George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 7 June 1793

From Henry Knox

War department 7 June 1793.


I have the honor to submit to your consideration, the draft of a letter to M. General Wayne,1 together with copies of two former letters of the 20th of April2 and the 17th of May,3 which collectively will give a general view of his orders for the present campaign. I have the honor to be sir with perfect respect Your humble Servant

H. Knox


1Gen. Anthony Wayne was currently in the Northwest Territory preparing his troops for a possible war with the hostile Indians there. At the same time, Indian commissioners Benjamin Lincoln, Beverley Randolph, and Timothy Pickering were on their way to Lower Sandusky, where they hoped to negotiate a peace treaty with the Indians of the Northwest Territory. In his letter to Anthony Wayne of 7 June, Knox wrote: “An express has just been received from the Commissioners at Niagara informing of the treaty being postponed for at least one Month. The enclosed extract from McKee will exhibit the apparent reasons. It is to be aprehended this postponment may lead to others and that the Summer season may be lost in waiting for the result of the Treaty.

“It would appear by the enclosed letter from the Commissioners that the Indians will be highly jealous of any movements towards the head of your line—In answer I have written to the Commissioners this day.

“‘The Proclamations of the Governors of the western Territory, Pensylvania and Virginia and also of General Wayne are enclosed forbiding all expeditions North of the Ohio. The Governor of Kentucky was also requested to take the necessary precautions on the same subject.

“‘Although it will be essential that General Wayne should from time to time supply his advanced posts with provision for which escorts will be necessary, yet he has been prohibited from making any considerable accumilation of Troops at them. You may therefore assure the Counsel of Indians that our warriors will not make any irruptions into their Country during the treaty.

“‘But at the same time it will be proper to inform them that notwithstanding this is our determination, yet at no time during the present war have there been committed more murders and depredations from the line of Pensylvania down the Ohio than during the course of this spring; This ought not to be so if they are sincere in their desires for peace.’

“In order therefore to prevent any pretext for their ill treatment of the Commissioners, or for any just cause of Complaint against us it will be proper that there be no movement of the Troops toward the head of the line, other than shall serve as escorts to the ordinary quantity of provisions for the advanced Garrisons.

“The postponement of the treaty will require that you also postpone the collection of the mounted Volunteers which you may call out from Kentucky. The number you will decide upon agreably to my letter of the 17th ultimo and make the arrangement for their entering the service so as to overtake you soon after you shall be on the march forward, or at the head of the line as you shall judge best.

“For besides the expence which ought to be avoided, if they should be assembled before they are required for active service, they will be liable to such disgust and ill humours as to endanger the enterprize.

“Although this delay will occation you to postpone the collection of our auxiliary force and horses until you receive the information either from me or from the Commissioners according to my letter of the 20th of April, yet it will be proper to have every other part of your arrangements in perfect readiness to move on the twentieth of August or at furthest the first of September. The recruits mentioned in my letter of the 17th of May are all in motion and some of them near advanced to Pittsburgh. I have not been able to hear of Captain [William] Preston, but I hope he may have joined you before this time.

“I shall direct Lt. Colonel Clarke [John Clark] with the Troops from the upper Garrisons to move in the fore part of July, excepting the small Garrisons mentioned in my letter of the 17th ultimo; and in order that the difficulty may be lessened in case of the lowness of the waters, he will be directed to establish a post at the mouth of wheeling below which there is generally a sufficiency of water.

“A months pay is preparing which with three thousand dollars for bounties for any of the old Troops and an additional sum for the quarter Master shall be forwarded in a few days.

“Most of the supplies requested either in the quarter Masters, Ordnance or Hospital department are gone forward or will be on their way to Fort Pitt in a short time—The new clothing will also be on in due season.

“The delay of which you are now informed will be a new inducement for your erecting a work at Fort Massac as mentioned in my letter to you of the 17th ultimo” (MiU-C: Wayne Letter-Books, 1792–94).

The enclosed extract of the first letter of 27 May 1793 from the Indian commissioners, who wrote from Niagara, stated that if Wayne reinforced any forts west of Fort Washington, which was near the village of Cincinnati, Ohio, “it may produce mischeif—if nothing worse at least by exciting a suspicion that tis in order to strike their towns while they are in Treaty, it will still longer retard their assembling.” They also wrote that the Indians “will during the treaty keep scouting parties about our advanced posts and that if any Troops should be sent forward especially to Fort Jefferson the Indians will certainly strike them” (MiU-C: Wayne Letter-Books, 1792–94; the entire letter is printed in 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 1:345). Knox’s letter to the commissioners of 7 June, which he quotes in his letter to Wayne, has not been identified.

