George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Daniel Brodhead, 16 September 1779

From Colonel Daniel Brodhead

Pitts Burgh Sepr 16th[–24th] 1779.1

Dear General,

I returned from the expedition against the Senaca & Muncy nations the 14th Inst. & now do myself the honor to inform you how far I have succeeded in prosecuting it.2

I left this place the 11th of last month with Six hundred & Five Rank & File including Militia & Volunteers & one Months provision3 which except the live Cattle was transported by water under the escort of one hundred Men to a place called Mahoning about 15 Miles above Fort Armstrong4 where after four days detention by excessive Rains & the straying of some of the Cattle, the stores were loaded on Pack Horses & the troops proceeded on the march for Canawago on the path leading to Cuscushing5 at ten miles on this side the town one of the advanced Guards consisting of fifteen Whitemen including the spies & eight Delaware Indians under the command of Lieut. Hardin of the 8th Pena Regt whom I have before recommended to your Excellency for his great bravery & skill as a partizan6 discovered between thirty & Forty warriors coming down the Alleghany River in seven Canoes.

These Warriors having likewise discovered some of the Troops immediately landed, stript off their shirts & prepared for action and the advanced Guard immediately began the attack—All the troops except one Column & Flankers being in the narrows between the River & [a] high hill were immediately prepared to receive the Enemy which being done I went forward to discover the Enemy & [saw] six of them retreating over the River without Arms, at the same time the rest ran away leaving their Canoes Blankets, Shirts, provisions & eight Guns besides five dead & by the signs of Blood several went off wounded, only two of [our] men & one of the Delaware Indians (Nanouland) were wounded & so slightly that they are already recovered & fit for action—The next morning the Troops proceeded to Buchloons7 where I ordered a small Breastwork to be thrown up of felled Timber & fascines a Capt. & Forty Men were left to secure our Baggage & Stores & the troops immediately proceeded to Canawago, which I found had been deserted about eighteen months past.

Here the Troops seemed much mortified because we had no person to serve as a Guide to the upper Towns, but I ordered them to proceed on a path which appeared to have been travelled on by the Enemy sometime past & we continued marching on it about 20 Miles before any discoveries were made except of a few tracts of their Spies—But immediately after ascending a high hill we discovered the Alleghany River & a number of Corn Fields & descending several Towns which the Enemy had deserted on the approach of the Troops. Some of them fled just before the advanced Guard reached the Towns & left several packs of Deer Skins. At the upper Seneca Towns we found a painted image or War post, clothed in Dog skin & John Montour told me this Town was called Yoghroonwago,8 besides this we found seven other Towns consisting in the whole of one hundred & thirty Houses some of which were large enough for the Accommodation of three or four Indian families. The Troops remained on the Ground three whole days destroying the Towns & Corn Fields. I never saw finer Corn altho it was planted much thicker than is common with our Farmers. The quantity of corn & other vegetables destroyed, at the several Towns from the best accounts I can collect from the Officers employd for to destroy it must certainly exceed Five hundred Acres which is the lowest estimate & the plunder taken is estimated at 30 m. Dollars9 I have directed a sale to be made of it for the benefit of the troops10 On my return I preferred the Venango Road the old towns of Conawago Buchloons & Mahusquechikoken about 20 Miles above Venango on French Creek consisting of 35 large houses were likewise burnt.11 The greatest part of the Indian houses were larger than common & [were] built of square & round logs & frame work. From the great quantity of Corn in new Ground & the number of new houses Built & Building it appears that the whole Seneca & Muncy nations intended to collect to this settlement which extends about eight Miles on the Alleghany River between one hundred & seventy & two hundred Miles from hence12—the River at the upper Towns is little if any larger than Kiskamanitis Creek. It is remarkable that neither Man or Beast has fallen into the Enemies hands on this expedition,13 & I have a happy presage that the Counties of Westmoreland Bedford & Northumberland if not the whole Western frontiers will experience the good effects of it.

Too much praise cannot be given to both Officers & Soldiers of every Corps14 during the whole expedition their perseverance & zeal during the whole march thro’ a Country too inaccessible to be describd can scarcely be equalled in history, notwithstanding many of them returned barefooted & [almost] naked they disdained to complain15 & to my great mortification I have neither Shoes Shirts, Blankets Hats Stockings nor leggins to relieve their necessities.16

On my return here I found the Chiefs of the Delawares the principal Chief of the Hurons & now the king of the Maquichee tribe of the Shawanesse is likewise come to treat with me about 30 Delaware Warriors are here likewise ready to go to war; but I have nothing to encourage them with & without the means of paying them I cannot send them out.

