This captivating letter was written by Moses Winchester Jordan (1789-1874) to his brother Rufus Jordan (1783-1862). They were the sons of John Jordan (1752-1813) and Rebecca Dyer (1762-1811) of Moriah, Essex County, New York. Rufus was married to Rebecca Bacon (1788-1865) in 1808 and together they had two sons: Hiram (1809-1899) and Moses (1819-18xx). If Moses W. Jordan ever married, I cannot find a record of it. He was a teacher, a good linguist, and he left his entire estate to his nephew and nieces before committing suicide in 1874.
In the letter, Moses mentions the American victory on Lake Champlain known at the Battle of Plattsburgh. He also mentions the burning of public buildings at Washington D. C. and the encampment of some 7,000 Pennsylvania militia he observed first-hand at Marcus Hook.
Addressed to Mr. Rufus Jordan, Moriah, Essex County, New York
to be lodged in the Post Office in Bridgeport, Vermont
Salem, (N. J.)
Oct. 8th, 1814
My dear Brother,
Since I wrote to Jonas Reed in May, I have received two letters from you, of the respective dates of 22d April & 19th June; and one from Ruth of the 22d of July. I am sensibly affected by the account you give of the continuance of the malady which, by impairing your health, must so materially diminish your enjoyment and comfort. I am happy to have it in my power to inform you of the continuance of my health until this time, which, though I hoped, I little expected.
The sickly season commenced in the early part of August and though many of the inhabitants accustomed to the climate have been sick, I have not been confined a single day since my residence in the place, nor have I one day been prevented from discharging my duties in the Academy. Though I have not much faith in the individual or particular interposition of Providence, I am thankful that its dispensations have permitted the uninterrupted continuance of my health. Yesterday I closed my second quarter. Nothing has yet occurred to interrupt the harmony existing between the Trustees, my supporters, & myself.
In order to preserve my health, I have taken Peruvian bark and wine, and avoided exposure to the evening air which is very injurious. The dews are so heavy that I have seen persons using umbrellas in clear evenings, and I have after walking a little distance in the evening, discovered my clothes to be quite damp and moist. In addition to that, the changes of weather have been very great and sudden.
I congratulate you, my brother, on the signal discomfiture of the formidable force of the enemy which invaded our territory at Plattsburgh! [See: Battle of Plattsburgh] Had not our fleet proved victorious, the shores of Lake Champlain would have been exposed from the line to Crown Point to the marauding parties of the enemy if the country so far had not been occupied by the land army, which is not improbable. There can no doubt exist of the skill and bravery of the American seamen.
Though the enemy were permitted, to the disgrace of our rulers! to get possession of the Capitol and destroy the publick buildings, they suffered a severe check in their attempt upon Baltimore and were obliged to retreat on board their fleet with the loss of their General in Chief, [Robert] Ross. Since that, they have not done much damage in the Chesapeake Bay.
I think I wrote you that Salem apprehended a visit from the British. They have not ascended the Delaware far this season and probably will not this autumn.
You request me to inform you when I shall return which, at present, I cannot tell you, not calculating on a return this winter. I am happy to hear from our brother Elijah though the information does not appear to be so direct as might be wished.
Desiring to take a little recreation, I took passage on a packet yesterday and ascended the Delaware as high as Marcus Hook [Pennsylvania] where I landed to see the encampment of the troops assembled in Pennsylvania. There were about 7,000 collected — principally detailed militia. Their tents extend near three-fourths of a mile.¹
After I had viewed the encampment, I came to view the Brandywine Mills which exceed anything I ever saw of the kind. There are 12 merchant mills to which boats can come. They raise the wheat 4 stories, put it into the hoppers and it is converted into the best flour without any more labor. The situation for mills is the best in the United States.
I shall return to Salem tomorrow or next day. — Moses W. Jordan
By a late hour in New Jersey, the militia must be classed and each class furnish a man or pay fifty dollars. I escaped by by paying five dollars.
¹ During the war of 1812, infantry troops were trained and quartered just north of the crossroads of Market Street and Post Road (U.S. 13) and continuing Northeast into Trainer. The encampment known as “Camp Gaines” and later “Fort Snyder,” had between 5,000 and 10,000 men stationed there from early September 1814 into early 1815. The troops were mainly Pennsylvania militia with some Delaware units and a sprinkling of U.S. regulars. Following the sack of Washington D.C. in August 1814, extensive earthworks were hastily constructed along the Marcus Hook waterfront and tidal creeks and cannon were mounted. These entrenchments and the camp were abandoned when winter lessened the likelihood of a British offensive.