Vermont State Militia
During the War of 1812 issues of states rights were constantly on the minds of politicians and citizens.
In November 1813, when Plattsburgh, New York needed to be defended, Vermont Militia members were anxious to help. However Governor Chittenden did not believe they should and issued orders that they return. Here is the Governor's proclamation and the response by the militia.
Proclamation Concerning the Militia
Martin Chittenden, Governor of Vermont
10 November 1813
Whereas it appears, that the third brigade of the 3d division of militia of this state, has been ordered from our frontiers to the defence of a neighbouring state; and whereas it further appears, to the extreme regret of the captain general, that a part of the militia of said brigade have been placed under the command, and at the disposal of, an officer of the United States, out of the jurisdiction or control of the executive of this state, and have been actually marched to the defence of a sister state, fully competent to all the purposes of self-defence, whereby an extensive section of our own frontier is left, in a measure, unprotected, and the peaceable, good citizens thereof are put in great jeopardy, and exposed to the retaliatory incursions and ravages of an exasperated enemy; and whereas disturbances of a very serious nature are believed to exist, in consequence of a portion of the militia having been thus ordered out of the state:
Therefore-to the end that these great evils may be provided against, and as far as may be, prevented for the future.
Be it known, that such portion of the militia of said 3d division as may be now doing duty in the state of New York, or elsewhere, beyond the limits of this state, both officers and men, are hereby ordered and directed, by the captain general and commander in chief of the militia of the state of Vermont, forthwith to return to the respective places of their usual residence, within the territorial limits of said brigade, and there to hold themselves in constant readiness to act in obedience to the orders of brigadier general Jacob Davis, who is appointed, by the legislature of this state, to the command of said brigade.
And the said brigadier general Jacob Davis is hereby ordered and directed, forthwith, to see that the militia of his said brigade be completely armed and equipped, as the law directs, and held in constant readiness to march on the shortest notice, to the defence of the frontiers: and, in case of actual invasion, without further orders, to march with his said brigade, to act, either in co-operation with the troops of the United States, or separately, as circumstances may require, in repelling the enemy from our territory, and in protecting the good citizens of this state from the ravages of hostile incursions.
And in case of an event, so seriously to be deprecated, it is hoped and expected that every citizens, without distinction of party, will fly at once to the nearest post of danger, and that the only rallying word be-"our country."
Feeling, as the captain general does, the weight of responsibility which rests upon him, with regard to the constitutional duties of the militia, and the sacred rights of our citizens to protection from this great class of the community, so essentially necessary in all free countries: at a moment too, when they are so eminently exposed to the dangers of hostile incursions and domestic difficulties, he cannot conscientiously discharge the trust reposed in him by the voice of his fellow citizens, and by the constitutions of this state and the United States, without an unequivocal declaration, that, in his opinion, the military strength and resources of this state must be reserved for its own defence and protection, exclusively; excepting in cases provided for by the constitution of the United States; and then, under orders derived only from the commander in chief.
Given under my hand at Montpelier, this 10th day of November, in the year of our Lord 1813, and of the independence of the United States, the 38th.
John Brannan, ed. Official Letters of the Military and Naval Officers of the United States During the War with Great Britain in the Years 1812, 13, 14, & 15 With Some Additional Letters and Documents Elucidating the History of that Period. (Washington: 1823), pp. 261-262.
Response to Governor Chittenden
A most novel and extraordinary proclamation from your excellency, "ordering and directing such portion of the militia of the third brigade in the third division of the militia of Vermont, now doing duty in the state of New York, both officers and men, forthwith to return to the respective places of their usual residence," has just been communicated to the undersigned officers of said brigade. A measure so unexampled, requires that we should state to your excellency, the reasons which induce us absolutely and positively to refuse obedience to the order contained in your excellency's proclamation. With due deference to your excellency's opinion, we humbly conceive, that when we are ordered into the service of the United States, it becomes our duty, when required, to march to the defence of any section of the union. We are not of that class who believe that our duties, as citizens or soldiers, are circumscribed within the narrow limits of the town or state in which we reside; but that we are under a paramount obligation to our common country, to the great confederacy of the states. We further conceive, that while we are in actual service, your excellency's power over us, as governor of the state of Vermont, is suspended.
