This letter was written by William Harrison, Jr. (1780-1827), the son of William Harrison (1740-1819) and Margaret Jordan (1747-1831) of Williamsburg, Virginia. He wrote the letter to his brother, Samuel Jordan Harrison (1785-1842).
In his letter, datelined from Lynchburg, Virginia, in late March 1813, William informed his brother of rumors of a British invasion into Virginia and of the recent departure of an artillery company from Lynchburg to Richmond where troops were being amassed to confront them should they advance up the James River. The artillery company was led by Capt. James Dunnington who served under Col. John H. Cocke from 22 March to 22 August 1813 at Camp Holly (or Camp Holly Springs) which was located northwest of Malvern Hills near the junction of Newmarket Road and Long Branch Road.
In the spring of 1813, the British were preoccupied with fighting Napoleon’s army in Europe so they had limited resources available to devote to fighting the Americans. At this point in the War of 1812, the British Navy’s primary objective was to blockade American ports and interrupt trade, hoping to impact the American economy and diminish public support of “Mr. Madison’s War.” In February 1813, the British Navy began patrolling the entrance to Chesapeake Bay, intercepting merchant ships entering or leaving the bay, and conducting land raids which entailed burning and looting.
3 Mo. 24. 1813
Not having written to thee for some time, I fear thou mayest have thought that something has been the matter amongst us. This, however, has not been the case for we have all been favored with health and to inform thee that we are still well is the first object of this letter.
Our little town has been all bustle and anxiety for several days past inconsequence of having to part with a considerable number of our relations and most intimate friends. Capt. [James] Dunnington’s Company of Artillery consisting of between fifty and sixty of the flower of the young men of Lynchburg march on the day before yesterday under orders to rendezvous at Richmond. They were escorted a distance from town by the militia company and a vast concourse of people, and followed by the benedictions of all, and prayers, for their travels and safe return to the bosom of their friends. I have no doubt but they will give a good account of themselves should the occasion occur that brings them to the field of action. I was one of this company but being unfit for service in consequence of my misfortune in losing in a great degree the use of my left hand and arm, I was not expected, nor required, to march. I did, however, voluntarily fill up my place with a very clever fellow who is fully to be relied upon in every respect.
A report has just reached us that the British have landed a humber of men on Hog Island and there are at present various conjectures afloat among us respecting their object. Some believe they intend to attempt coming to Richmond, whilst perhaps the greater numbers think they only mean to supply themselves with water & fresh provisions and to draw out for awhile the troops of Norfolk from their station that they may the more readily get possession of that place. I hardly know what I think, though believe I should subscribe to the latter opinion. Be it as it may, I trust everything will be in readiness to give them a warm reception.
I was in hopes from the news received by last mail of the offer of Russia to settle our differences & of the Russian Secretary of legation having passed through Richmond on his way to the fleet in Hampton Roads that an armistice & cessation of hostilities would take place. and that a peace might be the final result. This may still be the case and the menacing attitude assumed by the enemy may be intended to affect, as they think a reconciliation more easily. But I confess I do not know what opinion to form. I hope for the best and trust you will all be in no danger, let things go on as they may, as there will shortly no doubt be a force collected by the state, vastly more than sufficient to oppose any that can be brought against us at present. I hope you have secured souls of your borough so as to make it safe. Should he war continue to wax warm in your quarter for some time, you may be in some danger. But I trust this will not be the case. We are waiting the arrival of the mail with anxiety. I shall expect to hear from you all as often as convenient.
Make every allowance for this service as I have written in great haste. Give my best love to all as usual and believe me always thy loving brother, — W. Harrison