The production of this work is the result of a want which has been long and sensibly felt. Although there are several collections of lives of American officers, there is none which comes down to this period, and none which contains a large number of lives. After the war with Mexico a lively curiosity respecting was awakened regarding the personal history of the officers who have distinguished themselves before that event; and this has led to a fresh desire for general information respecting the military history of the country. To meet this desire the present work has been written. Contents: Colonel Aaron Burr Alexander Hamilton Alexander Macomb Andrew Jackson Andrew Pickens Anthony Wayne Anthony Walton White Arthur St. Clair Baron De Kalb Benedict Arnold Benjamin Lincoln Charles Lee Daniel Morgan David Humphreys David E. Twiggs Eleazar Wheelock Ripley E. Pendleton Gaines Ethan Allen Francis Marion Friedrich Wilhelm Von Steuben. George Clinton George Croghan George Washington Gideon J. Pillow Gilbert Mottier La Fayette Henry Dearborn Henry Knox Horatio Lloyd Gates Hugh Mercer Isaac Roach Isaac Shelby Israel Putnam Jacob Brown James Clinton Jeremiah Wadsworth John Eager Howard John James John Laurens John A. Quitman John Stark John Sullivan John Trumbull John E. Wool Joseph Reed Joseph Warren Nathanael Greene Nathan Towson Otho H. Williams Peleg Wadsworth Peter B. Porter Philip Schuyler Richard M. Johnson Richard Montgomery. Colonel Seth Warner Thaddeus Kosciusko Thomas Mifflin Thomas Sumpter William Richardson Davie William Eaton William Henry Harrison William Heath William Moultrie William J. Worth Winfield Scott Zachary Taylor Zebulon Butler Zebulon Montgomery Pike
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The American Generals
The American Generals
Colonel Aaron Burr
Anthony Walton White
Arthur St. Clair
Baron De Kalb
David E. Twiggs
Eleazar Wheelock Ripley
E. Pendleton Gaines
Friedrich Wilhelm Von Steuben.
Gideon J. Pillow
Gilbert Mottier La Fayette
Horatio Lloyd Gates
John Eager Howard
John A. Quitman
John E. Wool
Otho H. Williams
Peter B. Porter
Richard M. Johnson
Colonel Seth Warner
William Richardson Davie
William Henry Harrison
William J. Worth
Zebulon Montgomery Pike
The American Generals, J. Frost
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
COLONEL AARON BURR, a character fraught with deep and mysterious interest to every American, was born on the 6th of February, 1756, at Newark, New Jersey. His father was President Burr, of Princeton College, and his mother, a daughter of the celebrated Jonathan Edwards, of the same institution. Both his parents dying while he was but an infant, his education devolved upon a private instructor. The mind that was afterwards to be marked by such strange vicissitudes, soon' began to display its daring character; for, when but four years old, Aaron ran away in consequence of some misunderstanding with the teacher, and was not recovered for three or four days.
When six years old, he was placed under the care of his uncle, Timothy Edwards, at Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where he remained until his entrance into college. During this time he made an attempt to escape from his uncle, and embark on a sea voyage; but he was intercepted and brought back to his residence.
In 1769 he entered Princeton College. Here he pursued his studies with such assiduity, that he soon became the first scholar in his class. This however, does not seem to have arisen from a genuine love of knowledge, but from an anxiety not to be thought below his fellows; for after he had obtained pre-eminence, he suddenly sunk into dissipation and indolence, so that his last year at college was as remarkable for his neglect of study, as the former one had been for his application. In the meanwhile, he formed acquaintance with individuals who afterwards became renowned in different departments of intellect — among others Matthias Ogden, afterwards a colonel, Samuel Spring, D. D., and William Paterson, subsequently judge in the United States supreme court.
After leaving college, he devoted much of his time to polite literature, and having ample means at his disposal, soon made rapid advances. At this time also, his mind seems to have been impressed with a sense of the importance of religion, and he communicated his feelings to the venerable Dr. Bellamy, of Connecticut. With that eminent divine he remained for two years, reading on the topics of religion, and pursuing his former studies.
Burr left this hospitable mansion for the residence of his brother-in-law, Judge Reeve, at whose house he resided until the battle of Lexington, in April, 1775. He had already formed his opinion of the contest between England and her colonies, and by study had become thoroughly conversant with the theory of tactics. He accordingly wrote to his friend Ogden, to join the army with him, and they set out together immediately after the battle of Bunker Hill. A sight of the army disappointed him. It was without organization or discipline; and distracted by dissolute habits, and constant contentions about rank. Soon after joining, Burr was attacked by a violent fever, but left his couch, to join the expedition of General Arnold against Quebec.
In that disastrous expedition, young Burr encountered his full share of hardship. He was one of a small party that penetrated through the woods separately, and whose sufferings we];e, if possible, even greater than those of the main body. Burr suffered less than his companions from hunger, on account of his abstemious habits. On one occasion, he was very nearly killed by the passage of his boat down a fall twenty feet high.
When the army arrived at the head of the Chaudiere, Burr was sent in the disguise of a priest, with a verbal communication to General Montgomery. On the way, he encountered a variety of danger and adventure, but reached Montgomery and delivered his message with such accuracy and good sense, that the general immediately adopted him as one of his military family. During the siege and assault of Quebec, he won the approbation of all the officers, by his courage and endurance, and received on one occasion the superintendence of a small advance. He was by General Montgomery when he fell, and besides himself, but one of the attendants escaped unhurt. Arnold then assumed the command; but Burr seems to have been unfriendly to him, as he, on one occasion, positively refused to convey a communication from him to the town, on account of its objectionable contents.
