« 上一頁繼續 »
nary, the chairman should, in three curt lines, report its conclusive rejection, on the old allegation of the unconstitutionality of such institutions. But Calhoun was not to be put off in this way. On the 4th of February, at his motion, "the committee ' of the whole House was discharged from further consideration of the report of the committee of ways and means, on the petition for a national bank; and both report and petition were referred to the committee of ways and means, with instructions to inquire into the expediency of a national bank in the District of Columbia;" thus adroitly escaping the question of constitutionality.
Mr. Taylor, on the 19th of February, reported a bill for the establishment of a national bank in the District of Columbia, with a capital of $30,000,000. The principle of this bill was approved by Mr. Cheves, Mr. Calhoun, and Mr. Grundy; but opposed by Mr. Eppes and Mr. Seybert. There were others too who did not favor it, for the reason that it contained no provision for the establishment of branches in the states. A motion to ingraft this feature upon the bill, made by Mr. Fiske of New York, received but thirty-six votes, after which there was no further action had upon it. But the public credit was daily depreciating; treasury notes were seventeen per cent., and government stocks thirty per cent. below par; and it is not surprising that many of the democratic members were disposed to waive their scruples, and agree to the establishment of a national bank, as expedient, if not constitutional.
A resolution was, accordingly, introduced by Mr. Grundy, on the 2d of April, authorizing the appointment of a committee to inquire into the expediency of incorporating a Bank of the United States. The federalists, and a number of democratic members, among whom were Mr. Eppes and Mr. Ingersoll, opposed the resolution, and voted in favor of a motion to postpone it in-' definitely. The democrats generally voted against the postponement, and a committee was appointed, of which Mr. Grundy was chairman. But within four days after their appointment they were discharged, on motion of Mr. Grundy, from all further consideration of the subject. The reason for this action consisted in the near approach of the end of the session, which was brought ~ to its close on the 18th of April.
The year 1814 opened with no very encouraging prospects. The resources of the country were almost exhausted; the finances were in a very depressed and deranged condition; internal dissensions and party feuds were producing their necessary results, so much so, that the breaking up of the Union was confidently predicted; yet the spirit of the advocates of the war failed not. Volunteers were ever ready for limited periods of service, in the western states especially; and though money wa3 more scarce than ever, and even weapons were sometimes wanting, men to fight the battles of their country could always be found. Great Britain, on her side, was likewise greatly exhausted by the continental war; yet men and money were at her command, and now that Napoleon's career was nearly al its close, she was at liberty to direct her energies to the speedy settlement of the war with the United States. With singular ignorance of the real condition of things, and the unyielding patriotism of the people, England expected to be able to strike a few decisive blows, and reduce the United States to prompt, and even abject submission.
A. NATIONAL BANK PROPOSED.
Hence it was, that busily occupied with the affairs of Europe, and probably entertaining a kind of contemptuous feeling towards our country, Great Britain allowed the war to languish during the early part of the year; but, as an English writer says, "no sooner was Europe restored to peace, by the dethronement of Bonaparte, than the British government resolved to prosecute the contest with increased vigor, and to obtain in the field a recognition of those maritime rights, which had hitherto been so strenuously resisted in the cabinet. Two distinct modes of prosecuting the war seemed to have been determined on by the British ministry: first, an invasion of the coast of the United States, and, second, after the protection of Canada had been secured, the conquest of so much of the adjoining territory as might, in the event of a future war, effectually guard that province from all danger. The peace of Paris was scarcely ratified, before fourteen thousand of those troops, which had gained so much renown under the Duke of Wellington, were embarked at Bordeaux for Canada; and about the same time a strong naval force, with an adequate number of troops,
were collected, and dispatched for in> vading different parts of the coast of the United States." We shall see, on subsequent pages, what became of these troops in the final battle of the war.
