[FOUR AUTOGRAPH LETTERS, SIGNED, BY MAJOR JOSEPH HALL, DISCUSSING THE PREPAREDNESS OF HIS BATTALION AT THE OUTSET OF THE WAR OF 1812 AND PROVIDING AN ACCOUNT OF THE BATTLE OF QUEENSTON HEIGHTS]
by Hall, Joseph
Phelps, N.Y., 1813. pp., including two integral address leaves. Folio. Previously folded. Light wear, with a few small chips and minor worming, slightly affecting text on occasion. Wax remnants and small areas of paper loss caused by seal removal on several leaves. Light tanning and occasional foxing. Written in a neat, legible hand. Very good. A set of four autograph letters written by Major Joseph Hall, who commanded an American battalion of volunteer infantry at the outset of the War of 1812. The unit was active in upstate New York, near Buffalo and the Niagara River, and was a participant in the battle of Queenston Heights, the first major engagement of the war that took place on October 13th, 1812, as American forces attempted to cross into Canada. All four letters are addressed to Major Epaphrus Hoyt, the first three of which, dated August 1812 to March 1813, relate to Hall's desire to reprint a portion of a military manual written by Hoyt, entitled PRACTICAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR MILITARY OFFICERS and published in 1811, in order to better train his men. In the first letter, Hall seeks permission to obtain a copy of the manual for the purpose of reproducing it, "Believing it as I do to be the best published in America." In the event, Hoyt allowed him to reprint more than he had initially requested and to make his own additions, such that in the third letter, Hall writes, "Agreeable to your request I send you one copy of the extracts, your condescention in permitting me to publish more than I requested renders it much more complete & useful to the Battalion that it otherwise would have been," and promises to write again with an account of the battle of Queenston Heights. This detailed narrative makes up the bulk of the fourth, much lengthier letter, dated May 9th, 1813. In line with his requests for Hoyt's training guide, Hall bemoans the poor preparation of the American militia, the prolonged postponement of the attack on Queenston from the American camp at Lewiston across the Niagara, and the lack of intelligence regarding the numbers and position of the British army. He writes that his unit, "Arrived at Lewiston on the 1st day of October last. My Corps were all in good health & spirits but far from being suitably disciplined for action & but a small proportion of them that had rifles fit for action." Furthermore, the attack, which was delayed for days by a continual rain, was ill-conceived at any rate because it was based on the "very erroneous idea" that "there were only troops enough to form a chain of sentinels on the river from one end to the other." In his extensive account, Hall recounts the series of American mishaps that made up the battle and his own role in them. The crossing of the Niagara was botched, with three boats running afoul of each other, "So that they all three went downstream below the landing before they could reach the shore....They were all soon taken prisoners their communication being cut off from the rest." Hall's men were involved in the first engagement with British troops, once some of the remaining American forces had ascended Queenston Heights, but, "Seeing their force so far superior and no reinforcement yet arrived," Hall, "ordered a retreat, firing, & united the 2 lines in order to extend our line. At this point, according to Hall, the initial attack was joined by the rest of the American army, "And the engagement became general, which lasted above an hour." Though the Americans eventually obtained and held an advantageous position for much of the day, the arrival of British reinforcements forced them to withdraw to the river, where many were trapped and captured while awaiting transport. Of this end to the battle, Hall writes that the British, "commenced the attack with their flying artillery... which soon broke our troops to pieces so that the Infantry and the Indians had nothing to do but charge upon them and soon drove them to the river side where they were compelled to surrender or to be cut to pieces." In all, Hall estimates that 300 Americans were killed and 1000 captured in the battle, though the actual casualty numbers were nearer to 100 killed and 900 captured. A comprehensive and captivating account of the first major battle of the War of 1812, with many insightful details and sharp opinions.
(Inventory #: WRCAM52119)
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