George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Denny, 25 March 1758

From William Denny

Philadelphia 25 March 1758


Several Accounts have been brought here during the winter, as if there was a good disposition in the western Indians to return to their old Friends the English: and as there has been little or no Mischief done on the Fronteers of this & the Neighbouring Provinces of late, it is not unlikely but the Indians are changing every day in our favour. We have as small Confirmation of the Truth of these Accounts by some Messages which have been delivered to me, a relation whereof you will find in the inclosed Paper. Besides what Teedyuscung said in Publick from the Mouth of the Messengers, who came directly from the Ohio by the way of Diahogo, they expressly declare that since the Peace Belts sent by these Indians who were formerly our friends have been so kindly received by this Governmt they are sure, on their receiving this News, they shall be sent back immediately with an Account of their seperating from the French & coming to join our friendly Indians in Parties against them.1

A few days ago Letters arrivd here—from Winchester informing, that several Parties of Cherokees were come there & were preparing to go against the French & their Indians on the Ohio. These Messengers were some how or other made acquainted with this, and they no sooner heard it than Teedyuscung wth them came in a formal manner to me with the following Address.

“Brother, You must have heard that the Cherokees are come down to go to War. Now as several of our friends, who have joined with me, live near, and some among the French, it is necessary the messenger shoud be sent before to tell them to separate from the French that they may not be cut off with them. Brother, I woud have you also dispatch a Messenger immediately to the Cherokees to inform them of what is done and to stop them. For if any Mischief is done, it will not be said, the Cherokees did it, but that you have done it who hired & sent them; And this will undo all that we have done. But when the Indian Nations are informed of the Peace we have made, then all those Indians will come and join the Cherokees, and be all friends with the English, and all together will go against the French.

“Being asked what sort of Message can be sent to the Cherokees that will not do harm. For shoud any Indians come down wth French men at their head as they have always done What then must be done?

“Teedyuscung replied I woud therefore have the Messenger sent as soon as possible to prevent any of the Indians joining with the French.[”]2

I have reason to believe that the Cherokees hate the Delawares and Shawonese and do not desire they shoud become our friends, but woud have them all destroyd, having long born them great Enmity. so that it is a nice Point how to communicate this news to them. without giving them disgust; and if any of the early Parties of the Cherokees take Miff and shoud return disgusted, they may turn back many other Parties who may be on their way to join His Majesties Forces.

As this ill consequence can I think be well avoided, if Prudence be observed in the Communication of this news, in compliance with Teedyuscungs Request I send this Express desiring that the whole matter may be related to the Cherokees and they be requested to have regard thereto in their Scouting Parties.3

I am persuaded there is a good disposition in several Indian Tribes, lately our bitter Enemies, towards the English and as it woud be a great misfortune that this shoud in any wise be discouragd or obstructed I hope you will find a way of engaging the Cherokees to attend seriously to the request made by Teedyuscung & these Indians.4

I beg the favour to know what Numbers of Cherokees are already come & how many more are expected, and in what manner they will dispose of them selves till the Rendezvous of the Kings Forces.5 I am Sir your most obedient humble Servant

William Denny

ALS, ViU: John Forbes Papers; copy, CSmH; copy (fragment), N: Sir William Johnson Papers; copy, P.R.O., C.O. 5/50, ff. 106–7. Two of the copies were attested by the clerk of the Pennsylvania council, Richard Peters. Gov. William Denny’s letter was directed “To Col: Washington or the Commanding Officer of the Virginia Forces at Winchester.” Capt. Lt. Thomas Bullitt, the commanding officer at Fort Loudoun in GW’s extended absence, responded to the letter on 31 Mar. 1758 (see n.4).

1The “inclosed Paper” was a copy of the minutes of the Pennsylvania council on 13 Mar. 1758 (Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , Col. Rec., 8:29–32). Teedyuscung, chief of the Delaware, arrived in Philadelphia on Saturday, 11 Mar., with “three Indian Deputies from Diahoga,” and Governor Denny, the speaker of the assembly, the men on the council, several members of the assembly, and many “Inhabitants of the City” met in the council chamber to hear Teedyuscung’s speech assuring the men of Philadelphia that he had won over the western Indians to the British cause.

