George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 8 September 1792

From Henry Knox

War department September 8th 1792


I have the honor respectfully to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of the 3rd instant.

Upon examination it appears that no stores have been unreasonably detained by the Waggoners upon the road, as the receipts for all at Pittsburg which could have arrived have been received by Mr Hodgdon.1

I have the honor to submit enclosed the copy of General Wayne’s letter of the 31st of August2 and my answer thereto.3

I also enclose the copy of Captain Brant’s letter of the 26th of July and of the Chiefs of the Six Nations dated at Buffaloe Creek the first of August.4

These two letters pretty amply confirm the idea of a new boundary line being desired by the English. The opinions of Brant and the Chiefs may be regarded as the opinion of the British—and not as the opinion of the Wyandots and Delawares.

The time which Brant intimates as necessary, is of great importance to us in order to complete the Legion—But it is my serious apprehension that the Indians will be influenced to demand a boundary which we cannot honorably grant, and probably the idea of it’s being guaranteed by the British will be brought forward.5

I also submit to your consideration a letter of Governor Mifflin to the County Lieutenant of Allegany. and in order that you may have the subject fully before you, I transmit the correspondence between the Governor and me to which he alludes.

I shall lay these papers before the Attorney General and request his opinion whether the Conduct of the Governor in calling out the Militia without any previous communication thereof to the Executive of the United States be consistent with the Constitution? and I shall submit to you the result6—I have the honor to be with the highest respect Your most obedt servant

H. Knox secy of war

P.S. Since writing the above I have received a letter from Brigadier General Wilkinson dated 6. Ultimo, a copy of which I have the honor to inclose.7


1For Anthony Wayne’s earlier complaint about delays in the shipment of military supplies to Pittsburgh, see Knox to GW, 26 Aug. 1792, n.2.

2On 31 Aug., Wayne wrote Knox from Pittsburgh: “I have the honor to enclose a copy of Captain Haskells letter to me of the 21st instant, in addition to which Captain William Mills (brother to our Captain John Mills) by whom the letter came, says that in conversation with Mr Hewill (who is a Militia Officer) he mentioned—‘that whilst he was with the Indians, they expressed an anxiety for a hostile interview, and that nothing prevented them from committing depredations, but a full conviction of our advance into their Country. that they effect to hold us in the utmost contempt, for offering to treat of peace with a people, who neither want or wish for it.’ be that as it may, I am decidedly of opinion that we ought immediately to establish our Magazines of Forage and provision, and have therefore, privately, directed the Quarter Master General, to contract for Fifty thousand bushels of Grain chiefly Indian Corn, and five hundred tons of hay.

“At present nothing can be done by Water—the Ohio has never been so low in the memory of the oldest inhabitants. the copy of a letter from Captain Haskell to the Quarter Master General will give you some idea of it—at the time the boats went from this place, there was a small fresh in the Monongahela, but it was evaporated before it reached Marietta.

“The Clothing for the first Regiment has generally arrived, as well as that for the rifle Corps, except shoes, and blankets, and part for the second; not a single moment shall be lost in forwarding it, when the state of the water will admit, in order to stop the mouths of Haskell & others.

“I enclose you a Copy of Governor Mifflins letter to the Lieutenant of Alleghany County. I shall forbear to comment upon it. I however informed Colonel [John] Nevill that at present I did not think myself justifiable in calling out any Militia, or in assenting to the measure. that when there was a necessity I would do it with a full reliance upon their turning out with alacrity.

“We are in want of many Articles in the Hospital department, of which the enclosed letter and invoice from Dr [John Francis] Carmichael will inform you. the quantum is left to your Judgment.

“By this mornings report you will see the Number and Condition of our force at this post—the men in Confinement have all been tried by a General Court Martial, some are condemned to Death, some to Corporal punishment, others are acquitted or ordered to do the drudgery of the Camp, for a given time.

“The whole of the sentences will take place tomorrow and next day—I trust it will break the neck of desertion—You’l please to observe the principal part of those Criminals were lately brought here by the several detachments as prisoners.

“Be pleased to present my best compliments to Major Stagg, and inform him, that I have been honored with his letter of the 25th instant, with Invoices of Clothing &c. forwarded between the 20th and 23d of this month, And a duplicate of yours of the 17th instant" (DLC:GW).

