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To George Washington from Andrew Lewis, 8 August 1778

From Andrew Lewis

Fort Pitt August 8th 1778

Dear General

I have been asked in such a Manner by the Board of this State to attend as a Commissioner in this quarter that I knew not how to refuse tho I had but little hopes of having it in my power to be of real Service, as a Treaty with the Indians I believed to be what was principally in View.1 I arrived at this place on the 1st Instant but found neither Indians, Agent, or Commissioner, from the State of Pennsylvania nor the Instructions which I was told would be found on my Arrival at this place, I shall wait an Answer to a letter sent on this Occasion to Congress that I may know the Cause of all the Disappointments and Embarrasments that seems unhappily to attend what was had in prospect.2

I am confident that your Excellency will think with me that at a Time when our extensive Frontiers in every Settlement of this State as well as Pennsylvania are dayly ravaged by the depredations of a combination of all the Savage Tribes (except a few of the Delawares who seem to be friendly disposed) nothing can be expected by a Treaty before they are heartyly drubbed into a peacifick dispositition. And this leads me to mention something of the present embarrassing Circumstances of General McIntosh who is crossed in all his expectations, disappointed in the Levies that were to join his few Regulars, the Provisions of Flesh laid in last Winter damaged, unacquainted with what further Supplys he may be furnished with or when it may be expected, the Savages frequently Murdering & Scalping without having it in his power to afford protection even in the defensive way, the Season of the year far advanced, and in every respect without having the least prospect of effecting any thing that can redound to his credit or the safety of the Inhabitants, and tho he has had no regular Notice that Congress has laid aside the Scheme of attacking Detroit this Year, yet from the backwardness above mentioned as well as from a representation & Opinion of the Board of this State to Congress, he has reason to believe it will be the case;3 but however that may be the Attacking of that Post this Year however Necessary is altogether out of the Question. this being the case I hope your Excellency will pardon the freedom I take when I say that unless General McIntosh be enabled to carry the War into the Indian Countrys this Year the Savages will become more and more Insolent, and the back Settlements depopulated, in short nothing but Murder, Burning, Devestations, and wretched Captivity can be expected. I hope in god that matters has or will take such a turn in your favour that your Excellen[c]y will be able to reinforce the General so that a check may be given the Indians in the Offensive way and in the mean Time preperations effectually made for the Reduction of Detroit next Year.

Were it not that I am apprehensive for the safety of my Family as well as the back Inhabitants in general I could be happy in my retirement, And I hope Congress are happy in the proofs they have given of their Infallibility in giving promotion out of the line of Seniority, tho some think that suspension & the proceedings of a General Court Martial are against it4—I am Your Excellency Most obedt and very Humble servt

Andw Lewis

LS, DLC:GW.

1On 4 June, Congress resolved that three commissioners should be appointed, two by Virginia and one by Pennsylvania, “for the purpose of holding a treaty with the Delawares, Shawnees, and other Indians who may assemble at Fort Pitt, on the twenty third of July next” ( JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 11:568). On 18 June the Virginia council of state appointed Lewis as one of the commissioners authorized by that resolution ( Va. State Council Journals description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia. 5 vols. Richmond, 1931–82. description ends , 2:150).

2A letter of 6 Aug. “from Andrew Lewis and Thomas Lewis, commissioners at Pittsburg, with sundry papers enclosed” was read in Congress on 18 Aug. ( JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 11:810), but it has not been identified.

3For Congress’s resolutions of 11 June, directing an expedition against Detroit, see JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 11:588–90. The Virginia council of state on 7 July voted that the proposed expedition was “utterly impracticable within the present Campaign” and directed Gov. Patrick Henry to submit their opinion to Congress ( Va. State Council Journals description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia. 5 vols. Richmond, 1931–82. description ends , 2:161–62). For Henry’s letter of 8 July, in DNA:PCC, item 71, see Laurens Papers description begins Philip M. Hamer et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Laurens. 16 vols. Columbia, S.C., 1968–2003. description ends , 14:7–10.

4Congress had passed over the more senior Lewis when they appointed five major generals, including Arthur St. Clair and Adam Stephen, on 19 Feb. 1777 ( JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 7:133). Subsequently Congress had resolved on 14 Nov. 1777 that St. Clair “be at liberty to attend his private affairs” until ordered to headquarters for a still-pending inquiry into his conduct while commanding at Fort Ticonderoga (ibid., 9:901), and Stephen had been dismissed from the army after a court-martial on his conduct at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown (see General Orders, 20 Nov. 1777).

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