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    Archive of Military Letters Associated with a U.S. Military Violation of the Canadian Border in Pursuit of Deserter and Other U.S/Canadian Border Issues, Circa 1840. An archive of remarkable correspondence between U.S. officers at Fort Gratiot, Michigan and officers' of the Canadian London and Western District in dispute of five U.S. soldiers captured at Port Sarnia while in pursuit of a deserter.
    During the small hours of January 21, 1840, five American soldiers from Fort Gratiot were ordered to pursue and return a deserter from the 4th Artillery. In the dark the soldiers lost their bearings and were captured by British troops near Port Sarnia. The mistake is discovered quickly on both sides as each opposing officer's letter is dated the same day, January 21. We begin with U.S. Brevet Major John L. Gardner's two integral page letter, 8" x 10, which reads, in part: "This morning the company commander reported to me that his 1st Sergeant Wright, Sert. Fechet, Corpl. Sprague and privates Myers & Cugan of his company were in custody on the Canadian side, they having probably and certainly without authority, passed over in pursuit of the deserter...I presume they will on your order either be sent back to their station, or at least be placed at liberty to return of themselves, with the necessary facilities." Almost simultaneously his counterpart, one J. Love, "commanding Her Britannic Majesty's troops on the Western Frontier", sends confirmation of the capture of Gardner's men. He writes, in part: "I have this instant received a dispatch from the officer commanding the detachment of militia stationed at Port Sarnia informing me that five men of the United States Army had been apprehended on the shore, after having violently entered several houses in search of a deserter but as I am inclined to consider such a violation of the Territory of her Majesty to have been accidental and without the sanction of the commander of Fort Gratiot...I do not hesitate a moment in directing the prisoners to be released...The deserter, of course, cannot be given up." Two days later Major Gardner sends a polite but firm note of appreciation to Captain George Mattlebury of her Majesty's forces which reads, in part: "I have just received your note of 23rd inst. Informing me of your instructions from Col Love, commanding London & Western Districts to deliver to me certain non com'd officers and privates of my command who were held in custody under your immediate orders. The men have also arrived and are now in my possession...I acknowledge with pleasure the liberal and honorable deportment of the British Military Authorities in this matter." Gardner, however, makes a strong case for the deserter in British hands to be handed over. No correspondence in the archive
    Two additional letters address other desertions (or alleged desertions) at Fort Gratiot. They include a two page, 8" x 10", sworn statement by Wellington Davis, dated February 14, 1840, in which he swears he witnessed Canadian citizens in Port Huron try to induce American soldiers to desert. Also included is a one page, 8" x 10" letter dated April 20, 1840 sent by Gardner to Brigadier General H. Brady of Detroit in which he recounts an episode where he reports an "outrage committed by Citizens and soldiers from the Canadian side in firing at a boat...and abducting a soldier from our service."
    The final correspondence, sent from British Lieutenant Colonel Richard Airey of the 34th (Cumberland) Regiment of foot, concerns not only deserters but also touches on the health of the Duke of Wellington and the Maine/Canada border crisis. The letter is comprised of three integral pages, 8" x 9.75", sent from Fort Walden, March 25, 1840 to Brigadier General Beady, Commander of the 7th Military District, U.S. He writes, in part: "The enclosed letter has been addressed to Liet. Talbot my Adjutant, by a Deserter from the 34th Regiment, named Edward Armstrong now enlisted in the United States Army and quartered it appears at Fort Niagara. This fellow is a twofold Blackguard, he just deserted from the British Service, and enters into that of the United States which not finding so much to his tastes, proposes deserting again [with a fellow soldier]...I therefore beg to hand his communication to you and trust your Military Laws will allow you to have the fellows punished...I should like to have it intimated to them, that I have laid the letter in question before the Light Company to which they belonged and there is not a single man who would not feel disgraced by being again obliged to consider them their comrades." Colonel Airey then remarks on the health of the Duke of Wellington, writing in part: "I am sorry to observe that the Duke of Wellington has had one or two attacks, which I fear are more than the public papers make them out. His Grace is now 71 years of age and after the bodily and mental exertion he has undergone, any failing is to be dreaded." Finally the colonel closes with some candid comments about the Aroostook War border disputes. He writes: "The Maine question does not settle so speedily as it would be desirable it should for the good of both countries - it is a bad thing to have these questions lying open and causing unnecessary discussion and irritation. But I cannot help thinking that Geo Fairfield [Governor of Maine] is actuated by personal political feelings with reference to this question." All examples are in very good condition with a few closed tears in the folds, but otherwise bright and legible.


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