Tennessee Documentary History
  Multiple Collection Search     View bookbag 
your bookbag has 0 items 


Title:[Letter] 1841 Oct. 7, St. Louis, Missouri [to] [James Chamberlain] Jones, Nashville, Tennessee / Edmund P. Gaines : a machine readable transcription of an image
Author:Gaines, Edmund P.
Availability:

This work is the property of the Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville, TN. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching, and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text. For all other use contact the Tennessee State Library and Archives, 403 Seventh Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37243-0312. (615) 741-2764.

Date: October 7, 1841
Extent: 12p
Summary:This is a letter from General Edmund Pendleton Gaines to James Chamberlain Jones, Governor of Tennessee. It is dated October 7, 1841. Gaines writes in reference to a recent Act of Congress authorizing a "House Squadron". He is concerned that the port towns of the United States are not defendable against ships running under steam power. Gaines is also concerned that a war with a European power is possible. He believes that the Native Americans he is defending the Western Frontier from might unite with a European aggressor. Gaines offers recommendations for building and staffing forts, and mentions the need for rail roads west of the Mississippi River. Gaines lists some ideas for how to deal with the Native American and European threats. He also lists his objections to current U.S. military policy, especially in regards to forts and New Orleans' defence against war ships under steam power.
Collection:Gaines Papers
Box:I-C-3
Folder:2
Document:sl383
Keywords:




Page [1]  view page image

Western Division, St. Louis , Missouri October 7th 1841__
Sir,

Considering the unanimity with which the act of Congress providing for "a House Squadron" passed through Congress [unclear: particularly the ] House of Representatives, and the cordial greeting with which the people of all parties throughout the Union appear to have received that admirable Act of Congress, as unerring evidence of the public will in favor of the principle upon which that act was based __ namely __ that such is the radical change which steam power applied to ships of war in the attack and defence [defense] of seaports has provided, it is now settled axiom in the science of war that our sea-port towns cannot be defended against steam ships of war without Floating defences to co-operate with our Forts; __ a principle upon which my system of National Defence is based __ I can no longer apprehend any serious opposition to my system of Rail Roads and Harbour defence; __ nor that the western Frontier will be permitted to remain much longer the victim to a difference of opinion between the votaries of European systems, whose




Page [2]  view page image

authors have known little or nothing about our red neighbors, or their modes of warfare __ and those who believe in the wisdom and practical experience of our own Frontier warriors of the West and South-such as Washington , Wayne , Shelby , Harrison , Jackson & others

With these impressions of a speedy and radical improvement in our means of National Defence, __ and believing that whether there is, or is not a prospect of our being soon involved in a war against a European power, it is our duty in peace to prepare for war, I do myself the honor to suggest to you my views, and ask the favor of your own upon the subject of the National Defence __ and more especially the immediate defence of the Western and Southern Frontier, in which I shall have occasion for your assistence [assistance] . (unclear)

I have now to offer you the result of my experience and observation, as to the best means of preparing for the immediate protection of the Western Frontier of my Division, __ and of restraining the Indians from active participation in the ranks of any European foe that may come against us. Otherwise, if they cannot be restrained, I have to state what I deem to




Page [3]  view page image

be the most effective means of punishing them.

1_____ In the first place I recommend the selection of sites, and the construction of small Forts such as I had the honor to suggest in my report made in obedience to orders, and dated the 28th of February 1838 __ (laid before Congress and ordered to be printed on the 6th of April 1838).

Five thousand Volunteer Riflemen aided by ten field officers and thirty subalterns of the Regular Army to act as Engineers, Quartermasters, and Commissaries of subsistence, with three or four hundred good mechanics, would in One year enable us to have the proposed Forts completed __ say in the ensuing year. And in the two or three following years the Rail Roads reccommended [recommended] by [unclear: me ] west of the Mississippi River may be completed by the above mentioned forces kept up to the war establishment. __ And if in the meanwhile actual war should occur, these working corps will be found at least equal to the best troops in the world to repel the attacks of European troops or Indians upon the Western or Northern Frontier; or to co-operate with my Floating Batteries and Martello Towers and others Forts for the defence of New Orleans as well as Mobile and other Seaports.




