George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Edward Hand, 29 March 1779

From Brigadier General Edward Hand

Minisink [N.Y.] 29th March 1779


Since mine of the 20th I have been honoured by the receipt of your Excellys favours of the 21st and 24th Current—that of the 16th has not come to hand.

I cant at present give you any other Acct of the Country between Chemung & the Seneca Settlements than my letter of the 20th Affords. I every hour Expect an Officer from Wyoming who was taken on the Susquehannah Above that place & Carried to Niagara & from thence to Albany to be Exchanged—Also an Old Gentn of good Character who lives in Northampton County Penna this last [war] liv’d three years at Chemung—As a Treader, has frequently Hunted with the Indians, & been at All their Towns. has Also been Across from Chemung to the Alleganey Waters for Skins—but as it is 20 Years Since, perhaps they have moved their Settlements, at Any rate he must be Acquainted with the Face of the Country—when I examine him & the Lt if I find them Intelligent will Send them to your Excy for your greater satisfaction1—have Written to Col. Butler Concerning Job. Chillaway—but believe it will be to no effect, as I passed Job. in Connecogeague the latter end of last August on his way to the Ohio2—when at Fredericksburg last October I saw an Indian Cald Shawanese John, who was bred on the Susquehannah—perhaps he may be acquainted with the Country of the Senecas—when I last saw John he belonged to one of the Pennsylvania Regiments—he went to Cambridge in 1775 in the Northumberland County Company of Rifle Men—& Served a Year in that Corps—I believe he is now in Captn Doyles Compy—John must be Cross examin’d as he is much given to lying.3

Your Excy has Inclosed the Proceedings of a Court Martial held on the Prisoners reported in my last, your Excy will please to Inform Lt Col. Lindsley of Col. Spencers Regt of your Sentiments thereon.4

I have tried every method to get somthing out of them to no purpose—Land is not Acquainted in the Seneca Country, & Hicks, tho he has been from Wyaloosing to Niagara & Back, affects total Ignorance of the Country.5

Spencers Corps Shall Move immediately to the Mouth of Mohocomac—the Church mentioned is within 3 or 400 yards of the place where Coles Fort stood. there is Scarcely the Smalest Vestage of it now remaining—as Schotts & Part of Armands Corps are above the Mouth of Mohocomac—Spencers May with Safety go to work—the Mouth of Mohocomac is about 7 miles higher than Wells’s Ferry where the Upper Road to Wyoming leaves the River—Troops Coming from the North River must Cross at the Mouth of Mohocomac, or at Wells’s Ferry; at any rate they must come as low as the latter before the River Hills are pasable on the Pennsylvania Side.6

The Most distant part of my Present Cantonement from the Mouth of Mohocomac is About 9 Miles—I may Say it is the Center, Dewitts Fort being 9 miles East, & the lowest Troops on the Jersey Side of Delaware 9 Miles South of it.7

For the Difft Routes you desire See the Inclosed List.8

From Chemung to Niagara is Generally traveled in 12 or 13 days—from Chemung to Anaquaga is 60 miles, from this last, the Genl Route to Niagara is by Chemung—they Always come down the Susquehannah as far as the Mouth of Owegy Creek which is about 20 Miles above Chemung,9 Connedesega, & Genesio lie on Difft Routes to Niagara—I cant learn how far these places are apart—I believe by the way of Connedesega is the best, & dryest, & most Settled I believe—Genesio is about 70, or 80 miles from Chemung.

The Women brought down the River Say the Tories & Indians threaten to fall on the Frontier Early in April and if the Inclosed Acct from Captn Spalding be true it is like they mean to be as good as their Word10—I every hour expect a return Messenger from Wyoming.

The Snow has falen as deep in this Country last Week as at any time during the Winter which Still keeps back the reconnoitering Party, they Shall be Sent out as Soon as that Obstacle is removed—the Pennsylvania Sergt is to be of the Party—he is a Good Woods Man and an intelligent Fellow—he shall wait on your Excy on the return of the Party.