EARLY in 1776, the army moved from Montreal, in its homeward march. On the way the difficulties with Arnold increased, until at length Burr, who was now a major, left him abruptly, in company with four men. This was against the express command of Arnold. When the major arrived at Albany, he received an invitation from Washington to join his head-quarters, which he accepted. The connection was not happy — it gave rise to prejudices which were never afterwards abandoned. Soon after he became aid to General Putnam, a situation more congenial to his wishes. While here he became acquainted with Miss Moncrieffe, afterwards the notorious Mrs. Coglar, and was no doubt the cause of her subsequent dissolute character.
Major Burr was in the disastrous battle of Long Island, where he displayed his wonted activity and courage. He had previously made a careful reconnoissance of the enemy, and given his opinion to Putnam against a battle. In the subsequent retreat to New York, he behaved so well as to win the entire confidence of General McDougall, who conducted it.
The British soon followed the American army, and Washington found it necessary to abandon all hope of defending the city against an overwhelming force. During the second retreat, Burr performed an action characteristic of his boldness and energy. Either through mistake or mismanagement, one brigade was left in New York, and posted themselves on an eminence called Bunker's Hill, which was in full view of the enemy. Burr was at this time on a scout for fugitives, and on observing the brigade he rode up to it and asked who commanded, and what they did there. General Knox presented himself. The major urged him to retreat immediately, as otherwise his detachment would be cut to pieces. Knox answered that a retreat in the face of the enemy was impossible, announcing his intention of defending the fort. Burr replied that the place was not tenable, that it would be taken at a single discharge, and those of the garrison who escaped being shot would be hung like dogs. He then exhorted the men to follow him, and actually led them to camp in sight of the enemy, with the loss of only about thirty.
DURING the retreat through the Jerseys, and the subsequent active campaign of General Putnam in that quarter, Burr continued to behave so well as to challenge the respect and confidence of men and officers. In June, 1777, he was appointed lieutenant colonel of the regiment of Colonel Malcolm, at that time stationed in New York. Soon after, he received the chief command through the voluntary absence of the colonel. He performed active service in drilling the troops and cutting up the enemy's picket guards, but soon received orders to join the main army, which he did in November.
At the battle of Monmouth, Burr commanded a brigade consisting of his own and another regiment, and was very active in reconnoitering the enemy, and harassing their skirmishers. His own loss was severe, and he had had a horse shot under him. From constant exposure to fatigue and heat for three days, with very little sleep, he contracted a disease, which affected him for some years, yet so great was his endurance that not only did he continue in the performance of every duty, but did not even mention his indisposition to the other officers.
In the investigation of General Lee's conduct, which followed this battle, Burr was one of the few who took part with that officer in opposition to Washington. While aid-de-camp to the commander, in 1776, he had imbibed inveterate prejudices against him, which continued throughout life, and for the exercise of which he never suffered himself to lose an opportunity.
Burr was again intrusted with a separate command in the state of New York, but his constantly increasing ill health, forced him to adopt the mortifying resolution to resign his rank and command. This was absolutely necessary. His constitution was shattered; he could no longer attend to any active duty. His military career ended with his resignation, except that he led the students of East Haven College against Governor Tryon, in 1779. In this affair he performed good service, and ever afterwards mentioned the confidence evinced by these young men in his military abilities, with proud exultation.
After leaving the army, Burr was for some time incapacitated for any active business, but as health slowly returned, he applied himself with ardor to his old profession of law. By the rules of court, it was required that every student should have completed three years legal study, prior to admission at the bar. Colonel Burr applied for an exemption from this rule, in consequence of his having served in the field, while he might have been pursuing his studies. This was opposed by all the lawyers, but the court decided in his favor, provided he would stand a rigid examination of qualifications. He accordingly passed a trying ordeal, conducted by the opponents of his claims, came off victorious, and was admitted. His license bears date, January 19th, 1782. He commenced first in Albany. This was in April; and in the following July (2nd, 1782,) he was married to Miss Theodosia Prevost. Upon the withdrawal of the British troops from New York, consequent upon the establishment of peace, he entered that city, and soon acquired an extensive practice.
EARLY in 1781, Burr was elected a member of the New York legislature, and was remarkable for taking part only in matters of importance. At this time, he seems to have been wholly destitute of ambition, and animated only with a sincere desire to serve his country. On the 14th of February, 1785, he was appointed chairman of a committee from the house, to act conjointly with one from the senate, in revising the state laws. He also introduced some important bills, and warmly advocated the abolition of slavery. His opposition to the bill for incorporating a body of the tradesmen and mechanics of New York city, caused much excitement, and for a while endangered both his property and life. A serious riot was prevented in a great degree by his firmness. From this time until 1788, Burr took little part in politics. About that time, discussions concerning a national constitution to supersede the articles of confederation, began to agitate the public mind. To these, a man like Colonel Burr could not be indifferent. When the new constitution was under debate in the New York legislature, he took part with the party calling themselves anti-federalists, who, although opposed to the old code, preferred amending it, rather than adopting a new. In 1789 George Clinton and Robert Yates were candidates for the office of governor of the state. The latter was the personal and political friend of Colonel Burr, and received his warm support. Clinton was elected; but so little did the opposition of Burr affect the opinion he always entertained of his talents and integrity, that he immediately appointed the colonel as attorney general, an office at that time, involving deep and lasting interests of the state. One of these occurred in 1790, when with the treasurer and auditor, he was appointed on a board of commissioners, " to report on the subject of the various claims against the state, for services rendered, or injuries sustained, during the war of the revolution." " The task," says his biographer, " was one of great delicacy, and surrounded with difficulties. On Colonel Burr devolved the duty of making that report. It was performed in a masterly manner. When presented to the house, notwithstanding its magnitude, involving claims of every description to an immense amount, it met with no opposition from any quarter. On the' 5th of April, 1792, the report was ordered to be entered at length on the journals of the assembly, and formed the basis of all future settlements with public creditors on account of the war. In it, the various claimants are classified; legal and equitable principles are established, and applied to each particular class. The report occupies eighteen folio pages of the journals of the assembly."
On the 4th of March, 179 1, the term of office of General Schuyler as United States senator, expired. Burr succeeded him. His policy in this body was similar to that which had characterized him in the state legislature.
