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War of 1812

Spies and Deserters


Submitted by Nancy Piper

The Centinel, Gettysburg, Pa , March 25, 1812
Congress – House of Representatives
Monday, March 9, 1812

The following message was received from the President of the U. States

To the Senate and House of Representatives.

I lay before Congress copies of certain documents which remain in the department of state. They prove that at a recent period, whilst the U. States, notwithstanding the wrong sustained by them, ceased not to observe the laws of peace and neutrality towards G. Britain; and in the midst of amicable professions and negotiations on the part of the British government, through her public minister here, a secret agent of that government was employed in certain states, more especially at the seat of government (Boston) in Massachusetts, in fermenting disaffection to the constituted authorities of the nation, and in intrigues with the disaffected, for the purpose of bringing about resistance to the laws; and eventually in concert with a British force, of destroying the Union and forming the Eastern part thereof into a political connection with G. Britain.

In addition to the effect which the discovery of such a procedure ought to have on the public councils, it will not fail to render more dear to the hearts of all good citizens that happy union of these states, which under Divine Providence, is the guarantee of their liberties, their safety, their tranquility and their prosperity.

James Madison

The Centinel, Gettysburg, Pa , March 25, 1812
March 9th, 1812
A great variety of letters accompanied the message, from which it appeared, if full credit be given, to a certain John Henry, on the 20th of February last to Mr. Monroe, that he was in Montreal in the winter of 1809, and was appointed by Sir James Craig, then Governor of Canada, a secret agent to reside in the Eastern States and make regular communications to the Governor of Canada, of the state of parties there, of the proceedings of the legislature, of the sentiments of the leading federalists, &c. &c. to use his endeavors to bring about, (should such a measure on account of the oppressive operation of the embargo be contemplated) a separation of the union.

Henry proceeded through Vermont and a part of New Hampshire to Boston, from which place he writes many letters to the Governor dated in March, April and May, giving a history of proceedings and stating the sentiments of the people. Though authorized by the governor to show his credentials, should a separation be expected and the assistance of the British wished, he does not show them to anyone, not finding any who were desirous of disunion, if it could possibly be prevented; and if commerce should continue to be oppressed to such a degree that a separation should ever be agitated, they would never need or would receive the assistance of the British or any other government.

In the course of the correspondence there are very many most bitter and sarcastic reflections on the government of American and on the democratic party.

Henry states that he was promised to be duly rewarded. Sir James not rendering him any satisfaction, he applied to the British Ministry for the office of Judge Advocate for Lower Canada, worth 500 pounds sterling per annum, or for a consulate. No office or reward being given him he has at length concluded on turning patriot and to expose to this government his and their turpitude and thus obtain revenge.

The reading occupied nearly an hour and a half. A motion was made to print the message and documents. Mr. Pitkin had no objection to the printing if the house chose to do so but he should not suppose they were willing to print all the lies and libels of this traitor or to have their character to go to the world with such a sanction.

Mr. Bibb moved that they be referred to the committee of foreign relations.

Mr. Gholson observed that the correspondence was highly creditable to the Eastern section of the union as Henry declared no one there would meddle with such a project; though it demonstrates the wish of the British to dismember the union.

Mr. Quincy thanked God that if there is or ever was in Great Britain a belief that we are desirous of a separation or that any part of the people would at any time took to them, the fallacy of that belief is now proved. Henry, it appears, during the time of the embargo, a period if any, auspicious to their purpose went to Boston, the spot where opposition was supposed most violent, yet he dare not even mention to any man of distinction such a project.

Mr. Rhea moved to print 5000 copies. Mr. Wright thought it would disgust the people of the northern states to give by printing, the sanction of the house to a traitor’s libels. He would rather refer them to the committee of foreign relations.

Mr. Troup said an acknowledged spy and traitor has been engaged in a fruitless attempt to separate the union. The only importance is an obtainment of the disposition of the British; of this same James Craig who we were told a short time since was so friendly in preventing the Indians from quarrelling with us.

Mr. Randolph said that if worthy of communication; they were worthy being acted upon. He hoped they would be referred and that the committee might be authorized to send for persons, papers and effects. Perhaps it would be well to take Henry, on all hand acknowledged a traitor and spy, (yet from whom perhaps valuable information might be received,) before he can have a chance to run away.

