Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to George Rogers Clark, 1 January 17[80]

To George Rogers Clark

Williamsburg Jan. 1. 1779. [i.e., 1780]


The late assembly having made some alteration in the Western force as stated to you in my former letter, I think it necessary to apprize you of it. They have directed your battalion to be completed, 100 men to be stationed at the falls of the Ohio under Majr. Slaughter, and one only of the additional battalions to be completed. Major Slaughter’s men are raised, and will march in a few days, this letter being to go by him. The returns which have been made to me do not enable me to say whether men enough are raised to make up the additional battalion; but I suppose there must be nearly enough. This battalion will march as early in the spring as the weather will admit.1 I hope that by this time the Spaniards have releived us from the Natchez and Mansiack. I know therefore of but two objects between which you can balance for your next summer’s operations. These are 1. an expedition against Detroit. or 2. against those tribes of Indians between the Ohio and Illinois rivers who have harrassed us with eternal hostilities, and whom experience has shewn to be incapable of reconciliation. Removed at such a distance as we are, and so imperfectly informed, it is impossible for us to prescribe to you. The defences at Detroit seem too great for small arms alone. And if that nest was destroyed the English still have a tolerable channel of communication with the Northern Indians by going from Montreal up the Utawas river. On the other hand, the Shawanese, Mingoes, Munsies, and the nearer Wiandots are troublesome thorns in our sides. However we must leave it to yourself to decide on the object of the campaign. If against these Indians, the end proposed should be their extermination, or their removal beyond the lakes or Illinois river. The same world will scarcely do for them and us. I suppose it will be best for the new battalion to act with you all the summer, aided by a considerable part of Slaughter’s men, and in the fall to fortify the posts we propose to take on the Ohio, and remain in them during the succeeding winter. The posts which have been thought of are the mouth of Fishing cr., Little Kanhaway, Gr. Kanhaway, Sioto, Great Salt lick, and Kentucky. There being posts already at Pittsburg, the mouth of Weeling, and the Falls of Ohio, these intermediate ones will form a chain from Pittsburg to the falls. I have then only to wish that your post was at the mouth of Ohio, which would complete the line.

I am Sir with great respect Your very humble servt.

Dft (Miss Ellen M. Bagby, Richmond, 1946). Endorsed by TJ: “lre. to Colo. Clarke Jan. 1. 1780.” The endorsed date is manifestly correct for this hitherto unpublished letter; see TJ to Clark, 29 Jan. 1780, which mentions a letter of 1 Jan. The principal passage excised in the draft is noted below.

TJ’s former letter to Clark is missing and cannot even be precisely dated. The Natchez and Mansiack: Fort Panmure at Natchez and Fort Bute at Manchac, below Baton Rouge, British posts on the lower Mississippi that had been captured by Spanish forces under Gálvez in Sep. 1779 (J. W. Caughey, Bernardo de Gâlvez in Louisiana, Berkeley, 1934, p. 154ff.; Wis. Hist. Soc., Colls., xxiv [1917], 129–30; Atlas of Amer. Hist., N.Y., 1943, p1. 77).

1Following this TJ first wrote and then deleted: “I think the most important object which can be proposed with such a force is the extermination of those hostile tribes of Indians who live between the Ohio and Illinois who have harrassed us with eternal hostilities, and whom experience has shewn to be incapable of reconciliation. The Shawanese, Mingos, Munsies and Wiandots can never be relied on as friends, and therefore the object of the war should be their total extinction, or their removal beyond the lakes or the Illinois river and peace.”

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