William A. Burwell to Wilson Cary Nicholas

Dr Sir.

It was my intention to have calld at Warren but the unexpected call of C. & the necessity of visiting Bal previous to the meeting renderd it impossible—the Pt’s message which I have forwarded will give you all the information of a public nature, I can not add much to it—

I have never witnessed a period of more difficulty, tho I do not entirely despair, if we can command funds to maintain ourselves during this campaign I have hopes the war will be terminated, this is I acknowledge a is a view of our affairs too favorable to be relied upon, perhaps the British may penetrate the full extent of our difficulties & instead of war terminating the war after inflicting upon the Sea board satisfactory vengeance cherish hopes of conquest by persevering in the war; It would be dangerous to hold out the Idea of preparing only for this campaign, if possible we should lay the foundation for permanent resistance by providing money, & filling the Regular Army. I have most serious fears the first can not be accomplishd, & the parties still hang aloof from each other & without some concurrince of feeling & action public credit must fail—nothing can effectually defend the country but Regulars, the calls upon militia considerd as to issuing expence, discontent &c. cannot be continued without entirely deranging the operations of the war; & hasarding the tranquility of the country—of the events which accompanied the capture of the City—it is impossible to speak without disgust.

You cannot conceive more confusion & dismay among the Commanders, all the intelligent people of the District think the enemy might have been foiled, & perhaps taken if every obstruction within the means of our commanders had been placed in their way—the effect had nearly proved fatal to Baltimore, but the check given them by Genl S. & the brave firmness of the officers & men in the fort have restored confidence to the Citizens, It is wonderful that the fort was not destroyd the B. threw 1000. shells when the men were uncoverd & the Magazine not made Bomb proof. they fell in every direction, & marks of their destructive effects visible every where, this fatal negligence has been repaired & Com Rodgers assured me on Saturday evening that in 48 hours he would defy them—After their failure upon the fort, they passed under cover of the night above the fort up the ferry branch near spring Garden, from which they could throw their Bombs into the Town; they were so confident of success when they gaind this position that they gave nine cheers, which were answerd by a most tremendous cannonade from two forts mannd by sailors erected to meet such an event—they appear to have been ignorant of this defence and retreated with the utmost precipitation—the repulse of the enemy from B. will enable the people to prepare more effectually, but I have no doubt they will renew the attack the moment reinforcements are obtaind & I fear the undisciplined valor of our country men will not be equal to the discipline the B— I never felt more anxiety for the fate of any place, because I was satisfied success would have been follow’d by the total destruction of the labors of years & one of the most useful towns in the union—It is most probable these details have all been anticipated by letters from your friends in B. please remember me to Mr R & the family—

Your friend
W. A Burwell
RC (MHi); endorsed by Nicholas: “W. A Burwell.”
William A. Burwell
Wilson Cary Nicholas
Date Range
September 21, 1814