George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel John Gibson, 5 December 1777

From Colonel John Gibson

Fort Pitt [Pa.] Decr 5th 1777.

May it please your Excellency

By the inclosed Return Your Excellency will be made Acquainted with the strength of the Garrison at this place.1 Genl Hand ordered me to send the Deserters from the Different Corps at Camp down by Capt. Saml Miller of the 8th Pensl. Regt, which I Accordingly have done, Excepting those of the 13th Virga Regt and some who were sick. I shoud have sent the whole of them But at the time of Capt. Millers March, from the number of men who were on Commands, at the Small pox Hospital, & Employed as Artificers, we cou’d hardly mount a Serjts Guard. I make no doubt Genl Hand has already Acquainted your Excellency of the Situation of Affairs in this Country and of his having gone down to Regulate the Garrisons on the Ohio.2 since he left this place nothing Material has happened. Simon Girty a Messenger dispatched by General Hand to the Seneca towns on the Heads of the Allegeney, Returned here a few days a goe, he in forms us Guashota a Chief of them had Returned from War, that he had killed four people near Legonier,3 that another party Returned and Brought in a white Woman and three Scalps whilst he was in the towns, that they told him all the Nations Excepting White Eyes and a few Delawares woud strike us in the Spring. that they told him he must goe with them to Niagara, that he made his Escape; By going to hunt for his horse. he says the News of Burgoynes Surrender had not Reached there.4

Lt Cane was ordered down the Country to Bring up the Cloathing for the Remainder of the 13th Virga Regt now here, But as the Cloathing is not Yet Arrived, and the men Being in the most distressed Condition, I have now sent Capt. Sullivan for that purpose, and hope your Excellency will Give such directions as will Enable him to Return as soon as possible.5 I am with the Utmost Respect your Excellency’s most Obedient humble Servt

Jno. Gibson


John Gibson (1740–1822) was a French and Indian War veteran and Indian trader who had settled near Fort Pitt. He took part in Lord Dunmore’s war against the Shawnee and Ottawa villages in 1774, receiving that November the speech made by the famous Mingo chief Logan, who was said to be the brother of Gibson’s Indian wife. Gibson served as lieutenant colonel of the 13th Virginia Regiment from November 1776 to October 1777, when he became colonel of the 6th Virginia. GW ordered Gibson to take command of his former regiment, the 13th Virginia, in the spring of 1778 (see GW to William Russell, Sr., 28 May 1778), and before he retired from the army in January 1783 Gibson also commanded the 9th and 7th Virginia regiments. In September 1778 Gibson attended a conference at which the first U.S. treaty of alliance was signed, with the Delaware Indians. After the war Gibson served as a judge of the court of common pleas and a general in the Pennsylvania militia, and in 1800 Jefferson appointed him secretary of the Indiana Territory, an office he held until 1816.

1Gibson enclosed a general return, dated 3 Dec., of the troops at Fort Pitt, where he was serving as colonel commandant (DLC:GW). The return includes three companies of the 13th Virginia Regiment and two companies of independent Virginia troops, a total of 256 men, including 15 commissioned officers, 28 noncommissioned officers, and 213 rank and file. Gibson made an error when adding the figures of one row of the return, resulting in an incorrect total of 258.

3Simon Girty (1741–1818), an Indian trader born near Harrisburg, Pa., and raised partly among Seneca Indians, had been employed as an interpreter for the Americans around Fort Pitt as early as 1759 and as a scout during Dunmore’s War in 1774. Girty deserted the American cause in March 1778, and thereafter he served as an interpreter for the British at Detroit, taking part in Indian raids on western settlers. Girty was present at the torturing and killing of William Crawford by the Wyandots in Upper Sandusky in 1782. Kiashuta, also known as Guyasuta and The Hunter (c.1722–1794), was a prominent Seneca chief who took part in many councils between the Iroquois and the British before the Revolutionary War. He sided with the French after Braddock’s defeat in 1755, taking part in the September 1758 victory over British and provincial troops under the command of Maj. James Grant. During the Revolutionary War, Kiashuta promised neutrality, but in 1782 he led an expedition that burned the settlement at Hannastown, Pennsylvania. GW had known Kiashuta since 1753, when Kiashuta had acted as a guide on GW’s mission to warn off the French troops on the Ohio. GW visited Kiashuta’s camp in the fall of 1770 while on his journey to find bounty lands in the Ohio country, and in October 1774 Kiashuta visited GW at Philadelphia (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 1:143–44, 2:304, 310, 3:286). Ligonier, a town and township about thirty miles southeast of Fort Pitt in Westmoreland County, Pa., was the site of a British fort between 1758 and 1765.

4White Eyes, or Koquetakeghton (c.1730–1778), a leader of the Turkey clan of Delaware Indians, was elected principal chief of the tribe in 1776. He is most noted for signing a treaty of alliance with the United States in September 1778. Koquetakeghton was killed while serving as a guide for an American expedition against the British post at Fort Sandusky in November of the same year.

5James Sullivan (c.1748–1815) served as a captain in the 13th Virginia Regiment from December 1776 to September 1778 and in the state regiment raised by George Rogers Clark, the so-called Illinois Regiment, that carried on a campaign against the Shawnee tribes from 1780 to 1782. Sullivan settled out west after the war.

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