In 1792 Clinton was again elected for governor, but in a manner, that gave strong reason to suspect extensive fraud. This led to angry discussion and intense popular excitement. Colonel Burr strongly advocated the election of Clinton, and from this time his course as a politician may be dated.
When Washington delivered his address to Congress, (October 25th, 1791,) the senate ordered, " That Messrs. Burr, Cabot, and Johnston, be a committee to prepare and report the draft of an address to the President of the United States, in answer to his speech, delivered this day to both houses of Congress in the senate chamber." Accordingly, on the following day, Burr reported an answer, which was adopted without amendment or alteration. He was employed on various other committees during this session, and was mainly instrumental in defeating an important " act for the more effectual protection of the south-western frontier settlers." He continued in the senate until the 4th of March, 1797, during which time he also practised at his profession. In 1793, he advocated the claim of Mr. Gallatin, from Pennsylvania, to a seat in the senate, his right being contested. Burr was, however, overruled by a resolution, declaring, " That the election of Albert Gallatin to be a senator of the United States was void, he not having been a citizen of the United States the term of years, required as a qualification to be a senator of the United States." In the same year he opposed the nomination of his friend, John Jay, as envoy extraordinary to England, a circumstance which gave considerable pain to that amiable character. He subsequently opposed the treaty made by that gentleman, and proposed several amendments, which were rejected.
When the subject of appointing a minister to the court of France, in the place of Gouverneur Morris, was before Congress, the opposition party decided upon recommending Colonel Burr. This was done by a committee, of whom Madison and Monroe were members. When the application was presented, Washington paused for a short time, and then observed, that it was his invariable custom, never to intrust a responsible station to any individual in whose moral character he could not repose full confidence. This interview was twice repeated, but the President remaining firm, Burr's appointment was defeated.
In the spring of 1794, Mrs. Burr died, and in 1801, the colonel's only daughter was married and removed to South Carolina. These domestic afflictions seem to have destroyed, in a great measure, those fine feelings, which had ever marked the colonel in his domestic relations, and henceforth his life is a dark and exciting picture of passion and intrigue.
In 1799, Burr became involved in certain transactions with the Holland Land Company, which caused so much suspicion of his integrity, as to give rise to a report that he had received twenty thousand dollars for dishonest secret service. One of the most active traducers of Burr was John B. Church, whose language was so pointed as to elicit a challenge from the colonel. This was accepted, and the parties met at Hoboken, on the 2nd of September, 1799. Mr. Church's second was Abijah Hammond, Esq. Burr's, Edanus Burke, of South Carolina. The principals fired one shot, and then settled their dispute amicably.
When the first presidential term of Mr. Adams was about to close, the utmost anxiety was evinced throughout the country, both by his friends and opponents, for his re-election. Colonel Burr applied himself with unparalleled activity to secure the election of Mr. Jefferson, the democratic candidate. For this purpose he applied himself to the complete organization of the party in New York, knowing that the success of the contest depended upon the vote of that state. He was singularly successful; and though opposed by General Hamilton, he managed to keep the field as a partisan canvasser, and at the same time be nominated for the state legislature. The legislature itself was democratic, and thus democratic electors were chosen from New York. Under the old constitution, the presidential candidate who received the highest number of votes became president, and his most successful rival , vice-president. Bun's talents and services were appreciated by the democratic party; he was placed on the same ticket with Jefferson; and by a strange fatality, each received the same number of votes.
The choice of president now devolved upon the house of representatives; thirty-six ballotings took place, during which a scene of excitement prevailed rarely surpassed in a legislative body. The details are little creditable either to some of the members, or to Mr. Jefferson himself; but our limits forbid us to enlarge. The vote was finally cast for Thomas Jefferson as President, and Aaron Burr, Vice-President.
FROM the moment of his accession to this high office, fate seemed to have marked him out as her peculiar victim. Every action, every word the most trivial, was watched by his enemies with argus eyes; and among these enemies the most virulent were those who had been his warmest political friends. He was accused of leaguing with the federal party, in order to obtain the presidency through the defeat of Mr. Jefferson, and even the names of his political associates were published in most of the journals with the greatest confidence. Much of this was no doubt false; but the silence of Burr upon it, caused by an adherence to a long adopted rule of conduct, tended to give it confirmation with the people. Slowly his downward course now commenced; and in 1804, he who three years before could command the triumphant vote of a nation for almost any office in its bestowal, was opposed successfully at a public meeting in New York, as a nominee for governor. He was supported however by a portion of the democratic party; but being opposed by the remainder, as well as by the federalists under Alexander Hamilton, he was defeated. This led to the duel between that great man, and the colonel, which terminated in the death of Hamilton. It is sufficient here to observe, that all party feelings were merged in feelings of sorrow for Hamilton, and consequent indignation against his opponent. The last public duty performed by the latter, was acting as president of the senate in the case of Judge Samuel Chase, who was impeached before the United States Senate for "high crimes and misdemeanors." After the vote of the members had been taken without yielding a decision, Colonel Burr said, "there not being a constitutional majority on any one article, it becomes my duty to pronounce that Samuel Chase, Esq., is acquitted on the articles of impeachment exhibited against him by the house of representatives."
We come now to a period in the life of Burr fraught with thrilling and mysterious interest both to himself and his country. We refer to his attempted invasion of Mexico, and alleged treason. As all the evidence of nearly half a century has failed to explain the true nature of his motives in connection with these transactions, we shall barely state what facts have been clearly ascertained, without giving an opinion upon them.
