United Irishman Nicholas Gray: Mississippi Territory -- 'Believe Me, Sir, I Fear No Man' Part 1

                                                         Above, Mississippi Territory (1798-1817), Wikipedia

Nicholas Gray was a young attorney from Wexford, when he was sentenced to be executed after the 1798 Rebellion.  Gray and his brother-in-law, Henry Hughes, were very fortunate to escape death.  Captain James Boyd interceded for a pardon and saved Gray's life. They had been friends since Gray's childhood, and he had served as a Yeomen under Captain Boyd.[1]  During the 1798 Rising, Nicholas  Gray was instrumental in saving the lives of many loyalists in Wexford including his brother Joseph, a Magistrate and Captain in the Wexford militia, who is my direct ancestor.[2]  
Nicholas Gray, while serving as Inspector General of New York, during the War of 1812,  suffered from every article of consumption due to his harsh treatment at Kilmainham and Wexford Goal prisons in Ireland. Gray describes his time at  Kilmainham Prison,  August 12th, 1804.  " Mr. Gray can give an affecting detail of Mr. Trevor's [Dr Edward Trevor] barbarous treatment of him, both in Kilmainham, and in Buckridge-court, Ship-street."[3]  In a letter from Governor Tompkins of New York to Paul Hamilton,  Secretary of the Navy dated, Albany, January 16, 1812  "The protracted sickness of General Gray who officiates as my private secretary, has elicited fears of an approaching consumption, and his great anxiety for the welfare of his children, whom he will leave in slender circumstances, has created much sensibility among his numerous friends." [4]
Gray became aide-de-camp to Bagenal Harvey during the Wexford uprising in 1798.  Gray was considered  "A most desperate and dangerous fellow," he so distinguished himself at the battle of New Ross that he  "nearly won it by his own personal intrepidity."  In 1803, Gray was commander of the Kildare forces that participated in Emmet's rebellion. William Wickham, the chief secretary to Ireland, says Nicholas Gray and Thomas Cloney were "the most artful desperate and incorrigible rebels in the country," They were part of  "A handful of wandering politicians who have neither birth, family, character nor credit to sustain them."  Little effort was made to capture Gray, for everyone thought that he had not survived the rebellion. [.5]
                                                         Kilmainham Gaol located in Dublin, Ireland
William Wickham, the spy who investigated Nicholas Gray, Thomas Cloney, and Robert Emmet, was a British civil servant and politician who was a founder of the British foreign secret service. Wickham was tasked with investigating the conspiracy and with the capture and interrogation of Emmet and his lieutenants. Before leaving his prison cell for the last time, Robert Emmet wrote to the Chief Secretary Wickham giving an account of his motives and thanking him for his fair treatment he had received. It was a letter Wickham was latter to refer to as his "constant companion."  Wickham proposed that had he been an Irishman, he "should most unquestionably have joined him."  Wickham ended his career in government service in 1804, resigning his post in Ireland where, privately he denounced policies as "unjust" and "oppressive".  To friends he declared that "no consideration upon earth" could induce him "to remain after having maturely reflected on the contents of Emmet's letter".  Emmet had been attempting to save Ireland from "a state of depression and humiliation."[6]  William Wickham, the British spy was haunted by remorse for the rest of his life for his part in the death of Emmet. 
The United Irishmen continued their relationships in the United States.  Gray was in contact with Alexander Denniston and Thomas Traynor  " who made an extraordinary escape out of the Castle. He is now here and is well, all of his family are well also, they live about 10 miles from here." [7]  Nicholas Gray writes that Thomas Addis Emmet, has been like a father to him and his family since arriving in the United States.  Nicholas Gray borrowed money from Mr, Emmet of New York, to help with expenses for his trip to the Mississippi Territory.  Thomas Addis Emmet was Robert's older brother and was held at Kilmainham in 1798.  Gray had numerous friends while living in New York along with Emmet, seven Republican members of Congress requested "the particular patronage of the president" for Gray.  Alexander Denniston recommended Nicholas Gray for appointment as Colonel of the Irish 27th Infantry Regiment in a letter to James Madison, dated February 12, 1815.  Nicholas Gray is now in the process of moving to the Mississippi Territory, where he will encounter such individuals as Irish Surveyor Thomas Freeman and General Andrew Jackson.  
Richard V. Barbuto in his newly released book titled "New York's War of 1812"  describes Nicholas Gray as being brought to life.  He writes "the state's military operations were no doubt enhanced by refugees from the 1798 Rebellion in Ireland. Officers such as Nicholas Gray, Alexander Denniston, and James McKeon served competently in positions of responsibility and danger." Irish writer Seamus Cullen in his book "The  Emmet Rising in Kildare" has a chapter dedicated to Nicholas Gray.
Josiah Meigs was appointed Surveyor General by President James Madison in 1812, while living in Cincinnati, Ohio. He then was appointed Commissioner of the United States General Land Office in Washington, D.C. in 1814. During his tenure at the U.S. Land Office, under Jefferson, he instituted the nation's first system of daily meteorological observations at the land offices throughout the country which evolved into the National Weather Service .[8]
In the letter below Josiah Meigs writes to President James Madison concerning the position of  Land register of  the Land office West of Pearl river located in the Mississippi Territory.  Nicholas Gray served during the War of 1812,  as an Irish Officer before becoming an American citizen late in 1814.
To James Madison from Josiah Meigs, March 17, 1815
From Josiah Meigs

