George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Colonel Daniel Brodhead, 21 May 1779

To Colonel Daniel Brodhead

Hd Qrs Middlebrook 21 May 1779

Dr Sir

Your favors of the 3d & 6 instant came to hand the 18th with the papers to which they refer.

The irregularity among the troops occasioned by the inhabitants selling them liquor should be stopped by such means as we have in our power. The establishment of military law where the civil prevails, is a measure of extreme necessity, and which I have no authority to recommend. On the present occasion the attention of the officers—strict discipline and exemplary punishment must be exercised on the soldiers; while on the part of the seller, we can only put in practice such seizures as are not legalized1 by the inclosed general orders of the [ ].2

The murder of the Delaware young man by the soldier of the Virginia regt is an unfortunate affair particularly at this juncture. The case appears embarrassing as the articles of war are not sufficiently explicit.3 Examplary punishment however, I conceive absolutely necessary; to keep the Indians from revenge and preserve the peace of the country—but under your representation this can only be effected by a military process. I am induced therefore to order a court martial on Col. Gibsons return or should a field officer be present when this reaches you. I would imagine the court will find no difficulty in giving a proper decision; as their oath directs them, where doubts shall arise, which are not explained by the articles, to act according to their conscience; the best of their understanding; and the custom of war in like cases.4

That the punishment may be as extensively known to the Delawares as possible, it should be executed in the presence of some of their principal men.5 With respect to the design formed to way-lay, and massacre the Indians of this nation now on a visit of negociation to congress, you will take the most effectual and immediate steps for their safe return by affording an escort &ca.6

It is to be lamented that the inhabitants shew such a disposition to emigrate; but we have no military remidy for its prevention.7

Should you have received an authentic account of the seizure of the provisions in Monongahela county, you will transmit me the particulars of the transaction, and in the mean while pursue such measures for obtaining justice to the public as shall appear proper and warrantable.

In my letters of the 3d & 10th instant I have given my opinion on some of the objects now before me; and to which I refer. I have there spoken as decidedly as the nature of my information allowed, on those circumstances which should incline us to hold, or to evacuate fort Laurens. Should the latter have taken place before my letters reached you; or should you still hold it; but imagine an evacuation most expedient; you will apply its garrison8 elswhere and in such a manner as may appear most advantagious.9

You ask me as to the extent of your district or department. I need not tell you that your command is comprehended in the troops under your direction. As to the question you will perceive by the resolve of Congress which I transmitted that the idea of seperate departments is done away.10

The carrying our operations westward on a large scale, will greatly depend on the termination of those now on hand. In the mean time you will direct your enquiries to useful and authentic information of the country and proceed in the execution of my former instruction.

I shall communicate your want of shoes to the board of war, that you may be furnished with a necessary supply.11

Your several observations appear to be well founded, and cannot but claim my attention. I am Dr Sir &


Df, in James McHenry’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1McHenry presumably meant to write “are legalized.”

2GW probably enclosed an extract from the general orders of 1 Jan. 1779, which stipulated that “No person is permitted to sell liquor except such as are capable of giving decent entertainment to passengers or specially authorized upon penalty of forfeiting their liquors, which will be appropriated for the use of the Army.”

3McHenry wrote and then marked out the following additional text at this place on the draft: “in such cases; and what makes the matter still more embarrassing is the disposition which you suppose in the people to prevent the operation of the civil.”

4GW is quoting from section fourteen, article three of the Articles of War, which prescribed the oath that all officers had to take before serving on courtsmartial (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 , 5:801).

5Brodhead replied on 5 June that he would convene a court-martial under Lt. Col. Stephen Bayard to try the soldier accused of killing the Delaware Indian, along with other men accused of various offenses (DLC:GW). The proceedings of that court-martial, which was held 6–14 June at Pittsburgh, indicate that the accused soldier, Pvt. James Beham of the 13th Virginia Regiment, was acquitted on 9 June (DLC:GW).

6GW wrote “by affording an escort &ca” on the draft. For the mission and activities of the delegation of Delaware Indians that had just visited camp, see George Morgan to GW, 9 May.

7McHenry wrote this sentence in place of the following text, which he wrote and then marked out on the draft: “I am sensible of the disadvantages we must suffer from the inhabitants moving down the Ohio. But we can only disuade, and shew the ruin that will arise from a depopulation of the frontiers, should the practice become general.” For a discussion of this movement, see Brodhead to GW, 3 May, n.3.

8McHenry wrote and then marked out a different ending to this sentence on the draft: “and the troops in general under your command agreable to my letter of the 21st April on this subject.”

9For details of the status of Fort Laurens and its potential evacuation, see GW to Brodhead, 3 May, n.2.

10McHenry wrote this paragraph in place of the following text, which he wrote and then marked out on the draft: “You ask me as to the extent of your command. It is difficult to ascertain true, its precise limit. I can only say in general that it is comprehended in Fort Pitt and its dependencies, I must rely on your prudence to avoid interference with any other command.”

GW’s mention of a resolve that had “done away” with “the idea of seperate departments” apparently referred to a congressional resolution of 23 Jan. directing him “to superintend and direct the military operations in all the departments in these states,” a copy of which he had enclosed in his letter to Brodhead of 15 Feb. (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 , 13:110; see also GW to John Jay, 30 Jan., n.1).

11See GW to the Board of War, 22 May (second letter).

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