On the northern frontier, during the months of January and February, the army remained in winter quarters, without having undertaken any expedition against the enemy. General Wilkinson proposed various plans, no one of which met the approbation of General Armstrong, the secretary of war, and he was ordered to withdraw from his position at French Mills. Two thousand men were to march under General Brown to Sackett's Harbor; and the residue were to fall back on Plattsburg. The enemy took advantage of this movement of Wilkinson, and at the close of February, made an incursion as far as Malone, and pillaged private property and destroyed public stores to a considerable extent. On the approach of an American force, the enemy precipitately retreated.
Towards the latter end of March, Wilkinson determined to erect a battery at Rouse's Point, where had been discovered a position from which the enemy's fleet, then laid up at St. John's, might be kept in check, and their contemplated movement on Lake Champlain impeded or prevented. The breaking up of the ice on the lake at an earlier period of the season than usual, defeated his plan. A body of the enemy, some two thousand in number, on discovering his design, had been collected at La Colle Mill, three miles below Rouse's Point, for the purpose of opposing him. With a
view of dislodging this party, Wilkinson, at the head of between three and four thousand men, crossed the Canada line on the 30th of March. A fter dispersing several of the enemy's skirmishing parties, he reached La Colle Mill, a large, fortified stone house, situated in the centre of an open piece of ground, and defended by a strong corps of British regulars, under the command of Major Hancock.
Wilkinson disposed his troops so as nearly to encircle the mill, and brought up a howitzer and one twelve-pounder to batter the walls; but after firing a considerable time, it was found little effect was produced. The enemy kept up a galling fire from the loop holes cut in the mill, during the whole time our troops lay before the place, and directed a great portion of it on the two pieces of artillery: the British fire was returned with great coolness and deliberate aim. The enemy made two sallies, and charged the left, commanded by General Smith, but were repulsed with considerable loss. Towards evening, a British regiment arrived, and made a charge on part of a brigade commanded by General Bissel; but they were so warmly received, that they instantly fell back, leaving on the field a number of their dead and wounded.
Finding it not possible, with the artillery he had, to penetrate the stone walls of the mill, Wilkinson abandoned the attempt in which he had engaged, and having lost about a hundred and forty in killed and wounded, he retired in good order, the enemy making no effort to molest him.
The singular and repeated ill success of the general in command on the northern frontier, led to much complaint and censure not lightly expressed. Wilkinson was suspended from the command, and the troops were placed under the charge of General Izard. Subsequently, Wilkinson was brought before a court martial, and after a trial, was acquitted.
Shortly after the affair at La Colle Mill, the greater part of the British force was collected at St. John's and Isle Aux Noix, for the purpose of securing the entrance of their squadron into Lake Champlain, on the breaking up of the ice. This movement was effected early in May. During the autumn and winter preceding, Commodore M'Donough had labored with great industry to provide a naval force on Lake Champlain, equal to that of the British. The flotilla was lying in the Otter River, at Vergennes; and it was the object of the British to destroy it, before it should make its appearance on the lake. Apprized of this, M'Donough caused a battery to be erected at the mouth of the river. On the 12th of May, the British fleet entered the lake, and were repulsed in an attack upon this battery by water. They were also unsuccessful in attempting to gain the rear of the battery by land, being driven off by a detachment of Vermont militia. Thus repulsed, they abandoned their object, and moved down the lake.
Active preparations were also under way on Lake Ontario. At Kingston, the British built a ship of larger size than ordinary, which led Chauncey to
1814. do the same, so as to preserve, if possible, a nearly equal force with that of the enemy. Various attempts were made to destroy these vessels, but without success, and both the British and Americans were kept constantly on the alert. Oswego, which was a depot for naval stores, was defended by a fort mounting only five guns, and was garrisoned by about three hundred men under Colonel Mitchell. The British commander determined to attack it, hoping to seize upon the valuable stores, rigging, guns, etc., which Chauncey was collecting there for his new ship, the Superior. On the 5th of May, the British commenced a bombardment of Oswego, while fifteen hundred men,* under General Drummond, attempted to effect a landing. Failing in this, the next day they renewed the attempt with better success. Colonel Mitchell now abandoned the fort, and joining his corps to the marines and seamen, engaged the enemy's front and flanks, and did great execution. Finding further resistance useless, he fell back, formed his troops, and took up his march to the Falls of Oswego, thirteen miles distant, destroying the bridges in his rear. Hither the naval stores had already been removed, and for all the trouble and loss which they had sustained, the British obtained nothing more than the cannon of the fort, a few barrels of provisions and some whiskey. These were purchased with a loss of two hundred and thirty-five men, in killed and
• British authorities state, that the number was only about three hundred
wounded. The loss of the Americans was sixty-nine in killed, wounded, and missing; among the first, a promising officer, Lieutenant Blaney. On the morning of the 7th, the enemy evacuated the place.
