Thomas Jefferson letter re: Burning of Washington & Library of Congress; offers to sell his library;

Thomas Jefferson to Samuel H. Smith, September 21, 1814
Monticello, September 21, 1814.

Dear Sir,--

I learn from the newspapers that the Vandalism of our enemy has triumphed at Washington over science as well as the arts, by the destruction of the public library with the noble edifice in which it was deposited. Of this transaction, as of that of Copenhagen, the world will entertain but one sentiment. They will see a nation suddenly withdrawn from a great war, full armed and full handed, taking advantage of another whom they had recently forced into it, unarmed, and unprepared, to indulge themselves in acts of barbarism which do not belong to a civilized age. When Van Ghent destroyed their shipping at Chatham, and De Ruyter rode triumphantly up the Thames, he might in like manner, by the acknowledgment of their own historians, have forced all their ships up to London bridge, and there have burnt them, the tower, and city, had these examples been then set. London, when thus menaced, was near a thousand years old, Washington is but in its teens.

I presume it will be among the early objects of Congress to re-commence their collection. This will be difficult while the war continues, and intercourse with Europe is attended with so much risk. You know my collection, its condition and extent. I have been fifty years making it, and have spared no pains, opportunity or expense, to make it what it is. While residing in Paris, I devoted every afternoon I was disengaged, for a summer or two, in examining all the principal bookstores, turning over every book with my own hand, and putting by everything which related to America, and indeed whatever was rare and valuable in every science. Besides this, I had standing orders during the whole time I was in Europe, on its principal book-marts, particularly Amsterdam, Frankfort, Madrid and London, for such works relating to America as could not be found in Paris. So that in that department particularly, such a collection was made as probably can never again be effected, because it is hardly probable that the same opportunities, the same time, industry, perseverance and expense, with some knowledge of the bibliography of the subject, would again happen to be in concurrence. During the same period, and after my return to America, I was led to procure, also, whatever related to the duties of those in the high concerns of the nation. So that the collection, which I suppose is of between nine and ten thousand volumes, while it includes what is chiefly valuable in science and literature generally, extends more particularly to whatever belongs to the American statesman. In the diplomatic and parliamentary branches, it is particularly full. It is long since I have been sensible it ought not to continue private property, and had provided that at my death, Congress should have the refusal of it at their own price. But the loss they have now incurred, makes the present the proper moment for their accommodation, without regard to the small remnant of time and the barren use of my enjoying it. I ask of your friendship, therefore, to make for me the tender of it to the library committee of Congress, not knowing myself of whom the committee consists. I enclose you the catalogue, which will enable them to judge of its contents. Nearly the whole are well bound, abundance of them elegantly, and of the choicest editions existing. They may be valued by persons named by themselves, and the payment made convenient to the public. It may be, for instance, in such annual installments as the law of Congress has left at their disposal, or in stock of any of their late loans, or of any loan they may institute at this session, so as to spare the present calls of our country, and await its days of peace and prosperity. They may enter, nevertheless, into immediate use of it, as eighteen or twenty wagons would place it in Washington in a single trip of a fortnight. I should be willing indeed, to retain a few of the books, to amuse the time I have yet to pass, which might be valued with the rest, but not included in the sum of valuation until they should be restored at my death, which I would carefully provide for, so that the whole library as it stands in the catalogue at this moment should be theirs without any garbling. Those I should like to retain would be chiefly classical and mathematical. Some few in other branches, and particularly one of the five encyclopedias in the catalogue. But this, if not acceptable, would not be urged. I must add, that I have not revised the library since I came home to live, so that it is probable some of the books may be missing, except in the chapters of Law and Divinity, which have been revised and stand exactly as in the catalogue. The return of the catalogue will of course be needed, whether the tender be accepted or not. I do not know that it contains any branch of science Which Congress would wish to exclude from their collection; there is, in fact, no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer. But such a wish would not correspond with my views of preventing its dismemberment. My desire is either to place it in their hands entire, or to preserve it so here. I am engaged in making an alphabetical index of the author's names, to be annexed to the catalogue, which I will forward to you as soon as completed. 