Captn Schott will wait on your Excy with A return of the Stores & Cloathing wanted for the Troops here.11

I Yesterday recd the Money Borrowed for the Legion.12

Spencers, Schotts, & Armands Corps are directed to make the Returns Cald for by Congress.13

I am Infinitely Obliged to your Excy for yr Permission to Accompany Mrs Hand to Lancaster—will take Head Quarters in my way—& have not the most distant wish to outstay the time I mentioned—I mean to Set out this Week—I have Order’d the German Regt & Spencers to call in their men On Furlough immediately—they Say the time for which they were furloughed is nearly expired—the Commanding officer of the German Regt when he Arrived here told me he had your Excys Permission for the Great Number he furloughed, on their reinlisting.14

As the Dragoons of Armands Corps were moved to Fishkill, as I mentioned to yr Excy & I believe was noted on the return, I judged them too remote to be comprehended in this Command—and Apprehended they would be returned by the Commanding Officer in that Quarter, therefore Omited them. this makes the difference in the Total of that Corps I am sir with much respect your Excys most Obedt Hble Servt

Edwd Hand


1For the intelligence from the old trader, whom Hand never named to GW, see Hand to GW, 31 March. The officer that Hand expected to question was Lt. John Jenkins (see Hand to GW, 5 April; see also Questions and Answers Regarding a Proposed Expedition Against the Six Nations, March–April).

2Hand is referring to the area of Conococheague Creek, which flows south past Shippensburg and Chambersburg, Pa., and enters the Potomac River at present-day Williamsport, Maryland.

3Shawnese (Shawany, Shaney) John (c.1750–c.1800), who is described in local histories as a friend of Job Chilloway, served in 1775 with Capt. John Lowdon’s company of Northumberland County, Pa., riflemen. He then apparently served in Capt. John Doyle’s once-independent company that was transferred from the 11th Pennsylvania Regiment to the 6th Pennsylvania Regiment in July 1778.

4Hand enclosed proceedings of the courts-martial at Minisink of Robert Land on 17–18 March and Edward Hicks on 19 March, over both of which Lt. Col. Eleazer Lindsley had presided (DLC:GW). Land and Hicks both pleaded not guilty to charges of being a spy and carrying intelligence to the enemy.

At Land’s trial, Lt. Peter Decker of the Ulster County, N.Y., militia testified that on 14 March “he went towards Coshithton [Cochecton, N.Y.] with a party of Men, after a number of Tories that were on their way from New York to Niagara that about three OClock P.M. he fell in with them and took Land and Hicks, he further says that Land told him after he was made prisoner that he was going to the Enemy at Niagara.”

Capt. Bezaleel Tyler, a former inhabitant of Cochecton, testified at Land’s trial that at the beginning of the war he had heard Land “say that he never would take up Arms against the King of Britain that sometime afterwards he was carried before the Committee at Peinpack and found Guilty of being an Enemy to these States, and from there sent to a Committee in pennsilvania to which state he belonged, for tryall, and upon his taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States he was set at Liberty, that immedeately after that he went to the Indians, in a short time after that Returned and went to the Enemy at New York. Captn Tyler further says that he was sent to the Indians in a few days after Land left them, on Business to try to make peace, with them, that the Indians told him that Land had been there and made a great complaint concerning the usage he had received from the Committees. Captn Tyler farther declares that a few days ago he heard Lands Wife say that when he [Land] was searched for Letters in 1777 that he outwitted those who searched him by having a Letter concealed in his Ink Stand that was sent from General Howe to the Commanding Officer at Niagara. that he [Tyler] then told her she was as bad as her Husband and in his Opinion she had Letters from New York Concealed. she declared that as God was her Judge she had not, that her Husband had hid them for fear they would be found with him as he expected every Minute to be taken prisoner.”

In his defense, Land said “that a certain Hugh Jones, John Lord and an Indian, came to his House [at Cochecton] in the Evening in April 1777, that Jones told him that he was going to join [John] Butler and [Joseph] Brandt and that he intended to git the Indians to distroy the Frontiers, upon which he went with them to try to prevent their distroying the Country, on his way he met Brandt who told him he had no Orders to distroy the Country and Murder the Inhabitants except they were in Arms against him, and although he was an Indian he Intended to convince the world that he was possessed with Humanity, after that he [Land] returned Home to Coshithton where he remained till the 21st February following and then being informed that the Indians were coming to distroy Coshithton, he went to New York to try to put a stop to their Depredations, after being there a few days was informed that the Inhabitants would kill him if he returned, upon which he concluded to stay in New-York, and imediately entered into the Kings Yard a Carpenter where he continued working till the last day February 1779. he then left New York to go to see his Famely which was about Twenty Miles West of Coshithton, and move them to Niagara, that Genl Clinton who Commands the British Troops in New York desired him to carry a Letter to the commanding Officer at Niagara, which he refused, the Genl then desired him to inform the Commandant at Niagara, that it was his desire that the Indians should not be permitted to continue to ravage and distroy the Frontiers.”