Page [4]  view page image

The object of the great number of troops here recommended for constructing Forts and securing the defence of the western frontier will be explained by taking into view the fact that there are not less than 30,000 Indian warriors upon that Frontier, most of whom may be expected to be found in the service of One of the great powers of Europe that may declare war against us And even now when there are no visible signs of hostility on the part of the Indians, __ we might possibly excite such an evil spirit by sending small working parties near them to build Forts:-- and for what? To secure us against such neighbours [neighbors] . Indeed if it is ever under any circumstances necessary during a period of peace, to place a force upon this Frontier sufficiently strong to hold in check the disorderly members of these numerous tribes and to show them that even when aided by white or Black savages, they will find us able to beat them, it must be while in the act of fortifying that Frontier that we should have the most effective force. After the Forts are completed two or three Companies at each Post will be amply sufficient for their defence, excepting when attacked by experienced [unclear: gunners ] with cannon.




Page [5]  view page image

[added: 2] 2_____ The proposed corps should consist of Rifle Regiments of ten companies each, one half to be mounted on good poneys [ponies] . Each company to consist of a captain, four Lieutenants, five Sergeants, five corporals two Buglers, ten artificers and Eighty Private soldiers. The field and staff to consist of one Colonel, two Lieut. [Lieutenent] Colonels and four Majors, with two Adjutants, two Quartermasters, and two Chief Artificers. A Regiment of this description armed with good rifles and commanded by such officers as I could name, such as our lamented Wood or Forsythe or Morgan , or Gibson would whip any European Brigade of two thousand men that would venture to meet us in Mississippi swamps or woodlands. Regiments of this kind would always be found to be the best of troops to protect the Frontier against any description of foe whether civilized or savage; excepting only that class of our forces which we are to derive from the steam Boat officers and seamen educated upon the mississippi and other waters, and designed for the immediate defence of our seaports. This description of our forces, when thoroughly acquainted with the use of [unclear: ordinance ] , a knowledge which most of them (already tolerable gunners) may acquire in the course of a months practise, will




Page [6]  view page image

be superior to all other troops __ for they become veterans on board their Steam Boats by habitual obedience privation of rest, and hard work by day and by night.

3____ To secure the peace and if necessary the assistance of our neighbouring Indians (and if we do not employ them our European foe will)-- let every Commanding officer upon the frontier be authorised [authorized] and enabled to supply the immediate wants of food and blankets of those found to be suffering from hunger and nakedness; and to treat them kindly as they have usually been treated by British and French Commanders. But this policy will fail to have the desired effect unless we are enabled to cut off all communication between the Indians and whiskey traders. To accomplish this object I take leave to add a suggestion contained in a Note (marked H) appended to my report of February 28th 1838.

Give to the Commandant of each military Post upon the Western Frontier a full Township of the Public lands around his post, __ and above all make it the duty of every officer and every citizen to enforce and conform to a humane system of martial law within such Townships, and also throughout the Indian Country; and we shall thus effectually cut off all intercourse between our drunken indians and whiskey traders.




Page [7]  view page image

without some such precautionary act of Congress, or Executive Regulation, we cannot hope for peace upon the frontier, nor for the means of controlling or preserving the Indians during a war with any European nation.

With the measures which I have recommended we may calculate with certainty on affording protection to the frontier in war, and greatly ameliorating the condition of the Indians and of our troops and frontier inhabitants in Peace and in War, and to accomplish these essential objects without an expense of blood or treasure probably in the next 50 years equal to that which the Seminole war has cost us within the short period of the last five years.

4_____ I could employ most usefully two or three such Rifle Regiments of Volunteers in Louisiana , near the City of New Orleans and one at Memphis T. [Tennessee] in preparing for the defence of the great City of the West under existing circumstances. On the approach of a war with any great naval power ten times that force will probably be needed during the absence of the yellow fever (an invisible power worth fifty Regiments of Riflemen to repel invasion on the part of European Armies, at times like the present) for the protection of that great seaport.




