George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Seagrove, 21 April 1792

From James Seagrove

Rocklanding on the Oconee [Ga.] 21 April 1792


My last letter to you was from Savannah under date of the 12th Inst.1 agreeably to what I then wrote I have returned to this place where I found my Interpreter just got back from General McGillivray with a letter in reply to mine of the 25th Ulto. For your information I now enclose you extracts from his two last letters to me, by them you will be informed of his intention of com-ing down to meet me, he seems in good humour with me and I hope to keep him so.2

My Interpreter tells me, that there remains much confusion in the Nation, it seems some of Bowles associates or partners have sent large packets of Letters, directed to Genl Bowles, which they say is from his friends on the other side of the great Water, and that all that Bowles promised them was on the point of being realized, and that though Bowles is now in the hands of the Spaniards, yet in forty days he will return to them again.3

There is a villain of the name of Wellbanks, who came with Bowles, who spreads those stories, and I believe fabricates those letters—I hope General McGillivray will be able to lay hands on him and his letters and will make an example of him to the Indians and all future adventurers.4

It is reported (and I believe with truth) that two men are lately killed by the Indians about fifty Miles above this place, this is said to be done by a party of the Cowettas in revenge for two of their people, which were murdered by the Georgians some Months past. Frequent applications having been made by the Indians to the Government of this State for redress by punishing the perpetrators, but not being able to get satisfaction in that way, they gave notice that they should retaliate, which I believe they have done as I have advice from the King of the Cowettas & Cussetas that the relations of the deceased Indians were out to take revenge, which they could not longer prevent.

These are unpleasant matters, but we may look for such events taking place frequent, whilst there is not energy in the Governt of this State to punish such wretches as those who wantonly killed the Indians that occasions the death of the innocent persons aluded to above.

Martin Johnston the principal in murdering a Cowetta Indian some time past near this place now lives near the shoals of great Ugechee about thirty miles from hence undisturbed.

Whilst the people of this Country will shelter such wretches as Johnston among them they ought not to wonder at the Indians revenging themselves on the innocent whilst they protect the Guilty.

When General McGillivray and the Chiefs come here I shall do all in my power to please them and get our business forwarded. I am sorry to find so great a number of the valuable Officers about to leave this place at so critical a juncture, when great discretion and strict dicipline may become more necessary—when we have to do with drunken Indians, it would be fortunate that we had sober Officers: I must say I am not pleased by the appearance of matters at this Station—but as you will soon see Major Rudolph Captains Mills and Porter, you will have opportunity of being fully informed from those Gentlemen.5

I shall do myself the honor of writing you by Major Rudolph in about six days6 and am &c.

This Letter I have entrusted to Serjeant Torry of Captain Burbecks Company who goes forward I understand in hopes of promotion I have known him ever since his first arrival in this Country and my opinion of him is that he is a most deserving Young man.7

Copy, DLC:GW.

1Seagrove’s letter to GW of 12 April has not been found.

2The enclosed extracts have not been identified.

3For more information about William Bowles, who was not released as promised by the Spanish officials at New Orleans but sent to Spain by way of Cuba, see Secret Article of the Treaty with the Creeks, 4 Aug. 1790, source note, enclosed in GW to the U.S. Senate, 4 Aug. 1790, Minutes of Creek Council, 2 Mar. 1789, source note, enclosed in Memorandum from Tobias Lear, 18 Aug. 1790, Henry Knox to GW, 14 Nov. 1791, note 1, and Henry Lee to GW, 16 April 1792, note 1.

4George Welbank (Wellbank; died c.1794) apparently first met Bowles in New York during the Revolutionary War, when Welbank was apprenticed to James Rivington, the editor of the Royal Gazette. Welbank accompanied Bowles to the Creek country from the Bahamas in 1788, and after Bowles was imprisoned in New Orleans, Welbank oversaw the St. Marks, Fla., property and warehouse of Panton, Leslie & Company that Bowles had captured in January 1792. Welbank retired to Usachees on the Chattahoochee with Bowles’s personal belongings and papers after a party of Creeks under McGillivray’s brother-in-law took over the warehouse at St. Marks later in 1792. Welbank subsequently lived among the Chickamaugas near Lookout Mountain, and in 1793 he went to Detroit and Niagara to obtain British assistance (see Robert Leslie to William Panton, 30 Jan. 1792, Alexander McGillivray to Arthur O’Neill, 12 May 1792, and McGillivray to William Panton, 28 Nov. 1792, all in Caughey, McGillivray of the Creeks, description begins John Walton Caughey. McGillivray of the Creeks. Norman, Okla., 1938. description ends 305–6, 322, 346–49; see also Wright, Bowles, description begins J. Leitch Wright, Jr. William Augustus Bowles: Director General of the Creek Nation. Athens, Ga., 1967. description ends 66, 69–70, 147–48).

5For Seagrove’s further report on the drunkenness of Maj. Richard Call, see Seagrove to GW, 5 July 1792. For previous complaints about Call’s conduct as commander of the federal troops in Georgia, see Knox to GW, 9 July 1791. Michael Rudulph (Rudolph) (1758–c.1795), who had risen to the rank of captain in the light dragoons during the Revolutionary War, was appointed a captain in the U.S. Army in June 1790, and he was promoted to major in March 1792 and to adjutant and inspector of the army in February 1793. Rudulph resigned from the service in July 1793. John Mills (d. 1796), who had served as a captain during the Revolutionary War, became a captain in the U.S. Army in March 1791, and he was promoted to major in February 1793 and adjutant and inspector of the army in May 1794. He retired from the army in February 1796 because of ill health, just a few months before his death.

6The next letter from Seagrove to GW that has been found is dated 5 July 1792.

7Knox wrote Anthony Wayne on 12 Oct. 1792 that Daniel Torrey’s name would be submitted to the president for a promotion. GW nominated him a cornet on 22 Feb. 1793, and the Senate approved his appointment the next day. Torrey was killed in action against the Indians at the Battle of Fort Recovery in the Northwest Territory on 30 June 1794 (see Knopf, Wayne, description begins Richard C. Knopf, ed. Anthony Wayne, a Name in Arms: Soldier, Diplomat, Defender of Expansion Westward of a Nation; The Wayne-Knox-Pickering-McHenry Correspondence. Pittsburgh, 1960. description ends 114–16, 346; GW to the U.S. Senate, 22 Feb. 1793 [first letter]; 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 1:134). Henry Burbeck (1754–1848), who had served in the Continental artillery throughout the Revolutionary War and been brevetted a major at the close of the conflict, was appointed a captain in the U.S. Army in October 1786, and he was promoted to major effective 4 Nov. 1791, lieutenant colonel in May 1798, colonel in April 1802, and brevet brigadier general in July 1812. Burbeck was honorably discharged from the service in June 1815.

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