Joshua Barney: “the Cupidity of our Merchants is such, that they care not, how much the City is threatened so that they can get a vessel to sea”

On April 4, 1814, Commodore Joshua Barney wrote from Baltimore to Secretary of the Navy William Jones with a sense of satisfaction. After numerous requests for additional sailors for the Chesapeake Flotilla, Barney was “extremely happy” to hear from Jones that the Flotilla would soon receive most of the crew from the USS Ontario which had been trapped in the Baltimore harbor by the British blockade (and the lackluster recruitment efforts of Captain Robert T. Spence). Barney’s letter reads as follows:

Commodore Joshua Barney, Oil on canvas by Rembrandt Peale, ca. 1817. Maryland Historical Society, CA682.

Baltimore April 4th 1814

Sir,

I had the honor of receiving your letter of the 29th and shall be extremely happy in having the number of my men increased. The two Barges from Washington arrived this day, I had sent the Look-out boat to meet them with 30 additional hands for their assistance, four of the new barges from the Eastern-shore are here, and Col. Spencer the builder, will be here, (if the Weather permits,) with four more this week. The Armament for them is nearly ready, but I have been most cruelly disappointed in the delivery of the Guns (light 18 pounders) by Mr. Dorsey. He has trifled with us from the first, with promises from day to day, and it was but four days ago I was able to get from him the Guns; in fact, no dependence can be put, on his word. I believe Mr. Beatty has much reason to complain. I have heard that Capt. Spence has received orders to transfer some men to the flotilla, (say 18) but I have not seen him.

I have just heard from Mr. Frazier. He complains that men cannot be procured on the Eastern-shore for that both parties discourage enlistments, each wishing to keep the men, for the next Elections, as they are so equally divided, that the loss of a few Votes would throw the balance into the hands of the other party, I have given Assurances that all the Demos. shall be there on the 1st of October next to Vote, which I hope will have some effect.

It would appear we have about 30 men to come over, which I shall order here next week; We were doing very well in procuring men, until the news of raising the Embargo arrived, but I fear that will put a total stop to it, everything that can sail fast, will now be fitted out, and the Cupidity of our Merchants is such, that they care not, how much the City is threatened so that they can get a vessel to sea—

I am Sir with respect your Obt. Servt
Joshua Barney

Source: The Blog of 1812, April 4, 2014.

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