On August 31 1812, The New York Post writes: 
On the disgraceful and deplorable results of our first military efforts in Canada, we are not in a temper to say much. The whole plan of the campaign was miserably imbecile and utterly inefficient yet such a catastrophe as is just announced was beyond our most gloomy apprehensions. It appears we must be utterly unequal to cope with the experienced veteran British officers in Canada.

August 31 1812: General Van Rensselaer

On August 31, 1812, General Van Rensselaer is writing to Governor Tompkins of New York. Van Rensselaer is the commanding officer at Lewiston in the Niagara Region. He is also one of the richest men in the state of New York, a Federalist and not very enthusiastic about Mr. Madison's War. Alan Taylor describes him in Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies ( Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2010) this way:
As a Federalist, Stephen Van Rensselaer was the prime exception to the partisan rule in awarding military commands. Owning thousands of acres worked by hundreds of tenant farmers, Van Rensselaer was the wealthiest landlord in New York. Educated at Yale, he possessed gracious manners and a popularity derived from his “condescension” to common men, including a reluctance to press his tenants to pay their rent. In 1812 he was preparing to run for governor against the Republican incumbent, Daniel D. Tompkins. In a political game of chicken, Tompkins got the Madison administration to appoint Van Rensselaer to the command on the Niagara front. Tompkins calculated that Van Rensselaer would, by declining, sacrifice his reputation for patriotism or, by accepting, have to mute his opposition to the war. Although a major general in the state militia, Van Rensselaer had never seen combat. Probably to Tompkins’s surprise, Van Rensselaer accepted...Despite their new positions, the Federalists continued to mock the war as a Republican folly.
Van Rensselaer' s lettter is reproduced below. 

August 30 1812: Macdonnell at the Forks

On August 30, 1812, Miles Macdonnell, the governor of Assiniboia, arrives with a group of Lord Selkirk's settlers at the Forks, where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers meets. He writes the following excerpt in his journal:

Sunday, August 30 - Set off at 1/2 past 4, saw many pigeons. Mr. Edwards and I went ashore with our guns on E. side, found the walking so very bad that we were glad to reembark with indifferent success. Mr. Frobisher with two N.W. Canoes passed - by 7 got to near the head of the strong current where we stopt to breakfast. While here, two men sent by Mr. Heney for horses for me to ride to the Forks came to us. I embrace this occasion of getting there before the boats and to see something of the country. The saddles were not equal to good pack saddles (I took Mr. Edwards with me). After leaving the river bank entered a fine plain as level as a bowling green covered with a fine sward of grass knee high - here and there a clump of wood as if planted for ornament by the hand of man, partridges rising before us in coveys on each side of the path. Ducks and Geese fly about us. This plain extended close to the Forks which we reached at 2 o'clock p.m. Messrs. Wills and McDonell received us at the gate of the N.W.Co. Fort and asked us in.

August 30 1812: USS Constitution in Boston

On August 30, 1812, the USS Constitution and Captain Isaac Hull arrive in Boston with the prisoners captured after destroying the Guerrière. Henry Adams describes the importance of the defeat of the British ship in very grand terms. "However small the affair might appear on the general scale of the world's battles," Adams writes "it raised the United States in one half hour to the rank of a first-class Power in the world." Adams' full description of the arrival of the Constitution and its importance is reproduced below: 

August 29 1812: Miles Macdonnell

On August 29, 1812, Miles Macdonnell, the governor of Assiniboia, now Manitoba, writes the following excerpt in his journal:
Saturday, August 29 - Wind abated and came round to N.W. Set off at 9. Mr. Hillier remained, judging the sea too high for his small boats. We made straight for the mouth of Red River. My hunter kept along shore with his canoe. I did not join. At 12 entered the mouth of Red River. Passed Dead River where there is a plain, from here up-wards the banks rise and the land appears to be of a good quality and fit for tillage. At 4 p.m. reached the House built this spring by order of Mr. Heney on the E. side, where 9 kegs of potatoes were planted but not in the most judicious manner. The banks are of a convenient height and the soil excellent. Two men were here who complained of not catching many fish. From them I got two kegs of fat left by Mr. Heney, a couple of catfish and 4 ducks. Received here a letter from Mr. McKay who passed the 24th Inst, he and Mr. Heney wait for me at the Forks, on opposite side was an old Establishment abandoned. We came off stopt to boil our kettle at the head of Poplar Island on W side at burnt poplar woods. I do not know why this Island was so called as it appears to be chiefly timbered with Elm and Oak. The batteau come up with us here. It being a still and starry night, I set off again much against the inclination of some of my people, but I was anxious to shorten the distance so as to be able to reach the Forks next day - by 12 at night got to the foot of the strong current where we stopt till day light. Weather clear and fine all day.

