George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Seagrove, 17 March 1793

From James Seagrove


SirSt Mary’s [Ga.] 17th March 1793

When I had the honor of addressing you on the 12th of December from Savannah,1 I considred all matters between the United States, and the Creek people on a favourable footing; and until the 11th Inst: had not the least reason to alter that opinion. You will be informed by my Letter of this date to the Secretary of War, the unfavourable change in matters, which I am fully persuaided is in consequence of the scandalous interferrence of the Spaniards.2 For whatever may be the declarations of that Nation to that of the United States; it is beyond a shadow of doubt, that the Governors of the Floridas, and those under them; have left no stone unturned to set the Savages upon us. The late murders I am convinced was at the immediate instigation of their trusty Agent Mr Panton—as the whole of the Indians composing the party that did the mischief, are belonging to a Town where Panton has his chief influence; and where their matters are directed by a white Man in his employ, of the name of Burges—who’s Brotherinlaw (an Indian) and Burgeses Son commanded the party that committed the murder & robbery.3

It appears to me, that the Spaniards finding matters going favourable between us and the Creeks, were determined to have bloodshed at all events; and for this reason employed those fellows—I doubt not they have others employ’d on different parts

of our frontier, but cannot believe that the Nation know’s of it, or that it is a general business. The declarations of the Chiefs who met me at Colerain, and which I forwarded you on the 30th of November last, I doubt not has satisfy’d you as to the ill designs of the Spaniards.4 I now enclose you a positive proof from David Cornell on that head.5 It is not with me, to know the policy of my Country in hitherto observing so friendly a conduct toward those perfideous people—be assured they have all along been using every base unwarrantable means to injure the United States in the opinion of the different Indian tribes. The Spanish Government have of late gon to an imense expence to engage the Savages in their favour; and there is reason to fear that they may succeed.6

I suggested to you in a former Letter my fears that the Spaniards would make use of Bowles against us—I fear this will be verifyed—The Indians are now in high expectation of his dayly return with large Cargo’s of goods; and several hundreds of them are now down at the mouth of the Ockaluckney to receive him.7 The Spanish Governors of the Floridas endeavour to make all the Indians believe that we have cheated and robbed them of their Lands, by the runing of the boundary line from the Alatamaha to St Mary’s—this tho’ not believed by the diserning part of the Nation, has the desired effect on the less informed of them.8

On the day that the mischief was done at Traders Hill, upwards of Fifty Indians (men women & ch[i]ldren) were encamped at Colerain, and receiving Supply’s of Corn—This leads me to think that it is not a business of the Nation, or they would have been called in before hand. On[c]e the mischief being done they fled for fear of the resentment of the white people—but declaring their total ignorance of it. Some of the Northern Tribes have lately been among the Creeks—no doubt to stir them up to join them. In a few days I shall forward you copy’s of Letters received from, and those sent by me to the Nation, which will further explain those matters.9

I hope some assistance will be given to this young defenceless frontier, it wants it much.

I shall dispatch a trusty Indian into the Nation in a day or two for information. I was all ready to set off by the 10th of next month for the Nation, but shall now decline it until I hear further.

McGillivray is again with the Spaniards10—Time will not allow my adding at present more then that I am with the most profound respect Your Most Obedient Devoted Very Humble Sert

Js: Seagrove Agt

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

2Seagrove’s original letters to GW and Henry Knox arrived in Philadelphia on 6 April, and duplicates of both letters came shortly thereafter. The duplicate of the letter to Knox contained additional papers, “chiefly copies of talks” sent by Seagrove to Creek chiefs and selected individuals who resided among them (Tobias Lear to GW, 8 April, and note 3). The letter to Knox of 17 Mar. reported that “the Indians . . . on the night of the 11th, broke into the store of Robert Seagrove, and killed Mr. John Fleming, the store-keeper, Mr. Daniel Moffit, a gentleman who came there on business, and that another man was missing” (ASP, Indian Affairs, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:373–74). James Seagrove and his brother Robert owned a trading post at a site called Traders Hill on the St. Marys River in Georgia.

3William Panton (c.1742–1801) was a proprietor of the trading house of Panton, Leslie, & Co., which operated a number of trading posts throughout Spanish territories and had its headquarters at Pensacola in West Florida. James (Diego) Burges resided among the Lower Creeks and ran a trading post on the Flint River, near present-day Bainbridge in southwest Georgia.

4For an account of Seagrove’s meeting with a delegation of Creek Indians in November 1792, see Seagrove to Knox, 22 Nov. 1792, ibid., 336. Neither the forwarded declarations nor any letter from Seagrove to GW of 30 Nov. 1792 has been identified.

5Creek Indian David Cornell’s letter to Seagrove of 6 Jan. 1793 is probably the enclosed “proof” that Spanish officials had encouraged the recent Indian attacks on Americans along the southwestern frontier (ibid., 375). David Cornell was the Indian son of trader and interpreter Joseph Cornell, who was the father-in-law of the Creek leader Alexander McGillivray. A detachment of the Georgia militia killed David later this year (Seagrove to Alexander Cornell, 5 July 1793, ibid., 398–99).

6For Seagrove’s earlier report concerning a Spanish meeting with the southern Indians at Pensacola in September 1792 and Spanish distribution of arms and ammunition to the Indians, see Seagrove to Henry Knox, 8 Sept. 1792, in note 4 of GW to Thomas Jefferson, 20 Oct. 1792. For another report on Spanish arming of the Indians, see Leonard Shaw’s letter of 20 Sept. 1792 contained in GW’s Extracts of Correspondence on Indian Affairs, October 1792.

7For Seagrove’s suspicions about William Augustus Bowles, see Seagrove to GW, 5, 27 July 1792. Seagrove’s apprehensions, however, were unjustified at this time, since Bowles, who had been arrested by Spanish officials in late February 1792, spent the next five years imprisoned in Cuba, Spain, and the Philippines before escaping to London in 1797. The Ochlockonee River flows from southwest Georgia into Florida and empties near Tallahassee into Apalachee Bay in the Gulf of Mexico.

8Juan Nepomuceno de Quesada y Barnuevo and Arturo O’Neill were the governors, respectively, of East Florida and Pensacola, in West Florida. Francisco Luis Hector, baron de Carondelet, was the governor-general of Louisiana and West Florida. For the boundary established between the United States and the Creek Nation in the 1790 Treaty of New York, see Kappler, Treaties, description begins Charles J. Kappler, ed. Indian Affairs. Laws and Treaties. 5 vols. Washington, D.C., 1903–41. description ends 25.

9A delegation of Shawnee arrived among the Creek in early January 1793, asking the Creek and other southern Indians to join them in an anti-American alliance (William Panton to Carondelet, 27 Jan. 1793, Georgia Historical Quarterly, 23 [1939]: 300–301). The copies forwarded probably included the letters that Seagrove had written to various Indian leaders on 20 Feb. 1793 (ASP, Indian Affairs, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:375–77). The letters received by Seagrove have not been identified.

10Alexander McGillivray died at the home of William Panton in Pensacola on 17 Feb. 1793 (Panton to Carondelet, 20 Feb. 1793, in Caughey, McGillivray of the Creeks, description begins John Walton Caughey. McGillivray of the Creeks. Norman, Okla., 1938. description ends 354).

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