War of 1812people

James Wilkinson


Before the American Revolution, James Wilkinson studied medicine. In the War of Independence, he rose quickly through the ranks of the army, reaching the rank of brevet brigadier general by age twenty. After that however, his Revolutionary War career was more checkered. He was involved in a plot to remove George Washington, and had to resign as clothier general to the army due to financial irregularities.

Between the end of the Revolution and the War of 1812, Wilkinson began a long-running secret relationship with Spanish authorities in New Orleans. During the War of 1812, he was on the payroll of the Spanish government which amounted to about $4000 a year. He narrowly escaped being tossed out of the army because of his dubious conduct in 1809 and again in 1811.

In March of 1813, Wilkinson and his soldiers occupied Mobile. This would turn out to be the single permanent acquisition of territory made by the United States during the war.

After Henry Dearborn's resignation at the head of the 9th Military District, Wilkinson was appointed to replace him and arrived at Sacket's Harbour on August 20, 1813. Wilkinson was ill and clearly reluctant to move along the St. Lawrence which was the objective of Secretary of War Armstrong . Neither he nor Armstrong could decide between Kingston and Montreal as their campaign's military objective. His subordinate, Major General Wade Hampton who commanded the army at Lake Champlain, hated Wilkinson so much that he refused to take orders from him. Armstrong resolved this difficulty by having all of Wilkinson's orders to Hampton transmitted through him.

On October 17, 1813, Wilkinson left Sacket's Harbour with more than 7000 men. His objective was the occupation of Montreal, but on November 11, his army was repulsed by a British force of 800 at Chrysler's Farm. The following March, Wilkinson was back in Canada and at the head of 4000 men. This time he was stopped by 180 men defending a stone mill on the La Colle River. He eventually faced a court of inquiry for his wartime conduct. To everyone's surprise, he was exonerated on all counts.

Following the war, Wilkinson occupied himself running his plantation until his death in 1825.