Page [8]  view page image

5_____ Thirty such Regiments of Riflemen, with ten large Floating Batteries, added to a Regiment of Artillery, and three Regiments of Infantry, with one hundred common steam Boats, their officers and men, will enable us to defend New Orleans against one hundred steam ships of war, and a British army of one hundred thousand men:-- Floating Batteries such as I can build by the troops, or by contract for $200,000 each -- 300 feet long and [unclear: 90 ] feet wide.

6______ If we are to have a war with England in the ensuing winter, I shall require the whole of the forces and vessels here suggested to be on their way to New Orleans by the 20th of next month; and to be at their Posts beyond the city by the first to the 25th of November. with the authority of the President I have no doubt that I can raise and organise [organize] the proposed forces and have the most of them at the Battle Ground, and at other suitable points beyond the city by the (unclear) [added: early in December] . Unless the invading foe take us by surprise, and consequently before we are prepared for action, they can never bring a gun to bear upon the city of New Orleans.




Page [9]  view page image

[added: 3] 7_____ There never was a more popular war throughout the Western States than that [added: with] which we are threatened by England will be. No Western man can for a moment brook the thought of any European power attempting to shut up the one great seaport of the valley of the mississippi. Such an attempt would I am convinced bring into action, if permitted by the Government, a half a million of the best of volunteers in the world___ men for the most part accustomed to the use of the Rifle, the Horse, the Steam Boat. the Foundry, the axe, the plough and the oar __ men who would cheerfully labour [labor] upon every description of Boat Battery and weapon until they would accomplish the means of Blocking up every channel by which the Enemy could find ingress or egress to or from every channel the points of his accidental conquests; ___ and finally burying in the mississippi and the adjacent swamps the lifeless bodies of the invading foe, with the engines of destruction which they had wielded against us, and the plunder that temporary success had enabled them to accumulate.




Page [10]  view page image

8____ It is due to the late secretary of war Mr. Poinsett , the Board of Engineers and myself to say that, the broad intimation on the part of the Secretary in his letter to the speakers of the House of Representatives of the 12th of May 1840 that I was opposed to every description of Fortification embraced in our late or present system of National Defence, is utterly untrue, and unsupported by any thing that I have ever written or spoken upon the subject. I have objected to the system -- as a system of National defence- inasmuch as it was adapted only to to protect our seaports against Fleets propelled by wind and sails and not against Fleets propelled by steam power. And moreover inasmuch as many of the most expensive of the Forts embraced in that system are so situated as to be entirely avoided by the Enemy's steam ships of war, whilst they may safely approach burn and destroy our principal seaport towns -- leaving the Forts with their immense garrisons of Regular troops and expensive armaments safely cooped up for years without exchanging a shot with the invading foe:-- Great Forts of this description, and only such as these (which I will name to the President or Department of War in November next.) have I declared to be useless -- and worse than useless -- because




Page [11]  view page image

if they had never been built we should have in the Treasury or in useful works of defence the ten or twelve millions of dollars which they cost us -- and the countless expense of their repairs: and though last not least, -- if they had never been built, we should have it in our power to count upon as disposable force, not less than fifteen thousand choice troops, that must, if we persist in that obsolete system remain idle and useless while held in those Forts ready to defend them during another war. without any prospect of their being attacked.

As the Board of Engineers most kindly abstained from saying a word about my system of National Defence, I will trouble them only with a question touching their very able report: namely --

Why have the Board refered [referred] to the many signal defeats which ships of war propelled by wind and sails have suffered from forts -- without adding what must have been obvious to every member of that talented Board, that our Country will never again be attacked (by sea) by such Fleets, or by any other than steamers?

I will ask the Board another question__




Page [12]  view page image

Did the Board believe, or do they now believe that one of my Floating Batteries as described in my memorial to Congress would cost more than two hundred thousand dollars? I am assured that I can have them built by Contract for that sum and by the troops of my Division with 50 ship carpenters for less than that sum exclusive of their armament, each.

I am Dear sir very respectfully
Your friend and obdt. st. [obedient servant]
Edmund P. [Pendleton] Gaines
Major General US [United States] Army
commanding the
Western Division
His Excellency Governor Jones Nashville Tennessee



A product of DLPS
To comment or inquire about content, contact UTK Special Collections
To report errors, contact UTK Special Collections