Any agreement you shall be so good as to take the trouble of entering into with the committee, I hereby confirm. 

Accept the assurance of my great esteem and respect.

Letter to William Charles Cole Claiborne from Andrew Jackson

Head Quarters 7 M Dist Mobile
Septr. 21 1814


             Our country has been invaded, and threatened with destruction. She wants Soldiers to fight her battles. The free men of colour in your city are inured to the Southern climate and would make excellent Soldiers. They will not remain quiet spectors of the interesting conquest. They must be either for, or against us--distrust them, and you make them your enemies, place confidence in them, and you will engage them by Every dear and honorable tie to the interest of the country who extends to them equal rights and priviledges with white men. I enclose you a copy of my address to them for publication, and wish an experiment made for raising a Regt of them. They will be officered by white men except the non commissioned officers, and be placed upon the same footing with other volunteers for the war. Should you succeed in raising a Regt Battallion or company advise me, and I will send one of my aids to organize and pay them their Bounty under the act of congress placing them on an equaility with soldiers procured by enlistment. No objections can be raised by the citizens of N Orleans on account of their engagement, as they will be removed from amongst them, if fears of their fidelity are entertained. I also enclose you an address to the citizens of Louissiana, for publication, and request that you will have the proclamation of Colo Nicholls published on the same sheet, as well as the Proclamation of Sir William H Percy and my general order rellative to the defence of Fort Bowyer.The Choctaws are collecting and I hope ere long to have it, in my power to act on the offensive. Fortune smiles upon our arms to the North, and I flatter myself the Gods will be propitious to the South. We may then humble the overgrown pride of Britain. I have the honor to be very respectfully yr obedt. Servt.

                                                                              Andrew Jackson M G comdg


Letter from (American) Corporal John McHenry of the 5th Regiment about the Battle of North Point

“The contest…was maintained for some time very vigorously by the 5th and 7th Regiments & a company of artillery commanded by (Captain John) Montgomery…The 39th and 51st Regiments fired one round at they knew not what & immediately fled…the 6th Regiment…. retreated long before the enemy approached them….

In the 27th Regiment adjutant (Lt. James) Lowry Donaldson was killed. As our Regiment, the 5th, carried off the praise from the other regiments engaged, so did the company to which I have the honor to belong cover itself with glory. When compared to the [other] Regiments we were the last that left the ground.

Our loss was nearly 1/3 of the company engaged…. there were ten wounded and three taken prisoners. I had the honor to carry the colours of the Regiment, which I brought off safe and was not hurt myself. Had not our company retreated at the time it did we should have been cut off in two minutes…..”

Letter from William Charles Cole Claiborne to Andrew Jackson

New Orleans
September 20th. 1814


       We have as yet nothing official from Barataria, and what is of infinite more importance, we are stil in doubt as to the result of the attack on Mobille Point, altho' the most accredited private accounts, justify the pleasing belief, that the Enemy has been compelled to retire.
      The News from the City of Washington is most afflicting; The Capital of the Union has fallen into the hands of the Enemy. The extent of the Injury done is not known; The public Buildings are all destroyed, but private property it is said was respected. This event will excite the deepest regret thro'out the United States; But it will surely call forth, the most immediate, Zealous and united efforts to repel the Invader: Louisiana has at this moment much to apprehend from Domestic Insurrection; We have every reason to beleive that the Enemy has been intriguing with our slaves, and from a variety of circumstances, we have much cause to suspect that they on their part, mediate mischief. I have directed every measure of precaution which prudence suggested, and am happy to find that the citizens are disposed Zealously to support me. Knowing how necessary a corps of cavalry would be in the case of Revolt among the slaves, and beleiving  that at the Present moment, they would be particularly useful in acquiring and forwarding information I have, without awaiting the return of Colo Shaumburg, ordered the Feliciana Troops of Cavalry to repair immediately to new orleans, and I shall make on the Quarter Master General a requisition for all necessary supplies. I have also encouraged a number of Gentlemen of New Orleans to form a volunteer Corps of Cavalry, and with a promise, that whilst on duty they should be furnished with Forage for their Horses by the Public. I hope sir, these measures may meet your approbation and that you will direct, the Keeper of the Military stores to deliver on my receipt, for the use of these Corps (whilst in public service) such number of swords & Pistols as may be required
       In my Letter of Yesterday, I mentioned that many of the fugitives from Barataria had reached the city. Among these are some St. Domingo negro's of the most desperate characters & probably no worse than most of their white associates. I attended a meeting of the mayor & city Council on this morning and strongly urged the necessity of adopting some strong measures of police and particularly as related to slaves, and the visits & Residence of strangers. The Mayor & council seemed fully impressed with the importance of the crisis, and will I hope act with promptitude and decision. The Bearer Colo. Michel Fortier, one of my aids de Camp, will have the honor to deliver you this letter, whom I beg leave to introduce to your acquaintance. He is a native of Louisiana well acquainted with its Interest and you may give credit to whatever representation he may make as to its present state. I am Sir, very Respectfully your obt. Servt.