If it is true, as your excellency states, that "we are out of the jurisdiction or controul of the executive of Vermont," we would ask from whence your excellency derives the right, or presumes to exercise the power of ordering us to return from the service in which we are now engaged? If we were legally ordered into the service of the United States, your excellency must be sensible that you have no authority to order us out of that service. If we were illegally ordered into service, our continuance in it is either voluntary or compulsory. If voluntary, it gives no one a right to remonstrate or complain; if compulsory, we can appeal to the laws of our country for redress against those who illegally restrain us of our liberty. In either case, we cannot perceive the right your excellency has to interfere in the business. Viewing the subject in this light, we conceive it our duty to declare unequivocally to your excellency, that we shall not obey your excellency's order for returning; but shall continue in the service of our country, until we are legally and honourably discharged. An invitation or order to desert the standard of our country, will never be obeyed by us, although it proceeds from the governor and captain general of Vermont.
Perhaps it is proper, that we should content ourselves with merely giving your excellency the reasons which prevail upon us to disregard your proclamation; but we are impressed with the belief, that our duty to ourselves, to the soldiers under our command, and to the public, requires that we should expose to the world, the motives which produced, and the objects which were intended to be accomplished by such an extraordinary proclamation. We shall take the liberty to state to your excellency plainly, our sentiments on this subject. We consider your proclamation as a gross insult to the officers and soldiers in service, inasmuch as it implies that they are so ignorant of their rights, as to believe you have authority to command them in their present situation, or so abandoned as to follow your insidious advice. We cannot regard your proclamation in any other light, than as an unwarrantable stretch of executive authority, issued from the worst of motives, to effect the basest purposes. It is, in our opinion, a renewed instance of that spirit of disorganization and anarchy which is carried on by a faction, to overwhelm our country with ruin and disgrace. We cannot perceive what other object your excellency could have in view, than to embarrass the operations of the army, to excite mutiny and sedition among the soldiers, and to induce them to desert, that they might forfeit the wages to which they are entitled for their patriotic services.
We have, however, the satisfaction to inform your excellency, that although your proclamations have been distributed among the soldiers, by your agent delegated for that purpose, they have failed to produce the intended effect-and although it may appear incredible to your excellency, even soldiers have discernment sufficient to perceive, that the proclamation of a governor, when issued out of line of his duty, is a harmless, inoffensive and nugatory document-they regard it with mingled emotions of pity and contempt for its author, and as a striking monument of his folly.
Before we conclude, we feel ourselves, in justice to your excellency, bound to declare, that a knowledge of your excellency's character induces us to believe, that the folly and infamy of the proclamation to which your excellency has put your signature, is not wholly to be ascribed to your excellency, but chiefly to the evil advisers, with whom we believe your excellency is unhappily encompassed.
We are, with due respect, &c.
Luther Dixon, lieutenant colonel; Elijah Dee, junr. major; Josiah Grout, major; Charles Bennet, captain; Jesse Post, captain; Elijah W. Wood, captain; Elijah Birge, captain; Martin D. Follet, captain; Amasa Mansfield, captain; T. H. Campbell, lieutenant; G. O. Dixon, lieutenant; Francis Northway, lieutenant; Joshua Brush, lieutenant; Daniel Dodge, ensign; Sanford Gadcomb, captain; James Fullington, quarter master; Shepherd Beals, lieutenant; John Fasset, surgeon; Seth Clark, junr. surgeon's mate; Thomas Waterman, captain; Benjamin Follet, lieutenant; Hira Hill, surgeon's mate.
John Brannan, ed. Official Letters of the Military and Naval Officers of the United States During the War with Great Britain in the Years 1812, 13, 14, & 15 With Some Additional Letters and Documents Elucidating the History of that Period. (Washington: 1823), pp. 263-264.