THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (Oct. 28-Nov. 3)
Foreshadowing Future Battles
All is apparently quiet on land and sea this week 200 years ago, but communications from two commanders at opposite ends of the country to their superiors foreshadow battlers yet to come.
Gen. William Henry Harrison, commander of the Army of the Northwest (today’s Midwest states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin, is informed by traders with the Indians that the Miamis have been sending messengers to the Delawares, inviting them to join the fight against the United States. Word of these communications comes just a month after the garrisons at Fort Wayne and Fort Harrison (both in Indiana) have withstood attacks by Native American warriors in large numbers.
On Oct. 26, 1812, Harrison writes to Secretary of War William Eustis in Washington seeking approval for a plan to attack Miami towns along the Mississinewa River in the Indiana Territory. On Nov. 5, Eustis writes back that Harrison should use his own judgment as to whether “the Miamis, as well as the other Indians, must be dealt with as their merits and demerits” may require.
A month later Harrison will order Lt. Col. John Campbell to lead an expedition of 600 mounted troops against the Miami villages along the Mississinewa.
Meanwhile, in New Orleans, the naval commander is worried that he doesn’t have enough ships and men to defend the port against the British or pirates.
Commodore John Shaw, who commands a small flotilla of boast and ships, writes to Navy Secretary Paul Hamilton to complain that the number of vessels under his command is inadequate to deal with the threat posed to American commerce at the mouth of the Mississippi River.
It will be two years before the British, finally done fighting Napoleon’s armies, will make a move against New Orleans. Some of the pirates Shaw fretted about will be among the motley force defending New Orleans in January 1815 including: U.S. Army regulars, Sailors and Marines, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi militia, New Orleans gentry and free blacks, slaves and Choctaw Indians.