                                                                         William C. C. Claiborne


Major General Smith reports to Sec'y of War Monroe on successful defense of Baltimore

September 19, 1814

James Monroe was now acting Secretary of War. (Armstrong resigned after Washington fell to the British). 

Major General Smith had worked for many months getting Baltimore ready in the event of its attack; The defense of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry inspired Francis Scott Key (who observed the fort’s bombardment from an enemy ship in the Baltimore harbor where he was negotiating a prisoner’s release) to write a poem that later became the “The Star Spangled Banner”. 

Head Quarters Baltimore
19 September 1814—
In compliance with the promise contained in my letter of the 15th… I have now the honor of stating—that the Enemy landed between 7 and 8000men on Monday the 12th … at North Point, fourteen miles distant from this town. 

Anticipating this debarkation General Stricker had been detached on Sunday evening, with a portion of his Brigade on the North Point road. Major Randal of the Baltimore County Militia having under his command a light corps of riflemen & musketry taken from Gen. Stansbury's Brigade and the Pennsylvania volunteers, was detached to the mouth of Bear Creek, with orders to cooperate with General Stricker and to check any landing which the Enemy might attempt in that quarter. 

On Monday Brigadier General Stricker took a good position at the junction of the two roads leading from this place to North Point, having his right flanked by Bear Creek and his left by a marsh. He here awaited the approach of the Enemy, having sent on an advance corps under the command of Major Heath of the 5th Regiment. This advance was met by that of the Enemy and after some skirmishing it returned to the line, the main body of the Enemy being at a short distance in the rear of their advance. Between two & three o’clock the Enemy's whole force came up and commenced the battle by some discharges of rockets which were succeeded by the cannon from both sides and soon after the action became general along the line. General Stricker gallantly maintained his ground against a great superiority of numbers, during the space of an hour & twenty minutes, when the regiment on his left, (the 51st.) giving way, he was under the necessity of retiring to the ground in his rear where he had stationed one Regiment as a reserve. He here formed his Brigade—but the Enemy not thinking it advisable to pursue, he in compliance with previous arrangements fell back and took post on the left of my entrenchments and a half mile in advance of them. In this affair the citizen soldiers of Baltimore with the exception of the 51. Regt., have maintained the reputation they so deservedly acquired at Bladensburg…

About the time General Stricker had taken the ground just mentioned, he was joined by Brig: Gen: Winder who had been stationed on the west side of the City, but was now ordered to march with Gen. Douglass Brigade of Virginia militia and the U.S. Dragoons under Capt. Bird, and take post on the left of Gen. Stricker, during these movements the Brigades of Generals Stansbury & Foreman the seamen & marines under Commodore Rodgers—the Pennsylvania volunteers under Cols. Cobean & Findley, the Baltimore Artillery under Col. Harris and the marine Artillery under Capt. Stiles manned the trenches and the batteries— all prepared to receive the Enemy.
We remained in this situation during the night.

On Tuesday the Enemy appeared in front of my entrenchments at the distance of two miles, on the Philadelphia road—from whence he had a full view of our position. He maneuvered during the morning towards our left, as if with the intention of making a circuitous march and coming down on the Harford or York roads. 