August 29 1812: Brock on Tecumseh

On August 29 1812, Major General Brock, temporarily at York, writes to the Earl of Liverpool. He details what has transpired since the invasion of Upper Canada. Brock also provides his impression of Tecumseh. He is impressed writing:  
Among the Indians whom I found at Amherstburg, and who had arrived from distant parts of the Country, I found some extraordinary characters. He who attracted most my attention was a Shawnee chief, Tecumset, brother to the Prophet, who for the last two years has carried on (contrary to our remonstrances) an Active Warfare against the United States — a more sagacious or more a gallant Warrior does not I believe exist. He was the admiration of every one who conversed with him: from a life of dissipation he has not only become, in every respect, abstemious but has likewise prevailed on all his nation and many of the other Tribes to follow his example. 
 Brock's letter is reproduced below.

August 28 1812: Miles MacDonnell

On August 28, 1812, Miles Macdonnell, the governor of Assiniboia, now Manitoba, writes in his journal the following excerpt:
Friday, August 28 - At 8 this morning the Swan and Batteau came up, wind and sea strong against them. They had put into a small bay - passed the night at anchor, not being able to land from the violence of the surf - the wind continuing to blow a head - remained here all day.

Mr. Hillier having no provisions for his people I advised him to desist for the present attempting to fix himself at the Winipic River, as that part was bare of subsistence and he must soon of necessity abandon it. He concludes on going back to Red River. Weather clear all day, wind strong a head sea running high.

August 28 1812: The Absent Soldier's Lament

On August 28, 1812, the Morning Chronicle publishes anonymously a poem entitled "The "Absent Soldier's Lament." 

August 28 1812: Major Lovett's Mortification

On August 28, 1812, Major Lovett writes to Abraham Van Vechten. Lovett is at Lewiston, the American Army's headquarters in the Niagara Region. He is a poet, lawyer, Federalist and opposed to the war. Still, as an American, he feels the humiliation of Hull's surrender of Detroit. Lovett writes: "Hull's surrender is to me incomprehensible." Yesterday, Lovett saw the prisoners from Detroit being marched across the river on their way to York and then to Montreal: 
Yesterday, I beheld such a sight as God knows, I never expected to see, and He only knows the sensations it created in my heart. I saw my Countrymen, Free-born Americans, robbed of the inheritance which their dying Fathers bequeathed them, stripped of the arms which achieved our Independence and marching into a strange land by hundreds as black cattle for the market !! ...The sensations this scene produced in our camp were inexpressible: mortification, indignation, fearful apprehension, suspicion, jealousy, dismay, rage, madness. 
Lovett also writes about the rumours that Hull had acted from complete fear and was a coward. Lovett writes: 
I saw a gentleman who had this day seen one of Hull's Captains also openly and roundly asserted that Hull was a coward. That as soon as the first gun was fired he sat down with his back against a solid protection. 
 Lovett's letter is reproduced below. 

August 27 1812: Macdonnell Approaches his Destination

On August 27, 1812, Miles Macdonnell, the governor of Assiniboia, now Manitoba, is still travelling on a boat called the Otter. The excerpt for August 27 1812, reads as follows:
Thursday, August 27 - Wind blowing strong from S.W. all day. My hunter brought me 2 Geese, 3 Ducks and a bittern. In the evening the wind abated a little, the sky looked serene and settled. I ordered the people to embark wishing to get to Hunter's point about 10 mi. distant. We set off at 7, pulling against a head wind. The wind increased and consequently the swell, driving direct upon the shore. The Swan and Batteau lagged astern out of sight. The Otter shipped some water till I took the helm. It was 2 in the morning before we reached Hunter's point, the other two boats remained behind. I felt anxious for their safety and reflect on myself for running any risk with the cargoes, particularly so near the completion of the voyage. My people had a severe pull. I found here encamped Mr. Hillier with two boats destined for Winipic River.

August 27 1812: War News

On August 27 1812, John Quincy Adams, the American Ambassador in St Petersburg writes the following entry in his diary:
27th. Nothing is published respecting the late battles at or near Smolensk, of which there are now said to have been four. The reports concerning them are exceedingly various. The letters from the officers assert the advantage to have been constantly on the Russian side, and wonder why the Commander-in-Chief, Barclay de Tolly, ordered the retreat. There is now an extraordinary clamor against that General. Prince Bagration is not in much better credit. General Koutouzof, who was made a Prince after the Turkish peace, last week was appointed Commander-in-Chief of all the active armies, and left the city last Saturday night to go and take the command. The want of a single head to the Russian military force is a great misfortune to the country.

August 27 1812: Barclay's Demotion

On August 27 1812,  Barclay de Tolly learned that he had been replaced by Kutuzov as the commander-in-chief of the Russian Armies.  Disappointed, he first accepted his demotion  and then asked to be relieved of any further service. The Tsar refused and he continue to lead the First Army of West. Alexander Mikaberidze describes Barclay and provides an assessment of his leadership and importance: 
Barclay de Tolly received his copy of the imperial decree on 27 August, while his army was marching through Vy’azma, and was deeply hurt by the news. The letter sent to Barclay was not even accompanied by a personal note from the Tsar. This, even more than the decision itself, made the sudden blow particularly painful for Barclay de Tolly. It was more distressing to realize that the decision was made just when Barclay’s strategy was at last showing results and Napoleon’s superiority in numbers was almost eliminated. No one could more faithfully have respected Alexander’s parting warning at Polotsk: “remember that this is my only army and that I have no other”. Yet, now at Vya’zma, Barclay was disgraced and humiliated. Barclay wrote [Aug 28] back stoically to assure Alexander of his continuing “eagerness to serve the country in whatever post or assignment” might be granted to him. To justify his actions, Barclay wrote toward the end of the letter:

“Had I been motivated by blind and reckless ambition, Your Majesty would probably have received a number of reports of battles fought, and nevertheless the enemy would still be at gates of Moscow without encountering sufficient forces able to resist him.”

