George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Knox, 1 August 1792

To Henry Knox

Mount Vernon Augt 1st 1792.


Your dispatches of the 14th & 21st Ult. came duly to hand, and it is probable the Servt who carries this letter to the Post Office, will bring me a third of this weeks date.1

I did not acknowledge the receipt of the first letter at an earlier date, because there was nothing contained in it which required a reply. And I am too little acquainted with the Authority under which Colo. Henry Karr detached Lt Colo. Philips—the cause—or the object of that detachment, to form so good an opinion of the propriety of the measure as it is easy for me to predict the probable consequences of it.2 I hope Major Gaither has before this, embarked for that quarter, strongly impressed with the views of the general Government, & the disposition of it to preserve peace (if it can be done upon just & honorable ground).3

The tranquility, which (by your last accts handed to me) prevails on our No. Western frontiers gives me much satisfaction and affords a pleasing prospect that the exertions of government to bring the hostile Indian tribes into a pacific mood will not have been exercised in vain. This, however, is not to relax any preparation for a contrary event. Proceed as if war was inevitable: but do it, I entreat you, with all the œconomy which can result from system & good regulations. Our finances call for it, & if these did not, our reputation does. The supplies of an Army through so long, & rugged a land transport[at]ion must, under the best management, be expensive & our attention therefore ought to be proportionate—and that I may form some ideas of the former I desire you would Report to me the Regulations which you have adopted for providing, forwarding, & issuing of them, and the mode of having them accounted for to the depart. of War. I have written to the Secretary of the Treasury for similar information on these points so far as any of them may come within the purview of his department.4

Reiterate, in your letters to Genl Wayne, the necessity of employing the prest calm in disciplining, & training the troops under his command for the peculiar service for which they are destined—He is not to be sparing of Powder & lead (in proper & reasonable quantities) to make the Soldiers marksmen.5

There is no propriety that I can perceive in giving the Rank of Brigr to Majr Sergant—nor do I conceive that Genl Wilkenson would, or indeed ought, to relinquish his present commd. I have turned this mattr in my thoughts but as yet have not been able to hit upon a character to my mind for the Office of Adjutant General. I will think again, & again on the subject, & will inform you of the result.6

So long as the vice of drunkenness exists in the Army so long I hope, Ejections of those Officers who are found guilty of it will continue; for that and gaming will debilitate & render unfit for active Service any Army whatsoever.7 I am Sir Yr Most Obedt Servt


P.S. Would Majr Fish accept the Appointment of Adjutt General with the Rank of Lieutt Colo.? He strikes me as an eligable character. Colo. Posey also (who wants to be employed) might if ready at his pen8 make a good one, for in other respects (& I do not know that he is deficient in this) he is said to be an excellent Officer.9


1On 5 Aug., GW informed Knox that he had received the secretary of war’s letters of Saturday, 28 July, and Tuesday, 31 July 1792.

2Col. Henry Karr, who had served as a captain in the Georgia militia during the Revolutionary War and had been wounded at Fish Dam Ford in November 1780, was a delegate from Greene County to the Georgia constitutional convention in the summer of 1789 (Pennsylvania Gazette [Philadelphia], 15 July 1789). GW is referring to information contained in an account signed by one of Karr’s subordinates, Lieutenant Colonel Philips, which was enclosed in Knox’s letter to GW of 21 July but which has not been found.

3Knox reported to GW on 7 Aug. that Maj. Henry Gaither would depart for the Georgia frontier within a few days. In his letters to GW of 21 July and 7 Aug., Knox writes that the preservation of peace would be Gaither’s primary objective.

4For the secretary of the treasury’s suggestion that GW make this request of Knox, see Alexander Hamilton to GW, 22 July 1792, and note 2. Knox apparently dated his report to GW, which has not been found, Saturday, 11 August. Hamilton’s report to GW on the same subject was written on 10 Aug. 1792.

5Knox quoted this paragraph in his letter to Anthony Wayne of 7 Aug., which is printed at Knox to GW, that date, note 3.

6For Winthrop Sargent’s nomination as adjutant general and inspector, see GW to the U.S. Senate, 9 April. GW nominated Michael Rudulph to the position on 22 Feb. 1793, and the Senate consented to his appointment on the following day (see GW to the U.S. Senate, 22 Feb. 1793; 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 1:132, 134).

7Knox quoted this paragraph in his letter to Anthony Wayne of 7 Aug., which is printed in Knox to GW, that date, note 3. Knox had reported the dismissal of captains Mark MacPherson and John Platt from the army for drunkenness in his letter to GW of 21 July.

8At this place on the draft manuscript, GW wrote and then struck out the words: “& capable also.”

9Nicholas Fish, on 7 Sept., and Thomas Posey, on 10 Oct., both declined the offer to be nominated as adjutant general and inspector of the U.S. Army (see Knox to GW, 7 Aug., n.6).

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