In the beginning of the present century, difficulties arose between Spain and the United States, concerning the navigation of the Mississippi, which for a while threatened a war between the two countries. In 1805 and 1806, Burr passed through most of our western territory, and engaged in considerable speculations for land, in order to establish new and isolated settlements. His love of military enterprise, led him to take an interest in the existing national dispute, until finally he was induced to believe that a separation of Mexico from Spain, might be accomplished by a force from the United States. Something similar to this idea had haunted him long before this period, and he now began maturing a plan for its accomplishment. He found the contemplated war popular in the west, and by artful representations, induced the population of that quarter to believe that he was authorized to raise an army for Mexico. He received from Colonel Lynch six hundred thousand acres of territory, by purchase, and by some means the interest on this land, in which many worthy citizens were concerned, became blended with his grand scheme of invasion. He conferred confidentially with General Wilkinson, who was then in command of some six hundred men, with whom the adherents of Burr were to unite. Wilkinson, who was the American commander-in-chief, despatched one Clarke to Mexico, to ascertain the disposition of the inhabitants toward the mother country, and enlist friends for the enterprise. Many priests and military officers were favorable to the project, and agreements were entered into between the parties for mutual security. Burr also visited General Jackson, who entered warmly into his plans. Subsequently, however, that officer declared in a letter, that if it was intended merely to invade Mexico he would aid the project to the best of his ability, but if Burr had treasonable designs against the United States, as was reported, he would have nothing to do with him.
These bold movements could not escape the notice of the people of our country, and especially of Burr's numerous enemies. Mr. Jefferson ordered his arrest on a charge of treason. He was taken on the Tombigbee river, Mississippi territory, and arrived at Richmond, Virginia, on the 26th of March, 1807. Several other persons were arrested about the same time, the principal of whom was the celebrated Blennerhassett. The trial came on, May 22nd, before the Circuit Court of the United States, Judge Marshall presiding. About a month after, the grand jury presented two bills, one for treason, the other for misdemeanor. After obtaining a jury, the trial on the first indictment commenced, August 17th, and continued until the first of September. The jury returned as follows: — " We of the jury say, that Aaron Burr is not proved to be guilty under this indictment by any evidence submitted to us. We therefore find him not guilty." Burr objected to this verdict as informal, asserting that the jury had no right to depart from the usual and simple form, guilty, or not guilty. The court overruled the objection, and entered the verdict as not guilty. It is worthy of remark, that the celebrated William Wirt first attracted public attention to his brilliant talents by taking part as an attorney and pleader in this trial.
On the 9th of the same month, the trial commenced on the second indictment. The charge was, in substance, "that Aaron Burr did set on foot a military enterprise to be carried on against the territory of a foreign prince; namely, the province of Mexico, which was within the territory of the king of Spain, with whom the United States were at peace." Much excitement prevailed at the trial, but the jury returned a verdict of 'not guilty.'
Next year (June 7th,) Burr left a land, whose every quarter must have been painful to him, and sailed for England. Here he was an object of distrust to government, and although respected by many distinguished characters, was finally ordered from the kingdom. He next repaired to France, where he received still worse treatment from Napoleon, being not only most strictly watched, but even refused a passage to his own country. His life at this time appears to have been one of wretchedness, and his pecuniary means were so low, that he was frequently reduced to the utmost distress. At length he was permitted to leave France for Amsterdam, from whence he sailed for America. On the way, he was captured by an English frigate, and conveyed to Yarmouth. Here he was obliged to remain for five months; so that it was not until the 8th of June, 1812, four years after leaving his native country, that he again reached its shores.
The subsequent career of Colonel Burr may be comprised in a few words. He devoted himself assiduously to the bar, with a success as rapid as it was flattering. All ambitious projects seemed now to have left his bosom; and he rarely took part in politics, unless at the presidential contest, and then only among particular friends. The death of his grandson, Aaron Burr Allston, and the loss of his only daughter, in a ship supposed to have been wrecked or captured by pirates, severed the last domestic ties which held him to earth, and exerted a perceptible influence on all his subsequent life. " For two or three years before his death," says his biographer, " he suffered under the effects of a paralysis. Much of the time, he was in a measure helpless, so far as locomotion was concerned. His general health however, was tolerably good, by using great precaution in his diet. He had long abstained from the use of either tea or coffee, as affecting his nervous system. His mind retained much of its vigor, and his memory, as to events of long standing, seems to have been unimpaired. Under sufferings of body or mind he seldom complained; but during the last years of his life he became more restive and impatient. The friends of his youth had gone before him; all the ties of consanguinity which could operate in uniting him to the world, were severed asunder. To him there remained no brother, no sister, no child, no lineal descendant. He had numbered fourscore years, and seemed anxious for the arrival of the hour when his eyes should be closed in everlasting sleep."
In the summer of 1836, Colonel Burr was removed to Staten Island for the benefit of his health. Here he expired, on the 14th of September, in the eighty-first year of his age. His remains were afterwards removed to Princeton, New Jersey, in accordance with his own request, and interred in the college ground, with the honors of war, and in presence of a large body of spectators.
ALEXANDER HAMILTON was born in the Island of Nevis, in the British West Indies, on the eleventh of January, 1757. His ancestry were Scottish. He received his education in the Island of St. Croix, under the superintendence of the Rev. Dr. Knox, a Presbyterian divine, who gave to his mind a strong religious bias that never left it. At an early age he was placed as a clerk in the counting-house of a Mr. Cruger, a merchant of St. Croix, in whose service he began to display the wonderful talents which have made his name so distinguished. At the age of twelve, we find him writing to a school-fellow: " I contemn the grovelling condition of a clerk, to which my fortune condemns me, and would willingly risk my life, though not my character, to exalt my station; I mean to prepare the way for futurity."