2The exchange of speeches between Teedyuscung and Denny of which this is a part took place at a meeting of the council on 25 Mar. 1758. See the council’s minutes, ibid., 50–57. The first section of Teedyuscung’s speech, ending with “they may not be cut off with them” appears only in the ALS.

3According to the council’s minutes: “The Governor ordered the Secretary to prepare a Draught of a Letter to Collonel Washington, or the Officer Commanding the Forces in Virginia, agreeable to the Teedyuscung’s Request of yesterday, and it was agreed such a Letter should be sent by express” (ibid., 56). The letter itself is preceded by the following: “On the Twenty-Sixth the Letter to Collonel Washington was signed and sent by express” (ibid.).

4In GW’s absence Thomas Bullitt replied to this request from Fort Loudoun on 31 Mar. in the following terms:

“On Receipt of yours of the 25th Instant, I held a Council, Copy whereof I have inclosed, by which You will see the Reasons for not attempting a Negotiation of Peace between the Northern and Southern Indians, or without consulting higher Powers on the Occasion.

“I have dispatched an Express to Williamsburgh with your Letters, where Colo. Washington is, and can immediately have the Resolve of the Council, on the Affair; as to my attempting, in the Interim, such Negotiations as Teedyuscung proposes, by the Resolve of my Council, cannot justifiably do it, and for the reasons by them offered, also divers others I could enumerate, You will see the Dangers at present, of such a thing, and provided we were, there could be little done as the Chiefs of their Nations are not yet arrived; neither have we here an Interpreter that can be understood, and our attempting to speak on the Subject to those Young Men sent from the Nations to revenge the Injuries done us, and them by our Enemies, might be understood, and be a means of calling in all those Parties we have sent out; this would be much to our Prejudice, as the Enemy are on our Frontiers committing the cruellest of Hostilities; I must also think such a Step, at this Juncture, would raise a Jealousy amongst them, as they are displeased at our not having proper Necessaries here to furnish them on their Arrival, which was their Expectation (and I believe promised them) I say in all Probability, such a Proposal to those Indians, at this Time might be attended with the Consequences of Confirming them in an Opinion, that we had made Peace with their Enemies; have no further Service for them, and in consequence thereof did not get the Supplies promised them, for Carrying on the War we engaged them in; for said Reasons must think it too nice an Affair at Present to attempt” (P.R.O., C.O. 5/50, ff. 109–10). The council of war that advised Bullitt to this effect with regard to Teedyuscung’s proposal was held at Fort Loudoun on 30 Mar. and was attended by lieutenants John Campbell, Mordecai Buckner, Nathaniel Thompson, Charles Smith, and James Roy. A copy of the minutes of the council of war is in P.R.O., C.O. 5/50, ff. 111–12. Both the letter and the minutes are copies sent by Denny to Gen. James Abercromby.

John Blair as president of the Virginia council wrote Gen. John Forbes on 9 April 1758: “I have just advised with the Council on an Express from Winchester, with a Letter from Governor Denny, on a Proposal of Peace by some of the Western Chiefs, with a Council held at Winchester, it being Derected to the Chief Officer There, of which Council I inclose you a Copy with the Presidents Letter to Governor Denny in Answer thereto, which the Council here approve of, as thinking the offer from Such Traitorous People as they have been, not to be Listned to at this Time” (Scottish Record Office: Dalhousie Muniments).

5Thomas Bullitt wrote Denny on 31 Mar.: “The Number of Indians here is about four hundred, also considerable Parties on their way, and expected from the Southern Nations, Numbers uncertain, tho. imagined not less than one Thousand; above Twelve Days since Three Hundred of the Cherokees have been equipped and sent out against the Enemy, the last Accounts I had from them they had discover’d a Party of them, and intended, as soon as they had assembled a sufficient Body to attack them” (ibid., ff. 109–10).

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