George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Daniel Brodhead, 21 March 1779

From Colonel Daniel Brodhead

Fort McIntosh [Pa.] March 21st 1779.

Dear General.

Inclosed are several Letters from our Friends at Coochocking. Those from Killbuck were directed to Genl McIntosh and myself but that from Mr Heckenwelder was sent me in the pad of a Moravian Indian’s Saddle.1

The Mingoes Wyondats Muncies Shawnese & a few of the Delawares who live with the Wyondats have lately made two attempts on Fort Laurens—Unfortunately in the first a Sergeant & seventeen Men who were sent out to drive in some Horses were killed, except two, who are Prisoners.2

In the present humour of the Savages, it is clear that the Inhabitants will soon be great sufferers—Many of them have already sent away great part of their Effects & the generality of them are in great dread & Fear. Therefore unless an early Movement into the Enemies Country can take place, this Fertile Country will soon be depopulated And we have at present scarcely one Months Provisions on this side the Mountains to subsist the Garrisons.

A number of light Field Pieces are greatly wanting in this Department And I could wish to see a great number of light Swivels brought up for the Protection of our Magazines, which from the Nature of the Service here, must soon be greatly increased in Number.

Should Detroit be the Object (which is my Wish, Because, it is the source of all the Calamities the Inhabitants suffer) I apprehend three or four eight inch Howitzers would be of excellent use in the Reduction of that as well as of Niagara.

I Beg your Excellency will pardon the Liberty I have taken in giving my Opinion unaskt.

General McIntosh has Marched to Fort Laurens[.] his Letter to your Excellency accompanies this and will inform you why he is gone.3 With the most perfect Regard & Esteem I have the Honor to be your Excellencies most Obedt Humble Servt

Daniel Brodhead Colo. 8th P. Regt


1The enclosures, all in DLC:GW, apparently were a letter from John Heckewelder to an unnamed recipient, presumably Lachlan McIntosh, 12 March; an undated reply from Shawnee, Wyandot, and Mingo warriors to a Delaware council at Coshocton (in present-day Ohio); and letters from John Killbuck to McIntosh, 13 and 15 March. For Brigadier General McIntosh leaving intelligence for Brodhead to forward to GW, see McIntosh to GW, 19 March.

John Heckewelder (1743–1823; Hackenwelder), whose full German name was Johann Gottlieb Ernestus Heckewelder, worked as a cooper in Bethlehem, Pa., and assisted Moravian missionaries ministering among the Indians until he joined their ranks in 1771. Demonstrating unusual facility to learn Indian languages and customs, he won the trust of both his superior, David Zeisberger, and the Indians as he traversed the northwestern back country as far west as Detroit. Captured by the British in 1781 and held as a suspected American spy, Heckewelder subsequently eluded the charge and gained his release. He left the missionary service in 1786 but remained active in Moravian and Indian affairs and wrote several works based on his experiences, most notably A Narrative of the Mission of the United Brethren among the Delaware and Mohegan Indians, from its Commencement, in the Year 1740, to the Close of the Year 1808 (Philadelphia, 1820).

Heckewelder’s letter of 12 March, written at Coshocton, reads in part: “I take this opportunity of laying before you my Sentiments in Consideration of the present Critical times. And as I apprehend some matters may be misrepresented to you I think it my duty to give you all the Intelligence I have Collected. The Services which have been done in these days by the Counsel of Cooshacking, must be acknowledged by every Friend to his Country, The Conclusion was made by the Enemy that Fort Laurens Should be attacked, and to that purpose they were already gathered, and had surrounded that Post, the Delawares delivered Speeches to the Heads of the Warriors, and with some trouble got the Enemy to return home again for this time, But out of fear Sir that the Delaware Chiefs might think that they had done more than they really have, and for that reason report unto you. they had Stop’d the Warriors entirely from doing any more mischief, or from making any attempt on that Garrison for the future, I must herewith inform you that they are not at all yet incline’d for peace. I have heard them this day (as a great part of them are here) they are not at all Content that the Delawares Stop’d them in their undertaking, and say had it not been for them, they Would have had the Fort, and all what is in it by this time. They laid Several Schemes as I understood how to become Masters of the Fort. the first was to persuade the Col[one]l [John Gibson] out in order to treat with him, and when performed, and he in their hands, to threaten to kill him, if he did not write a letter immediately to his Men in the Fort, to surrender immediately. Should they not be able to perform this, they were to Cut down the picquets in the night and storm the Fort. In fine they have so many fine Stories from the Governor of Detroit [Henry Hamilton], and his proceedings at the falls of the Ohio, and how he is coming up that River in Boats, with a large Army, and a number of Cannon to take Fort Pitt: as likewise that he, the Governor has received letters, that numbers of English are coming up from Missisipi both by land and water to his assistance, and to fight the Virginians, that they do not Care to hear a word from any body else but him. But this is not altogether their reason for going to war. I observe robbery is their Chief object, by frequent wars, they have become thieves and Robbers, and this drives them to war, without this they cannot Content themselves, and therefore I think they deserve to be punished Severely….

This evening we hear that the Shawonese after long Councelling at Cooshacking have come to a Conclusion of making peace with the states, although we wish it to be true, yet we cannot Conceive how they could alter their minds so quickly, we having heard them so much to the Contrary within these few days, We are of opinion that no firm peace can be settled as long as Detroit is not taken, the place from which all evil springs, and even the Enemy themselves say, that when they once see the Americans take detroit they then will believe, they have Conquered King George, but no sooner …. P.S. I send this by Samuel Moore, a good and trusty Man belonging to our society, I likewise have desired him to try to get a pound or two of Tea and some pounds of Coffee for Us as we have been out this long time and as his business is no farther than Be[a]ver Creek, and to that Col. Morgan not at Fort Pitt, We thought to apply to Col[one]l Brodhead for the same, promising to pay for it in Skins or Furs, by the first safe opportunity I leave it entirely to you Sir, to whom you choose to Communicate this letter, all I request is not to let an Indian know a word of what I wrote they being so dubious of our writing that, which they do not Chuse to tell you, know we have suffered greatly by our writings.”

The reply from the warriors to the Delaware council, which is alluded to in Heckewelder’s letter, was delivered by a Shawnee representative. It reads: “Grand Fathers the Delawares—You told me yesterday that all your business was to work that which is good, and that you was in good Friendshiep with the 13 United states, and that your whole Study was to preserve that Friendship you had fast hold of. You spoke to me on the Road when I was going to Fight the Virginians at Tuscorowas, you turn’d me back, told me to go home to my women & Children, and consider them, and that what wou’d be good for them.

“Now my Grand Father—I tell you I have heard you, and take your Words home with me. I will carry all what you have said to me Home in my Hand, and when I come to my Chiefs, I shall open my Hand unto them and deliver your words unto them to consider about it …

“Now Grand Father—You told me likewise that you was going to the great Council of the 13 United States—I therefore trust in the great god that he will help you that you may come back again, when I shall hear what those great Men have spoke to you.”

Killbuck, in his letter of 13 March to McIntosh, written at Coshocton, described Indians threatening Fort Laurens and the surrounding area and informed the general that he had “sent a Spie to Sandusky to find out what is going on this side of the Lake.” In his letter of 15 March, also written at Coshocton, the Delaware chief urged McIntosh to attack the aggressive Indians both to fulfill a promise made some two years earlier at Fort Pitt and to boost Killbuck’s influence.

2For what appears to be another account of this attack, which apparently occurred on 23 Feb., see McIntosh to GW, 12 March.

3Brodhead is referring to McIntosh’s letter of 19 March to GW.

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