All his leisure moments were devoted to study, and nothing was omitted that could exalt his mind or increase his knowledge. He wrote an account of the hurricane that swept over some of the West India islands, in 1772, so graphic and elegant, as to excite general admiration, and, though he had published it anonymously, his authorship was discovered. His gratified friends determined to send him to New York, that he might receive a liberal education. Arriving at New York in October, 1772, he studied with Mr. Francis Barber, afterwards Colonel Barber, of the revolutionary army, until the close of 1773, when he entered King's, now Columbia College, New York. A mind endowed in so extraordinary a manner as was his, could not refrain from taking an active side in the great questions of colonial rights, then under discussion. Several anonymous tracts and elaborate pamphlets proceeded from his pen, in which he took the broadest ground in the defence of the colonists, and urged the policy of encouraging domestic manufactures, and the production, in the south, of cotton, that the whole continent might be able to clothe itself. In the course of these publications, he became involved in a controversy with Dr. Cooper, the head of the college, and other able logicians, in which he displayed such great powers, that the learned doctor held to be absurd the idea that so young a man as Hamilton could be his opponent. In July, 1774, Hamilton appeared at a public meeting, held where the Park now is, in front of the City Hall, New York, and made a speech characterized by eloquence and force. He was then seventeen years of age.
IN the following year, while still at college, he joined a volunteer corps of militia in New York, and studied and reduced to practice, the details of military tactics. At the same time he was busily engaged in investigating the several points of political science, relative to commerce, the balance of trade, and the circulating medium.
On the 14th of March, 1776, he was appointed captain of a provincial company of artillery, in New York city, and in that rank he was soon in active service. He brought up the rear in the retreat of the army from Long Island, and succeeded in attracting the notice and esteem of Washington at the time of the battle of the White Plains, in October of that year. Unflinching in the cause, and active in his duty, he remained at the head of his company during the retreat through the Jerseys, at Trenton and at Princeton. On the first of March, 1777, he was made aid-de-camp to General Washington, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel; and he continued to be a member of the family of the commander-in-chief until the year 1781. General Washington called him his "principal and most confidential aid." In that station he had every opportunity of making known his talents and accomplishments. His knowledge of the French language, joined to his kindness and his desire to be of use to them, won upon the French officers in the service of our country, and, among others, General La Fayette and Baron Steuben, became strongly attached to him. The confidence and esteem of the latter officer enabled Colonel Hamilton to become fully acquainted with his merits, and he therefore recommended him to General Washington as the most suitable person for the important office of inspector general, while Hamilton's own abilities were tested by the task of designating the powers and duties of this new officer.
IN November, 1777, Colonel Hamilton was sent to Albany, to obtain a reinforcement of three brigades from General Gates for the army opposed to General Howe in Philadelphia, and he succeeded in getting two of the three without displaying his absolute authority to the irascible Gates, who showed much reluctance to complying with the requisition. By the advice and persuasions of Colonel Hamilton, the battle of Monmouth was resolved upon contrary to the opinion of the majority of a council of war; and the young soldier displayed the greatest gallantry in the battle, fighting under the orders of General La Fayette. In October, 1780, he earnestly recommended the appointment of General Greene to the command of the southern army, as a general " whose genius," he said, " carried in it all the resources of war." When he retired from the family of General Washington, he still retained his rank in the army, and was exceedingly desirous to obtain a separate command in some light corps in the army. He was gratified, after some time, with the command of a corps of light infantry, attached to the division under the command of the Marquis de La Fayette. He led the night attack upon one of the enemy's redoubts at Yorktown, which were carried with a rapidity and bravery only equaled by the more modern exploits of American arms. The active service of the army being now ended, Colonel Hamilton turned his attention to the profession of the law, fitted himself for its practice with amazing facility, and was admitted, in 1782, to the bar of the supreme court of New York.
Although the principal labor of the correspondence of the commander-in-chief had fallen upon Colonel Hamilton while an aid, he had nevertheless found time to investigate the burdens that pressed most heavily upon the colonies during the war. The loss of public credit through the enormous issues of paper currency, and the consequent inability of the government and the army to sustain themselves and support the war, called forth all his energies to find a means of relief. His letters upon the subject to Robert Morris, in 1779, produced the formation of the Bank of Pennsylvania, which by lending its aid to the national bank, established also by the suggestion and according to the plan of Hamilton, enabled it to retrieve in a measure the credit of the country, and support the army till the conclusion of the war.
COLONEL HAMILTON, in 1780, wrote a letter to Mr. Duane, a member of Congress from New York, on the state of the nation, which is the most able paper upon the subject that appeared during the war. In his plan for remedying the defects, contained in the letter, he sketched the outline of our present constitution, almost as it was afterwards adopted. He was then just twenty-three years of age. He resumed this subject in a series of anonymous essays in a country paper of New York, in the winter of 1781--2, with his usual ability. The New York legislature elected him to Congress in 1782, to the proceedings of which body he speedily gave a new and more vigorous tone. In all he did, his clear and sound reasoning, and the manly and graceful powers of his mind were conspicuous. His labors in the public service were incessant. He was the foremost man of the New York delegation to the convention, for the formation of the constitution; his counsels and almost unanswerable arguments were heard upon every important point, and, after its adoption, he entered the field as its most able defender. Of the eighty-five papers published over the signature of " Publius," and collected into the two volumes called " The Federalist," he wrote more than fifty. The others were the work of Mr. Madison and Mr. Jay. The familiarity with the subject, acquired in preparing these immortal documents, and his participation in the proceedings of the convention, enabled him to bring all the wisdom of the commentator to aid his eloquence as an orator, when it became his duty to defend the constitution in the New York state convention, assembled to adopt or reject it.
His triumphant success in managing the fiscal concerns of the nation, after the formation of the new government, under President Washington, is too well known to require repetition. Whenever the name of Washington is mentioned as the founder of our happy government, the memory of Hamilton will suggest itself as its brightest ornament and the firmest pillar of its support. It was by the advice of Hamilton that General Washington issued his famous proclamation of neutrality, in April, 1793, which afterwards formed the ground-work of the foreign policy of the first president, and by his advice Mr. Jay was sent to conclude his famous treaty with Great Britain, as minister extraordinary, in 1794. Although he had retired from the cabinet when Mr. Jay's treaty became the subject of popular discussion, yet he defended its wisdom and justice in a series of papers over the signature of Camillus, in the summer of 1795. Few among American state papers are more able than these productions. Colonel Hamilton was again involved in a political discussion, on the occasion of the ill treatment received by our government from the French republic. His essays upon this subject were published under the signature of Titus Manlius, and suggested the proper course to be that, which was shortly afterwards adopted by the government. At the recommendation of General Washington, Colonel Hamilton was appointed inspector-general of the small army that was raised in anticipation of hostilities with France in 1798.
