George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 24 September 1791

From Henry Knox

War Department [Philadelphia], 24th September, 1791.


I have the honor to inform you, that since my last I have received several Letters from Major General St Clair, up to the 29th of the last month.1 He complains heavily that neither General Butler or the Quarter master had joined him, and seems to be apprehensive that the state of the river would prevent their arrival altogether.

Under this impression, he has called upon the County Lieutenants to meet him the 3d of September, in order to obtain from them as many militia, as he might require—He was induced to this measure from the advice of Judge Innes, and others, in order to persuade the Lieutenants to a measure, which it seems they would enter with an order from the Governor of Virginia, which they had not received—I wrote to the Governor of Virginia by your authority, on the 15th of July, requesting him to instruct the County Lieutenants of Kentucky, that in case General St Clair should call for militia, that there should be no obstruction—He answered on the 4th of August “that he had embraced the first opportunity to instruct General Scott, to use every exertion to ensure them of ample compliance with the requisition of the General of the federal troops, for militia.”2

But I flatter myself that he will not think proper to require and militia, excepting perhaps two or three hundred mounted Volunteers. As it will appear from the enclosed statement of troops, taken from the muster rolls, that deducting for sick and desertions, he will have on the 10th of this month, above Two thousand effectives, regulars and Levies, besides making an allowance of nearly Four hundred for non effectives.3

The horses for the Quarter master’s Department, for transporting the provisions, and for the Artillery were provided, and the Artillery and ammunition for the Infantry were in readiness, and the troops which had assembled on the 15th of August, had on that day moved forwards to the crossing of the Miami, and reached the first post of communication—Genl St Clair is apprehensive that what Genl Butler calls his last detachment, will not arrive in season, but that he shall not wait for it—If the enemy means to make proposals for peace, it is not likely to happen until the army is in motion, I believe they will give us credit for numbers sufficient to the end.

It may be fairly concluded, that as every thing was in readiness but the rear guard, that Genl St Clair would move to the first post of Communication without it, about Thirty five miles; and that Genl Butler would join him there about the 12th instant. I have the honor to be With the highest respect Your most Obedient hume servant

H. Knox

P. S. I have omitted to state that Genl St Clair mentions it as his opinion that the two successful Volunteer expeditions will entirely detach the Wabash Indians from the hostile Indians, and that three hundred of them men, women and children, had put themselves under the protection of the United States not far from Post Vincennes.4



For background to the military expedition under the command of Arthur St. Clair and Richard Butler against the hostile Indian nations of the Northwest, see Henry Knox to GW, 14, 18 Mar. (first letter), n.2, Knox to Lear, 25 Feb., n.1, GW to the U.S. Senate, 4 Mar. (second letter), and GW to the Miami Indians, 11 March.

1Secretary of War Knox last wrote to GW on 22 September. The letters Knox had since received from St. Clair were probably those of 8 and 24 Aug. (see Knox to St. Clair, 22 Sept., 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 1:182).

2St. Clair probably enclosed in his letter of 24 Aug. to Knox a copy of his letter of 23 Aug. to the county lieutenants of the Kentucky District of Virginia, in which he requested them to meet him in Lexington on 2 Sept. in order to advise him on the most efficient and easiest manner of obtaining assistance from Kentucky (Smith, St. Clair Papers, description begins William Henry Smith, ed. The St. Clair Papers. The Life and Public Services of Arthur St. Clair: Soldier of the Revolutionary War; President of the Continental Congress; and Governor of the North-Western Territory with his Correspondence and other Papers. 2 vols. Cincinnati, 1882. description ends 2:231). Knox’s letter of 15 July to Gov. Beverley Randolph authorizing St. Clair to call for the necessary “numbers and species of militia from Kentucky” noted that GW “has commanded me to make this communication to your Excellency, and request that if there are any measures on the part of the Executive of Virginia which would add efficiency to the call of the General, in case it should be made, that you would be pleased to issue the directions accordingly” (Calendar of Virginia State Papers, description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds. Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts. 11 vols. Richmond, 1875–93. description ends 5:342–43). The state executive council considered Knox’s letter on 2 Aug. and advised that Brig. Gen. Charles Scott of the Kentucky militia “be instructed to use all necessary measures for adding efficacy to the Calls which may be made by the Commanding General of the troops of the United States for the aid of Kentucky militia” (Journals of the Council of State of Virginia, description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia. 5 vols. Richmond, 1931–82. description ends 5:309).

3The enclosed statement of the troops on the frontiers, dated “War-Office [Philadelphia] 24. Sept. 1791,” reads:


Remaining of the old corps under B. Generl Harmar estimated at 250.
Of the recruits raised for the 1st Regiment & marched 247.
ditto of the 2nd Regiment, including Capt. Newmans detachment 307.
ditto of Artillery 45.
From the musters of the Levies, after making the deduction for desertions, it appears there are on the frontiers.
Of the Battalion raised so. west of the Ohio 3 Companies 127.
Of the Virginia Battalion 4  "   302.
Of the Maryland Battalion Maj. Gaither
Of the Pensylvania Battalion Maj. Butler
Of the Pensylvania Battalion Maj. Clark
Of the Jersey Battalion Maj. Patterson
4  "   267.
4  "   289.
4  "   244.
4  "   246.
Of Capt. Falkners independant Company 1  "   63.
Total 2387

H. Knox secy of War

N.B. Nearly One third of the men enlisted in the three companies raised by general Sevier, are returned deserted on the muster-rolls, which were made at Fort-Washington the 25 July 1791. C.S.” (DLC:GW).

4The postscript of the receiver’s copy is in Knox’s writing. For the “succesful Volunteer expeditions” of Scott and James Wilkinson, see Knox to GW, 6, 8, 27 June, n.1, 6 Aug., 22 Sept. (second letter), and Alexander Hamilton to GW, 16 Sept., source note.

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