George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Timothy Pickering, 20 February 1795

From Timothy Pickering

War-Office Feby 20. 1795.


General Knox has handed me the inclosed communications from General Wilkinson, deeming them proper to be seen by you.1 He desires me afterwards to return them.

General Knox’s letter of the 4th of last December to General Wilkinson accompanies the communications of the latter, to render them intelligible.2 I am most respectfully sir, your obt servant

Timothy Pickering


1Pickering probably enclosed James Wilkinson’s letters to Henry Knox of 1 and 2 Jan. 1795, responding to Knox’s letters of 4 and 5 Dec. 1794 about Wilkinson’s request for a court of inquiry (for the latter, see Knox to GW, 4 Dec., n.1). In the public letter of 1 Jan., Wilkinson agreed from “motives of dutiful respect to the inclinations of the President” to “consign the past to oblivion, and make a peace offering, to the New Year, of my disaffection, my mortifications & reprehension.” Although he “stood prepared for the conflict, and the specific acts of misrule embraced by the General charges, alledged against Major Genl Wayne, had been committed to paper …. My Lips are now Sealed; my Pen is dismissed from depicting well founded grievances” (DLC: Harry Innes Papers).

In the private letter of 2 Jan., Wilkinson responded to Knox’s assertion that Anthony Wayne had made no public complaint against Wilkinson and had mentioned him favorably in public reports. Wilkinson claimed that he “never expected that General Wayne had lodged any official information against me” since neither Wayne’s “intrigues … nor all the injuries & indignities offered to me, have ever provoked me to an act of indiscretion, much less a breach of duty.” Similarly, there were too many witnesses to Wilkinson’s conduct in the battle of 20 Aug. for Wayne to avoid giving “merited applause,” although “in truth his detail of the affair bears little more resemblance to the actual scenes of the right Wing, than Hopkinsons battle of the Keggs.” Moreover, Wilkinson questioned how honorable it was for Wayne, who had left him to fight without orders, to have him “classed with Captains & Subalterns who did little & saw less?” Understanding that Gen. Charles Scott was to visit Philadelphia, Wilkinson mentioned his complaint about the appointment of Scott to command above him and justified his having “since treated the Genl with little ceremony.” Knox’s assurances of his and GW’s confidence in Wilkinson’s patriotism were “a source of repose to me, amidst the buzzings of those insects, who calumniously labor to Vilify my fame, by imputations of antifederalism, impatience of Government, & other dispositions equally inconsistent, unfounded & scandalous” (DLC: Harry Innes Papers).

2Knox’s letter to Wilkinson of 4 Dec. 1794 was marked private. Knox pointed out that Wilkinson’s dispute with Anthony Wayne was a “very unhappy” one, “tarnishing in a degree the military part of our national reputation.” Wayne had made “no complaint” against Wilkinson. “Cannot therefore some mode be suggested to bury in oblivion all that is past and Which indeed appears to me to be more the Effect of nice feelings than any palpable cause?” A “conciliation would be highly acceptable” to GW “for public considerations.” GW does not wish to protect anyone from “a proper inquiry,” but he believes the “General charges” require “specification before they can be acted upon.” Meanwhile, GW “has ordered the Court of inquiry upon your request, provided you choose to avail yourself of it” (DLC: Harry Innes Papers).

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