[ca. 17 March 1815]


Colonel Nicholas Gray, recommended by D. Parker Adjutant General.

Without suggesting anything to the prejudice of the other candidates I think I perform a duty to a brave and meritorious officer of the army of the United States when I recommend Nicholas Gray Esqr. late Inspector General of the third military district which is respectfully submitted.
signed Josiah Meigs [9]
Nicholas Gray has been appointed register of the land office West of Pearl river in the Mississippi Territory and also solicits appointment as Secretary of the territory. The following letter is to the Secretary of State, James Monroe, dated March 30, 1815, 
NICHOLAS GRAY TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE, WASHINGTON  March 30th, 1815  HON James Monroe Secretary of State  SIR,  Understanding that the situation of Register to the Mississippi territory has been conferred upon me and that the salary attached thereto is only five hundred dollars per annum I am induced to solicit the honor of your patronage further by requesting the additional situation of Secretary to the territory which I am informed has been heretofore filled by the Register may be also conferred upon me.  The great expense of removing my family from New York to Washington Mississippi and the heavy loss I have sustained by residing in New York for these two years past as Inspector General is already known to you Sir not only through my former letters but through the friendship of Maj Gen PB Porter. This additional salary of the Secretary of the territory would be a reasonable relief and perfectly answer the benevolent intentions of my friends I have the honor to Subscribe myself Sir your Most ob Humble Servant  NICHOLAS GRAY  Inspector General [10]
In the letter above Gray states his friendship with Major General Peter Buell Porter.  Nicholas Gray lived with then Quarter Master General P,B. Porter, at the Lewiston, Headquarters in 1812.  Peter B. Porter was admitted to the bar 1793. As a member of Congress,  Porter, along with Henry Clay and others, pressured Madison to end the discussion and take up arms against England.  While in Congress, Porter, pushed for greater numbers of soldiers and supplies. He offered his experience to the Military. Beginning in May 1812, he served as assistant quartermaster general in the New York State Militia. " [11]

