From John Habersham1
Savannah, January 16, 1794. “The bearer of this letter Mr David Hillhouse2 is concerned in the Contracts for supplying the Troops in this State, and goes to Philadelphia at the request of the Contractor,3 for the purpose of endeavouring to obtain such a payment as may enable him to continue those supplies.… In my letter to you of the 25th November last,4 I mentioned that as the price of grain had fallen, since the coming in of the new crop, the expence of the Quarter Masters department would be lessened; but the Contractors Estimate for the last quarter, shews it to be much otherwise. Instead of discharging any of the Militia, as was expected,5 the Governor of the State6 has lately called out an additional number and those of the most expensive description, namely, Horse. Present appearances do not justify an expectation, that any part of the force will be immediately discharged; for although the Agent of the United States7 is now in the Creek country, and has lately communicated very agreable information respecting his prospects there,8 yet I am sorry to inform you that authentic accounts have been just received of two Creek Indians being killed on the western frontier of this State.…9 If you should think it proper to direct, that a payment be made to Mr Hillhouse, on account of the Contractor, I presume that you will be of opinion that Twenty five thousand dollars will not be an unreasonable sum, considering the balance at present in his favor.”
Copy, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.
For background to this letter, see “Cabinet Meeting. Opinion on the Depredations of the Creek Indians Upon the State of Georgia,” May 29, 1793.
Habersham was collector of customs at Savannah and the United States agent for supplying the troops in Georgia.
2. David Hillhouse, a younger brother of James Hillhouse who was a member of the House of Representatives from Connecticut, had moved from Connecticut to Washington, Wilkes County, Georgia, in the middle of the seventeen-eighties (Margaret P. Hillhouse, Historical and Genealogical Collections Relating to the Descendants of Rev. James Hillhouse [New York, 1924]).
3. Benajah Smith supplied the troops in Georgia during 1793 and 1794.
4. Letter not found.
5. This is a reference to a dispute between Governor Edward Telfair of Georgia and the United States authorities over Georgia’s right to control its own relations with the Indians. One part of this dispute concerned the size of the militia to be used by Georgia and paid by the United States. For understandable reasons Georgia advocated a larger militia force than the Federal Government was willing to support. On September 6, 1793, in reply to a letter from Knox of July 19, Telfair complained that Knox’s orders had compelled him “to desist from pursuing the only measure … that can give ease and security to the persons and property of the unfortunate settlers on this extended frontier” (copy, Executive Records of Georgia, Microfilm Collection of Early State Records, Library of Congress). Telfair also stated: “The present system of defence is deemed not more than adequate for the frontier settlements, and should the proposed alteration take place, I have little doubt, but the three Southern Counties … will be entirely depopulated by a total removal of their inhabitants.” On October 21, 1793, Constant Freeman, the War Department agent in Georgia, reported to Knox that “no measures had been taken to comply with the orders of the United States, relatively to the one hundred cavalry and one hundred infantry.” Freeman added that, after repeated applications to the governor, he had failed to obtain a return of the force actually in service. He concluded: “I should presume that it cannot be the intention of the United States to pay from four to six hundred men, when two hundred are the extent authorized” (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Indians Affairs, I, 429).
6. Telfair was succeeded by George Mathews in November, 1793.
7. James Seagrove was United States agent to the Creeks.
8. Seagrove’s letter of November 30, 1793, to the governor of Georgia announcing the establishment of peace between the Creeks and the United States had been published in the January 15, 1794, issue of The [Philadelphia] Pennsylvania Gazette.
9. Habersham is referring to murders which took place on December 28, 1793. Freeman, in a letter to the Secretary of War on January 1, 1794, describes the incident as follows: “The Bird-tail king and eight of his town were most treacherously attacked by a party of whites, about fifteen miles on the other side of the Oconee, and two of their number killed. The Indians … demand, in the most peremptory terms, the reasons of such procedure; allege that they have solaced themselves under the protection of the United States, and were hunting on their own lands, under the assurance of safety pledged to them by Mr. Seagrove, the agent …” (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Indian Affairs, I, 472).