George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 22 September 1792

From Henry Knox

War department September 22d 1792.


I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 17th instant.1

I have now the honor to submit a copy of Major General Wayne’s last letter dated the 14th instant No. 1 and my answer thereto No. 2.2

I have also the honor to submit a Copy of Brigadier Putnams letter of the 14th No. 3 and of Brigadier Wilkinson’s of the 19th of August No. 4 with two enclosures one from Major Strong and another from Major Smith—these several letters will afford you a recent view of the situation of affairs North West of the Ohio.3

I hope daily to receive Governor Blounts communications which I flatter my self will be satisfactory.

Major Gaither had safely arrived at Charleston and sailed for Savannah—I believe every thing is in quietness in that quarter.4

I have also the honor to submit you a letter from Ensign Morgan No. 5. and my answer thereto of the 19th instant No. 6—The Court was assembled for the trial of Nineteen deserters whom I thought best to try and punish in preference to marching them in Irons through the Country.

I shall hope to receive your ultimate orders on this subject in the course of the next week.5

When the detachment shall arrive at Pittsburgh which marched hence yesterday, and also the troops mentioned in the letter to General Wayne to rendezvous at the great Kenhawa on the 25th instant, he will have received about One thousand nine hundred non commissioned and privates.

From the returns and estimates of the respective rendezvous there may be about Two hundred recruits not marched—If to this number we estimate five hundred additionals to be at Pittsburgh on or about the first of January it will make the number of recruits raised and marched this year about Two thousand six hundred—To this number is to be added the old troops of the First and Second Regiment and one company of Artillery amounting to one thousand two hundred & four, which will make the whole number of troops on the Ohio and its waters about Three thousand eight hundred & four.

But in all probability the recruiting service will be abundantly more successful in the autumn and Winter than it has been, so that hopes may be entertained of completing the establishment and having the recruits for that purpose at Pittsburg by the fifteenth of May next at farthest.

After all the desertions which have happened, it is my opinion that not more than twenty five or thirty have escaped—The prompt payment of ten dollars reward operates as a powerful inducement to apprehend them. I have the honor to be sir with the highest respect Your humble Servant

H. Knox

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW. The closing of the LS is in Knox’s handwriting.

1This letter from GW is dated 16 September.

2On 14 Sept., Wayne wrote Knox from Pittsburgh that both Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwest Territory, and the Seneca chief Geyesutha had visited him on 9 September. That same day ensign John Sullivan, Jr., Wayne wrote, “also arrived from Fort Franklin, which place he left two days later than Geyesutha—just before he set out, the Cornplanters interpreter came in, from the Nation, with intelligence, that he with the New Arrow, and other Indians, of influence from that town, had gone to accompany, about Five hundred of the Senekas, & Canada Indians, to visit the hostile Indians—and had set out from Buffaloe Creek a few days since, he also mentioned that the first Messengers, from the five Nations were put to death by the Delawares, that the Senekas or second Messengers, were saved, but had not yet returned—that the Cornplanter was very uneasy and said if any of his people were killed, he would immediately go to war with the hostile Indians—so much for Indian intelligence. . . . Permit me to ask a few interesting questions—1st Is there any certainty, of the posts on the Lakes being given up, in time for an early Campaign next Spring? 2d. If not—won’t it be expedient for me to descend the Ohio with the troops in time, to cover them in Hutts, before the inclement season sets in? 3d. Will not a desultory expedition, composed of mounted Volunteers & some Regulars be adviseable (provided the Indians continue hostile) under cover of which, the head of the line may eventually be advanced to Genl St Clair’s field of battle?” Wayne assured Knox that “every exertion in my power, has, and will be made, to perfect the troops, in discipline, & for the service, for which they are intended,” and he described his training procedures. He estimated that the army would need 100,000 bushels of grain to support its horses, especially “should the war progress” (DLC:GW; see also 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 97–99).

Knox replied to Wayne on 21 Sept.: “I hope the six nations have gone forward to the hostile indians in the numbers mentioned by the Cornplanters interpreter. If so most probably peace would be the effect—It is to be very much desired that the first messengers of the five nations should not have been put to death, whom I take to be Captain Hendricks and his brother.”

