JOHN ARMSTRONG, JR.
Written on the eve of the War of 1812, during which he was blamed by
some for the British burning of Washington, he writes of his so far unsuccessful
efforts to use his Washington contacts to help an associate.
Autograph Letter signed: "John Armstrong", 1 page,
7¾x9¾. La Bergerie Rhinebeck (N. Y.), 1811 December 8. To a
Mr. Phenin, New York. In full: "Your letter of the 2nd instant has
been received. A few days before its date, I wrote to Mr. Ingraham, stating that
I written to a judge, & to my friend at Washington, to whom I committed the
task of sounding G, & knowing what would be the course of his conduct, were
you to petition Congress, etc. etc. I hope he has received it, as I had
indicated also certain persons, to whom I had written on the supposition that
your petition would go on. Gregg was not of the number, but this omission shall
be supplied by the mail of today. When I wrote to Mr. Ingraham, my Washington
friend had not reported, nor has he yet, which can only arise from the
circumstance of his not having achieved his objective. When he does, you shalt
hear from me. Keep up your spirits-they are among our best resources in
adversity. If they abandon us, there is an end of exertion (without which, in
good or bad fortune) a man becomes a mere cypher. Believe me ever &
cordially yours." John Armstrong, Jr. (1758-1843) fought with
distinction in the Revolutionary War, primarily as an aide to General Horatio
Gates. Armstrong is considered a principal figure in the "Newburgh
Conspiracy" of 1783, called - scurrilous by George Washington - which discussed
strong measures against Congress if promised military salaries were not
forthcoming. Notwithstanding this challenge to civilian authority,
Armstrong, along with his father, represented Pennsylvania in the Continental
Congress (1787-1788) and he served New York in the US Senate
(1801-1804). He was US Minister to France (1803-1810). When a new war
with Britain broke out in 1812, Armstrong was commissioned a Brigadier
General and charged with the defense of New York City. Later that year,
President Madison dismissed William Eustis and named John Armstrong his
successor as Secretary of War. Armstrong is credited with measures which
improved discipline and morale in the American army, but his tendency to issue
orders to subordinate commanders without regard to the chain of command angered
both President Madison and many generals. (He earned a Presidential reprimand
for appointing Andrew Jackson to a command.) When British forces seized
and burned Washington, D.C. in 1814, Armstrong was blamed for this debacle, as
he had waited until the last minute to mobilize local militia for the city's
defense. He was dismissed from office and replaced by one of his chief critics,
future President James Monroe. La Bergerie was Armstrong's estate,
built between 18111 and 1815 for himself and his wife Alida (Livingston)
Armstrong, of the wealthy and powerful Livingston family. The nature of the
undertaking discussed in this letter is unknown, but Armstrong had a reputation
for intrigue. Multiple mailing folds. Corners and edges worn and creased.
Notch at top edge. Toned and lightly soiled. Pencil marks (unknown hand) on
verso. Reside from seal on verso. Otherwise, fine condition.
For more documents by these signers click the names below:
BRIGADIER GENERAL JOHN ARMSTRONG JR.
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