Justice demands the recognition of Barclay de Tolly’s achievement in saving the army and handing it over to his successor unimpaired. At the beginning of the campaign, the ratio of forces was against the Russians. It was, perhaps, fortunate for Russia that Bagration and his supporters were not given high command, since a battle at that time would have led to the destruction of both Russian armies and all of Russia would have laid open before Napoleon. Opposing the entire army and all the nobility, Barclay had prevented this from happening by his continued retreat. At the same time, Barclay must be criticized for playing a double game with Bagration and the other generals. For instance, while promising them to attack the French, Barclay informed the Tsar, the same day, of his intentions to abandon Smolensk. Naturally the rumors of Barclay’s schemes reached Bagration and others, causing them to mistrust the commander in chief.

August 26 1812: Hull's Explanation

On August 26 1812, General William Hull writes a long letter of explanation for his surrender of Fort Detroit. The letter is long, unconvincing but still provides a view into Hull's thinking. The primary fear is the Native forces. Hull writes:  "the history of the barbarians of the north of Europe does not furnish examples of more greedy violence than these savages have exhibited." The letter is addressed to the William Eustis, the Secretary of War and is reproduced below.

August 26 1812: Miles MacDonnell

On August 26, 1812, Miles Macdonnell, the governor of Assiniboia, now Manitoba, is still in Fort Alexandria.The excerpt for August 26 1812, reads as follows:
Wednesday, August 26 - It was 8 o'clock before our departure this morning from Ft. Alexandria. I was curious to see their crop of wheat, barley and oats which was very fine, that of Pease failed. Mr. Thompson obligingly gave me a pile of the Inverness Journal & Henry's Publication of his confidential Mission. I found much civility from all these N.W.Co. gentlemen. Some potatoes and other vegetables from their thriving garden was put into my boat some of my men were missing at the time of coming away. It would be making them a bad practice to stop - they ran along the side of the bank and embarked by the Canoe.

August 26 1812: Turmoil, Mortification and Humiliation

On August 26 1812, the effects of Brock's capture of Detroit is being felt across the Niagara River at Lewiston. Its Commander Major General Van Rensselaer writes to Dearborn that:"The surrender of General Hull's army excites a great deal of alarm in this vicinity." This is also expressed by Major Lovet who writes "I cannot say: it was a day of turmoil, mortification and humiliation through our Camp. Such a flood as the consequences of Gen. Hull's surrender poured in upon us that it required considerable nerve to meet every thing." The two letters are reproduced below. 

August 25 1812: Pleasant Evening But Not for the Dogs

On August 25, 1812, Miles Macdonnell, the governor of Assiniboia, now Manitoba, is travelling by boat and arrives at Fort Alexander on the south bank of the Winnipeg River. He had been appointed in 1811 by Lord Selkirk as governor of Assiniboia. He had many problems as governor but on this day he recalls a "pleasant evening" with the gentlemen of Fort Alexander. He writes that he "obtained a great deal of public and private news. Declaration of War by the United States, the surrender of Michilimackinac etc. etc. Corps raising in Canada." He also notes in passing that the Canadians killed two dogs for supper. The excerpt for August 25 1812, reads as follows:

August 25 1812: Sneaky Dearborn

On August 25 1812, General Dearborn writes to General Van Resnnelaer, in charge of the Niagara region, enclosing a letter to be sent to the British advising that the armistice is at an end. Dearborn also writes that the letter is only to be sent once further reinforcements, including cannon, arrive in the region.  The armistice was thus more helpful to the American side. It allowed Dearborn  more time to send reinforcements to the border and helped cover up the ineptness of his earlier efforts.   

It is also clear that the armistice is a bit shaky. On the same day General Van Rensselaer is writing to apologize and release some British troops that had been captured the day before. This was in breach of the armistice. Brock replies with thanks to Van Rensselaers' letter.  He also writes that he will honour the armistice, which he only heard about on August 23 1812. In this regard, Brock writes: "I, in consequence, despatched early yesterday morning, an express to Amhersthurgh, ordering a cessation of all offensive operations against the United States, in that quarter; and likewise to exert every influence in restraining the Indians from committing any acts of hostility". The letters are reproduced below.

