George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 17 August 1792

From Henry Knox

War department August 17th 1792


I have received a letter from General Wayne of the 10th instant of which the enclosed is a copy.1

Every thing he has requested has been forwarded excepting a full supply of blankets & shoes for the old regiments and clothing for about one company of the old troops, which number is deficient as not standing the rigid inspection which has been made.2

The powder he requests is a fine grained powder, which, in his opinion, will prime the musket from within, on the cartridge being rammed down and the touch hole being enlarged.

I have complied with his request, reluctantly, so far as to order forty quarter barrells—The Powder sent him has been brought from West Point and is as good as ever was made, or used—I have had every barrell proved. The grain of the Rifle Powder is sufficiently fine, but not quite so fine as General Wayne requires.

I shall set off for New York in the Morning to be absent a few days. I have the honor to be with perfect respect Your most obedt Servant

H. Knox secy of war


1In his letter to Knox of 10 Aug. from Pittsburgh, Wayne wrote: “I have the honor to inclose a copy of a Letter from Major George McCully of the 7th Inst., nothing further has yet been received respecting those parties of Indians, I therefore conclude that McCully is following upon their trail, and probably may come up with them, one of the Spies has made oath, that the party he discovered amounted to two hundred Indians.

“I am informed that part of the Militia of Westmoreland have voluntiered it with Major McCully.

“Desertions have become frequent & alarming, two nights since, upon report, that a large body of Indians were close in our front, I ordered the troops to form for action, and rode along the line to inspire them with confidence, and gave orders to those in the redoubts, which I had recently thrown up in our front, and right flank, to maintain those posts, at every expence of blood, until I would gain the enemies rear with the dragoons, but such was the defect of the human heart, that from excess of Cowardice, one third part of the sentries deserted from their stations, so as to leave the most accessable places unguarded. however I do not conceive myself weakened by this kind of defection, as it was only the effect of pusillanimity, in a few individuals; but as it may become infectious, unless suddenly checked, I am determined to make a severe example, of part of those who deserted their posts in the hour of danger.

“I expect the most of them are secured by a detachment of dragoons under Cornet [James] Taylor, who I sent in pursuit of them, he had found their trail, and was not far in their rear yesterday Noon, his orders are, if they attempt resistance, to put them to instantaneous death.

“By the enclosed papers you will see the measures I have adopted to prevent desertion in future, two deserters were brought in yesterday, by two Country men; for which they received ten dollars per head—the written descriptive list of deserters, are those who deserted from their posts at the alarm, and who I expect to see in the course of the day, it however may be possible, Notwithstanding the near approach of the Dragoons, that they may escape, it will therefore not be amiss, to have the whole inserted, and republished in the Philadelphia Papers.

“I have in contemplation a brand, with the word Coward to stamp in the forehead of one or two of the greatest Caitiffs and to divest them of every Military ensignia, and cause them to be constantly employed, in the most menial services about Camp. You’l please to observe that there has scarcely been any desertions from this place, except those occasioned by the alarm, they have generally taken place on the march from the respective rendezvouses, Apropós, would it not be adviseable, to furnish the Officers marching Detachments, with printed blank descriptions by way of Advertisement.

“Eight Howitzers, have arrived, but without Wheels or Carriages, no account of clothing! permit me again to reitterate my request for a quantity of fine grained powder, of equal fineness and quality with the sample sent you Pr post.

“I cause the whole of the Guards to load, when they take post, and discharge at Marks when relieved, under the inspection of their respective Officers, I give one gill of Whisky as a reward for the best, and half a gill for the second best, shot each day which will cause an emulation: the troops and Dragoons, improve rapidly in Maneouvre, but our Coats begin to be out at the elbows, and under the Arms. I have therefore to request, that you will order on a quantity of remnants of blue Cloth with needles and thread, by which means we can furbish up, and keep our clothing decent and Comfortable, which will tend to inspire the troops with pride, and pride, in a soldier I esteem as a substitute for almost every other virtue, make him ashamed of committing a mean Act, and it answers every purpose of Virtue, dress will greatly facilitate this desirable end.

“I have sent off a large quantity of grain to Fort Washington under an escort, together with two, three pounders—and six tons of three and six pound shot, I have also ordered the purchase of One hundred and fifty Tons of the best Clover and timothy hay at Whelen, to be delivered on board the boats, at six dollars per Ton, which with the addition of the price of the boats, will not amount to more than eight dollars per tun, delivered at Fort Washington so that our Cavalry can be supported there as cheap, and as well, as in any part of the United States. if we can amuse the savages for this Campaign—(for from present appearances, peace is out of the question) I think I could venture to insure success, against three times our numbers the next season, nor shall We ever have a permanent peace with those Indians, until they experience our superiority in the field.

“6. oClock. P.M. the post has this moment arrived and I am honored with yours of the 3d Inst. containing a number of Inclosures—to which due attention shall be paid.

“Before this reaches you, you will probably have received my letters of the 3d & 6th Instant which will remove every doubt respecting the fate of Colonel Hardin & Major Trueman.

“Cornet Taylor has returned without success, but the Cowards cant escape” (DLC:GW). For GW’s reaction to this letter, see GW to Knox, 26 Aug. 1792.

2Knox added the phrase “& shoes” in his own hand.

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