George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Laurens, 3 May 1778

From Henry Laurens

York Town [Pa.] 3d May 1778.


Soon after I had dispatched my Letter of this Morning by McKlosky—the Secretary sent in the Inclosed Act of Congress dated 2d Inst. for raising two Regiments for the protection of the Western frontier & for authorizing your Excellency to appoint a proper Officer to the Command of Fort Pitt—a Copy of the Letter mentioned in the Act will also be inclosed.1

I likewise transmit about 100 Copies of an abstract account of intelligence lately received from France which I have by the aid of Mister Chief Justice Drayton had printed to day from an opinion that such an account will be acceptable in the Army, & not unuseful in the City.2

I have requested Major Brice who is so obliging as to take the charge of these to receive from Mister Bailey printer at Lancaster 500 Copies of the Address to foreign Officers & Soldiers printed in the German Tongue—which he has promised to deliver to Your Excellency.3 I have the honor to be With the highest Esteem and Regard Sir Your Excellency’s Most obedient & Most humble servant

Henry Laurens.
President of Congress.

ALS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 13.

1These measures were enacted as two resolves, both dated 2 May (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 11: 416–17). The enclosed copy of the letter “mentioned in the Act,” from George Clymer and Sampson Mathews to Laurens, dated 31 Mar. from Pittsburgh, reads: “Having at length joined at this place, we have proceeded to take into consideration the several Matters recommended to us by Congress. What called for our first attention was to provide, in Concert with General Hand, for the Defence of the Frontiers, against which we supposed the Indians would on the Return of Spring renew their attacks. Requisitions of Men are accordingly made to different Counties. If any of them will engage as Volunteers for a longer Term than Militia will generally consent to serve, General Hand will greatly prefer them, but of this there is no great Expectation. The demands made will not fall short of thirteen hundred in appearance a considerable Number, but what will very thinly cover so extended a Country, as that from the Mouth of Sioto to Kittanning along the Ohio, out of which too many interiour Stations are to be furnished. This we consider rather as a present provision for home Service, or short [ ] to the Indian Towns, than as a Standing Defence of the Country, or for offensive operations of any great Importance or Duration, for which in our Opinion the neighbouring Militia are illy calculated, many Circumstances combining to render them but little respectable for what with jealously of invaded Privileges, Contestions of Officers, and Freedom from Restraints of Law, from Disputes respecting jurisdiction, a refractory and licentious Spirit is kept up, little compatible with a just sense of Military subordination and obedience. We have therefore thought it highly necessary a Body of Troops should be maintained for these Purposes, whose Services can be more depended on, and recommend it to Congress to raise immediately two Regiments in Virginia and Pennsylvania, twelve Companies whereof in the former, and four in the latter, to be kept on foot for a Term not less than two years, unless it should be thought safe to disband theirs Sooner. If Congress approve of this scheme, which in the article of Oeconomy we also think a prudent, one it is proposed with part of these Troops to replace some of the Militia, and with the remainder to take a Strong Post in the Indian Country, near the head Waters of Sioto, which the General thinks could be easily supplied with Provisions, and from whence Detachments might continually harrass the Savages, and lay waste their Towns, but the most desirable Effect, would be the recalling their murdering Parties from our Country to the Defence of their own. This Body of Troops with the aid of Militia, might otherwise be employed if Circumstances should favour it in an Attempt on Detroit, which is represented to us as a Post of Some Strength on the Land Side, and on the Water defended by Several armed Vessels—for these reasons the Force to be employed thereon, as well as the Season for the Enterprise, are Matters of Consideration. the Summer Seems most favourable for reducing the place, the Winter for Seizing the Fleet, which is then laid up, and if this should escape, there is the less Security for maintaining the Conquest, unless with a Garrison so numerous as to render the Expence very burthensome.

“On coming here we had reasons for supposing the Indians in general were indisposed to our Interests, and were mortified to think some of our own people had by Acts of Outrage, and even by some of Treachery, madly co-operated with the British Emissaries in detaching them from us—the prospect of reconciling them seemed unpromising, but that we might not leave any Means untried to accomplish what Congress so much desired, we dispatched a Messenger to the Delawares, inviting their chiefs to come in, and a few Days Since, another to the Shawanoes, who having just crossed the Allegany, met and returned with Six Delawares coming with a Letter from Captain White Eyes and Killbuck, assuring Colonel Morgan that their Nation now determined to support the old Friendship, were drawing into a narrow Circle and inviting all the well disposed Shawanoes thereto and that many of the latter had, and were complying with the Invitation. The Six are gone back with the Messenger, carrying fresh Professions of our Friendship, and an Exhortation to their Chiefs to come in without Loss of time, as we remain here only to confer with them.

