George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Peter Scull, 19 February 1779

From Peter Scull

War-Office [Philadelphia] 19th February 1779


The originals of the inclosed papers were referred to this Board from Congress; and I am now directed to transmit Copies of them for your Excellency’s information in the points which they treat of.1 I have the honor to be with the greatest respect Your Excellency’s Most ob. hb. Serv.

P. Scull Secretary


1The enclosures are copies of letters from John Dodge to the Congress, from Pittsburgh on 25 Jan., and Brig. Gen. James Potter to the Board of War, from Philadelphia on 17 Feb., both in DLC:GW. The original manuscript of Dodge’s letter is in DNA:PCC, item 78.

The copy of Dodge’s letter sent to GW reads: “As I have been one of the greatest Sufferers that is now in the United States of America both in person and property I have suffered every thing but Death Rob’d plunder’d of every farthing that I was master of but look upon it as an honor that I have suffered in so just a Cause as we are now engaged in and very happy that I have made my Escape from the Enemy after being Prisoner two Years and nine Months I think it my Duty as I am now in the Service of the United States, to inform your Honors of the proceedings and Carryings on in this Department where I am. It both greives & Chagrines me to the heart, to see Matters so ill conducted as they are in this Department—it is very natural for every one that has the Interest of his Country at heart to enquire into the Reason of our Grievances. is not one, the Farmers being drove off their Plantations on our Frontiers by the Savages? Could they [have] remained on their plantations they could have been very serviceable in supplying our Main Army in Provisions, in stead of that the poor misfortunate people are obliged to retreat into the thick settled Country, and I may say live almost upon the Charity of the Country, which of Consequence must distress the whole Country for Provisions—We will enquire why those Savages are our Enemies, because they are Bribed by the British to take up the Hatchet against us. where is their Rendevouz? Detroit, a place stockaded in with Cedar Pickets, and Eighty Soldiers to guard it, but it is strong enough to keep a large Quantity of Goods in, so the British can, & do, give near a Million pr Annum to bribe the Savages to fall upon our Frontiers & distress our whole Country, but we will suppose that place to be easily taken which it really is if Matters were conducted as they ought to be—But we will say that the public has been at Great Expence for two Years past, and there is nothing done. I may say nothing, there is a Fort built at Bever Creeck, and one at Tuskerowayes, which if they are not reinforced with Men & Provisions very speedily we have no reason to think but they will fall into the Hands of the Enemy in the Spring, now had one of these Forts been built at Preskeele [Presque Isle] or Riahoga, or any where on the Lake side the Men might have been employed this Winter in building of Boats or Gundeloes so that in the Spring we could [have] commanded the Lakes, which if we dont we cant keep Detroit if we take it, or if the winter had [been] sevier we could have gone on the Ice and taken Detroit, and Vessells too, with half the Men that it would have taken at any other Season of the Year, for the Vessells would be all froze up, but instead of that they are built in an Indian Country where that all supplies may be very easily cut off, and give the Savages Suspicion that we are a going to conquer them, and not our Enemies the English, and very good right they have, after there has been such threats thrown out to them as there has, we han’t the least Reason but to expect them all against us. Before Genl McIntosh marched from Bever Creek the Governor of Detroit put up a few of the lower sort of Savages by bribing them to send word to the General that they would meet him at Shuger Creeck, and give him battle, and at the same time there was more than four to one sent him word that they would not interfere or molest him on his March as he had told them that he would go to Detroit. The General marcht to the place but there was not one that appeared against him. He then gave out word that all those Savages that did not come in within twelve Days time & join him that he would look upon them as Enemies & use them as such, and that he would destroy their whole Country—now it was an Impossibility for those Nations, that sent him Word that they would not molest him, to get word in that short space of time which the General thought proper so [to] set, much more come in—Now What can we expect but to have them all against us if there is not some speedy remedy? I cant say what Opinion your honors may have of the Savages, but I can assure you that they are very Numerous, their Numbers are not known, and that there has not one out of a hundred taken up the Hatchet against us yet, but we cannot but expect they will if there is not proper Steps taken, & that speedily. We will suppose that the proper Steps are for us to march thro’ their Country, & take Detroit, which is easily done if matters were conducted as they ought to be, and by having that in our possession, & the Lakes, it will be in our power to force all those near Nations to come upon our Terms, and that will induce all the far Ones to be upon alliance with us, and then we shall have all the Trade of that extensive Country quite from the North West Hutsons Bay, Lake Superiour, the head of the Missiscippi which will make our Country flourish— But we will say the public has been at great Expence for two Years past and we are no nearer now than we was when we first set out, but what is the Reason; it is because there was people sent that knew nothing of the Matter. The General told me that he was brought up by the Sea Shore, and that he knew nothing about Pack Horseing in this Wooden Country—I don’t take it upon me to dictate or Censure no one, but I think that ought to be enquired into before there was thousands spent, but now it is too late to recall. The Horses & Bullocks are dead, the provision is eat, the Men must have their Pay it is sunk, lost gone, & here we are still going on in the same way; The General has likewise got the Ill Will of all his Officers, the Militia in protickaler which I am very sorry for as they are the only people that We have to depend upon to do any thing in this Department. Now if there was not any one that knew how matters should have been conducted it would have been a material Difference, but there is a Gentleman of an unblemished Character who has signalized himself by leaving every thing that was near & dear to him & come into this Qua[r]ter of the Country, prepared proper Talks for the Savages, and as he was greatly respected by all those who knew him it had its intended Effect, and I can assure your Honors that it has been the saving of hundreds of Lives and I can further assure you by various Circumstances and credible Inteligence that if he had not come & did what he did, there would not have remained one Family this side Alegany Mountains. He is still striving to keep them from falling upon us, but as there is others here striving to set them up it will be a very difficult Matter for him to do it, he has sent for the Chiefs of the Nations to come in and that there is still Mercy for them if they will know their Duty, and as his Influence is great with all those Nations who know him, I am in hopes it will have its intended Effect, but I should not be disappointed if they do not after receiving such threats as they have. He has likewise at his own private expence hired Men & sent them thro’ the whole Country about Detroit & this side, & found out the Situation of it, and when I was prisoner with the British I have often heard them make remarks that if he did not come against, that we had not a Man in our parts that knew the Situation of the Country and had the Influence with the Natives as he had. But whatever knowledge he may have concerning those Matters he has not never had the Offer of Ordering of them, but instead of that he has been put under Arrest by the false reports of a poor Ignorant set of People which is to the eternal Shame of our Country after he had saved them from being massacred by the Savages that was his Reward. Now I beg that your honours will take it into Considiration and order some speedy Arrangemt before this Qua[r]ter of the Country is ruined—a house divided against itself cannot stand, and your honors may rely upon it that is the Case here, If I have taken too much Liberty I beg your Honors will look over it as I would not wish to do more than my Duty— … P.S. Upon Colo. [George] Morgan’s arrival here he sent an Express to the Indian Nations for them to come in, and there has [been] two Runners just arrived here with Speeches of great Consequence which I suppose he will acquaint Congress with the earliest Opportunity.”