Generals Winder & Stricker were ordered to adapt their movements to those of the Enemy so as to baffle this supposed intention. They executed this order with great skill & judgment by taking an advantageous position, stretching from my left across the country where the Enemy was likely to approach this quarter he seemed to threaten. This movement induced the Enemy to concentrate his forces (between one & two o'clock) in my front,  … showing an intention of attacking us that evening. 

I immediately drew Generals Winder & Strieker nearer to the left of my entrenchments and to the right of the Enemy, with the intention of their falling on his right or rear should he attack me, or if he declined it, of attacking him in the morning. To this movement and to the strength of my defenses which the Enemy had the fairest opportunity of observing, I am induced to attribute his retreat, which was commenced at half past one o'clock on Wednesday morning. In this, he was so favored by the extreme darkness and a continued rain, that we did not discover it until day light.

I consented to General Winder's pursuing with the Virginia Brigade and the U.S. Dragoons—at the same time Major Randal was dispatched with his light corps in pursuit on the Enemy's right, whilst the whole of the militia cavalry was put in motion for the same object. All the troops were however so worn out with a continued watching and with being under arms during three days & nights exposed the greater part of the time to very inclement weather, that it was found impracticable to do anything more than pick up a few stragglers. The Enemy commenced his embarkation that evening & completed it the next day at 1. o'clock. …

I have now the pleasure of calling your attention to the brave commander of Fort McHenry Major Armistead—and to the operations in that quarter. The Enemy made his approach by water at the same time that his army was advancing on the land, and commenced a discharge of bombs and rockets at the Fort as soon as he got within range of it. The situation of Major Armistead was peculiarly trying, the enemy having taken his position at such a distance as to render offensive operations on the part of the Fort entirely fruitless—whilst their bombs & rockets were every moment falling in and about it—the officers and men being at the same time entirely exposed. Two vessels however had the temerity to approach somewhat nearer—they were as soon compelled to withdraw. During the night whilst the enemy on land was retreating and whilst the bombardment was the most severe—two or three rocket vessels & barges succeeded in getting up the Ferry Branch—but they were soon compelled to retire, by the forts in that quarter commanded by Lieut. Newcomb of the Navy and Lieut. Webster of the Flotilla—the forts also destroyed one of the barges, with all on board. 

The Barges and Battery at the Lazzaretto under the command of Lieut. Rutter of the Flotilla kept up a brisk and it is believed, a successful fire during the hottest period of the bombardment. Major Armistead being severely ill in consequence of his continued exposure to the weather, has rendered it impossible for him to send in his report— it is not therefore in my power to do justice to those gallant individuals who partook with him the danger of a tremendous bombardment, without the ability of retorting and without that security, which in more regular fortifications is provided for such occasions.

The loss in the Fort is I understand, about 27 Killed and Wounded—…From General Stricker's Brigade, the return of the killed and wounded has not yet come in, it is supposed however to amount to about 150 among the former, this city has to regret the loss of its Representative in the State Legislature, James Lowry Donaldson Esq. adjutant of the 27th Regt. This Gentleman will ever be remembered by his constituents for his zeal & talents & by his corps, for his bravery & military knowledge.

I cannot conclude this report without informing you of the great aid I have derived from Comr. Rodgers. He was ever present & ever ready to afford his useful counsel and to render his important services. His presence with that of his gallant officers & seamen gave confidence to everyone.

The Enemy's loss in his attempt on Baltimore amounts as near as we can ascertain it to between 6 & 700 killed wounded & missing. General Ross was certainly killed. 

I have the honor to be with great respect Sir Your Obt Sent.
S. Smith
Major General Commanding


