A Letter from Vermont in 1812
"As much cold weather and hard land as they want"

As I was thumbing through the pages of a Loveland family genealogy, the date of October, 1812 caught my eye, but the page flashed past. It took me quite a few seconds fumbling back to the page I had glimpsed to find that date on a letter, included without introduction or context, in the entry for Judge Aaron Loveland (b. 10 Aug 1780, d. 3 Jan 1870), of Norwich, VT. It is apparently a reply to a letter received from his older brother, Joseph, and was of obvious interest to an 1812 reenactor. And it is likely that few if any historians of the War of 1812 would have had any knowledge of this private correspondence, despite its publication in a family history over 100 years ago. 

Having unexpectedly come across this transcribed letter, I was frustrated that there was nothing else in the extensive entry for Aaron relating to the war or those years, although it was of interest that 'Judge Aaron' was an 1801 graduate of Dartmouth who roomed during his undergraduate years with Daniel Webster. However, when I finally turned to the entry for Joseph Loveland, Jr. (b. 18 Jul 1773, d. 30 Aug 1834) it included the following:

"Joseph Loveland, Jr. ... came to Ohio in 1797 with Hezekiah Smith, and in the fall of 1799, he and Smith erected a log grist mill at the upper falls of the Hockhocking river, about seven miles from Lancaster, in Fairfield county [Ohio]... At the breaking out of the war of 1812 he disposed of his property at Lancaster and engaged as commissary to supply the army of the Northwest. His connection with the army was short, as we find him engaged in mercantile business at Detroit when Hull surrendered the Michigan territory to the British.

He probably accompanied the army from Dayton, Ohio to Detroit in June, 1812. While at Detroit he dealt largely in soldiers' claims and was engaged in the Indian Fur Trade, being connected with the Hudson Bay Company.

A few days before the [Aug 1813] storming of Fort Stephenson, at Lower Sandusky, Ohio, he was one of the guests of the fort, happening to pass that way en route from Detroit to Lancaster, where he still had business interests. He made the journey on horseback unattended through a hostile country."

Again, I was frustrated to not have more of what was getting to be an even more interesting story of these two brothers. What conclusions might one draw from the brief description of Joseph's "short connection" with "the army of the Northwest"!

It can be inferred that the letter of Aug 16th from Joseph to Aaron was written immediately following the announcement of the surrender of Detroit, and with the knowledge of Brock's having communicated to Hull on the 15th that "[i]t is far from my intention to join in a war of extermination, but you must be aware, that the numerous body of Indians who have attached themselves to my troops will be beyond my control the moment the contest commences."

NORWICH, VT., Oct 29, 1812.
Joseph Loveland, Detroit, Mich.:

