From Richard Dobbs Spaight
No. Carolina Fayetteville 6th Jan: 1794
I do myself the honor to enclose to you a copy of the proceedings of the General Assembly respecting our frontiers,1 in conformity to the request of the legislature expressed in those proceedings I have given orders to Col: D. Vance of Buncomb county to call into service the Scouts or patroles agreable to the instructions contained in the Secretary of Wars letter of the 19th Decem: 1792.2
I have likewise given the necessary orders for having the militia of the districts of Salisbury and Morgan, divided into four classes, with orders to the first class to hold themselves in readiness to act whenever occasion may require at the same time I have directed the officers to act on the defensive only.3
The Indians have committed depredations on the property of the Citize⟨ns⟩ of this State by stealing their horses, but they have not as yet killed any person within our limits. By accts lately received from thence it appears that they have killed three persons just without the line of this state.4 I have the honor to be &c.
LB, Nc-Ar: Governors’ Letterbooks.
1. The enclosed copy has not been identified.
2. On 19 Dec. 1792, Henry Knox had written Anthony Martin, Spaight’s predecessor as governor, concerning defensive measures for North Carolina’s frontiers (Nc-Ar: Governors’ Letterbooks). According to Spaight’s address to the state’s General Assembly on 9 Dec. 1793, Knox’s letter gave “me the power of calling into service or not calling into service, as the necessity of the case might require, a certain number of scouts or patroles, not exceeding six or eight for a frontier of twelve miles extent.” In this same address, Spaight mentioned that a letter from Col. David Vance of Buncombe County reported that the Indians “have become lately very troublesome, and have committed very considerable depredations on the property of the citizens of this state, and that it is probable that they may make an attack on our frontier” (N.C. House Journal 1793 description begins Journal of the House of Commons. North-Carolina. At a General Assembly begun and held at Fayetteville, on the second Day of December, in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighteenth: It being the first Session of this Assembly. Halifax, N.C., . description ends , 9).
In his letter to Spaight of 22 Nov. 1793, Vance wrote about the “hostile appearance of our neighbours the Cherokees. . . . For several months past there has scarcely one week past, but the Indians have stolen horses from us, more or less, and it appears to me (without a stop is put to their conduct) that in a little time our County will be entirely stripped of horses. They have not murdered any person yet in our county. but about forty miles below us in the [Southwest] territory they are frequently murdering, and I know not how soon it may be the unhappy fate of some of ourselves.” Vance then speculated that it would not be long before residents would retaliate against the Indians. He had already heard reports of the murder of two Indians, and he reported that a group of men from Buncombe County planned to join a party of men from the territory on 30 Nov. for an expedition against nearby Indian towns. While he would try to prevent the expedition, he doubted that he would succeed (Nc-Ar: Governors’ Letterbooks).
Col. David Vance (1745–1813) moved from Frederick County, Va., to North Carolina around 1774. After serving first in the Continental army and then in the state militia during the Revolutionary War, Vance moved his family near present-day Asheville. He served several terms in the state’s General Assembly, was clerk of the court for Buncombe County, and was the commander of the county militia. For the orders given to Vance, see n.3 of Spaight’s third letter to GW of 8 Feb. 1794.
3. For administrative purposes, North Carolina’s counties were grouped into several judicial and militia districts. In January 1794, the Salisbury and Morgan districts covered the western portion of the state. The Morgan District included Lincoln, Rutherford, Burke, Buncombe, and Wilkes counties. The Salisbury District included Rockingham, Guilford, Montgomery, Stokes, Surry, Iredell, Rowan, Cabarrus, and Mecklenburg counties. For the orders given to the commanding officers of Burke, Lincoln, and Wilkes counties, see Spaight to Col. J. McDowell, 1 Jan. 1794 (Nc-Ar: Governors’ Letterbooks).
In his address to the state assembly of 9 Dec. 1793, Spaight requested approval of his plan to call the scouts into service in Buncombe County and said that he would “at the same time issue instructions to the commanding officer of the district of Morgan to have the militia of that district classed into three or four divisions, as the case might require; with instructions to the first class to hold themselves in readiness to march at a moment’s warning to such part of the frontier as may be attacked by the Indians” (N.C. House Journal 1793 description begins Journal of the House of Commons. North-Carolina. At a General Assembly begun and held at Fayetteville, on the second Day of December, in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighteenth: It being the first Session of this Assembly. Halifax, N.C., . description ends , 9). In its 18 Dec. response to Spaight’s address, the assembly noted that the inhabitants of the state’s westernmost counties “are much exposed to the attacks and depredations of the Indian savages, which ought to entitle them to the attention of the General Government, who ought to provide for their protection and defence.” It then approved Spaight’s plan to call up the militia, in accordance with Knox’s earlier letter. At the same time, it resolved that the militia officer and residents of these counties “be directed to confine themselves to act on the defensive only, until such times as the laws of the United States, ⟨or⟩ the orders of the President, shall authorize offensive measures against the Savages” (N.C. Senate Journal 1793, 16.)
4. Under GW’s direction, Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., sent Spaight’s letter and its enclosures with his second letter to Knox of 20 January. “The President,” Dandridge wrote, “desires you will report to him what steps you think ought to be taken in consequence thereof” (DLC:GW). For Knox’s subsequent reply to Spaight, see n.1 of Knox to GW, 21 January.