Colonel Nicholas Gray was recommended by Daniel Parker Adjutant General to be appointed register of the land office West of Pearl river in the Mississippi Territory. Daniel Parker became adjutant general and inspector general of the U.S. Army, on November 22, 1814.  Nicholas Gray in the letter below is describing to General Parker his trip to the Mississippi Territory. Gray corresponded with Brig General Parker, during his time as register of the Land Office. Nicholas Gray is very interested in continuing his Military career. 
Nicholas Gray writes to Brig General Parker from Philadelphia, May 8th, 1815.  "I have the honor to report to you that I arrived here - since I have been confirmed - Tomorrow I shall proceed for Pittsburg on my journey to the Mississippi, on my arrival there I shall have the honor to write you - to your directions."  With great respect  Nicholas Gray Inspector General [12]
Nicholas Gray to Brig General Daniel Parker from Washington Mississippi Territory  July 20, 1815.  
"I  have the honor  to report to you my arrival here to your instruction. It would add to the many kindness I have received from you if you would favor me with a letter as soon as convenient with relation to my situation or connection with the Army of the United States when and  how I am or if I yet continue attached to it, or may expect to be so.  My location here, the most deplorable part of the known World might enable me yet serviceable to the Army and myself." Accept Sir my sincere esteem and regard. Nicholas Gray Inspector General .[13] 
Lieutenant  Dumas of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,  a native of France, was a friend of Nicholas Gray.  Lieut. Dumas had been an ensign on the French ship Alexander, in November of 1806.  Lt. Hipolite Dumas joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on August 3, 1813 and served during the War of 1812. A certificate of appointment was issued to Hipolite Dumas commissioning him as a 1st Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers signed by President James Madison and Secretary of War James Monroe, January 3, 1815.  The first official orders from the Chief of Engineers J G Swift were sent to Lieutenant Dumas, on May 4, 1815 to survey the Gulf Coast Frontier. Dumas was instructed as follows: Lieut. H. Dumas, New York May 4th, 1815 Corps of Engineers.  Sir,  "You will proceed to Mobile and New Orleans and examine the state of the works erected for the defense of those places, which you will report to me, together with the requisite plans and estimates for the repairs to place the works in a permanent state of defense. You will examine water courses, roads, and passes, leading to and from Mobile and New Orleans and will select positions on which it may be necessary to erect works for the additional security of the before mentioned places. I wish a good topographical map of the country from Pensacola to Lake Barataria, west of New Orleans. The Secretary of War requires you to “report to him the means that have been taken to secure, and the preservation of the artillery and other public property at the several forts and fortifications in your district, and also the number of men that would be necessary on a peace establishment to be kept at each fort.” A copy of the above required report you will enclose to me.  I am respectfully,  J G Swift (signed) [14] 
Nicholas Gray, in a letter dated November 10, 1815 to Brigadier General Parker wants his back pay from being Inspector General of New York sent to Thomas Addis Emmet of New York. He also says that Lieut. Dumas,  is very ill at Natchez, Ms and that he plans on bringing Lieut. Dumas to his home in Natchez.
"In a former letter to ask a favor of you and know you to be a friend to justice - While in service in New York I was allowed office Rent and quarters as Inspector General. My accounts were regularly made out and tenured to the then Quarter Master - who  I am informed that never paid their amount. He had sent my account with others to Washington where they would be paid - in the hurry to commence my journey here I never thought of keeping a Copy of the amount - there would be no necessity, but the amount is to serious to me to loose being about one hundred fifty, or seventy dollars.  I have given an order to Mr Emmet of New York to receive whatever may be coming to me.  I borrowed money from him to defray my expenses here. I am to apply for the allowance of office rent and quarters. I  shall consider my self obligated to you."  PS  -  "My son Nicholas, resignation from the Military school accepted and  he sent it to General Swift in April last.  Lieut. Dumas of the Corps of Engineers is dangerously ill at Natchez.  I have been to see him and intend going on Tuesday next then to bring him to my home,  for he has been much neglected - His disorder originated in from caught upon the river  Ohio, and for want of attendance has a dangerous appearance like the yellow fever but is not that disease - he has been three weeks confined to his bed in Natchez. -  and I fear will be a long time before he can pursue his route to New Orleans where he has been ordered." signed  Nicholas Gray  Land Office Washington, Mississippi Territory [15]
Nicholas Gray describes to Brigadier General Daniel Parker, Adjutant General  the condition of Lieut. Dumas. That he is in the fangs of a greedy tavern keeper who is taking his money. The letter is dated Nov 16, 1815
Sir, " In a letter of last mail I have the honor to address you giving you a great deal of trouble for which I beg to apologize - and  mentioned the disturbing  state of Lieut. Dumas of the Corp of Engineers who was dangerously sick at Natchez. Since my letter I have succeeded in getting him to my house here, and have the pleasure to say that he is recovering, but will be more than a month before he can proceed on his route to New Orleans.  I found him in the fangs of a rapacious tavern keeper and itinerant quack, has placed him of every cost of money. It is his request that I should apprise you, Sir, of his state, and request  [as there is no pay master in this neighborhood for the Army]  that you would please to forward to him a necessary supply, he is unable to write himself, but Doctor Cox who attends him here has strong hope of his recovery."  PS -  "Lieut. Dumas being acquainted with all the late regulations requests that of the enclosed accounts are informal that you will please to consider his situation, and have the necessary alteration made in them, and forward as speedily as possible."  signed  Nicholas Gray  Land Office Washington, Mississippi Territory [16]
Brigadier General J..G. Swift,  Corps of Engineers, in the letter below thank's Nicholas Gray for his kindness shown towards Lieut. Dumas.  He writes that this is the first intelligence from  Lt. Dumas, since he left Pittsburg. He wants Nicholas Gray to take care of Lt. Dumas needs and he will be reimbursed for money spent by drafts.