Mr. Fisk said he knew the man. There was no danger of his running away. He was an Englishman by birth but had been long in this country; was an officer in the provisional army of ’98.

Mr. Bacon wished the documents referred to the committee of foreign relations. For his part he never had any kind of belief that the Federalists as a party has any intention of joining or being directed by the British; nor the democrats by France. He knew of no greater crime that to send those messengers of hell to disturb our peace, our union, dear as that of man and wife.

The vote after further debate was taken on the motion to print and carried unanimously.

The motion to refer them to the committee of foreign relations was also carried unanimously.

The motion to print 5000 copies was carried almost unanimously.

The motion to authorize the committee to send for persons, papers and effects was decided by ayes and noes, ayes 102, noes 10.

The house then adjourned. The committee of foreign relations immediately met.

The Centinel, Gettysburg, Pa , March 25, 1812
John Henry, The British Spy
On the very day that Henry communicated to government his plot, Congress passed a law placing one hundred thousand dollars of secret service money in the hands of the President. From the following extract, from the Federal Republican, it appears highly probably that Mr. Henry had already handled nearly one half of this money.

“When Mr. Henry passed through Baltimore on his way to Washington, he had little or no money but received 100 dollars from his correspondent in New York. He remained upwards of a week at Washington and in the neighborhood. On his return to Baltimore he called with a friend at a Bank in this city and produced a certificate from an officer of the Bank at Washington that forty-eight thousand dollars had been deposited in said bank to his credit. On this certificate, the Cashier of the Baltimore Bank gave him drafts, &c. on a Bank in New York where Mr. Henry’s business lay and whence he informed his acquaintances here he was to sail for Europe in the Wasp. – Fed. Rep.

The Centinel, Gettysburg, Pa , March 25, 1812
Washington, March 10
The committee of Foreign Relations sat last evening and had Mr. Monroe before them. They intended immediately to send for Henry but Mr. Monroe told them the administration was pledged not to molest him. He was here last week. Notwithstanding his letter of Feb. 20th is dated at Philadelphia, it is not doubted but that it was written. Mr. Madison, Mr. Monroe and Mr. Henry know how and where.

The Centinel, Gettysburg, Pa , JULY 8, 1812
Norfolk, June 24, 1812
A stranger by the name of Wilkinson, arrived in town last week and put up at the British consul’s. He was understood to be a British officer, though he was habited as a private gentleman. No notice, however, was taken of the circumstance, until after the declaration of war was received on Monday last, when the mail boat was about to depart for Hampton, he was observed making his way with uncommon speed and circumspection along the back street which leads from the British consul’s to the wharf where the mail boat lay, when he sprang on board, darted into the cabin and in a few seconds the boat was under way. This precipitate retreat awakened a suspicion in some of our leading citizens that Wilkinson would lose no time in communicating the news of the declaration to a British man of war, known to be hovering on our coast. A boat from the navy yard, and another from Fort Nelson were as soon as possible dispatched after the mail boat, which they overtook, when Mr. Wilkinson was taken and conducted to the navy yard, where he will be detained as a prisoner under further orders. We understand he is a captain in the royal marines.

The Centinel (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania), November 4, 1812
Plattsburgh, Oct. 16.
Yesterday William Henman, a soldier of the 15th United States’ regiment, in pursuance of the sentence of a Court Martial, was shot. His crime was desertion with intent to go over to the enemy. Another soldier of that regiment, who deserted at the same time, was brought out for execution, but pardoned by Gen. Bloomfield; it having appeared that he was enticed away by Henman.

The Centinel (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania), December 23, 1812

A young man from Fort Defiance, says the Cincinnati Spy, passed through this place a few days ago, who informed us that Logan, the Indian chief, with two other Indians (when out as spies) fell in with another party of 8 Indians, about 20 miles below Defiance. Logan’s party treed, fired and each killed an Indian. Logan, in attempting to take the scalps was shot through the body, and one of his companions through the hips. They all three however got into Defiance. Logan’s wound is pronounced mortal. Should it prove so, we shall in him sustain a great loss. Gen. Winchester still remained at the rapids.



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