This letter was transcribed directly from the internet where it was offered for sale on e-bay in September 2011.
William Warren Chapman (1814-1859) was a First Lieutenant serving with the Second Regiment of Artillery of the U.S. Army at Fort Niagara when he wrote this letter in August 1841. Old Fort Niagara was reoccupied in 1838 in response to a new crisis on the northern border where “disaffected Canadians had risen in rebellion against their government in 1837, and the rebels sought arms and shelter in the United States.” This caused Anglo-American relations to deteriorate, necessitating the rehabilitation of Fort Niagara, which had fallen into disrepair. Congress authorized repairs and improvements to Fort Niagara and work commenced in 1839. “The land defenses were rebuilt, the 1816 seawall was completed, a masonry wall and shot furnace were constructed along the river side, and repairs were made to several buildings. By 1843, Fort Niagara was once again defensible.” Ironically, the border tensions of 1837-38 had subsided by the time renovations were completed.
Lt. Chapman wrote the letter to his Class of 1837 West Point Academy chum, Edwin Wright Morgan (1814-1869). Other more famous Class of 1837 graduates included Braxton Bragg, Jubal Early, John Sedgwick, John Pemberton, and Joe Hooker. Morgan resigned his Lieutenant’s commission on 31 May 1839 to become the Principal Asst. Engineer of the State of Pennsylvania. He was reappointed during the Mexican War and served as the Lt. Colonel of the 13th Infantry. Following the war, he became Superintendent of Western Military Institute in Blue Licks, Kentucky.
[Addressed to Edward [“Ned”] W. Morgan, Esq., Late of the Army, Towanda, PA.]
August 19, 1839, Buffalo
August 17, 1839
Yours of the 26th ult. enclosing $60.00 on account of Post Fund has been received. I should have written you long before this, but I delayed it so long that I thought you might have changed your residence, and concluded to wait until you wrote to some of our fellows here.
I tell you what, dear Ned, we all regretted your resigning exceedingly, however much we desired promotion. You have many friends in our Regiment, and whenever you visit us, which I hope will be often, you will always find a hearty welcome and a glorious reception. We are all anxious to know what you are doing: what are your prospects, both professional and matrimonial. [Samuel Jennings] Bransford, they say, is going to be married.
Companies (D), (G), (H), & (K) are now here. Paddy, six men, 10 women and (n) number of children are left at Fort Niagara. Capt. Smith, alias Frazier, has commenced the contemplated repairs of Fort Niagara. A wall 14 feet high is to be built on three sides of it, mess house repaired, &c. &c.
Jim Duncan & [Henry C.] Pratt are at the Camp of Instruction. Barns is sick in N.Y. City. [William Barrett] Blair is to be transferred to (G) Company when the “young gentlemen” join. Three only are assigned to our Regiment.
Mr. [Joel Robert] Poinsett was here this week and we gave him a splendid review. His staff on parade was composed of Col. [William Jenkins] Worth, Maj. [Ethan Allen] Hitchcock, and Capt. [William G.] Williams. Col. [James Monre] Bankhead took command and made some most awful mistakes in giving commands, though the officers and men all did right.
Mr. Poinsett promised the Colonel that his Regiment should be concentrated. Gen. [Winfield] Scott is desirous of having the 4th Artillery on the Detroit frontier and ours [2nd Artillery] on the Niagara.
We have just finished a long Court Marshal, by which we tried 16 deserters. Capt. [William C.] DeHart has not yet returned. [James H.] Simpson is ordered to St. Augustine by how own request. He is out of health. [William Augustus] Nichols, you know, was sentenced to 4 months imprisonment for libel. He has served about one half of his time: he conducts his paper as usual.
Buffalo is a delightful place in summer and I believe all the officers are now contented. Jack [Robert Hall Chilton] is very much pleased with Miss [Laura Ann Thomson] Mason, sister of [Michigan] Gov. [Steven Thomson] Mason, and has bet a Basket of Champaign with [Henry C.] Pratt that he will be married before next Christmas.
I shall pay my Basket with please use when we meet which I hope may be soon.
I shall leave here tomorrow for England – alias Toronto – for smuggling purposes for the Regiment. Our Companies are nearly full. How do you feel as an independent cit[izen]? I have strong thoughts of following your example and go West. Write soon and let us know how you are. The officers would send messages but I am at home and cannot see them before I send this.
Yours most truly, — W[illiam] W[arren] Chapman
The following is from page 316 of the History of the 2nd Regiment of Artillery by Lt. W.A. Simpson:
“In 1838, another company, K, was added to the regiment, C. F. Smith becoming its first captain. Colonel Lindsay died September 15, and James Bankhead became colonel. Though some changes were made from time to time, eight companies were at headquarters during most of the time the regiment was on the Niagara frontier. As there was no fighting, the attention of the officers was devoted to bringing the regiment up to as high a standard as possible. There was great rivalry between the companies, and the spirit of emulation was still further increased by the presence over the border of some crack British regiments, whose officers worked in harmony with ours in defeating the schemes of the would-be liberators of Canada. In 1839 Secretary of War Poinsett ordered the establishment of a camp of instruction at Trenton, New Jersey; one company of each artillery regiment to be sent there and equipped as a battery of light artillery. A of the 2d was selected and went there under command of Lieut. (afterwards Captain) James Duncan, who made it so famous in the war with Mexico. Three months later it returned to Buffalo as a light battery. In August, 1841, the regiment left Buffalo by canal, headquarters and B, D and G going to Fort Columbus, A to Fort Hamilton, E to Fort Lafayette, F and I to Fort Adams, and C, H and K to Fort Monroe. These stations were occupied with but little change until the Mexican War.”
For a diagram of Fort Niagara and a description of the construction in 1839-43, click here.
See also: The Buffalo Barricks 1837-1846.