                                 J.G. Swift  Corps of Engineers to Nicholas Gray dated Dec 14, 1815,  New York  

Col. Nicholas Gray Register Land Office - West of Pearl River  Mississippi Territory 
New York, Dec 14, 1815   "Dear Sir, Yesterday I received your letter of the 20th and am much obliged by your communication and your Kind attention to Lieut. Dumas -  Your assessment of the unfortunate situation in which you found Lt. Dumas is the first intelligence I have with relation to him or Lt. Poole - since they left Pittsburg. In a few days I shall go to City Washington and will make arrangements to have Lieut. Dumas supplies with friends from that place, in the meantime, I will thank you to supply his wants,  -  Any advanced made by you will be reimbursed and with pleasure by drafts, or as you may have, - on receipt of this please to favor me with further accounts of Lt. Dumas, Direct to City Washington, I shall inform the Sec of War of your friendly attentions to Lt. Dumas."  With much respect  signed  J.G. Swift.  Corps of Engineers [17]
[1]A Divided Family in 1798: The Grays of Whitefort and Jamestown” by Sir David Goodall. Journal of The Wexford Historical Society 94-95
[2] "The  Emmet Rising in Kildare" by Seamus Cullen
[3] Memoir of the Case of St. John Mason, Esq. Barrister-at -Law by Saint John Mason,  page 13
[4] The Public Papers of Daniel D Tompkins,  Governor of New York, 1807-1817, Volume 2
[5] Transatlantic Radicals and the Early American Republic" by Michael Durey
[6] Wikipedia
[7] Letter from Nicholas Gray to Mr. Patten Trinity College Library Dublin Ref Ms [276] researched by Paula Hayes
[8] Wikipedia
[9] National Archives
[10] Territorial Papers of the United States by Carter  Volume VI Mississippi
[11] Wikipedia
[12] Fold3: Letters Received by The Office of The Adjutant General. 1805 - 1821
[13] Fold3: Letters Received by The Office of The Adjutant General. 1805 - 1821
[14] U.S. Army Corps Engineers Mobile District
[15] Fold3: Letters Received by The Office of The Adjutant General. 1805 - 1821
[16] Fold3: Letters Received by The Office of The Adjutant General. 1805 - 1821
[17] Fold3: Letters Received by The Office of The Adjutant General. 1805 - 1821

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Tags: Genealogy, History of Ireland, Military History, United States


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