In the enclosed letter to Wayne of 21 Aug., Jonathan Haskell, who currently commanded a small garrison protecting the residents of Marietta, Ohio, recounted the testimony of Moses Hewill, who had just arrived at Marietta after escaping from a band of Shawnee Indians who had captured him on 10 July near the mouth of the Little Kanawha River (DLC:GW). Haskell also wrote Quartermaster General James O’Hara on 21 August. In that letter, according to O’Hara’s subsequent letter to Wayne on 30 Aug., Haskell complained about “the disagreeable situation the Troops at that Post and Gallipolis are in for ‘want of clothing’ and other necessaries” (see Darlington, Fort Pitt, description begins Mary Carson Darlington, ed. Fort Pitt and Letters from the Frontier. Pittsburgh, 1892. description ends 251). For Gov. Thomas Mifflin’s letter to Presley Nevill, the lieutenant of Allegheny County, Pa., and the son of John Nevill, see note 6.

3Knox replied to Wayne from Philadelphia on 7 Sept.: “I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, with its enclosures of the 31 st Ultimo.

“Whatever may be the result of the pacific overtures, or however individuals of the frontiers, or among the Indians may regard the said overtures, still the Government of the United States were constrained to make them by a respect to the opinion of probably the great majority of the Citizens of the United States—The offers being made, we must wait for the issue.

“The tranquillity of the frontiers, which will probably continue throughout the autumn, may be fairly estimated as a consequence of the Indians knowing our desires for peace.

“By the enclosed letters from Captain Brant of the 26th of July, and the Chiefs of the six Nations of the first of August; which I received yesterday, you will observe the strong impressions relatively to a new boundary—It is questionable with me, whether the Indians received this idea from the hostile Indians or from another quarter.

“The Wyandots and Delawares, who are the tribes particularly affected by the boundaries established by the treaties of Fort McIntosh in 1786 and Fort Harmar in 1789, have never complained of the said treaties, although there were three years difference between the first and second treaty. Brant was opposed to the latter treaty being unwilling to repair to Fort Harmar, and requiring it to be held at the Forks of the Muskingum—Governor St Clair refused this request, as the forks of the Muskingum had been first fixed upon, and he sent a party there with provisions and to erect the necessary buildings—As this party was fired upon and obliged to quit the spot, the Governor declined kindling the fire again at that place—Brant is therefore personally interested to get the line altered.

“I confess, in confidence, my apprehensions that the Indians will require more than we can grant consistently with any sort of dignity, and that therefore we ought to strain every nerve in making all sorts of preparation—of recruits—of discipline—and of supplies to establish such posts as shall effectually accomplish our objects of bridling and punishing the refractory tribes.

“Our Recruits may now be estimated at two thousand, exclusive of deserters—If that number with the addition of two, three or at most five hundred more arrive at Pittsburg in the course of the autumn, it will be all which may be expected—But in the above I mean to include those companies ordered to the mouth of the Kenhawa and which have not yet, nor will they arrive there much before the 15th or 20th of the present Month.

“Whether Congress will order an additional pay as an inducement to enlist, will depend upon circumstances, which cannot be estimated at this moment—On this point perhaps much reliance ought not to be placed.

“The discipline of the troops for the nature of the service will depend on you—I persuade myself entire confidence may be entertained, that this object will be perfectly accomplished.

“All the supplies to be transported from this place have been forwarded—and you will please to observe by the enclosed statement that all have arrived that could reasonably be expected—Some mistakes have been committed by Major [Isaac] Craig in reporting the articles deficient.

“The magazine of Medicines and instruments required by Doctor Carmichael shall be prepared and forwarded immediately—You will observe, on this head, that the supplies at Fort Washington are abundant, as will be perceived by your having recourse to the lists you have in your possession.

“Your providing ample magazines of forage and provisions were approved in my last of the first instant, a copy of which is herein enclosed.

“The quantity you mention of Fifty thousand bushels of Corn would appear sufficient—there will be no difficulty in obtaining that quantity after the harvest in Kentucky—but this is to include the original quantity of twenty thousand bushels.

“I flatter myself you will in all cases enjoin a proper œconomy, and particularly not suffer a greater number of horses in the Quarter Masters department, than the real demands of the service shall require; and also that you will not suffer any Officers of the Legion to keep horses, who shall not be allowed by law, forage.

“Your Cavalry at best will be expensive, and in order to be perfectly efficient at all times, a due œconomy of forage should be observed.