The enclosed extract of a letter from British Indian agent Alexander McKee to British major Edward Baker Littlehales (c.1763–1825), dated 11 April 1793 at Detroit, reported that a speech made by the commissioners to the western Indians had been forwarded to the Indian villages on the Glaize River. Although the Indians generally had agreed to meet the U.S. commissioners at Lower Sandusky, the date set by the Americans of 1 June was too early for the Indians, because they would be returning home from their spring hunt at that time. It probably would be nearer the end of June before the negotiations could begin (MiU-C: Wayne Letter-Books, 1792–94; printed ibid., 343).

On the enclosed proclamation issued by the government of Pennsylvania, see Thomas Mifflin to GW, 29 April 1793, and note 1. For Wayne’s proclamation of 22 April and that of 13 May by Virginia governor Henry Lee, see respectively Carter, Territorial Papers description begins Clarence Edwin Carter et al., eds. The Territorial Papers of the United States. 27 vols. Washington, D.C., 1934–69. description ends , 2:452, and Calendar of Virginia State Papers description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds. Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts. 11 vols. Richmond, 1875–93. description ends , 6:370. Gov. Arthur St. Clair’s proclamation for the Northwest Territory has not been identified.

2In his letter to Wayne of 20 April, Knox wrote that GW’s “directions having been received relative to the Troops you will not be detained any longer for orders. But you will descend the Ohio immediately.” Knox then continued with some “general ideas” from GW. Wayne was to take “all possible caution and vigilance … to prevent the irruptions of any parties of Whites towards the Indian Country” during the preparations for and conduct of the proposed Indian treaty. The Indian commissioners were instructed to “bring the treaty to a close on or before the first of August next so that in case of an unsuccessful issue you may have time to carry on your operations.” After expressing thanks for Wayne’s past efforts to keep the Northwest Territory peaceful, Knox wrote that Wayne was “to have every thing prepared for vigorous offensive operations and in perfect readiness to move forward from the Ohio by the twentieth of July or at furthest by the first of August” and to begin his march “immediately upon receiving” letters from the commissioners that the treaty had failed. After a discussion of troop strength and military strategy in case of war, Knox wrote that the “President expresses his Confidence that you will … observe the highest degree of caution in your modes of marching and encamping and keeping out incessant patroles so as to preclude a possibility of being compelled to engage in a disagreeable situation.

“The intelligence of the numbers and situation of the Enemy being so extremely essential to all proper movements and conduct, it is expected that you will use every practicable device to obtain this object, in the pursuit of which no trouble or reasonable expence should be spared.” Knox concluded the letter with a review of logistical, supply, and personnel considerations (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 , 221–25). At the time of this April letter, Wayne’s headquarters was on the Ohio River at Legionville, an encampment twenty-two miles below Pittsburgh. By 5 May, Wayne had moved his headquarters further west to Hobson’s Choice, a temporary camp on the east side of Mill Creek at its junction with the Ohio River at present-day Cincinnati and near Fort Washington (Wayne to Knox, 9 May 1793, ibid., 234–35).

3Much of Knox’s lengthy letter to Wayne of 17 May concerned the army’s strength, recruitment efforts, and attempts to ensure that the troops had a sure supply of provisions “whether on the march, in Camp or in Garrison.” Near the end of the letter, Knox wrote: “Application has been made for the establishment of a post at Fort Massac below the Wabash on the Ohio. This place is high and healthy and would at once serve as a trading post with the Chickasaws and Choctaws and part of the Cherokees, and to cut off in a degree … the communications of the Northern and Southern Indians. The President of the United States impressed with the propriety of this measure is restrained from ordering it to be executed solely by the consideration of lessening your force, but he recommends the affair to you and if you should think a post could be erected there & that the party ordered upon the business could return so seasonably as to join your army excepting a small Garrison of a sub and twenty five Men he wishes you to take the necessary steps therein immediately” (ibid., 236–41).

Index Entries