The Troops here have at least nine Months pay due to them & their is neither Money nor Pay Master to discharge the Arrearages.17

A Majority of my Regt are now discharged & the term of the two Ranging Companies of Westmoreland expired, so that I shall be weak in Troops to prosecute an expedition which by your permission I should be happy to make against Detroit taking the Shawan⟨ese⟩ in my way—I should be happy to have your permission to make occasional excursions against any of the Indian nations who may hereafter prove inimical to us, as sometimes a favorable oppertunity may be lost before I can be favored with your particular orders—Likewise to know your pleasure in regard to the Senecas & Muncies should they in their great distress sue for peace—I have before taken the liberty to give you my opinion respecting them, & the pairings of Scalps & the hair of our Countrymen at every warriors Camp on the path we marched are new inducements for Revenge.

I am informed that Colo. Clark who took Post St Vincent is making peace & war with the natives I am not instructed how far your Excellency has authorized him to do so & apprehend the worst consequences to this frontier should either Colo. Clark or myself enter into a treaty of peace with one of the Indian nations & the other Break it, & by my instructions I am confined to the immediate command of the Troops here I can take no step to prevent such a probable but humbly entreat you to do it.

The Wyandotts & the Maquichees tribe of the Shawanese promise very fair & I have promised them peace provided they take as many prisoners & scalps from the Enemy as they have done from us & on every occasion join us against the enemies of America which they have engaged to do.18

The two soldiers I sent Express to Genl Sullivan are not yet returned & I apprehend they have fallen into the Enemys hands.

A few Indian Goods Paint & trinkits at this juncture would enable me to engage the Delawares to harrass the enemy frequently.

The Bearer Capt. McIntire has some private as well as public Business to transact at Philada I have therefore ordered him to proceed to Head Quarters & he will have the honor to wait on you with this letter.19 I have the honour to be with the most perfect regard & esteem your Excellencys most Obedt Hble Servt

D. Brodhead

The Delaware Chiefs have just now called on me to Build some Block houses at Cushocken for the protection of their Women & Children whilst they are out against the English & Mingoes & I have agreed to send a Detatchment for that purpose agreeable to the Articles of Confederation.20

The Soldiers I sent express to Genl Sullivan are this moment returned & I enclose a copy of his letter.21


LB, NNGL; copy (extract), enclosed in GW to Samuel Huntington, 21 Oct. 1779, DNA:PCC, item 152. The words in square brackets are in the extract copy but do not appear in the LB.

1In his reply of 18 Oct., GW thanked Brodhead for “Your Letter of the 16th Ulto continued to the 24th.”

2In his letter to GW of 25 June, Brodhead wrote, “had I your permission I conceive I could make a successful expedition against the Senecas.” GW encouraged Brodhead to make the attempt in his response of 13 July, and, on 31 July, Brodhead wrote to GW that he would begin his march by 7 or 8 August. As he indicates in this letter, Brodhead actually set out on 11 Aug., with Continental troops from the 8th Pennsylvania and 9th Virginia Regiments, along with militia and various small detachments. While inflicting only localized damage on the Senecas, Brodhead’s expedition, in combination with Maj. Gen. John Sullivan’s ongoing expedition against the Six Nations, severely complicated the defensive predicament of the British-allied Indian tribes in this region. Brodhead wrote to Sullivan about his expedition on 10 Oct. (Pa. Archives, description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends 1st ser., 12:165); see also William Young Brady, “Brodhead’s Trail up the Allegheny, 1779,” Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, 37 (1954–55), 19–31. GW thanked Brodhead and his men in the general orders of 18 Oct.; see also his letter to Brodhead of that date.

3The extract copy in DNA:PCC adds the phrase “(our all)” at this place in the text.

4Brodhead apparently is referring to the former Delaware Indian village of Mohulbucteetam, later called “Mahoning” after the location where the Mahoning Creek enters the Allegheny River, about ten miles north of Fort Armstrong (now Kittanning, Pa.).

5Kushkushing (Goshgoshing, Goshgoshunk), a large Muncie Indian settlement, was located on the Allegheny River about 20 miles northeast of Venango, Pa., near the present Tionesta in Forest County, Pennsylvania.