August 24, 1812: Ministers Take Note of Mr. Shelley

On August 24, 1812, Francis Freeling, the Secretary of the Post Office, reviews the letter from Richard Jones, the Postmaster of Barnstaple. Jones had written about Percy Shelley and his dissemination of radical literature. Freeling and endorses the letter with the following comment: 
For Lord Chichester—who will recollect tho newspapers he [Shelley] sent to Miss Hitchener some time since, one of which contained a copy of the enclosed paper. Might it not be advisable to communicate with the Secretary of State—Mr. Shelley is so active in disseminating his principles?—24 August, 1812.
Lord Chichester then adds the following note: 
I think it right to communicate tho circumstances to the Secretary of State. It will have no effect to speak to Mr. Shelley's family, they suffer enough already for his conduct.
It should be recalled that Shelley's father was a Member of Parliament. The young poet has managed to get two government ministers interested in his case. Shelley had a genius for trouble along with being a very fine poet.

August 24 1812: Wellington Complains

On August 24, 1812, Wellington is writing to the Secretary of State, the Earl of Bathurst,  complaining about his pay. He writes that he receives a ten pound per diem which after deductions leaves him with about eight guineas. He bluntly tells the Secretary of State that if this continues he will be "ruined". Wellington is in Madrid. It is during this period that his portrait, which is reproduced above, is painted by Francisco Goya. His letter to the Earl of Bathurst is reproduced below:

August 23 1812: Brock Rubs it In

On August 23, 1812, Major General Isaac Brock begins a parade on the west bank of the Niagara River. An armistice is in effect so Brock is limited as to what he can do. Brock, a master of psychological warfare,  parades his troops marching the American prisoners of war he captured in Detroit. On the American side of the river, American troops observe the spectacle with feelings of anger but also, as Alan Taylor writes, "awe at British  prowess." Taylor describes the scene in his excellent Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies ( Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2010):
BEGINNING ON AUGUST 23, 1812, General Brock staged a four-day parade along the west bank of the Niagara River. His troops slowly marched north from Fort Erie to Newark, driving four hundred prisoners recently captured at Detroit. Brock displayed the prisoners to American troops watching from Lewiston, on the river’s east bank, where Major John Lovett reported: I saw my Countrymen, Free born Americans, robbed of the inheritance which their dying Fathers bequeathed [to] them, stripped of the arms which achieved our Independence and marching into a strange land by hundreds as black cattle for the market!! Before and behind on the right and on the left their proud victors gleaming in arms, and their heads erect with the pride of victory. Lovett reacted exactly as Brock had hoped: disgraced as an American and awed by British prowess.

August 22 1812: Captain Elliott's Ordeal

On August 22, 1812, Captain William Elliott writes to Colonel Procter about how he was captured by some American soldiers who did not believe that General Hull had surrendered. He was kept a prisoner for awhile. His letter is reproduced below:

Amherstburgh 22 Aug 1812 

Sir, I liave the honor to inform you that agreeable to my orders rec from his Honor Major General Brock at Detroit on the 16th Ins' I proceeded to the River Eouge, where I met Col McArthur's Detachment who surrendered himself & the Detachment agreeable to General Hull's letter; and I left them in charge of Major Dixon, as the Detachment under Capt Brush with the provisions had not joined Col McArthur, and was supposed to be on their march, Col McArthur wrote on the back of General Hull's letter an order to Capt Brush, to conform to the terms of surrender with which letter & the copy of the terms of capitulation.

August 22 1812: Rhea to Meigs

On August 22, 1812, Captain J. Rhea writes to the Governor Return Jonathan Meigs, fourth Governor of Ohio. Rhea is concerned about the appearance of Ottoways and Pottawatomie tribes. We need more politicians named Return. 
Fort Wayne August 22nd. 1812
His Excy. Govr. Meigs

About two hundred and sixty Indians, of the Ottoways and Puttowatomie tribes have Just arrived here from the westward; what their intentions are is uncertain, but we have some reason to suppose from their appearance and conduct, that little good is intended. They say they are going to the council, but we fear, as they have refused to send a ny of their party on forward with Mr. Peltier, who is just ready to start for Piqua, to give notice of their approach, that they have other objects in view. Some of the party who appear to be friendly, say that we shall receive trouble this evening.

I have the honor to be yours with Esteem

J. Rhea Capt

August 22 1812: Mr. Shelley to be Watched

On August 22, 1812, Lord Sidmouth, the Home Secretary, received the letter from Henry Drake about Percy Shelley and endorsed on the letter: 
Acknowledge receipt, with Lord Sidmouth's thanks. Recommend that Mr. Shelley's proceedings be watched if he is still at Linton. It would also be desirable to procure the address of his different correspondents, to whom he writes, from the post-office. Lord S. will be obliged by any further information respecting Mr. S., and, in the meantime, inquiries will be made about him here. Lord S. quite approves of tho stops that have been taken respecting Daniel Hill.—August 22.
On the same day, Richard Jones, the postmaster of Barnstaple,  is also writing to Francis Freeling, the Secretary of the Post Office about Shelley. He writes:
Post-Office, Barnstaple, August 22nd, 1812. 