Knox disagreed with Wayne’s estimate of the amount of grain needed and asserted that if “fifty thousand bushels of dry corn be now laid up,” it should be sufficient until future events dictate additional purchases. “Your regular force this winter,” Knox wrote, “will not probably exceed three thousand five hundred non commissioned and privates this may serve as data from which to estimate provisions—Although it is highly judicious to form abundant magazines both of provisions and forage; yet no small danger is incurred of damage and loss of various sorts by directing an excessive quantity without proper Store houses. If however you should foresee any obstacles to purchasing hereafter the full quantity of forage we may require for an early and vigorous campaign the next year, it will be perhaps the safest method to give the order now for an additional quantity of Twenty five thousand bushels, making in all Seventy five thousand bushels.

“In answer to your three interesting queries, I say, as to the first there is no certainty upon the subject, but the business at present rather has the aspect of being procrastinated beyond the time you mention.

“Secondly I believe the destination of your troops for the winter must be deferred until the arrival of the President of the United States, which will not be until the 12th of next Month. But in the mean time you will order the Quarter Master to make vigorous preparation of materials to cover the troops as mentioned in my last.

“Thirdly. As to a desultory expedition at present, it does not appear adviseable or consistent with good faith, until the determinations of the Indians shall be known—perhaps an expedition of that kind might during the Winter or very early in the Spring be undertaken with the most decisive good effect under the cover of which you might push the advanced posts of the line to the battle ground or to the Miami Village, provided the Indians have abandoned it, as all the information confirms—I have given you my opinions on your three queries, reserving further communications on the general conduct to be pursued until the President of the United State’s arrival and his orders being taken thereon.”

Knox estimated that recent recruitment efforts had raised an additional 555 troops, who were currently on their way to Pittsburgh. He promised to send the various articles requested in Wayne’s letter of 13 Sept. (ibid., 92–94), including cloth, needles, thread, blank muster and pay rolls, and fine powder sieves, and he advised, “It is unnecessary to put the hand into the Calibre of the small howitzer to load them—to prove this some specimens of fixed ammunition shall be forwarded. Two thousand five hundred shells of a proper size have probably arrived, as they were forwarded by Colonel [Thomas] Procter—More howitzers have not been contemplated—But if they are necessary they may be cast. Baron Steubens blue book is out of print—but we will have one edition printed with all expedition” (DLC:GW; see also ibid., 100–105).

Knox enclosed in his letter to Wayne a copy of the letter that he wrote Pennsylvania governor Thomas Mifflin on 21 Sept., and he enclosed another copy of that letter in this letter to GW. Knox informed Mifflin that he had instructed Wayne that it was “essential that the frontier Counties should be amply protected” and that Wayne should “erect such stations or send such patroles as will afford all reasonable protection to the inhabitants and banish any well founded apprehensions from their minds” (DLC:GW).

3Knox is referring to Rufus Putnam’s letter to him of 16 Aug. from Fort Washington, in which Putnam wrote that he was setting out for Vincennes the next day to meet with Indians in that region (DLC:GW; see also Buell, Putnam Memoirs, description begins Rowena Buell, ed. The Memoirs of Rufus Putnam and Certain Official Papers and Correspondence. Boston and New York, 1903. description ends 321–24). For background on Putnam’s peace mission, see Knox to GW, 26 Aug., nn.4–5, and GW to Knox, 3 Sept. (first letter), n.3.

James Wilkinson reported to Wayne from Fort Washington on 19 Aug. that “no material casualty has occurred, though my force is considerably diminished by the Escort furnished General Putnam, for his safe guard to Vincennes. . . . I am sorry to be obliged to inform that the forage arrived in very bad order, . . . On the subject of Hay, . . . I have now with infinite regret, to inform you that my force, did not justify a second attempt at Fort Jefferson, but that I have completed my first Crop at Fort Hamilton, computed by those who are called judges at 270 to 300 Tons which is secured by a Strong Stockade, the second Crop from sundry causes will not be considerable, but if the Season favors may turn out fifty or sixty Ton.

“Being at this moment totally uninformed as to the proposed operations of the season, or the arrangements for winter, it is not in my power to enter upon such measures as may hereafter be deemed necessary, and cannot at a late period be carried into execution with equal convenience, I shall however sir, at a hazard erect Stables for a body of Cavalry at Fort Hamilton, and will prepare Materials for Barracks to receive the Dragoons, I am obliged in this Case to proceed by inference & implication, which gives me much embarrassment & uneasiness, . . . The Security of this post, and the simplicity of the duty attending the command, induced me sometime since to move my Quarters to Fort Hamilton, in order that I may be at hand, and as near as possible to give my aid and personal directions in any exigency which might occur there at the advanced post, or, on the communication.