“Colonel [Samuel] Griffin has given me the enclosed papers relative to Thomas Gathright who has enlisted in Captain Ballard Smiths company—This young Gentleman is extremely well connected, and has a great passion for the army—His friends request he may be a serjeant in the first instance, and afterwards promoted, if he shall deserve the same—I state the circumstances and send the documents, requesting you to state his conduct if he should really merit promotion.

“The letter of Governor Mifflin to the Allegany County Lieutenant is received and the subject will be hereafter duly noticed to you—the date of the said letter is not mentioned pray inform me of it.

“Your information to Colonel Nevil was certainly just, for it would be a waste of the Money of the United States to call out Militia for the defence of the frontiers, while the public have such a solid force there—But then some of your troops ought to assume the stations proper for the protection of the exposed Counties.

“I find it will be in vain to depend upon any of the detachments for the seasonable protection of the money for the payment of the troops up to the first of August—I shall therefore send it from here under the best security which can be devised and I request you would detach a prudent Officer and twenty dragoons so as to meet it at Bedford on or about the twentieth instant.

“This intimation ought to be a profound secret otherwise bad minded people might attempt to intercept so large a sum.

“I hope you have ordered Mr [Caleb] Swan up to Head Quarters—the payments ought to be regularly made in order to prevent confusion—in case of his non arrival, the person who shall have charge of the Money will be appointed to make the payments” (DLC:GW).

For the enclosed letters from Joseph Brant and the chiefs of the Six Nations, see note 4.

4Knox and GW hoped that diplomatic intervention by the Mohawk leader Joseph Brant and other Iroquois chiefs, as well as by Stockbridge chief Hendrick Aupaumut, would produce a peaceful settlement of differences between the United States and the Indians in the Northwest Territory. Brant wrote Knox from Niagara, N.Y., on 26 July 1792: “Since my arrival here I am sorry to have to say that intelligence respecting Major Truemans being killed (by an Indian boy who met with him a hunting) has arrived. this will induce you to recollect what passed between us, relative to messages being sent. the rout by Presque Isle I again recommend as the most eligible, from thence keeping along the lake to the Miamis at which place the Chiefs are aptest to be met with, and when once there they are safe, sending such numbers of messages rather makes the Indians suspicious of your intentions, and by any other rout they are much more liable to meet with hunters—There are now great numbers of Indians collected, and from all their Councils seem determined upon a new boundary line—in short they are sensible that what has hitherto been done (which I fully explained to you) was unfair, and I am of opinion peace will not easily be established without your relinquishing part of your Claim. the purchases were all made from Men who had no right to sell, and who are now to be thanked for the present difficulties. The Senecas and seven nations of Canada are now waiting at Ft Erie for a passage for Detroit on their way to the Miamis. I shall be able to go up by the next trip of the Vessel, my intention and wish is still for the accomplishing of Peace, tis a business will require time, things too rashly or hastily agreed upon seldom have the effect of those seriously and cooly reflected on, knowing the foundation to be just, and the benefits that will arise therefrom affords a greater space for forwarding the business” (DLC:GW).

Knox also enclosed a copy of a letter written “In behalf of the Six Nations and the Seven Nations of Canada” by Farmer’s Brother, Fish Carrier, Old Smoke, and Clear Sky to Indian superintendent Israel Chapin, Sr., on 1 Aug. 1792: “Since we have returned home we are informed for a Certainty that the disturbance to the Westward between our Brethren and your people is entirely owing to your Detaining the Lands as we said in Philadelphia, which you made a purchase of and this prevents any accomodation. . . . We are now according to our promise on the eve of our departure to meet our Western Brethren in Council where we will expect an answer which we hope will be so favorable as to enable us to bring about that peace which so desirable to all parties” (DLC:GW).

5On 21 Jan. 1785 representatives from the Wyandot, Delaware, Ottawa, and Chippewa nations concluded the Fort McIntosh treaty with the United States, and on 9 Jan. 1789 at Fort Harmar, the United States signed two additional treaties: one with the Wyandot, Delaware, Ottawa, Chippewa, Potawatomi, and Sac nations and the other with the Six Nations (see Kappler, Indian Treaties, description begins Charles J. Kappler, ed. Indian Affairs. Laws and Treaties. 5 vols. Washington, D.C., 1903–41. description ends 2:6–8, 18–25). Many Indian leaders opposed the extensive land cessions contained in these treaties and sought to reestablish the Ohio River as the boundary with the United States (see Downes, Council Fires, description begins Randolph C. Downes. Council Fires on the Upper Ohio: A Narrative of Indian Affairs in the Upper Ohio Valley until 1795. Pittsburgh, 1940. description ends 283–311).