Potter’s letter to the Board of War reads: “At your Request I have considered the points on which my Opinion was desired. The Distance from Middletown to Sunbury by Water is Sixty Miles, and Sixty from thence to Wyoming, from thence to Tyoga Eighty Miles; to this Water Carriage is easy, and all provisions & Stores may be carried in Boats; The North East Branch forks here, therefore would be a proper place to Erect a Fort and establish a Magazine for the Support of the Troops. Chymung is twelve Miles from Tyoga, it is a principal Indian Town; [John] Butler, who commanded the Indians & Torys last Campaign, generally rendezvouzed at this Place. it is the first Town belonging to the Six Nations; from thence to Niagara their Towns are dispersed in different Parts of the Country. The Country is open & fertile, a passage thro’ it is not attended with difficulty, as plenty of Grass & Herbage can be had to support Horses & Cattle. In the Spring of the Year there is Water Carriage from Chymung to Niagara, (which is about 260 Miles) one or two short Carrying places excepted, but as this is uncertain Conveyance in Summer, Pack Horses ought to be provided. I am well satisfied that it would require Three Thousand Men to march thro’ this Country, & Man the Garrisons, as the Indians & Torys can collect their whole Force to one place as soon as an Army enters the Country—From Delaware to the upper End of Minissink is Seventy Miles from Wyoming—from thence to Muncy is Sixty Miles. from Muncy to the Great Island is thirty Miles, From thence to the Bald Eagles Nest twenty Five Miles; from thence to the West End Penn’s Valley ten Miles; from thence to Fort Roberdeau Forty Miles; from thence to Franks Town Eighteen Miles, from thence to Fort Ligonier is Eighty Miles, from thence to Fort Pitt is Fifty-Five Miles—This Extensive Frontier is near four Hundred Miles, and in my Opinion it would take more Men to Garrison the necessary Posts than would be requisite to Carry an Expedition into the Indian Country.”

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