Sir,   have taken the liberty of enclosing to you a handbill that has been circulated through this town by a servant-man of P. B. Shelley's, Esq., who resides at Linton, about eighteen miles from this. Tho man is taken into custody, and confined in the prison of this town for six months, unless he pays the fine of £200 for distributing bills without the printer's name. The man says he was met between this and Linton by a gentleman, who desired him, if he was going to Barnstaple, to stick some of these bills up about tho town, for which he gave him five shillings. He says he does not know who the gentleman is, never having seen him before. The bill is thought to have a seditious tendency, for which reason, sir, I have presumed to enclose it to you. I am, sir,
Your most obedient, humble servant,

Richard Jones

August 21 1812: Smolensk and Vodka

On August 21 1812, Napoleon is at Smolensk. De Segur writes of wounded soldiers being everywhere and Smolensk being "one vast hospital." He also writes of a new problem that the French doctors are finding. Soldiers are becoming sick and dying from drinking Russian Vodka.  De Segur [1] writes:
The surgeons' reports were terrifying. In that country a brandy made of grain, containing narcotic plants supplemented wine and grape brandy. Our young soldiers, weakened by hunger and fatigue, had an idea that this drink would restore their energy, but its deceptive heat, made them spend all their remaining vitality in one burst, after which they fell completely exhausted, and were too sick to rise.
There were others, even more intoxicated, or weaker, who were overcome by dizziness, stupor or drowsiness and sank down in ditches or on the road. Their eyes, dim, half closed, watery, seemed to look on with indifference as death finally took control of all of their being, and they died dully, without even a whimper.   
Napoleon's Thirteenth Bulletin De La Grande Armée dated August 21 1812, reproduced below, does not mention any of this.

August 21 1812: Letter from General Foos

On August 21, 1812, General Joseph Foos, who had operated a ferry on the Scioto River and had suggested the name Columbus for the new capital of Ohio, writes  a letter about the surrender of Detroit.
Madison county, Head of Deer Creek; August 21,1812. 
Sir—I hasten to drop a line by the governor's express, he carries the melancholy news of the surrender of Detroit, with the whole territory of Michigan, by general Hull, to the British government, without a struggle. Our brave countrymen are now prisoners of war. If the whole requisition late called for, in the three first brigades, in the 2d division, have not yet marched, you will use every exertion by starting expresses to ride night and day, to get them started. You will then direct them to proceed to Urbanna, by forced marches. The Public stores on the frontiers are to be protected.
JOSEPH FOOS. Brigadier-general, 4th brigade, 2d division. 

August 20 1812: Authorities Watching Mr. Shelley

On August 20, 1812, Henry Drake, Town Clerk of Barnstaple, writes to Lord Sidmouth, the Home Secretary, about a Mr. Shelley. In particular, he is writing about the arrest of  Shelley's Irish Servant for posting and distributing a copy of Shelley's Declaration of Rights. Daniel was charged with ten counts of "Publishing and dispersing Printed Papers without the Printer's name being on them under the Act of 39. Geo. 3.c.79." Daniel Healey, his servant, will eventually serve six months in jail since he will not be able to pay the £200 fine imposed on his conviction. Shelley does not have enough money to pay the fine.

In his letter, Drake also notes that Shelley has been under surveillance for some time. "Mr Shelley," Drake writes, "has been regarded with a suspicious Eye since he has been in Lymouth, from the Circumstance of his very extensive Correspondence and many of his Packages and Letters being addressed to Sir Francis Burdett--and it is also said that Mr Shelley has sent off so many as 16 Letters by the same Post." Drake also writes that Shelley has been releasing bottles into the Bristol Channel with one such bottle containing "a seditious Paper" in it. Drake writes:
The Mayor has also been informed that Mr. Shelley has been seen frequently to go out in a Boat a short distance from Land and drop some Bottles into the Sea, and that at one time he was observed to wade into the Water and drop a Bottle which afterwards drifting ashore, was picked up, and on being broken was found to contain a seditious Paper, the Contents of which the Mayor has not yet been able to ascertain but will apprize your Lordship immediately on learning further particulars.
We owe the survival of Shelley's Devil's Walk to Drake who sent a copy to the Home Office. Shelley probably destroyed the other copies after the arrest of his servant. Drake's letter can be found here in the interesting site Luddite Bicentenary. The information in this post is from the very fine introduction by Donald H. Reiman and Neil Fraistat which is reproduced in part below and can be found here.

August 20 1812: Kutuzov in Charge

On August 20 1812, Tsar Alexander signed the decree appointing Prince Mikhail Illarionovich Golenishchev-Kutuzov as the new commander-in-chief of the Russian armies replacing Barclay de Tolley. The Tsar had established on August 17 a committee of his senior ministers to consider who should lead the armies. The committee chose Kutuzov despite the fact that its members understood that the Tsar detested Kutuzov blaming him for the defeat at Austerlitz. Kutuzov also had the disadvantage of being 66 years old, overweight and blind in his right eye after having been shot in the right temple in 1774. It took the Tsar three days to be reconciled with the choice. On August 20, the Tsar wrote to Barclay and Bagration: 
Various grave complications coming after the two armies united, have impelled me to appoint one commander above all others. I have chosen for this post the General of Infantry, Prince Kutuzov, under whose command I place all four armies.
After being appointed commander-in-chief, Kutuzov went to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan.  Adam Zamoyski writes, "There, taking off his uniform coat and all his decorations, he lowered his great bulk to his knees and began to pray, with tears pouring down his face."


