« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
THE WAR OF 1812
A SECOND WAR WITH GREAT BRITAIN
Declaration of War; its Causes. -For several years preceding the War of 1812, a dark cloud had been gathering on the political horizon, which was destined to plunge the American nation into a second war with Great Britain. The events which led to open hostilities were numerous. Besides certain offensive acts of Parliament which affected the American people, and English interference with American commerce, the British officers claimed the right to search American ships for English subjects, to reclaim those found, and to compel them to enter the British service in the war then going on with France. Neither were these officers overscrupulous in proving those they captured to be British subjects, but often took Americans as well. Such grievances led the United States to declare war against Great Britain, June 18, 1812.
The declaration of war was an act of the Republican party, which had at that time the ascendency, James Madison, the President, fully endorsing the act. But the measure was not universally supported; the Federal party, which was by no means a weak minority, was much opposed to the declaration, on the ground that the country was not prepared for war. Prior to the formal declaration of war, President Madison had issued an order for 100,000 militia, to be ready for action if needed, Vermont's quota to be 3,000 men. Jonas Galusha, also a Republican, who was then Governor of Vermont, immediately issued orders to raise the desired apportionment.
Acts of the Vermont Legislature; the Result.—The Vermont Legislature convened at Montpelier in October following the declaration of war. This Assembly authorized the raising of troops for the service, and also levied additional taxes on lands for the support and arming of the militia. It also passed an act prohibiting any person from passing the Canada line, or transporting any merchandise or goods across the line, without permission of the Governor, under penalty of a $1,000 fine and seven years' imprisonment.
These measures were considered by many of the people as oppressive, and great bitterness of feeling sprang up between the two parties; and many Vermonters, who had at first favored the war, now left the Republican ranks and went over to the Federal party.
Fears of the Northern Towns.--As war with Great Britain became imminent, there was great consternation among the towns on the northern border of the State. On either side of this region lay a convenient lurking-place for the enemy : on the north, the Canadian wilds ; on the south, the scarcely broken forests of northern Vermont. These people had not yet forgotten the dangers to frontier towns during the Revolution, and their minds were filled with gloomy forebodings of horrible Indian massacres that might result from the excitement of the Indians when they should once be pressed into English service. On the appeal of some of the towns, guards were established at Troy, Canaan, and Derby; but notwithstanding this precaution, many of the inhabitants abandoned their clearings and fled from the Missisquoi Valley to safer quarters.
Preparations made.-During the latter part of the year 1812, and the first half of 1813, no events of importance occurred within the vicinity of the Green Mountain State. The time was employed in the organization of troops for the United States service; and these were stationed at Plattsburg under the command of Major-General Dearborn of New Hampshire. It was the duty of the troops stationed there to guard the northern frontier in this vicinity against British invasion from Canada. A force was also employed, under Colonel Clark of Castleton, to prevent smuggling along the Canadian line. In the fall of 1812, Lieutenant MacDonough was put in command of the naval force on the lake, which then consisted of two sloops, the Growler and the Eagle, and two gunboats. During the winter another sloop was fitted up at Burlington and called The President.
The Loss of the Growler and the Eagle.--Nothing worthy of note occurred on the lake until June of the year 1813. Lieutenant MacDonough had received intelligence that some British gunboats had taken some small craft at the north end of the lake ; and he now sent out from Plattsburg the two sloops, Growler and Eagle, under command of Lieutenant Smith, to destroy these boats, should they again appear on the lake. The next morning, as the American vessels neared the Canadian line, they discovered the enemy's gunboats and at once gave chase. The wind was in their favor and they pursued the fleeing vessels until they found themselves within firing distance of the British works at Isle aux Noix. Finding that they had run into a dangerous position, they tried to retreat, but were unable to do so. The wind, which had favored them in their advance, now worked to their disadvantage; and battling against the wind and current as well, they were able to make but little headway. Moreover, the Eagle had run into shallow water near the shore and, becoming grounded, was unmanageable. The enemy began an attack both by land and water; and, after four hours of hard fighting, both sloops were captured by the British, with all on board. These sloops were a boon to the enemy, who had them refitted, their names changed to Finch and Chub, and, later appearing with them on the lake, used them against the American cause.
Barracks destroyed at Plattsburg.—The very next month the British appeared on the lake with the captured sloops, some gunboats, and other craft, and made a voyage up the lake to Plattsburg. Here they landed, about 1,400 strong. The American troops had, previous to this time, been ordered to Sackett's Harbor on Lake Ontario, leaving the town in a defenseless condition. With little to hinder them, the British destroyed the American barracks, estimated to be worth $25,000, and plundered also the village, destroying both public and private property. The public stores had, before this time, been removed to Burlington, where Major-General Hampton was in command of about four thousand men; and thither the enemy now proceeded. They fired a few shots upon the town; but, as soon as the batteries on shore opened fire upon them, they withdrew.
Two Raiding Parties.—Late in the summer, several companies of Vermont men, who were with General Wilkinson at Sackett's Harbor, took part in the unsuccessful
attle of Chrysler's Field on the St. Lawrence. About the same time Colonel Clark made a raid into the enemy's country in order to attack a British force at Missisquoi Bay. He completely surprised the enemy.
With a company of 102 Vermont men he took 101 prisoners, delivering them to General Hampton at Burlington, without the loss of a man. Of the British nine had been killed and fourteen wounded.
In the December following, a British raiding party destroyed the barracks at Derby and carried away the supplies that had been left there for the American army.
Work suspended at the University of Vermont.-Because of the war the work of the university was much disturbed ; and at length it became necessary to suspend it altogether. During tưe summer of 1813 large quantities of military stores were deposited in the university building; and a guard of soldiers was stationed there. The next year the building was rented for the use of the American army. It was not until the close of the war that the building was evacuated, and the work of the college could be resumed.
A Change of Administration in Vermont.—As time went on, the Republican party became more and more unpopular in the State. By the time the elections were held in the fall of 1813, party spirit was wrought to so high a pitch that the harmony, which had hitherto existed be tween families of the opposite parties, was pretty generally