IN the winter of 1804, Colonel Aaron Burr was proposed as a candidate for governor of the state of New York. At a public meeting, Colonel Hamilton declared that he considered Colonel Burr an unsafe and unfit person to be. placed in such an office; expressions for which Colonel Burr thought proper to call him to an account in the next year, after he had been defeated. Colonel Hamilton, opposed as he was to the practice of dueling, nevertheless thought it necessary to meet him in the field. He fell on the 12th of July, 1806, mourned most sincerely by all the inhabitants of the country. The subsequent mysterious conduct of Colonel Burr, while it proved the justice of Hamilton's opinion, produced no effect upon his character, in comparison with the odium he incurred by his conduct in the dispute with the lamented Hamilton. The last years of the life of Colonel Hamilton were devoted to the practice of the law in New York, where he enjoyed an overwhelming share of business. The able author of his biography in the National Portrait Gallery, says of him: " He was a great favorite with the New York merchants, and he justly deserved to be so, for he had uniformly proved himself to be an enlightened, intrepid, and persevering friend to the commercial prosperity of the country. He was a great master of commercial law, as well as of the principles of international jurisprudence. There were no deep recesses of the science which he did not explore. He would occasionally draw from the fountains of the civil law, and illustrate and enforce the enlightened decisions of Mansfield, by the severe judgment of Emerigon, and the lucid commentaries of Valin. In short, he conferred dignity and high reputation on the profession, of which he was indisputably the first of the first rank, by his indefatigable industry, his thorough researches, his logical powers, his solid judgment, his winning candor, and his matchless eloquence."
The popularity of General Hamilton with the merchants of New York was not a transient one. So late as the year 1835, his statue was placed by them in the Exchange of the great commercial metropolis, destined unfortunately to be destroyed in the great fire of that year. A cotemporary journalist says: If any specimen of statuary can impress the beholder with exalted ideas of the art of sculpture, it is the statue of Alexander Hamilton, To look upon it, is to see Hamilton himself; and to feel almost conscious that we are in his living presence. When we disburden ourselves of the impression that it is him, the mind is filled with admiration at the triumph of that noble art that can make the marble almost warm with life. There stands the form of Hamilton in majesty, yet repose; there is the broad and noble forehead, the majestic and thoughtful brow, the free, intelligent, commanding eye; you almost perceive the temples throb, you mark every line of feature, and every expression of countenance. The limbs and form are chastely imagined, and the whole is invested with dignity and grace, eloquence and power. The Roman toga hangs gracefully over the left shoulder; the right hand, resting upon an oblong polished pedestal, holds a scroll, which may represent the act empowering the funding of the national debt, with the seal of government appended; the left arm hangs gracefully by his side. It is almost a speaking statue; beautiful in design, and wonderful in the execution, which has carried the minutest parts to extraordinary perfection. What a powerful conception, strong imagination, discriminating taste, excellent judgment, and skilful hand, must distinguish the artist who can chisel such a ' human form divine,' to which we may apply the adage, nascitur, non fit. Of this order we may class Mr. Ball Hughes of New York, to whose skilful hand the country is indebted for this magnificent production. For him, the statue of Hamilton speaks higher and more enduring encomiums than the most lavish praise. To look on this statue, or the monument of Bishop Hobart in Trinity Church, or the busts of Edward Livingston and others, is to be convinced of his superior talents.
" The statue of Hamilton was chiselled from a solid block of white Italian marble, weighing nine tons; was about two years in the hands of the artist, and weighs now one and a half tons. It is purely white, highly finished, and finely contrasts with the blue granite pedestal on which it stands, fourteen feet high. It adorns the centre of the great room in the Merchants' Exchange, where it was first exposed to view about the middle of April last. It was erected by the merchants of the city, at a cost of six thousand to eight thousand dollars. We are happy to coincide with Colonel Trumbull in this matter, in thinking that 'there are very few pieces of statuary in Europe superior to this and not twenty-five sculptors in the universe who can surpass this work.' "
MAJOR-GENERAL ALEXANDER MACOMB was descended from Irish ancestors. His father represented the city of New York in the legislature of the state, in the years 1787 and 1788, and during his life maintained the character of an active and useful citizen. Five of his sons served in the war of 1812, either in the regular army or in the militia. Alexander was born in Detroit, where his father was then engaged in the fur trade, on the 3rd of April, 1782. At that time Detroit was a military post, and the earliest associations of the mind of the future general were of a martial cast. At the age of eight years he was sent to school at the Academy at Newark, New Jersey. While he was there, the excitement produced in this country by the progress of the French Revolution reached its height, and the heroes of the Newark Academy were no less enthusiastic in their determination to support our national rights than their countrymen of larger growth. They joined in the task of throwing up works around New York, to defend it in case of the expected war with Great Britain.
