W. A. TRIMBLE TO WORTHINGTON
Hillsborough, Ohio, 24th of December 1812
Messrs Worthington & Campbell - Gentlemen
That I may not be embarrassed by methodical arrangement this letter will assume a desultory shape. Since writing my last I have had no reason to change the opinion which I therein express of the militia. A detailed history of the various military opperations in the western country since the commence- ment of the war would prove unequivocally that this force is the most expensive & the least to be depended on.
From the opportunity which a short acquaintance has afforded of forming an opinion of Genl. Harrisons military talents, I think he will make a good officer and is, perhaps, as well calculated to command a mixed army as any man who could be selected. Very few have an accurate idea of the numerous and complicated difficulties he will have to encounter, in consequence of which the people generally, of the U.S. expect more of Genl. Harrison than it is in the power of man to perform. I much fear, while at the head of the present army, the Genl. will not meet the anticipations of his fellow citizens The troops have yet to traverse an imence wilderness of one hundred and fifty miles; the rivers being closed with ice provisions have to be transported across these swamps which can only be done when they are so hard frozen that they will bear the pack-horses or waggons. I know the difficulty of furnish- ing an army on the various routs to Detroit, I also knew that the success of a winter campaign would depend on the nature of the season I was therefore of opinion that one should not have been attempted with such preparations. But from the specimen which we have seen of the winter I hope the army can be supplied with provision & ammunition and that Genl. Harrison will push his army to Detroit before the middle of February. Should he not he will find himself in a most unpleasant situation.
The term of service of the greater portion of the militia will expire before the first of March & I have some reason to believe were they now at Detroit they would not all cross the boundary of the U.S.
Including the mounted troops, perhaps, fifteen thousand militia have been put in motion during the last summer and fall in the western country. What have they effected? Should Genl Harrison not reach Canada this winter, what will they have accomplished before they will have been discharged?
The questions very obviously & forcibly recur, why have so many expedi- tions failed? Any why, with such a force so well furnished, has so little been achieved? It has been for the want of competent & experienced officers, men in whom the troops could repose confidence. After an unexampled enjoymnt of a thirty years peace such men cannot be obtained. Young men therefore of character talents & education should be selected; men who possess the quali- ties & men who are capable of acquiring the qualifications of an officer. In my opinion it would be better to bestoe even the high commands in young men of talents rather than upon old men without experience. The history of every age and nation confirms the position. The reply of Lord Chatham when censured for appointing so young a man as general Wolf to the command of the army in America was one evidence, among many, of the discernment & profound knowledge of human nature which that celebrated statesman possessed.
Seven tenths of the militia officers are entirely ignorant of military discipline and some of them are more calculated to promote insubordination & mutiny than to instruct & dicipline the men under their command. It has too
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