 Adam Zamoyski, Moscow 1812. Napoleon’s Fatal March, New York 2004, page 248

August 19 1812: Constitution Captures Guerrière

On August 19, 1812, at 6:30 p.m., the Britith frigate Guerrière, after being severely damaged, strikes its flag and surrenders to the USS Constitution. Guerrière is so damaged that next morning her crew is transferred to the Constitution, and Hull orders her burned.   The defeat of the Guerrière was a shock to the British whose mastery of the seas had not been challenged. The London Times wrote in shock: ”It is not merely that an English frigate has been taken, after, what we are free to confess, may be called a brave resistance, but that it has been taken by a new enemy, and enemy unaccustomed to such triumphs, and likely to be rendered insolent and confident by them. …how important this triumph is in giving a tone and character to the war. Never before in the history of the world did an English frigate strike to an American.” Stephen Budiansky describes the sea battle between the two vessels vividly when he writes:
At 2 o'clock on the afternoon of August 19, the Constitution spotted a sail in the far distance off the port bow. Hull was on deck instantly, followed quickly by nearly every man on board. "Before all the hands could be called, there was a general rush on deck," said Able Seaman Moses Smith. "The word had passed like lightning from man to man; and all who could be spared came flocking up like pigeons from a net bed. From the spar deck to the gun deck, from that to the berth deck, every man was roused and on his feet. All eyes were turned in the direction of the strange sail, and quick as thought studding-sails were out, fore and aft."

August 18 1812: Shelley and Queen Mab

On  August 18, 1812, Percy Bysshe Shelley writes to Thomas Hookham enclosing a number of works that he hopes will be published. He sends the political pamphlet Letter to Lord Ellenborough and the poem Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem. The latter would be published in 1813. The poem is a dense work that deals with such issues as atheism, love and the perfectibility of man. Shelley dedicates the poem to Harriett and writes some very beautiful lines in the dedication to her. The dedication reads:

To Harriet 

Whose is the love that, gleaming through the world,
Wards off the poisonous arrow of its scorn?
Whose is the warm and partial praise,
Virtue’s most sweet reward?

Beneath whose looks did my reviving soul
Riper in truth and virtuous daring grow?
Whose eyes have I gazed fondly on,
And loved mankind the more?

Harriet! on thine: – thou wert my purer mind;
Thou wert the inspiration of my song;
Thine are these early wilding flowers,
Though garlanded by me.

Then press into thy breast this pledge of love;
And know, though time may change and years may roll,
Each floweret gathered in my heart
It consecrates to thine.

Shelley's letter is reproduced below and the poem Queen Mab can be found  here.  

August 17 1812: Shelley on Marriage

On August 17 1812, Percy Byshhe Shelley writes  to Sir James Lawrence, the author of the The Empire of the Nairs:  Or the Rights of Women, an Utopian Romance (1811). Shelley in his letter discusses the evils of marriage, seduction and love. I wonder what Harriet thought?

Lymouth, Barnstaple, Devon, 
August 17, 1812

Sir,—I feel peculiar satisfaction in seizing the opportunity which your politeness places in my power, of expressing to you personally (as I may say) a high acknowledgment of my sense of your talents and principles, which, before I conceived it possible that I should ever know you, I sincerely entertained. Your "Empire of the Nairs," which I read this spring, succeeded in making me a perfect convert to its doctrines. I then retained no doubts of the evils of marriage; Mrs. Wolstonecraft reasons too well for that; but I had been dull enough not to perceive the greatest argument against it, until developed the "Nairs," viz. prostitution both legal and illegal.

August 16 1812: Hull Surrenders Detroit

On August 16 1812, General William Hull surrenders Fort Detroit without firing a shot.  Brock and Tecumseh had marched to Detroit with about 300 regular troops, 400 militia and  600 native warriors. Hull had about 582 regulars and 1,600 militia. Morning began with Brock ordering the bombardment of the fort from British vessels and guns. One cannon ball killed the unfortunate Porter Hanks, who had been the commanding officer at Fort Mackinac when it surrendered on July 17. The British had paroled him and he had come to Detroit to answer for his surrender.  

The repeated bombardment appears to have caused little damage but caused a great deal of fear. Hull became unhinged with the repeated war cries coming Native warriors. He believed that a massacre was inevitable and that the Natives would kill everyone. It is worth remembering that his son Abraham, and his daughter and grandchild were in the fort. The pressure was so much that he gave the order to surrender. Other officers refused to carry out a white flag but Hull`s son brought out the white flag to an astonished Brock and Tecumseh.  Hull wrote two letters to open up negotiations for the surrender. These can be found here and here.  After the surrender, Hull will say, "I have done what my conscience directed. I have saved Detroit and the Territory from the horrors of an Indian massacre." Brock's Proclamation and letter to Prevost of August 16 1812 are reproduced below. Robert Lucas's entry for the day, also reproduced below, gives a vivid sense of betrayal felt by many on the American soldiers.

August 15 1812: Beethoven to Bettina Von Arnim

On August 15 1812, Ludwig Beethoven writes to  Bettina Von Arnim, a German writer and novelist. The authenticity of this letter is not free from all doubt: 

Teplitz 15, August 1812. 