7Brodhead is referring to the former Iroquois village of Buckaloon, which was situated at the mouth of Brokenstraw Creek on the Allegheny River at what is now Irvine, Pennsylvania. It was about one hundred miles north of Fort Armstrong and eight miles west of Conewango (now Warren, Pa.).

8Brodhead is referring to the former Seneca Indian village of Yoroonwago, which was located on the Allegheny River near what is now Corydon, Pa., about twenty miles northeast of Conewango.

9Brodhead uses “m,” or “M,” meaning one thousand, as in the Latin “mille” (OED description begins James A. H. Murray et al., eds. The Oxford English Dictionary: Being a Corrected Re-Issue with an Introduction, Supplement, and Bibliography of A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles. 12 vols. 1933. Reprint. Oxford, England, 1970. description ends ). The extract copy has “30,000 dollars.”

10The extract copy adds the phrase “and hope it will meet your approbation,” at this place in the text.

11The old Venango trail ran on the east side of the Allegheny River from the mouth of French Creek to Pittsburgh, passed through Salem township (Clarion County), crossed the Clarion River near present-day Callensburg, Pa., then ran southeast to Red Bank Creek (Armstrong County, Pa.) at the mouth of Town Run, at which point it turned south to the Allegheny River.

The “old towns” of Conewango, Buckaloon, and Mahusquechikoken—all Seneca and Muncie Indian towns—apparently were located on French Creek 20 miles northwest of Venango, near the present town of Meadville in Crawford County, Pennsylvania. These villages were not, as has been traditionally asserted, on the Allegheny River, but on French Creek, as Brodhead indicates in his letter. Capt. Matthew Jack, commanding a company of six-months Pennsylvania militia raised for the expedition, later recollected that on the expedition’s return down the Allegheny, while at “the mouth of French Creek where Franklin now Stands,” Brodhead “ordered two Companies to be Selected out of his Brigade under the Command of Capt Samuel Brady & myself to march up French Creek to the Indian Towns where Meadville now Stands, we went there and when we arrived the Indians old and young had all fled. I expect they had heard of us Coming we burnt their Town and distroyed their Cornfields[.] We got a quantity of Fur and Traps and returned with them to the mouth of French Creek” (Kellogg, Frontier Retreat, 61).

12Brodhead is referring to Yoroonwago and the seven villages of the Senecan “upper Towns” described above.

13The extract copy does not include the previous seventeen words.

14In place of the next twenty-six words, the extract copy has the following text: “for their perseverance and Zeal during the whole Expedition.”

15The remainder of the document is not included in the extract copy.

16GW addressed this problem in his letter of 18 Oct. to James Wilkinson, clothier general.

17GW wrote to Paymaster Gen. William Palfrey about this problem on 17 October.

18For Brodhead’s speeches to the Wyandot chiefs of 17 and 18 Sept. and his negotiations with the Mequachake Shawnee, see Kellogg, Frontier Retreat, 66–75.

19Thomas McIntire became an ensign in the 3d Pennsylvania Regiment in January 1776 and was later promoted to second lieutenant, with a commission dating from March of that year. Captured at the siege of Fort Washington in November 1776, he was exchanged in August 1777 and subsequently appointed lieutenant of an independent company serving under Brodhead in western Pennsylvania. McIntire was promoted to captain in March 1779, and he left the army in May 1782.

GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison wrote to McIntire on 19 Oct.: “I have communicated to His Excellency your wishes of serving in this Army, and I am authorised to inform you—that if it is agreable to the Honble the Board of War, by whose order the General understands you were employed at Fort pitt, he will have no Objection. His Excellency however, would not have his consent in this instance to be considered, as authorising a permission that might interfere with any commands you may have received from Colo. Brodhead or clash with any essential duties he may expect from you. To those of course you will attend” (DLC: GW).

20For this treaty with the Delaware Indians, see Address from the Delaware Nation, 10 May, n.4; see also George Morgan to GW, 9 May, n.1. For the Delaware chiefs’ speech to Brodhead requesting the construction of these blockhouses, see Kellogg, Frontier Retreat, 75–76.

21The enclosed letter has not been found, but it apparently was a letter “dated at Catharine Town” and acknowledged by Brodhead in his letter to Sullivan of 10 Oct. (Pa. Archives., 1st ser., 12:165).

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