George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 22 September 1791

From Henry Knox

War Department [Philadelphia] 22d September 1791.


I have the honor to submit a Copy of a Letter from General Wilkinson to General St Clair, containing the particulars of the expedition against L’Anguille1—The result being thirty prisoners—the destruction of the villages, and the consternation arising, from the demonstration of their being within our reach, must all tend to the great object the establishment of peace.

I have also the honor to enclose the copy of a private letter shewing the desire of General Wilkinson, to enter into the military service of the United States—and also the Letter of the Board in Kentucky.2

I have received a Letter from General Butler, dated on the 5th at Muskingum, in which he says, “that the water having risen three feet, will ensure them a passage to Fort Washington, by the 10th or 12⟨th⟩ at furthest, and that all the troops precede him.” I have the honor to be Sir, With the highest Respect, Your most Obedt hume servant

H. Knox


1For the background to the expedition of Lt. Col. James Wilkinson, see Alexander Hamilton to GW, 16 Sept., source note. The enclosed copy of Wilkinson’s report to Arthur St. Clair, dated “Frankfort on Kentucky,” 24 Aug., is in DLC:GW. It was later presented to Congress (see GW to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, 27 Oct. [first letter]) and is printed in 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 1:133–35.

2Wilkinson’s letter of 26 Aug. to Henry Knox reads: “I flatter myself an acquaintance contracted in arms, at an early period of the American Revolution, and continued thro’ the most trying vicisitudes of that revolution, will justify this intrusion and excuse me for trespassing a few minutes on your time. By the same hand which delivers this letter, I flatter myself you will receive from the military board of the district, a copy of my report to Governor St Clair, comprehending a detail of the operations of the late volunteer corps at the Ouiattanans; if the issue answers the expectations of government, and meets your approbation, I am content—By the next conveyance I will forward you an accurate draft of my route, as well as that of General Scott with critical remarks, on the soil, water, timber, and local advantages of the whole country which fell under my observation—should this information prove in the smallest degree useful to government, and satisfactory to yourself my objects will be accomplished. In the organization of the several volunteer corps to act against the savages of the Wabash from this district, no provision was made for field or regimental staff: But I must flatter myself when you reflect how impossible it is, for a commanding officer in person, to support the load of duty arising from the necessary attention to a body of five hundred horsemen marching thro’ an hostile, unexplored, swampy, close country, and who when in the best order practicable would cover more ground than 2000 infantry, that you will make a reasonable allowance to my aid de Camp, brigade major, and quarter master, all men of merit, whose services entitle them to consideration. During a residence of more than seven years in these woods, I have spared no pains, nor no expence to make myself acquainted, with the extensive regions watered by the Mississippi, and its tributary streams, from the Baliza to the lakes—I have personally explored much of this extensive tract, have acquired an exact knowledge of a great part and a general knowledge of the whole—It is my wish to be employed in some station in which I may be able to employ and apply my information, and my small abilities to the public advantage, and my own honor. In short, permit me to say, with a frankness becoming a soldier, that I feel a strong desire to enter once more upon the stage of military life, and that if you can favor me with some appointment, consistent with my former rank, I will not disappoint your expectations, or injure the service; but will ever cherish the warmest sense of gratitude for your attention” (DLC:GW). GW appointed Wilkinson lieutenant colonel in command of the 2d Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army on 22 Oct. in place of John Doughty, who declined the commission (see Knox to GW, 31 Oct., GW to the U.S. Senate, 31 Oct. [first letter]), and the Senate confirmed the appointment on 7 Nov. (Executive Journal, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends 1:86–87, 88).

The enclosed copy of the letter of Charles Scott, Harry Innes, and John Brown to Knox, dated Danville, Kentucky District, 30 Aug., reads: “In our last letter of the 24th June, we had the honor to inform you that genl St Clair had Authorized the second detachment of mounted Volunteers to be embodied, in consequence of which the board proceeded to make the necessary arrangements for carrying the measure into effect, and appointed general Wilkinson to the command, who commenced his march on the 26th July to Fort Washington, where the detachment crossed the Ohio. It is with singular pleasure we inform you that this enterprize has also proved successful and for a detail of particulars we refer you to the enclosed reports of Genl Wilkinson to the Board and a copy of that he made to General St Clair, which we hope will prove satisfactory to Government. We also transmit to you the muster Rolls of the late detachment by Mr James Parker of Lexington, under an expectation that they will reach the war-Office before Mr [John] Belli the paymaster leaves Philadelphia, but if it should happen otherwise, we take the liberty of requesting that you would direct the payment of the amount of the expedition to be made to Mr Parker who has been so obliging as to undertake the transporting of the money and delivering it to the paymaster, should you not embrace this oppertunity, we fear another may not offer before the spring, which delay would prove to be very injurious to the Volunteers. General Wilkinson, anxious for the success of the enterprize, thought it advisable to employ a few pack-horses for the purpose of transporting Medecine, ammunition and tools, and for two of the guides who could not provide themselves with horses; the amount of this expenditure is inconsiderable when compared with the great object in contemplation, and the benefits, which we trust government will derive from the success of the enterprize: We refer you to the enclosed account on this subject, relying that you will be so fully convinced of the propriety of the measure as to direct a payment of it, Otherwise Genl Wilkinson who had no other motive than that of promoting his Country’s Cause, will become answerable therefor; he having pledged himself to the individuals for payment in case government rejects the account” (DLC:GW).

Index Entries