Monday, January 6, 2014

Detroit's first mayor discusses the state of the city in 1813

Sal Sibley from a 1919 book illustration.

A letter to Ohio Governor Thomas Worthington from the first Mayor of Detroit, Solomon "Sal" Sibley, updating the governor on current events in the Northwest frontier. Sibley served as mayor of the town in 1806. A lawyer, he first practiced law in Marietta, Ohio in the 1790s-- which may have given him connections in the state. When the war broke out he commanded a company of riflemen, but was captured and paroled when General William Hull surrendered the Michigan Territory. Colonel Elijah Brush, who he mentions in this letter, was also an officer in the Michigan Territorial Militia and another former mayor of Detroit. Colonel Brush was ill and died that year, perhaps from the same ailment that was laying low many of the American army at Detroit.

Elijah Brush from the collection of the Detroit Historical Society.

This letter was transcribed in Document Transcriptions of the War of 1812 in the Northwest. Richard C. Knopf, ed. Anthony Wayne Parkway Board. Columbus: Ohio State Museum. 1957.( accessed 6 Jan 2014)
Cleaveland Decr. 25th. 1813
Dear Sir
You will probably have heard of my leaving Detroit with my family shortly after the surrender of Genl. Hull -- I retired to Marietta, where I remained until a few weeks since, when I set out for Detroit via this place, but arrived too late to profit by the navigation - My family must spend the winter in Cleaveland -- I neglected to write you from Marietta -- My determination was to visit Chilicothe the last summer, but adverse causes prevented me accomplish- ing my wishes -
Previous to my departure from Detroit I received your letter mentioning that you had in your possession the Patents for Richard Huy -- I have contemplated purchasing out their interest and wanted the Patents - I wanted to consult you in the value of the land I shall not, however, do anything on this head until spring --
The war has already pressed very hard upon me - My losses are great - I fear will be increased -- Late accounts from Detroit induce me to believe that place in danger of again falling into possession of the Enemy -- Disease has made sad ravages amongst our troops - Report says that on the 10 inst. our force was reduced to 250 effective men - And there some late movements among the Indians [ille,. ] alarm -- The late movements at and near Fort George will greatly increase it. The pressures being removed from the enemy below his whole force, will be dispensable and upon the Ice taking will be thrown in the direction of Malden and Detroit -- In the event these places will be lost, unless reinforced -- Should Michigan be reoccupied by the enemy it will experience the fate of Newark -- All will be lost -- Our Government will undoubtedly disavow the act of serving Newark - They will permit the incendiary -- But, sir, the example is set, and will be improved upon by the enemy --
I have read the Presidents communications - no papers that this war will speedily [illeg. ] Our prospects are really gloomy -- & Michigan has and continues to suffer great distress -- Govt. must defend that district, ask what it will, otherwise the state of Ohio is ruined -
It is conjectured that judge Witherall will resign -- Should there be a vacancy in the Bench, or in the office of Secretary, I should like to be noticed. In either event happening will you mention my name to the President -- My personal acquaintance with you, wills I presume, plead my apology for this personal application.
Genl Cass is I learn appointed Govr of Michigan -- To me this appointment is pleasing and will be well received in the Territory -- We require an [illeg. Character in that office at the present critical period -- The campaign, below, this the whole line, has cloud[?] far short of my expectation To what any or on what persons, are the miscarrying chargeable. Congress will undoubtedly, enquire into the subject -- Col. E. Brush of Detroit, on the 10 Int. was very sick, his life dispaired of by his friend --
Should you find leisure from business to write, I should feel gratified [illeg. ] noticed -
I am Dr. Sir, respectfully Yours friend & Hul. Sevt
Sal Sibley
Thos. Worthington Esqr. Senator &c W. City
P.S. Will you please forward the enclosed letter to [illeg.] Woodward -- Uncertainly his place of residence, induces rile to give you this trouble SS