How America Fought Its Wars: Military Strategy from the American Revolution to the Civil War

By Victor Brooks; Robert Hohwald | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 15
The Battles' Confusion

Triumph and Frustration in the Campaign
of 1813

James Madison and the Republican leaders of Congress were intelligent enough to realize that already diminished public support for war with Great Britain in early 1813 would be even further eroded unless the American armies were soon able to win some clear cut victories over the redcoats. A number of solid, though not spectacular, improvements in the organization of the republic's military forces enabled the United States to enter the second year of the war in a stronger position than the previous summer. Madison initiated a serious search for a replacement for Secretary of War William Eustis, who was increasingly denounced as a total incompetent. One Congressman insisted that "the president must be content with defeat and disgrace in all his efforts during the war if the Secretary remains long in office." The President sounded out Secretary of State James Monroe, Senator William Crawford and General Henry Dearborn about the post, but none of these men were willing to assume the title on a permanent basis. The chief executive finally settled on John Armstrong, a leading Republican politician from New York who was an abrasive, hot-tempered intriguer who was despised by every other member of the cabinet, but was at least a better administrator than his predecessor. Armstrong's appointment produced a modest improvement over Eustis' disastrous tenure but he was still not the ideal person to contend with the potential military might of the United Kingdom.

The changed leadership at the war office was accompanied by a series of bills designed to increase the size of the American army for the upcoming campaign. Recruitment had lagged far behind authorized strength levels during the first months of the campaign. Army pay was low, army life was hard and militia service was far less onerous for Americans who wished to become involved in military activities. A Federalist legislator noted that

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