Rufus McIntire
Letters, 1813-1815

Quantity: 1 box (0.25 cubic ft.)
Access: Open to research
Acquisition: Purchase;  Robert W.G. Vail, June 1919
Processed by: Manuscripts & Special Collections, February 2015

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Related Pages: Rufus McIntire and the War of 1812 (includes scans and transcriptions of the letters)

Biographical Note:

Rufus McIntire was born on December 19, 1784, in York County, Maine, which was under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts at the time. He was educated at South Berwick Academy and Dartmouth College, where he graduated in 1809. Then he took up the study of law and was admitted to the bar in 1812. The same year, he commenced law practice in Parsonsfield, Maine, which would become his primary residence for the rest of his life.

When hostilities erupted between the United States and Great Britain in 1812, McIntire entered into military service. He was commissioned as captain of a company in the 3rd United States Army Artillery Regiment, and served for eighteen months. His troops were deployed in northern New York State and Canada and were engaged in significant battles at Sackets Harbor and Chrysler's Farm.

After the war, he returned his home in Parsonsfield to resume his law practice, and also pursue a career in politics and government. He was involved in efforts that led to Maine becoming a state in 1820, and served as one of its first state legislators. From 1827 to 1835, he served as a representative in the United States Congress as a Jacksonian Democrat. In 1839 he became a land agent for the State of Maine, in which capacity, he helped diffuse tensions arising in the "Aroostook War" between Maine and New Brunswick, the territorial ambiguities of which nearly led to another war with Great Britain. In 1840 McIntire was appointed a U.S. Marshal by President James K. Polk; during the administration of President Franklin Pierce, he served as Surveyor of the Port at Portland, Maine. Thereafter, he returned to private law practice in Parsonsfield; he died April 28, 1866.

Scope and Content Note:

This series of manuscript letters relate chiefly to Rufus McIntire's military experiences during the War of 1812. The letters are addressed to John Holmes, an attorney in Alfred, Maine, who was also serving in the Massachusetts State Senate at the time, and would later serve a number of years as a United States Senator for Maine. The letters were written from various locations throughout New York State during the war and describe camp life, troop movements, and campaigns in which McIntire was involved. In particular, the letters detail battles at Sackets Harbor and Chrysler's Farm. He also commented on the political climate of New England, where there was strong anti-war sentiment at the time.

The letters commenced May 11, 1813, while McIntire's troops were encamped along the banks of the Mohawk River at Schenectady, New York. He details the movement of troops from a camp near Greenbush to Schenectady and the problem of colds and other diseases afflicting many of the soldiers. He mentions they would soon carry on to Oswego by way of Utica, but presumed they would eventually go to Sackets Harbor. His troops did indeed go to Sackets Harbor where he wrote on July 5, 1813, about the American repulse of British forces during a fierce battle that had taken place there several weeks earlier.

From Sackets Harbor on September 11, 1813, McIntire wrote that General Wilkinson had arrived there to take command American forces and lead an expedition into Canada which is discussed further in his letter of October 23, 1813, from Grenadier Island. The expedition came to an end on November 11 with the defeat of American troops by the British forces in the battle at Chrysler's farm, near Cornwall, Canada, which is detailed in the letter he wrote on December 8, 1813, from the site of his winter encampment at French Mills, New York. In the same letter he mentions that the ultimate destination of the campaign was Montreal, and gives a number of reasons why he thought the expedition failed.

On March 17, 1814, McIntire wrote from Rome, New York, about orders for his troops to continue, the next day, their journey west towards the Niagara Frontier. Details of their westward march across upstate New York are presented in his letter of April 13, 1814, from Batavia, New York. He indicates that his troops arrived at Batavia on March 29, and have remained encamped there awaiting further orders as to when they should advance to Niagara. However, it appears that the unit never made it any further west than Batavia, since the next letter was written at Volney, near Oswego Falls, New York, on May 9, 1814, which details the engagement between British and American forces at Fort Oswego, and the subsequent looting and burning of the garrison by the British troops while American troops retreated to Oswego Falls.