Dearest, good Bettina! - Kings and princes can certainly create professors, privy councillors and titles, and hang on ribbons of various orders, but they cannot create great men, master-minds which tower above the rabble; this is beyond them. Such men must therefore be held in respect. When two such as I and Goethe meet together, these grand gentlemen are forced to note what greatness, in such as we are, means. Yesterday  on the way home we met the whole Imperial family. We saw them from afar approaching, and Goethe slipped away from me, and stood on one side. Say what I would, I could not induce him to advance another step, so I pushed my hat on my head, buttoned up my overcoat, and went, arms folded, into the thickest of the crowd — Princes and sycophants drew up in a line; Duke Rudolph took off my hat, after the Empress had first greeted me. Persons of rank know me. To my great amusement I saw the procession defile past Goethe. Hat in hand, he stood at the side, deeply bowing. 

August 15 1812: Dearborn, Eustis, and Madison

On August 15 1812, General Dearborn, still fumbling, but seeking to not not have any blame placed on himself, writes to President Madison: 
The particular circumstances which have created the most unfortunate embarrassments were my having no orders or directions in relation to Upper Canada (which I had considered as not attached to my command) until my last arrival at this place, and my being detained so long at Boston by direction. If I had been directed to take measures for acting offensively on Niagara and Kingston, with authority such as I now possess, for calling out the militia, we might have been prepared to act on those points as early as General Hull commenced his operations at Detroit; but unfortunately no explicit orders had been received by me in relation to Upper Canada until it was too late even to make an effectual diversion in favor of General Hull. All that I could do was done without any delay.

August 15 1812: Madison to Gallatin

On August 15 1812, President James Madison writes to his Secretary of the Treasury, Albert Gallatin:

James Madison letter to Albert Gallatin, 15 August 1812
Washington, August 15, 1812.

Dear Sir, - I have just received your favor of the 13th. I had proposed to set out for Virginia on Friday, and am very glad to learn that you will be with us before that takes place. I expect Mr. Monroe every moment; and Mr. Pinkney being within call, I shall be able to decide with the best advantage the several important questions on hand. Previous to the account of the loss of Michilimackinac, orders had gone for a reinforcement to Hull of 1500 men from Kentucky and Ohio. It is a little strange that no official communication of the revoking order has yet arrived from Great Britain, the order being dated on the 23d of June, and so many motives urging an immediate transmission of it. The solicitude on this point appeared from the hasty communication through Halifax before the measure was reduced to its due form. From debates in Parliament of the 18th and 19th of June, there must have been a sudden transition from the conditional suspension to the shape finally given to the Act. Maury writes from Liverpool (June 26) that shipments were taking place, without hesitation, of goods to an unexampled amount for the United States. It will be an unexampled instance of mercantile incaution if passports be not obtained, to be good in the event of war. The state of things which produced the revocation of the orders would insure the granting them if insisted on. Enclosed is the new Chancellor of the Exchequer's budget, with an interesting view on the subject by Huskisson.

Affectionate respects.

August 14 1812: Barbauld the "Fatidical spinster"

On August 14, 1812, the Quarterly Review publishes a savage review of  Anna Letitia Barbauld's poem Eighteen Hundred and Eleven. Barbauld had published the poem earlier in the year. She was a well known writer. The review in the Quarterly was written anonymously but it is likely the work of John Wilson Croker, a Tory member of parliament and frequent contributor to the Quarterly. The criticism that Barbauld received for her poem, including this review, it is said, effectively silenced her as a writer. Many found her poem objectionable because it did not seem sufficiently patriotic. The poem praises America and seems to have some sympathy for Napoleonic France. Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth disliked Barbauld and her poetry. Coleridge, at the beginning of the year, was critical of Barbauld's poetry in one of his lectures. Henry Crabb Robinson thought  Coleridge was "unmanly" for criticizing her in public. Croker is even more savage in his criticism of Barbauld calling her a "fatidical spinster." I do not have the time to  examine in detail her poem or the review but both deserve a close reading. Barbauld remains an important writer, in the sense that her disappearance or banishment from the literary canon sheds an important light on the political and literary changes in the early nineteenth century. Barbauld's poem can be found below followed by Crocker's  review.

August 14 1812: Byron Tries to Sell Newstead

On August 14, 1812, Lord Byron tries to sell Newstead Abbey by way of an auction at Garroway’s Coffee House. Byron has set a minimum purchase price of £120,000. The price is not met despite John Cam Hobhouse, who is Byron's best friend but penniless, making repeated bids to try and cause a bidding war. Hobhouse is able to drive up the purchase price but only to £113,000 which does not meet Byron's minimum. The next day Byron does receive and accepts an offer of £140,000 from Thomas Claughton for his estate. Claughton agrees to pay a £20,000 deposit and a further £60,000 in instalments by August 1815. The balance of £60,000 is to be by way of a mortgage in favour of Byron. Claughton has overpaid for the estate and will not be able to close the transaction. He will however continue to give Byron troubles until Byron is able to sell Newstead in 1812 to Thomas Wildman. Hobhouse describes the events of August 17 in his diary in this way: 
Went to Garroway’s Coffee House to the sale of Newstead Abbey by auction by a Mr Farebrother – where having first secured myself with Byron, I bid twelve times and left off at 113,000 guineas – for the large lot – which was brought in at 115,000 guineas – Byron having fixed £120,000 as the price. The second was brought in at 13000 guineas. Never having done the like before, I was, before the thing began, in a complete fever – but was told by Hanson, Byron’s solicitor, that I came off most admirably – I had just then only one pound one shilling and sixpence in the world