“This favourable Appearance has had no Effect in causing any Deviation from the Plan already formed, the late Hostilities in different parts for which we refer you to General Hand, affording ground to conclude we shall Still have Enemies enough upon our Hands, and indeed an Event has just happened which considerably checks the sudden Hope we conceived from this unexpected visit—We mean the Elopement of Captain McKee formerly Indian Agent for the Crown, who from his knowledge of Indian affairs and Influence among the different Tribes we fear is capable of doing us extensive Mischief. Simon Girty an Interpreter, and one Elliot lately returned prisoner on parole from Canada, accompanied him—and are all gone as is believed to Detroit or Niagara. It appears probable that Elliot was an Instrument employed by Butler, or some other Crown officer, to tempt McKee to this Act, who but in this Instance of breaking his Parole has been generally accounted a Man of honour.

“There is no doubt but this affair will excite Alarms throughout the Country, and from the general Temper of its Inhabitants, will create endless Jealousies, and suspicions of Characters, endeavring of Reproach. General Hand seems sensible of this, and fears with good reason the confidence he placed in Captain McKee who amused him from time to time with promises of setting out for York, may be turned so greatly to his Disadvantage, as in some degree to frustrate his best Endeavours to promote the Service, he therefore through us earnestly renews his Request to be immediately recalled. Having Submitted to our Inspection an Account of all his Transactions since his Arrival here, he appears to have bestowed great attention to every object of his Command, and has impressed us with most favourable Ideas of his Abilities, and Zeal in the Cause he has engaged in. We cannot however but concur with him in opinion, that it will be proper in Congress to give him a successor, who if he comes utterly unconnected with and unknown to the people in this Quarter, will have the best Chance of rendering some services to the public, especially if to a prudent Conduct he should unite a certain Inflexibility of Temper.

“Congress having expressed their apprehension that a spirit of Dissafection has spread it self through this Country it is with great Satisfaction we can report more favourably on this subject. Our Enquiries have been extensive, and we have reason to be contented with the prevailing political Principles. Those we have question’d on this Matter commonly refer us to an affair, as knowing few others of any alarming Nature, which happened some Months ago in the Country of Monongalia, where a sett of poor Wretches entered into some kind of Combination in favor of the old reprobate Governement. some of these people underwent a sufficient Persecution among their Neighbours, others were order’d for Tryal to Williamsburg, where they escaped from a Failure in transmitting the proceedings of the examining Courts, and in sending Evidences, but the Spirit of Toryism, if it once appeared, is we beleive now pretty well broken, as it meets with little quarter wherever it shews it self. Our opinion in the Case of Colonel Morgan, the result of an Enquiry into his Conduct directed by Congress, accompanies this.

“In our plan for defending the Frontiers, the Militia of Rockingham, Augusta, Rockbridge, Botetourt, Montgomery, Washington, and Green Briar in Virginia, will be called to do Duty greatly remote from Colonel Aylett, and as far remote from, and entirely out of the Department of, Colo. Morgan, on which account we are of opinion, it would be well for Congress to make a special Appointment of a suitable person in one of those Counties, to supply their Militia with Provisions, this person might be their Paymaster, and also act as Quarter Master—if all these Branches of Duty were united in the Same Person it might be a considerable saving of Expence. Mister Matthews referrs Congress to Mister Harvey for a Character of Captain Patrick Lochhart of Botetourt who as he thinks is well qualified for this Service.

“Congress has been already acquainted with the Special Provisions made for the protection of Bedford County in Pennsylvania, the Gentlemen therewith whom is entrusted the Nomination of Officers for the Companies to be raised, as well as assigning the proper Stations for them are George Woods John Piper David Espy and Benjm. Elliott. Mister McDouall has left us about four days ago, and we remain here, as we mentioned above, only to have a Meeting with such Indian Chiefs as may incline to come in, in Consequence of our Invitation. … Mister Mathews intending to wait here until he knows whether Congress think proper to appoint Mister Loch⟨hart⟩ he wishes the Messenger may be sent back as soon as that Matter can be determined” (DLC:GW).

2The printers Hall and Sellers published the account, dated 4 May, as a “Postscript” to the Pennsylvania Gazette (York) of 2 May; see Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 9: 577. William Henry Drayton (1742–1779) was born at Drayton Hall near Charleston, South Carolina. Although he was considered a prominent supporter of British rule after entering the provincial assembly in 1765, he began to speak out against parliamentary rule after his appointment to the South Carolina privy council in 1772 and was removed from his post three years later. Drayton was elected president of the South Carolina provincial congress in November 1775. He became chief justice in March 1776 and served as a South Carolina delegate to Congress from March 1778 until he died of typhus in September 1779.

3Laurens wrote Francis Bailey on 30 April requesting 1,000 copies in German of a congressional resolution of the previous day offering land and livestock to German troops in the British army who chose to settle in the United States, and he wrote Bailey again on 4 May requesting 500 copies for GW (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 10:405–10; Laurens Papers description begins Philip M. Hamer et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Laurens. 16 vols. Columbia, S.C., 1968–2003. description ends , 13:218–19, 245).

Index Entries