carolina, 11th Vermont etc), these regiments were designated as they were authorized. In so far as the Northern Army was concerned the 29th was raised in New York, the 30th and 31st in Maine, and the 33rd and 34th Massachusetts, All of these were to form a division based on Plattsburgh. A new 4th Infantry was being raised around the two companies that had remained in coastal fortifications in New England, and would also join the Plattsburg Division. The two brigades already existing at Plattsburg were transferred to Sacketts Harbor. The brigade on the Niagara remained there.

    Brigadier General John Armstrong (who commanded the New York defenses in 1812) was chosen as the new Secretary of War (though why I have yet to discover; I suspect as Armstrong was a member of the Clinton faction of the Republican party that he was chose as a result of political pressure; Armstrong disliked both Madison and Monroe personally, and was not too keen on the New Englander Dearborn). The discussions initially between Monroe and Dearborn, and later Armstrong, centered around what should be the objective for the early part of the 1813 campaign. Montreal was right out as too few troops existed for a direct attack. Kingston was then chosen as the top priority in order to secure Lake Ontario as it was the principle base of the Royal Navy (which IIRC had now taken over from the Provincial Marine). As secondary objectives both York and Fort George were considered. York would be a raid meant to destroy vessels building there, and Fort George was wanted as it completely commanded Fort Niagara. Before and early in the war there was some consideration as to abandoning Fort Niagara as it was not really tenable, and provided no real military purpose. In the end it was decided to remain, therefore taking Fort George for strategic defensive purposes was deemed necessary.







  • #2
    For those demanding sources it is mostly from a study of the War Department records particularly the letters to and from the Secretary of War, and those of the adjutant general's office. Other source would include Madison's, Monroe's, and Jefferson's papers, the United States Statutes at Large, The Annals of Congress, Canadian Archives, and other smaller collections. Everything I based the above and below upon are primary sources. I've come to distrust secondary sources.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Tuebor View Post
      I've come to distrust secondary sources.
      That depends on who the historian/author is and what credibility they have. And it is also the job of the historian to evaluate source material and not to make sweeping statements such as the one above.

      Regarding your list of sources, did you actually go into the documents on a research trip, or did you merely rely on the internet?

      Do you have Madison's, Monroe's, and Jefferson's papers, copies from the Canadian archives, etc. What were the 'other small collections?

      Finally, isn't your article your interpretation of the source material you used, and is, then, in fact a secondary document?
      We are not now that strength which in old days
      Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
      Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
      To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Tuebor View Post
        For those demanding sources it is mostly from a study of the War Department records particularly the letters to and from the Secretary of War, and those of the adjutant general's office. Other source would include Madison's, Monroe's, and Jefferson's papers, the United States Statutes at Large, The Annals of Congress, Canadian Archives, and other smaller collections. Everything I based the above and below upon are primary sources. I've come to distrust secondary sources.
        Thanks for the thread! This is definitely something I find interesting, good to help pass the time. And speaking for myself, I'm not looking for a list of sources longer than the post.

        Comment


        • #5
          Great idea on the thread.

          That being said, where you found the information would be helpful and how you went about it. And your derogatory comment on secondary source material leaves out excellent work by Henry Adams, Don Graves, Donald Hickey, John Elting, and Robin Reilly among others. And at best, that is ahistorical.

          We are not now that strength which in old days
          Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
          Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
          To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

          Comment


          • #6
            If anyone has read, or is interested in reading (even though it is a secondary source), Robert Quimby's The US Army in the War of 1812: An Operational and Command Study (2 volumes)I is excellent.

            Of particular note here, the Introduction in Volume I presents the same information as the OP. It is 12 pages long and has 16 notes, 6 of them being from primary sources, 9 from secondary sources, and 1 being an explanatory footnote.
            We are not now that strength which in old days
            Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
            Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
            To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

            Comment

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