Soon after the retreat from Oswego, McIntire returned to Sackets Harbor, where he was stationed for much of the time he remained in service. From there he wrote on August 1, 1814, about news reports he had received relative to battles at Chippewa and Lundy's Lane. He praised the effort and valor displayed by American generals Jacob Brown and Winfield Scott during these battles. He also commented on the British naval blockade of the coast of New England. Further commentary about military operations as well as the commencement of peace negotiations and the political climate in New England are discussed in letters written at Sackets harbor on September 21 and December 14, 1814.

The first day of 1815 finds McIntire stationed at Plattsburgh, New York, where he writes a letter detailing the cantonment which is sketched on the back of the letter. The sketch shows the location of barracks of the different regiments, officers' quarters, guard houses, picket lines, and surrounding artillery fortifications. His letter of March 4, 1815, written at Sackets Harbor, notes with pleasure that peace is at hand and that he soon will be mustered out of service. He also contemplates seeking a new career in Indiana or Illinois instead of resuming his law practice in Maine.

These papers also include a series of unpublished transcriptions of each letter, which were copied from a manuscript in the possession of RW.G. Vail at the time purchase in June 1919. Apparently, Vail's manuscript was not retained by this repository. Transcripts of most letters were later published with editorial commentary by John C. Fredriksen: "The War of Northern New York: The Observations of Captain Rufus McIntire" in New York History, 68 (July 1987), pp. 297-324.

Box and Folder List:

Box Folder Description
1 0 Transcriptions of letters
1 1 Letter (A.L.S.): Rufus McIntire, Schenectady, [N.Y.], to John Holmes, Alfred, York Co., Maine, May 11, 1813
1 2 Letter (A.L.S.): Rufus McIntire, Sackets Harbor, [N.Y.], to John Holmes, Alfred, York Co., Maine, July 5, 1813
1 3 Letter (A.L.S.): Rufus McIntire, Sackets Harbor, [N.Y.], to John Holmes, Alfred, York Co., Maine, September 11, 1813
1 4 Letter (A.L.S.): Rufus McIntire, Basin Harbor, Grenadier Island, [N.Y.], to John Holmes, Alfred, York Co., Maine, October 23, 1813
1 5 Letter (A.L.S.): Rufus McIntire, Camp, French Mills, [N.Y.], to John Holmes, Alfred, York Co., Maine, December 8, 1813
1 6 Letter (A.L.S.): Rufus McIntire, Rome, N.Y., to John Holmes, Alfred, York Co., Maine, March 17, 1814
1 7 Letter (A.L.S.): Rufus McIntire, Batavia, N.Y., to John Holmes, Alfred, York Co., Maine, April 13, 1814
1 8 Letter (A.L.S.): Rufus McIntire, Volney, Oswego Falls, [N.Y.], to John Holmes, Alfred, York Co., Maine, May 9, 1814
1 9 Letter (A.L.S.): Rufus McIntire, Sackets harbor, [N.Y.], to John Holmes, Alfred, York Co., Maine, August 1, 1814
1 10 Letter (A.L.S.): Rufus McIntire, Fort Virginia, Sackets Harbor, [N.Y.], to John Holmes, Alfred, York Co., Maine, September 21, 1814
1 11 Letter: Rufus McIntire, Sackets Harbor, [N.Y.], to John Holmes, Alfred, York Co., Maine, December 14, 1814
1 12 Letter: [Rufus McIntire], Cantonment, Plattsburgh, N.Y., to John Holmes, Alfred, York Co., Maine, January 1, 1815; on verso is a sketch of the cantonment at Plattsburgh. [Letter was damaged by fire, which resulted in the partial loss of text including the closing lines and signature]
1 13 Letter (A.L.S.): Rufus McIntire, Sackets Harbor, [N.Y.], to John Holmes, Alfred, York Co., Maine, March 4, 1815


Last Updated: May 21, 2021