Not long after, Major Appling and Captain Woolsey were appointed to convey the naval stores from Oswego to Sackett's Harbor. On the 28th of May, when off Sandy Creek, sixteen miles southwest of Sackett's Harbor, perceiving themselves covered by the British boats, they entered the creek. Here they landed, and formed an ambuscade. The British followed, were completely surprised, and surrendered after an action of twenty minutes. Not one of Major Appling's party was wounded, and the barges soon after arrived at Sackett's Harbor in safety.
Chauncey having completed the Superior, which was capable of mounting sixty-four guns, was again master of the lake. He accordingly sailed out, and several times presented himself before Kingston; but Sir James Yeo, the British commander, did not deem it prudent to hazard an engagement until his new ship of a hundred and twelve guns should be completed.
In the west, the enemy had been able to hold possession of Fort Mackinaw, which was looked upon as an important post for their purposes. Several efforts were made to recover Mackinaw, but none of them were crowned with success. At the close of February, Captain Holmes was dispatched from Detroit, by Colonel Butler, with about a hundred and eighty
men, against a party of the British who had stationed themselves on the river Thames, some two days march distant. On the 3d of March, when about fifteen miles distant, he received intelligence that three hundred of the enemy were advancing to attack him. Finding himself not in a situation to give battle, from the fatigue which his men had already encountered and his ignorance of the number of the enemy's party, Captain Holmes fell back a few miles, and chose a position, in which he was confident of being able to maintain himself, until he could obtain the necessary information. For this purpose, he dispatched a small body of rangers, which soon returned, pursued by the enemy, but without being able to learn his force. The British, perceiving the strength of Captain Holmes's position, resorted to stratagem for the purpose of drawing him from it. They feigned an attack, and then retreated, taking care not to show more than sixty or seventy men. Captain Holmes pursued, but with caution; and after proceeding about five miles, discovered their main body drawn up to receive him. Immediately returning to his former position, he disposed his troops in the most iudicious manner, and firmly waited for the enemy; having in front a deep ravine, and the approaches on the other sides being somewhat difficult and also protected by logs hastily thrown together. The attack was commenced at the same moment on every point, with savage yells and the sound of bugles; and was gallantly sustained by the Americans. After an hour's hard fighting, the Brit
ish retreated, with a loss of sixty-five killed and wounded. Captain Holmes whose loss was only six in killed and wounded, was promoted to the rank of major for this spirited affair.
General Brown, who had not, during the spring, been able to undertake any expedition against Canada, was, nevertheless, not idle. Aided by Scott and Ripley, he had diligently occupied himself in drilling and disciplining his troops for the work which was before them. The first step was to regain possession of Fort Erie, and in June, Brown marched his army, now about three thousand five hundred men, to Buffalo. On the 3d of July, Fort Erie was invested, and the garrison, amounting to orfe hundred and seventy men, surrendered without firing a shot. Immediate possession was taken, and the prisoners were sent into the interior of New York.
General Brown promptly determined to advance and attack General Riall, who was entrenched at Chippewa, not far from Erie, but above the Falls; and having made arrangements for the defence of the fort and protecting the rear of the army, he ordered General Scott, on the morning of the 4th of July, to advance with his brigade and Towson's artillery. These were followed in the course of the day, by General Ripley, and the field and park artillery under Hindman, together with General Porter's volunteers. The British commander at Chippewa, General Riall, might with no great difficulty, have checked the advance of the Americans by removing the bridge over the Chippewa River, but he omitted this