" The ensuing winter furnished new occasions for these miniature military operations. The students agreed to erect a fort of snow, and to divide themselves into two parties, one of which to garrison the fort, and the other to attack it. The Latin and Greek teacher at the academy was a Scotchman of the name of Irquart, who possessed deep-rooted prejudices against the French, and, finding that they were not so enthusiastically admired as formerly by 1 he Americans, sought to create animosities among the students, who were pretty equally divided in point of number. The fort being completed, these little communities, as representatives of their respective nations, determined to toss-up for the possession of the fort, and each choose a commander. The French won; and a day was fixed on for the siege and attack. The French boys secretly repaired to the fort the previous night, with frozen snow-balls, and arranged them in their magazines, and along the parapets. At dawn of the appointed day, the parties were at their respective, stations, Macomb heading the Americans. The besieging party, before commencing the attack, threw up, under the fire of the fort, a sort of epaulment, to cover themselves from the balls of the besieged. The Scotch schoolmaster happened that day to get into the academy at an earlier hour than usual, and watched, with intense eagerness, the operations of the belligerents, which were going on at no great distance from his position. The assailants having prepared a .sufficient quantity of munitions for the bombardment, the fire was opened on the fort, and returned with great spirit and effect, several of the besieging party having been struck with the ice-balls, and brought to the ground. The Americans conceived the use of this missile to be contrary to the laws of war; and their leader instantly proposed to assault the fort, and carry it by storm. This proposal was hailed with three cheers, and almost as immediately executed. Under a tremendous and well-directed fire of the ice-balls, the works were stormed, the magazines seized, and the arms turned against the French. The Scotchman now caused the bell to be rung for school; and, after severely upbraiding the besieged party for their treachery, he applied his leathern thong to their leader, calling him the domned French mon, until our hero, by his intercession, procured his release, and let him go on parole."
His education was completed under the personal superintendence of his father, who caused him to be particularly instructed in mathematics and drawing, and paid such attention to his bodily exercises as laid the foundation for a hale, robust constitution. On the 28th of May, 1798, Macomb became a member of the New York Rangers, a volunteer company composed of the young gentlemen of New York, to which a single black ball denied admission. On the organization of the army, by General Washington, he applied for a commission without the knowledge of his friends, and was appointed a cornet of light dragoons, his commission dating the 10th of January, 1799. General Hamilton hearing of his application for a commission, seconded it, with the remark, that he was " young, active and ambitious." General North became adjutant-general, and was stationed in New York, near the head-quarters of General Hamilton, and Macomb, though but seventeen years of age, was appointed to his staff. He was thus thrown into constant association with some of the most scientific and practical officers of the revolutionary army, and after learning in the most thorough manner all the duties of the soldier and officer, young Macomb was allowed by General Hamilton to go to Montreal, to observe the tactics of the British regular force stationed there.
On his return to the United States he found himself retained in the military establishment, as second lieutenant in one of the old troops of dragoons; receiving his commission from the hand of President Jefferson, on the 10th of February 1801.
He was ordered on the recruiting service to Philadelphia, where he employed his leisure in studying the science of fortification and military topography. Having raised a handsome body of recruits, Macomb marched them to join the army under General Wilkinson at Pittsburg. Although, as a dragoon officer, entitled to be mounted, yet having a number of subaltern officers of infantry under his command, he declined any exclusive personal indulgence, and proceeded with the party on foot a distance, by the ancient route, of three hundred and twenty miles. A humorous occurrence, not devoid of interest in a military point of view, happened to the detachment on the way, which is still well remembered by the inhabitants near Turtle creek. An officer of superior rank, heading a small body of recruits, overtook Macomb's, at Chambersburg, and uniting forces, assumed the command of the whole. The party now consisting of about one hundred and fifty men, with the usual complement of women, halted in the morning on an island near the crossing place at Turtle creek. This was in the month of May, when heavy showers are frequent in the mountains bordering the creek. Macomb, being officer of the day and learning the intention of the commanding officer to encamp on the island, remonstrated against the measure, alleging that the island, lying under the mountains, was obviously liable to be Inundated, pointing out at the same time the drift wood on the head of the island, as an evident indication of that fact. The commanding officer, disdaining the representations of his junior, authoritatively ordered the tents to be pitched. The camp was soon formed — the men became busy in brushing up their arms and accoutrements — and the women in washing their clothes. At tattoo, they retired to rest. But the day had scarcely closed, when appalling thunder indicated, too clearly, a coming flood. Pouring down the sides of the mountains, the rain soon swelled the water of the creek, which at noon was nearly dry, to a level with the island. Through the pitchy darkness of the night, the lightnings revealed the approaching danger. The torrents continued to pour, and the floods to rise. The drums beat to arms — the tents were struck — the wagons were made fast to any fixture — the women scrambled into the wagons, and the men up the trees — and the horses were swum by their drivers across the creek. In this plight, so ludicrous if it had not been dangerous, in which they remained through the night, daylight both exposed and relieved them. The inhabitants came to their rescue on floats, from which, on returning, many were swept by the force of the stream, and floated about like the fragments of a wreck. On main land once more, from the disagremen of accompanying a drenched and all but drowned party, which a little while before had worn a most soldier-like appearance, and which Macomb had spared neither pains nor expense in equipping and ornamenting, he was extricated by his commanding officer, who, having now dearly bought an useful lesson in the art of castramentation, and learned to appreciate Macomb's advice, despatched him to General Wilkinson for fresh supplies of provisions and clothing.
In 1801, he accompanied General Wilkinson, who had been appointed a commissioner with General Pickens and Colonel Hawkins to treat with the Indian tribes in the south-west territory. About ten months were spent in the mission, during which Macomb kept a minute journal in which he noted the courses and distances of streams and positions, the productions of the soil and the geographical and geological features of the country. He also constructed a topographical map, which was sent to the war office, and received the marked approbation of President Jefferson.
While on this commission the army had been again reduced, but he was retained as first lieutenant of the corps of engineers, a flattering mark of the esteem in which his talents and merits as a draughtsman and engineer were held.
He was ordered to West Point, where he remained until June 1805, when he was appointed captain in the corps of engineers. During this portion of his life he was constantly engaged in his studies on military exercises, except when he was called from them to attend a court martial, sometimes as member, and sometimes as judge advocate. He acted in this latter capacity at the trial of Colonel Butler for disobedience in refusing to comply with the order of General Wilkinson requiring the hair of the officers and soldiers to be cropped. The gallant old veteran retained his queue at the risk of a reprimand for breach of discipline. During this trial Macomb exhibited so correct a knowledge of military law and the mode of proceeding, that several of the members of the court requested him to prepare a treatise as a guide for the conduct of courts martial; a work which he executed while engaged in superintending the erection of public works at Mount Dearborn, S. C. After receiving the approbation of Generals Davie and Pinckney it was printed, presented to the government, received the approbation of the president, and adopted as the standard for the guidance of courts martial.
