Arthur Campbell to Beverley Randolph
Washington Feb. 20. 1790
By different communications particularly a letter from one of the Kentucky Delegates of which an extract is inclosed I am informed that the unfriendly Southren Indians have notice of the ammunition intended for the Chickasaws and are preparing a force to try to take it.1
Piamingo when he set out from Holstein for the Chickasaws Towns, assured us, he would if possible, be back by the first of February, with a strong detachment of his own Warriors to escort the ammunition out: He reached the Cumberland Settlements, not far distant from which, he had a skirmish with a small party of Creeks, who he got the better of. Since he left Cumberland going homeward not a syllable from him. What may be the cause of this delay is uncertain; but it will be fatal, to part of our frontier Settlements, if the impatience of the enemy should prompt them to push forward, (before a Guard arrives), to destroy the powder where it now lies. The Inhabitants in Virginia adjoining are alarmed, being now apprehensive of such an event. Sometime ago I wrote the Commanding officer of the Holstein District in Carolina advising him to place a small guard at Kings, where the ammunition now lies, and that I did not doubt, but that the Executive of the United States, would sanction the measure. This is not yet done, nor can well be accomplished, without first receiving orders for the purpose. Thus, Sir, is a valuable public property, not only, in a way to be lost; but the lives of a number of defencless Citizens in imminent danger.
Had we Orders from the Executive, or from the President of the United States, we would proceed with confidence, as we might be instructed to secure the stores.
It is a mortifying consideration the lax regulations respecting egress, and regress, between the Settlements of the white-people in Carolina and that of the Indians. It is more than probable that McGillivray has emissaries—passing and repassing, particularly a certain Bennet Bellew, (an old Tory) this man is blamed for carrying the account of the arrival of the ammunition to the enemy.2
It would be a happy circumstance if we had martial law on the frontiers for some time, and a rigid officer with Troops that would see it executed. I am Sir your most obedient servant
Copy, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.
1. In the fall of 1789 Piomingo, or the Mountain Leader (see Piomingo to GW, 30 Oct. 1789), was on his way to New York City with several other Chickasaw chiefs to request aid from GW for the Chickasaw in their disputes with the Creek. While Piomingo was in Virginia, the legislature, on 23 Oct., resolved that “Whereas, some of the chiefs of the Chickasaw Indians have represented, that the Creek Indians have committed many insults and depredations on their nation, and have attacked them in a hostile manner and unprovoked, that they intended to make application to the President of the United States for assistance to repel those violences, but are prevented from executing that intention by the great distance to New York, the advanced season of the year, and the pressing exigence of their affairs. And the General Assembly calling to remembrance the long and uninterrupted friendship which hath subsisted between the said Indians and the people of this State, who have received constant proofs of their affectionate regards, and at the same time pitying the defenceless condition of the said Chickasaws, who are exposed to the fury of their enemies from the want of ammunition;
“It is therefore resolved, That the Executive be desired to furnish to the Chickasaw nation, such a quantity of gunpowder, not exceeding 2,000 weight, and lead proportioned thereto, as their necessities may require, and the public can conveniently spare, and furnish such of the said Indians as are in this city, with such articles as may be proper for them, and also make suitable compensation to the two white men who accompany the said Indians.” The General Assembly, the journal indicates, acted in anticipation of approval by the federal executive (Journal of the House of Delegates, description begins Journal of the House of Delegates, of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Begun and Held at the Capitol in the City of Richmond, on Monday, the nineteenth of October, in the Year of our Lord, One Thousand, Seven Hundred and Eighty-Nine, and of the Commonwealth the Fourteenth. Richmond, . description ends 1789, 8–9). On 30 Oct. Piomingo wrote GW that because of “the delays he had met with and the temporary aid he had obtained from the State of Virga,” he had decided to return home (Washington’s Memoranda on Indian Affairs, 1789). As Campbell indicates later in his letter, the ammunition was left behind at “Kings.” This site was possibly Kings Mill, on Holston River at the mouth of Reedy Creek, a large structure built of heavy stone in 1774 by Col. James King. It stood in the area of present-day Kingsport, Tennessee. By March 1790 Piomingo was assisting Maj. John Doughty on the Tennessee River after an attack on his small force by the Cherokee. See GW to the Chiefs of the Choctaw Nation, 17 Dec. 1789, source note. Doughty requested that the powder and lead deposited at Kings Mill be sent to the Falls of the Ohio at a place designated by Doughty and Piomingo. “It is of the utmost consequence to the United States that this powder & lead should get to the nation. The present made by the State of Virginia last fall has never reached these people, and they are on the eve of a war with the Creeks” (Doughty to Josiah Harmar, 17 April 1790, WHi: Draper Collection, Harmar Papers).
Campbell’s enclosure was an extract of a letter from “a Member of the Legislature of Virginia, dated Holstein-Iron Works 16th Febr. 1790,” stating that “the Indians of the South have got information of the Mountain-Leaders Ammunition, and are from every intelligence I am able to get, determined to intercept it, let it go by either rout except prevented by a strong Guard” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).