“I am now here on a visit to General Putnam, who sailed for vincennes yesterday morning, and shall return to Fort Hamilton in a day or two, where my presence hourly becomes more necessary.

“You will pardon me for an act of offensive hostility—I killed one and wounded two warriors on the 13th instant, a party had stolen eighteen horses from the Rifle Corps on the morning of the 12th instant about three quarters of a mile from Fort Hamilton, as soon as I got intelligence of the theft, I ordered Captain [Thomas] Barbee, with two suba[l]terns and fifty four men mounted, to take the trail of the Rogues, . . . and after a pursuit of about fifty miles on a N.E. course came up with them, in a very close and broken ground, killed one & wounded two out of Six, recovered every horse, and took six Rifles with their Blankets &c.

“As the season advances, the savages will increase the vigor of their depredations, they are now subsisted on Tassamanauge, and their Corn will soon be hard enough, to pull and dry in the ear; the enclosed copies from communications recently received, exhibit a menacing aspect on the part of the Enemy, who have within a few days killed one, & wounded two more at Dunlaps station on the Big Miami, and have killed taken & wounded several at Columbia, and the stations on the little Miami” (DLC:GW).

Maj. David Strong wrote Wilkinson on 15 Aug. from Fort Jefferson that “Since my last of the 9th instant to this date nothing worthy of notice has occurred. Yesterday morning about 10 oClock, a party of the Enemy, who, I suppose must have been in the neighbourhood some time, suddenly fired upon a few of our people who were watering at the Spring. . . . but I am happy to inform you without doing any further mischief than slightly wounding one man of Capt. [Jacob] Kingsbury’s company in the thigh—as soon as they had discharged their pieces they betook themselves precipitately to flight. . . . their object may have been the Cattle—if so, I have hitherto and flatter myself will be enabled totally to disappoint any attempts they may think proper to make” (DLC:GW).

Maj. John Smith wrote Wilkinson, also on 15 Aug., from Fort St. Clair that on that morning “two Serjeants had permission to go out & shoot squirrels for the sick—they were about a half a mile from the Garrison when they received a fire from the Indians . . . the Enemy were in three parties, supposing to be fifty in number, I expect they are after our Cattle, which I hope it will be in my power to baffle their intentions” (DLC:GW).

4Knox apparently received William Blount’s letter to him of 31 Aug. a few days later because he enclosed a copy of it with his letter to GW of 29 September. Maj. Henry Gaither recently had been appointed commanding officer of the U.S. troops in Georgia (see Knox to GW, 23 Aug. 1792, n.3).

5For background on the court-martial of John Morgan, see Knox to GW, 28 July, note 8, and 15 Sept., note 10. Morgan wrote Knox from Philadelphia on 19 Sept.: “Being this moment informed that a general court martial is sitting in this city, I beg in the most pressing manner to have my tryal brought forward—Excuse me Sir for reminding you of the Articles of War on the subject, they are too pointed surely to have escaped your notice; And with a full persuasion that you will not longer procrastinate my tryal as there is a court martial sitting where my supposed crimes were committed, I shall anxiously wait in expectation of a summons to appear before the court” (DLC:GW). In a subsequent letter to Knox of 20 Sept., Morgan corrected the date of this letter from that which appears on the dateline, 20 Sept., to 19 Sept. (see Knox to GW, 29 Sept., n.5).

Knox replied to Morgan’s letter of 19 Sept. that same day: “I have just received your letter dated by mistake on the 20th instant, requesting you may have your trial before the Court Martial now sitting in this City.” He informed Morgan that the current court-martial, which would finish its business on this or the following day, had only five members and that there were not enough officers in Philadelphia to form a court-martial of the size that Morgan’s case required. The members of the current court-martial also were obligated to return to their previous assignments. Moreover, Knox wrote, “I have no power to revoke the orders of the President of the United States” for you “to repair to the Head Quarters of the Army for trial, allowing you reasonable time to collect your evidence. As your present letter is the first intimation of your being in readiness to undergo your trial your continuance in arrest therefore cannot be attributed to any of the public Officers. As the head quarters of the Army are now at Pittsburg, the sooner you repair there, the sooner you will have an opportunity of being tried before a full Court Martial” (DLC:GW). GW rejected Morgan’s plea for a change of venue in his letter to Knox on 24 September.

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