6General Wayne, in his letter to Knox of 31 Aug. (see note 2), enclosed an undated copy of Pennsylvania governor Thomas Mifflin’s letter from Philadelphia, written in late July or August 1792, to Presley Nevill, the lieutenant of Allegheny County. Mifflin, who was concerned about the possibility of Indian attacks on the state’s western borders, wrote, “Though I think that there is a favorable prospect of Peace, and that the measures proposed by the Federal Government are calculated to protect the Frontiers, yet I am not disposed to omit any precautions,” and he issued instructions to Nevill “and to the other Lieutenants of Westmoreland, Washington and Fayette, for making a draft from the Militia of your respective counties.” Mifflin also sent Nevill copies of his correspondence with Knox on the subject of federal protection for the Pennsylvania frontiers (DLC:GW).

Knox wrote Mifflin on 11 July from Philadelphia “that the Troops of the United States will soon arrive on the frontiers of this State in considerable numbers, and that a sufficient proportion thereof will remain there until the effect of certain pacific overtures to the Indians shall be known.

“In this state of things, and as the time for which the state troops were raised, is drawing to a close, I beg leave to know whether it would be compatible with the views and arrangements of your Excellency to permit the Continental Officers recruiting in this State to endeavour to enlist such noncommissioned and privates of the said Companies as shall be inclined thereto” (DLC:GW).

Mifflin replied from Philadelphia on 13 July: “From the present situation of our frontiers, and being unacquainted with the Plans of the Federal Government for their defence, I regret, that, . . . I cannot, consistently with the ideas, which I entertain of the trust reposed in me, acquiesce in the proposition to permit the Continental Officers to endeavour, at this period, to enlist the noncommissioned Officers and privates of the three Companies raised by Pennsylvania” (DLC:GW).

Mifflin wrote Knox again from Philadelphia on 18 July: “As the period for which the three Pennsylvania Companies were raised, will expire on the 1st of September next, and as it will be incumbent on me to pursue such farther measures for the protection and defence of the Citizens on our frontiers, as their situation shall at that time require, I am desirous of being informed, whether any and what, arrangements are made by the Federal government, that may eventually supersede the necessity of the interference of the State, In the absence of the President therefore, I address myself to you; and request such satisfaction as you may be able to give in the following points:

“1st. Whether any, and what force, will be permanently stationed on the frontiers of Pennsylvania.

“2d. Whether it is consistent with the powers and plans of the Executive of the Federal government, to include the three Pennsylvania companies in the military establishment of the Union, at the expiration of their engagement with the State, and to continue them at their present Stations” (DLC:GW).

Knox replied to Mifflin that same day from Philadelphia: “in answer to the first query therein contained I take the occasion to state.

“That the general government have sent certain messages of a pacific nature to the hostile Indians, the event of which is not yet known.

“That the enlisting of the troops authorized by Law, together with the length of time required to know the determination of the indians or the propositions made to them will probably prevent any decisive offensive operations for the present season.

“That therefore the troops not necessary for the Garrisons will for the present be assembled in two encampments of discipline, the one on the upper parts of the Ohio in Pennsylvania, and the other at or in the vicinity of Fort Washington.

“That besides the encampment at the upper parts of the Ohio, which it is presumed will be an ample protection to those parts during its continuance—there will be an adequate Garrison at Fort Franklin which will have the effect to cover Westmoreland County, and there will also be a proper garrison at Pittsburg.

“To the second Question, I answer, That the Executive of the United States having made the appointments for the military establishment, has not any authority to add thereto, by including the temporary Companies of Pennsylvania, as Companies, on the expiration of their engagements.

“If any further explanations in my power either Written or Verbal should be necessary to enable you to take your ultimate measures relatively to the three Companies, they shall be imparted by me” (DLC:GW).

7James Wilkinson’s brief letter to Knox of 6 Aug. from Fort Hamilton reported that “the enemy are quiet probably collecting for their Green Corn dance” (DLC:GW).

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