George Washington Papers

To George Washington from David Humphreys, 21 September 1789

From David Humphreys

Rock Landing1 Septr 21. 1789

My dear General

I did not trouble you with a letter from Savannah, because our public Dispatch to the Secretary at War would inform you of our proceedings to that time.2 Besides the oppressive nature of the intollerable heat & the exertion we were obliged to make to get forward on our journey, occasioned such a relaxation & consequent sickness as rendered me almost incapable of writing. We are all now well.

After a fatiguing journey through the deep sands which prevail from Savannah to Augusta, we reachd the latter on the evening of the 17th instant. We intended to remain there one day to make arrangements with the Executive for the Negotiation & to take measures for forwarding our Stores, which were expected at Augusta by water in a few days; but upon receiving information from Messrs Pickens & Osborne that the Indians were growing very impatient to return to their homes & that they could not possibly be detained but a few days longer, we recommenced our journey that evening.3 The next day the iron axtle tree of our Carriage broke at a great distance from any house, which accident occasioned the loss of the whole day. Being determined to arrive at the Rock-Landing the following evening, according to our last letter to Mr McGillevray,4 General Lincoln & myself took two of the carriage horses, with a guide, & proceeded twenty five miles that night. Yesterday we reached this place at dark, after having travelled a long distance before we reached the Ogechee, and from the Ogechee to the Oconee (between 30 & 40 miles) through a dreary wilderness, in which there was not a single house. Mr Griffin, with Mr Few & Colo. Franks were to come on as soon as the carriage could be mended, for which arrangements were taken before we left them.5

We announced our arrival & readiness to proceed to business to Mr McGillevray last night. He is about three miles on the other side of the Oconee with all the Indians & we have not yet seen him. It is but justice to say, that from every thing which we have yet learned, the former Commissioners have conducted themselves with respect to the present negotiations in a very commendable manner.6 The Executive have resolved to give us every aid & facility in the business. We have not been here long enough to be assured of the prospects of success, or to know the difficulties that may occur. All we can say is that we shall act with all the zeal & perseverance to promote the public service, which may be in our power. It is a favorable circumstance that the present Commission is certainly very acceptable to the whole State, unless a few Land Jobbers be excepted. It is also pretty well ascertained that McGillevray is desirous of Peace—and his word is a Law to the Creeks—With my best respects to Mrs Washington, love to the Children & Compliments to the Gentlemen of the family I have the honor to be My dear General With the purest attachment & respect Your Most obliged & very humble Servant

D. Humphreys

P.S. The number of Indians I believe, does not amount to more than 2000, notwithstanding the exaggerated accounts we had received.


Humphreys was now serving with Cyrus Griffin and Benjamin Lincoln as a United States commissioner to the southern Indians at the council with the tribes at Rock Landing, Georgia. For background to their appointment, see Henry Knox to GW, 7 and 28 July, GW to Benjamin Lincoln, 11 and 20 Aug., to the U.S. Senate, 20, 21, and 22 Aug., to the Commissioners to the Southern Indians, 29 Aug., and Proclamation to the Southern Indians, 29 Aug. 1789.

1Rock Landing, a frequent location for Indian councils, was on the Georgia frontier between the Oconee and Ogeechee rivers.

2Humphreys is referring to the commissioners’ letter of 12 Sept. to Henry Knox, describing their arrival at Savannah and their preparations to continue their journey (ASP, Indian Affairs, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:69).

3The letter from Andrew Pickens and Henry Osborne, dated 16 Sept., is in ibid., 71.

4Alarmed at the possibility of the Indians’ leaving the council site before the Americans’ arrival, the commisioners wrote the Creek chief Alexander McGillivray on 18 Sept.: “We left New York eighteen days ago, invested with full powers, from the Supreme Executive of the United States of America, to conclude a treaty of peace and amity with the Creek nation of Indians. For the accomplishment of an object of so much importance, we have pressed our journey with uncommon expedition. We arrived here last evening, and, after making the necessary arrangements for our luggage to follow, we propose departing from this place for the Rock Landing this afternoon.

“Being this moment greatly astonished by information from Messrs. Pickens and Osborne, that the Indians would certainly disperse, unless we should arrive within three days after the very day which was originally appointed for the meeting, we shall accelerate our journey as much as possible. We therefore send an express with this letter, to let you know that we shall be at the Rock Landing the day after to-morrow, and to assure you, that, if a lasting peace and friendship shall not be established, between the United States and the Creeks, it will not be owing to the want of the best dispositions on the part of the former” (ibid.).

5Sen. William Few of Georgia accompanied the party, noting in a later description of his career that “I felt so much interested in the success of those measures that I determined to accompany the commissioners.” Few sailed with the commissioners from New York (Few, “Autobiography,” description begins “Autobiography of Col. William Few of Georgia.” Magazine of American History with Notes and Queries 7 (1881): 343–58. description ends 354). For Few’s account of the mission, see ibid., 353–54. For an identification of David Salisbury Franks, see his letter to GW, 12 May 1789, source note.

6Humphreys is referring to Andrew Pickens and Henry Osborne who had carried on negotiations with the Creek earlier in the summer. See their letter to GW, 30 June 1789, and notes.

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