Macomb rose gradually in his profession, honored from time to time with the confidence and approbation of the heads of the department. At the time the war of 1812 was determined on, he held the rank of colonel of engineers, and the office of adjutant-general of the army. These he abandoned when active service in the field was to be found, and received the appointment of colonel of the third regiment of artillery, which was forthwith raised, equipped, organized and disciplined under his auspices. It soon became a model for most of the others in the service. Marching to Sackett's Harbor in November, 1812, he spent the winter in command of the whole lake frontier. In January, 18 14, he was raised to the rank of brigadier-general, and appointed to a command on the east side of Lake Champlain, and from this time until the battle of Plattsburgh, he was constantly engaged in the discharge of arduous duties. During the summer of 1814, Sir George Prevost, the governor-general of the Canadas, having greatly augmented his forces by detachments from the army that had reaped laurels in Spain and Portugal, under Wellington, determined to strike a decisive blow on the frontier, in the hope of terminating the contest.
While he lay at Odletown, trusting to the superiority of his numbers, and the terrible appearance, perhaps, of his invincibles, he permitted his camp to be open to any American citizen who chose to enter it, and endeavored by its arrangement to magnify its really great strength. A body of merchants accompanied the expedition with a view of disposing of their goods in the conquered parts of the United States. The news of the capture of Washington at this time reached Macomb, who with true military courtesy sent the papers containing an account of it to the British general, with his compliments. He thus gave to this affair the appearance of an ordinary occurrence of war, and taught the enemy that he considered it no augury of defeat.
The effect of all these things upon others, however, was different. Day after day he received communications from the most respectable inhabitants, urging him to send the public stores up the lake, and retire, that he might save them, his troops and the town of Pittsburgh from the inevitable destruction that impended. A retreat before such a force would not be dishonorable, but to remain would be a wanton sacrifice of lives and property. After a time, the unflinching general answered their petitions. His answer was conveyed in a letter to the secretary of war, which we quote. It is dated Plattsburgh, September 16th, 1814.
" The governor-general of the Canadas, Sir George Prevost, having collected all the disposable force of Lower Canada, with a view of conquering the country as far as Ticonderoga, entered the territory of the United States on the first of the month, and occupied the village of Champlain, there avowed his intentions, and issued orders and proclamations, tending to dissuade the people from their allegiance, and inviting them to furnish his army with provisions. He immediately began to impress the wagons and teams in the vicinity, and loaded them with baggage and stores, indicating preparations for an attack on this place. My fine brigade was broken up to form a division ordered to the westward, which consequently left me in the command of a garrison of convalescents and the recruits of the new regiments, all in the greatest confusion, as well as the ordnance and stores, and the works in no state of defence.
To create an emulation and zeal among the officers and men, I divided them into detachments, and placed them near the several forts, declaring in orders, that each detachment was the garrison of its own work, and bound to defend it to the last extremity. The enemy advanced cautiously and by short marches, and our soldiers worked day and night; so that, by the time he made his appearance before the place, we were prepared to receive him. Finding, on examining the returns of the garrison, that our force did not exceed fifteen hundred men for duty, and well informed, that the enemy had as many thousand, I called on General Mooers of the New York militia, and arranged with him places for bringing forth the militia en masse.
The inhabitants of the village fled with their families and effects, except a few worthy citizens and some boys, who formed themselves into a party, received rifles, and were exceedingly useful. General Mooers arrived with seven hundred militia, and advanced several miles on the Beekmantown road, to watch the motions of the enemy, and to skirmish with him as he advanced, also to obstruct the roads with fallen trees, and to break up the bridges. On the lake road, at Dead Creek bridge, I posted two hundred men, under Captain Sproul, of the 13th regiment, with orders to abattis the woods, to place obstructions in the road, and to fortify himself; to this party I added two field-pieces. In advance of that position was Lieutenant Colonel Appling, with one hundred and ten riflemen, watching the movements of the enemy and procuring intelligence. It was ascertained that before daylight on the 6th, the enemy would advance in two columns, on the roads before mentioned, dividing at Sampson's, a little below Chazy village. The column on the Beekmantown road proceeded most rapidly; the militia skirmished with their advanced parties, and, except a few brave men, fell back most precipitately, in the greatest disorder, notwithstanding the British troops did not design to fire on them except by their flankers and advanced patrols.
Finding the enemy's columns had penetrated within a mile of Plattsburgh, I despatched my aid-de-camp, Lieutenant Root, to bring off the detachment at Dead Creek, and to inform Lieutenant Colonel Appling that I wished him to fall on the enemy's right flank; the colonel fortunately arrived just in time to save his retreat, and to fall in with the head of a column debouching from the woods; here he poured in a destructive fire from his riflemen at rest, and continued to annoy the column, until he formed a junction with Major Wool. The field-pieces did considerable execution among the enemy's columns. So undaunted, however, was the enemy, that he never deployed in his whole march, always pressing on in a column. Finding that every road around us was full of troops, crowding in all sides, I ordered the field-pieces to retire across the bridge, and form a battery for its protection, and to cover the retreat of the infantry, which was accordingly done, and the parties of Appling and Wool,, as well as that, of Sproul, retired alternately, keeping up a brisk fire until they got under cover of the works. The enemy's light troops occupied the houses near the bridge, and kept up a constant firing from the windows and balconies, and annoyed us much. I ordered them to be driven out with hot shot, which soon fired the houses and obliged these sharp-shooters to retire. The whole day, until it was too late to see, the enemy's light troops endeavored to drive our guards from the bridge, but they suffered dearly for their perseverance.
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