Hicks testified in his defense “that he was formerly an Inhabitant of Susquehannah, that in April 1777 he left his Farthers House and went to Niagara in Company with about Sixty Tories where he continued about Two Months, then entered into the Batteaux Service to carry provisions from Niagara to Oswego where he continued about Six Weeks & upon hearing that General Washington had Issued a Proclamation [of 25 Jan. 1777] Offering pardon to all those who had joined the Indians if they would Return to their Homes, he imediately set of[f] to return home, but coming in too late to receive the Benefit of the Proclamation was taken by some of the Militia and carried to Hartford in the state of Connecticut and there kept confined till Septr 78. from thence sent to New York as a prisoner of War and Exchanged, entered into the service of the Enemy in the Commissaries Department till the last day of February 79, when he made his Escape from New York and that on his way to Niagara he was taken by a party of Militia near Coshithton the 14th Inst.”

Both Land and Hicks were found guilty of the charges against them. Land was sentenced to death, and Hicks was “to be kept in Close Confinement during the War.” For Hicks’s subsequent escape, see Hand to GW, 5 April. For the subsequent invalidation of Land’s court-martial on jurisdictional grounds, and for his delivery to a civil magistrate in Easton, Pa., see GW to Oliver Spencer, 9 April (second letter), DLC:GW.

5Wyalusing is on the Susquehanna River in north-central Pennsylvania, about 30 miles southeast of Chemung, N.Y., and about 175 miles directly southeast of Fort Niagara.

6Wells Ferry was located near present-day Milford, Pa., where the Sawkill Creek enters the Delaware River. Hand inaccurately wrote “Wills’s” at his initial reference to this place in this paragraph.

7Fort Dewitt was a blockhouse built in 1757 on Denansink Creek at Deer-park, Orange County, New York.

8The enclosure, an undated document in DLC:GW, presents mileages between four sets of places. Minisink in this document refers to present-day Montague, N.J., rather than Hand’s headquarters at Minisink, New York. Lardners probably was Larner’s or Larne’s, also called Learn’s, which is now the site of Tannersville, Pennsylvania:

“Upper Road from Minisink to Wyoming Miles
 from Wells’s Ferry to Shoholey 14
    to Lakawaxin 14
    to Copouse now Cald Providence 21
    to Lakawanie 10
    to Wyoming Fort 8
“Lower Road from Minisink to Wyoming Miles
 from Wells’s Ferry to Van Zordas 12
    to Bush Kill 8
    to Fort Penn 12
    to Lardners 9
    to Wyoming 35
“Road from the Mouth of Mohocomac to Rochester Miles
 from Mohocomac Mouth to DeWitts Fort 9
    to Mamacoting 14
    to Lurenkill 8
    to Rochester 12
“Road from the Mouth of Mohocomac to MiddleBrook Miles
  from Mohocomac Mouth to Col. Rosekrans’s Good Road 19
    to sussex Court House (Very Bad for 12 M.) 16
    to suckeysunny, (Rough) 20
    to Mendham—(pretty Good) 9
    to Pluckamin (Good) 8
    to MiddleBrook (Good) 8

9Owego Creek flows in a southerly direction into the Susquehanna River east-northeast of Chemung.

10Capt. Simon Spalding wrote in the enclosed letter to Hand of 25 March from Fort Penn, present-day Stroudsburg, Pa., that “on the 23th Instent I was With In 2 miles of Wyoming fort Whair I Saw A Number of Bildings On fire Clost to Sd fort I also haird a Number of Small arms at or Neir the fort I Sent 2 men to See if thay could git to the fort But as the firing In cresed thay Returned to me I Being In that place With a famaly thought Prudent to Return to this Place & my Duty to Inform your Honer of the Mater... P.s. the man I send this By Was Present with me Will Be able to answer any question on the mater” (DLC:GW).

Simon Spalding (1742–1814) moved from Connecticut to Wyoming Valley, Pa., in 1772 and became a second lieutenant in Capt. Samuel Ransom’s Wyoming Valley company in August 1776. Promoted to first lieutenant in January 1777 and captain in June 1778, Spalding commanded this independent company during Maj. Gen. John Sullivan’s expedition against the Indians in 1779. Spalding transferred to the 1st Connecticut Regiment in January 1781 and retired from the army in January 1783. He settled in the Wyoming Valley after the war and served in the militia as a brigadier general.

11For Schott’s arrival at Middlebrook with this return, see GW’s second letter to the Board of War of 4 April.

12Hand is referring to Pulaski’s Legion and the repayment of money that he and Col. Oliver Spencer had personally advanced to meet the needs of Pulaski’s infantry.

13For this request, see GW to Hand, 24 March, and n.10 to that document.

14Maj. Daniel Burchardt commanded the German Battalion at this time.

Index Entries