DEAR BROTHER: - I have received your letter of Aug. 16th, also three newspapers. The last was "The Supporter" of Sept. 26th. The papers were very acceptable, and I hope you will continue to forward them regularly. I have put three papers in the last mail for you; I will forward one at least weekly as long as you shall wish. You must excuse me for not writing or sending the papers sooner. Since the account of the loss of Detroit and our army there under Gen. Hull, they have not until lately contained any news of particular importance, but have been taken up with different statements and opinions respecting that very unexpected event. Of these things you have doubtless had enough in your own papers; and, indeed, by your letter, I should judge that the people in your country were not backward in making their own remarks and forming their own opinions on that subject. You have bescoundreled the Old Man pretty heartily before he had time to say a word or even open his mouth in his own defense. And considering the exposed situation of your part of the country it was truly a most alarming and unfortunate event, and proved beyond a doubt that somebody was greatly at fault. For my own part, I thought that Hull did not show very great military talents in any of his transactions at Detroit, and that his conduct in general was both imprudent and cowardly. If he had staid at Detroit and left Canada to take care of itself, at least until sufficient reinforcements had arrived, he would have acted in a more prudent, and, in the end, a more honorable part. But he seemed exceeding bold while no danger appeared, and could hardly stop a minute at Detroit, but invaded Canada at once, and fancied he could capture all before him by a proclamation. As soon as he found the people in Canada were willing to do without him, and that the Indians did not care for proclamations, but had taken advantage of his rashness and had got behind him and were cutting off his supplies, his fears at once multiplied the enemy's force and lessened his. A little hard fighting might probably have saved him. It really seemed to me that if Harrison had been there, or some other younger or more resolute man, they would have at least made bloodier work of it, and perhaps would have saved Detroit and the army. But I confess that late events have considerably altered my opinion, and I now have serious doubts whether at the time Hull surrendered, fighting would have saved him. And I am now very much inclined to think that the government was as much to blame for sending Hull to Canada with half his errand, as the Old Man was for not doing it any better. The truth appears to be, that our government thought it such an easy thing to take Canada and that the people there were as anxious to be conquered, that all they had to do was to send Hull there with a small army and a proclamation and the business could be settled at once, and accordingly were quite careless about sending him re-enforcements and supplies, and neglected even to furnish the frontier settlements with the necessary means of safety and defense. For I think that Gen. Harrison in one of his letters complains that he was hindered in his march for want of two essential articles (powder and ball, I suppose,) and by later accounts it seems he had sent to Kentucky for supplies of clothing, &c., for his men, and the ladies were called on to contribute for the army. This certainly looks a little as if the President of the United States or some of his officers of the government under him were rather negligent of their duty, and renders it quite probable that if Hull had at least fought ever so well, he might, after all, have been destroyed or forced to surrender before sufficient supplies and re-enforcements would have reached him. But enough of Hull. You observe in your letter that you expect the Indians will be in upon the frontiers, but that not one-fourth part of the men have a gun. Well, I would think they would go to the public stores and get them. I hope the government have not neglected to furnish guns, too. So much has been said of late years about our government neglecting to furnish a navy and other means of defense for the country, that the people in this quarter begin to have guns of their own. You doubtless observed an account in "The Supporter" which you sent to me, that in the state of Connecticut, which some folks call a "Tory State," the legislature have thought best to look out for themselves, and have voted to buy up a large quantity of guns and flints, and other such essential articles for the use of the State. For my own part, I have a good gun and keep it loaded, and if we had any Indians here, or mobs, or bears, or French or British to disturb us, I should keep it loaded with ball, but at preset it has a charge for a squirrel or a partridge. You say you expected the Green Mountain boys before this time would be in possession of Montreal. I can tell you how it is about that. We Green Mountain boys are as ready now and a great deal abler to meet an invading enemy than they were in 1777. But not many of them now are willing to spend time to go to Canada or any where else out of the United States to look for enemies, or as Gen. Hull would say, "to find them." (See his proclamation). They have as much cold weather and hard land as they want, and do not wish to go to Canada if they could have it given to them. The truth is, a great many people in this part of the country are of the opinion that if our government had no better object for declaring war than to take Canada, they had better tried to have done without war a little longer, but secured our frontiers well, and employed Hull in looking after the Prophet and his followers and regulating the Indians within their territories, instead of sending him to Canada to look for more, but let Canada and the Canada Indians alone, unless they had begun hostilities, and by Hull's own account, it seems, they were, in general, peaceable enough until he went there and disturbed them. I almost forgot to mention that I felt a good deal concerned for the people in your country, who you say are so much alarmed that they talk of quitting the country. It must be very distressing to them to move and leave their farms and homes, and I think you ought to pity them and try to free them from their fears, instead of calling them such hard names. I wish I knew what sort of folks they are, whether they are really peaceable, well-disposed inhabitants, for if they are, I should like to have them come up and swap places with some people here, who, no doubt, would be glad of a chance to fight. There were a good many people in this State very much alarmed when war was first declared, and some on the Canada line actually moved their families, but some men turned out and got them back to their homes and pacified them a little, and their neighbors in Canada agreed with them to mind their own business on both sides and behave as well as they could, and all went on well.

The greatest trouble now is about the people in your country, for we have heard so many great stories about the Indians, and the British offering a price for scalps, that the women here, I believe, have expected all their friends in your country would lose their scalps, at least, if not their lives, too. Your mother and sisters were a good deal alarmed on your account, but suspected a little by your letter that you were a Democrat, and concluded if you were you would not care anything about the Indians, but would like the fun of fighting them. But I excused the matter as well as I could, and told them I supposed if you didn't talk and act as much as possible like a Democrat, the folks in your country would pull your house down, and perhaps break your bones for a Tory, after the Baltimore fashion.

A. Loveland

Newspapers such as the "Supporter" were surely filled with alarm over the Indian threat to the Michigan frontier, alarm felt keenly among families all across frontier America. The two brothers apparently, and understandably, disagreed on support for Mr. Madison's War, and their respective views might be seen as typical of those of their neighbours in New England and Michigan.

It is notable that there is no mention in Aaron's letter of Oct 29th of the failed American attack at Queenston on Oct 13th . That "...not many of them now are willing to spend time to go to Canada or any where else out of the United States to look for enemies" would seem equally to describe the sentiment of the New York Militia as they balked on the banks of the Niagara. It would be unusual for such news to have taken two weeks to travel from Niagara to Vermont, but possibly not so unusual for Aaron to neglect its mention to a brother on a threatened frontier.

Of further genealogical note, Joseph and Aaron's father, Joseph Loveland, Sr. saw militia service at Ticonderoga in 1777, and faced "Pennamite" and native opposition to "Yankee" settlement of the Wyoming Valley, even to the point of skirmishes in 1765-69. These American cousins of mine have turned out to be quite an interesting bunch.

By Doug Loveland