August 13 1812: Brock Meets Tecumseh

On August 13 1812, Major General Isaac Brock arrives at Fort Malden, Amherstburg near Detroit. He meets with Tecumseh. Captain John Glegg describes Tecumseh "with bright eyes beaming cheerfulness, energy and decision." They have a council of war. Brock's advisors oppose attacking Detroit. Brock decides that they will attack. "This is a man!" Tecumseh is supposed to have said.

James Laxer in his fine book Tecumseh & Brock: The War of 1812 (House of Anansi, 2012) describes their first meeting this way:

Late on the evening of August 13, Brock’s flotilla reached Amherstburg, near Fort Malden. Native warriors fired muskets into the night air to welcome the general and the recruits he had brought with him. Brock immediately sent Matthew Elliott, who had served for decades as the British Indian agent in the region, to find Tecumseh. Elliott had two messages for the Shawnee chief. The first was to ask Tecumseh to tell his warriors to stop shooting and save their ammunition for the Americans. The second was that Brock wanted to meet Tecumseh immediately.

...As a show of respect, Tecumseh dressed more ornately than was his custom for the occasion. He wore a large silver medallion of George III, the long-serving British monarch who had sat on the throne since 1760, attached to a coloured wampum string around his neck. Suspended from the cartilage of his nose were three small silver crowns. He was attired in a tanned deerskin jacket and trousers of the same material, and he wore his leather moccasins decorated with dyed porcupine quills. Tecumseh set out with Elliott for the meeting. By the time they arrived, the major general had already received the good news that Hull had pulled his remaining troops at Sandwich back across the river to Fort Detroit, ending the American invasion of Upper Canada. Brock had been sitting at a candlelit table, reading the packets of mail captured from the Americans, which told of Hull’s low morale and the lack of confidence of the men under his command, when the door opened and Tecumseh entered. The general, taller and stouter than Tecumseh, rose to his feet and stepped forward to shake the hand of his visitor...

...According to an account written by British Captain John Bachevoyle Glegg, who was present at the meeting, Brock commended Tecumseh for his leadership and courage in the native warriors’ recent engagements against the Americans. “I have fought against the enemies of our father, the king beyond the great lake, and they have never seen my back,” he continued. “I am come here to fight his enemies on this side of the great lake, and now desire with my soldiers to take lessons from you and your warriors, that I may learn how to make war in these great forests.” Glegg recorded that Brock outlined his plan for a swift attack on Fort Detroit, while the British officers shook their heads and strongly dissented. Tecumseh responded positively to the proposed offensive, and when Brock asked him about the lay of the land en route to Detroit, the Shawnee chief spread out a long strip of elm bark on the table. He secured the corners with stones, unsheathed his knife, and proceeded to create a map with its tip. Brock was impressed as Tecumseh drew in the roads, waterways, and valleys and hills of the neighbouring terrain.


August 12 1812: Beethoven to Archduke Rudolph

On August 12 1812, Ludwig Beethoven writes to his patron the Archduke Rudolph: 

Franzensbrunn, August 12, 1812. 

Your Imperial Highness ! 

It has already long been my duty to recall myself to your memory, but partly being occupied about my health, partly my unimportance caused me to hesitate. — In Prague I missed Y.I.H. by one night, for when I went to pay my respects to you, you had already left the night before. In Teplitz I heard every day Turkish music four times ; that is the only piece of musical news that I can offer. I was a great deal with Goethe. From Teplitz my doctor Staudenheim ordered me off to Carlsbad, from there back again here, and probably I shall have to return once again to Teplitz — what a running about! and yet how little certainty is there that my present state of health will improve! With regard to the health of Y.I.H. I have up to now always received most favourable news, also of your continued affection for, and devotion to the Musical Muse. Y.I.H. will have heard of the concert which I gave with the assistance of Signore Polledro for the benefit of those who had suffered from the fire at Baden. 

The receipts amounted almost to 1000 florins, and if the better arrangements I proposed had been carried out, 2000 florins would easily have been taken. As a matter of fact it was a Poor Concert for the Poor. Here at the publishers I only found some of my early pianoforte and violin sonatas. As this Polledro insisted, I had to content myself with playing an old sonata — The whole programme consisted of a Trio by Polledro, my Violin-Sonata, then again something played by Polledro, and finally an improvisation by myself. — Anyhow I am truly glad that the unfortunate Baden people got something from it. — Deign to accept my wishes for your prosperity, and the request graciously to bear me in remembrance. 
Yours, most obediently, 
Ludwig van Beethoven.