Lieutenant Newcomb summarizes British attack on Baltimore

September 18, 1814

Lieutenant Newcomb’s summary of events at Baltimore 


Saturday Sep. 10th 10 P.M. received information that the enemy were coming up the Bay, in force,
Sunday 11th About Thirty sail hove in sight, Receiving orders to take command of Fort Covington with a detachment of seamen— the soldiers are sick with the fever & ague— At noon light airs from the Sd.—the headmost ships of war at anchor above Sparrow Point—the transports & smaller vessels several
miles below—
Monday 12th Light airs from the Sd. & pleasant— No visible alteration during the night— the barges & small vessels very busy thru the day— 2.P.M. The ships of war got under way & came to about 6 miles below Fort McHenry—
Tuesday 13th At 6 A.M—5 Bomb Ship and () Ships of war got under way & took their station in a line abreast Fort McHenry, distant 2(?)% miles & 3 miles from F. Covington— 8 A.M—moderate breezes from the Sd. & Ed. … The enemy commenced the Bombardment of F. McHenry, which was returned with shells & shot, but as they all fell short, the fort discontinued firing, while the enemy continued to throw their shells with great precision & effect; 2.P.M—Wind at the Nd. & Ed.—with heavy showers of rain— 3 P.M—Fort McHenry recommenced firing and by taking out the beds & coins. Threw the shot so well among the Bomb Ships that three of them got under way & run out of gunshot & bombarded the fort more furiously than before— 10 P.M. the enemies barges all in motion— Weather thick & hazy with frequent showers of rain—
Wednesday 14th.— The enemies small vessels & barges were discovered by their lights moving up the S.W. Branch—the headmost abreast of F. Covington— Commenced firing—which was immediately returned with shot—shells & rockets—Fort Babcock, (or the Six gun battery) now opened— The darkness prevented our accurately distinguishing their force— One Bomb Vessel was this side the Point—a schooner about half way between her & F. Covington—& the barges, (number unknown, Throwing 12. 18 & 24 Ib. Shot—) abreast of us— Our fire was directed at the headmost— A few broadsides checked their advance, when they concentrated nearly abreast of us, & continued their attack on the batteries— The decided superiority of our fire compelled them to retreat, when They were met by a fire from F. McHenry—which, however, from the darkness of the night was soon discontinued— Col. Taylor's regiment of Militia was posted in our rear— How judicious his arrangements were I shall leave to those to say who are more competent to judge & whose duty it is to decide— The Shells & rockets were thrown with little intermission till daylight—but with very little effect— The officers with me were attentive & active— …
 The seamen were extremely indignant that the enemy fought no longer—
H. S. Newcomb
Fort Covington
Sept. 18th. 1814


Letter from Issac Monroe, editor of the Baltimore Patriot to editor of the (Boston) Yankee

September 17, 1814

Three days after the bombardment of Fort McHenry, Isaac Monroe, editor of the Baltimore Patriot and Evening Advertiser, and a private in the Baltimore U.S. volunteers, the Baltimore Fencibles, wrote a letter to a fellow editor of The [Boston] Yankee. In these extracts from his letter, Monroe described the attack on Fort McHenry as he witnessed it:
“I will give you an account of the approach of the enemy before this place, so far as it came under my observation…while we were marching to town, the enemy tacked about, and just at dusk were seen under press of sail, with a fair wind, approaching the town. There movements were closely watched at the fort…We were all immediately rallied, and arrived at the Fort before 12, although the rain poured down in torrents. On our arrival we found the matches burning, the furnaces heated and vomiting red hot shot, and everything ready for a gallant defense…Tuesday morning, at which time they had advanced to within two and a half mile of the Fort, arranged in most elegant order, all at anchor, forming a half circle, with four bomb vessels and a rocket ship…
…two of their headmost frigates opened upon us, but finding their shot not reaching us, they ceased and advanced up a little nearer. The moment they had taken their position, Major Armistead mounted the parapet and ordered a battery of 24 pounders to be opened upon them; immediately after a battery of 42′s followed, when the whole fort let drive at them. We could see the shot strike the frigates in several instances, when every heart was gladdened, and we gave three cheers, the music playing Yankee Doodle….
…The bomb vessels advanced a little, and commenced a tremendous bombardment, which lasted all day and all night…the most tremendous bombardment ever known in this country, without means of resisting it, upwards of 1500 bombs having fallen in and around the Fort…”
“…till dawn of day [on September 14], when they appeared to be disposed to decline the unprofitable contest. At this time, our morning gun was fired, the flag hoisted, Yankee Doodle played, and we all appeared in full view [upon the ramparts] of a formidable and mortified enemy, who calculated upon our surrender in 20 minutes after the commencement of the action.”