Letter from J.M. O'Connor to Harriet O'Connor, 15 November 1813
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The third letter is dated at French Mills, N.Y., 15 Nov. 1813. O’Connor describes at length some military engagements with the British as they traveled down the St. Lawrence River. This included fighting at Prescott and near Cornwall. He writes "My dear Sister You will doubtless be surprized at finding my letter dated from the N States territory. We returned from Canada on the 13th inst, having been disappointed in joining Genl Hampton's division of the Army; this Genl it appears has taken upon himself to go into Winter quarters of his own authority spite of orders to contrary. The Army here is about hutting for the winter, as the severity of the season preculdes operations. The cold is intense. From French Creek we glided down the majestic St. Lawrence in tranquillity to Prescott, which port we passed at night in our boats amidst a furious Cannonade from that fortress & altho we were within 10 or 1200 yds of it, we had only 3 or 4 wounded & killed - The Elite of which I was Brigade Major landed in Canada first (being the advanced Corps) had some skirmishing from the 8 to the 11th Novr on which day the rear Corps of the Army was attacked by 1600 regulars & 800 Militia (equal to our force engaged) and after a sanguinary conflict succeeded in repulsing the Enemy with great loss on both sides. We lost many Officers and some of high rank. Genl Covington was killed. The several Corps formed a junction on the 12th near Cornwall (WC) on which day it was discovered that Genl Hampton had moved off to Winter Qrs. At this time we had in our rear nearly 2000 regulars (all the force from Kingston & Prescott) besides Milita & a much larger force of both Regulars & Militia were advancing in f upon our left to turn that flank & form a junction with the Corps in rear. The Indian summer of which we had 6 or? 8 days was over, & the winter fast closing in around us with his ___ fetters. To sum up the calamities which have befallen us, the Commander in chief was confined to his bed & his second in command was unequal to the task while the Brigadiers were worse; under these circumstances a retreat was determined upon as the only means of saving the Army from the united effects of the Elements & the Sword. To picture to you our grief & chagrin is impossible; we remembered our bleeding Country, our unfortunate Army & the expectations of our friends; there were many eyes that wept over our misfortunes on that day. But it is weakness to despair and folly to repine; the Army has not disgraced itself by either cowardice or any act unworthy of the brave. The fault is with the Generals not the men. I fear that our Genl (Wilkinson) has not long to live; ever since we left French Creek he has been sick. No doubt his illness has been increased by the he was necessitated to make by retaining of the Army which he could not trust in any hands subordinate to his own. I dread to return (?) home amid such disheartening scenes. Your letters of the 18 It reached me in Canada, but from friend Hutchison_ the Mr. Mix who you inquire about is Commander of the 'Lady of the Lake' Lake Ontario & is a pretty prodigal fellow; has nothing but his pay, which is little enough to support himself. You will therefore use caution. This place in which are 5 or 6 miserable houses, is situated on Salmon River, 4 or 5 miles above its mouth & 70 miles NW of Plattsburg; a dreamy place. To my dear friend Hutchison, my dear Eliza & Mrs Chappell, Mr Taylor & all others remember me most kindly & affectionately. Yours truly J.M. O'Connor Miss Harriet E. O'Connor. No. 64 Pearl Street, City of New York"