Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Israel Ludlow, 5 May 1792

From Israel Ludlow1

Philadelphia, May 5, 1792.


The unexpected delays that have attended my executing the surveys of the Ohio and Miami Companies,2 together with your letters, which I have received from time to time,3 urging my speedy exertions to effect the business, induces me to explain to you the cause of the delay.

In November, 1790, I was honored with your letter of instruction at this place.4 I proceeded immediately to Fort Harmar, being possessed of General Knox’s letter, or order to the Commandant for an escort. On my way, at Fort Pitt, I saw Maj. Doughty,5 who, after becoming acquainted with my business, informed me that there was no doubt but an escort would be furnished on my arrival at Fort Harmar, upon which I supplied myself with chain-carriers and other hands necessary, pack-horses, corn, provision, and camp equipage for the coming cold season.

On my arrival at Fort Harmar, I found no escort could be obtained. Maj. Ziegler,6 who commanded, gave me his answer in writing, which was that he did not consider the troops then under his command more than sufficient to guard the settlement of Marietta, the Indians having shortly before that defeated and broken up one of their frontier stations. Of course, he could not comply with the order of Gen. Knox and my request (a copy of that letter I inclosed to you). Upon that information, from necessity I gave up the pursuit at that time, and proceeded to Fort Washington, supposing I could execute the Miami survey.

Discharging my hired men and pack-horses, I applied to Gen. Harmar,7 who then commanded, for protection while surveying the Miami tract. He informed me he did not consider his whole command a sufficient escort for my purpose (a copy of his answer I forwarded to you). On the arrival of Gen. St. Clair,8 in May following, I made an official application for fifteen men or more, should it be convenient, to accompany me as an escort while surveying the Miami and Ohio tracts. He assured me that he considered the execution of this survey a matter of the highest interest and importance to the United States, and that he would make every effort to assist me with a sufficient guard, but that it was then impracticable (his letter I will forward to you). Thus the business was again put off until the 20th of October following, when I was favored with the services of fifteen men, commanded by a sergeant, with whom I proceeded to execute the Ohio Company’s survey. I succeeded, and returned to Fort Washington, but with the loss of six of the escort, and leaving in the woods all of my pack-horses and their equipage, and being obliged to make a raft of logs to descend the Ohio as far as Limestone, from opposite the mouth of the Great Sandy River.

On my arrival at Fort Washington, I again applied for protection to proceed in the Miami survey. That assistance was refused by Maj. Ziegler, who then commanded (his letter I will produce). My reputation, as well as the public good, being in some measure affected by the delay of the business, I was constrained to have recourse to an effort which my instruction did not advise, viz.: to attempt making the survey by the aid of three active woodsmen, to assist as spies, and give notice of any approaching danger. My attempts proved unsuccessful. After extending the western boundary more than one hundred miles up the Miami River, the deep snows and cold weather rendered our situation too distressing, by reason of my men having their feet frozen, and unfit to furnish game for supplies. In consequence, we returned to Fort Washington. The cold weather abating, I made another attempt, extending the east boundary as far as the line intersected the Little Miami River, where we discovered signs of the near approach of Indians, and, having but three armed men in company, induced me to return again to Fort Washington, which I found commanded by General Wilkinson,9 to whom I applied for an escort, which was denied me (his letter I have the honor to inclose to you with the others).

I now have the satisfaction to present to you the whole of the survey of the Ohio and part of the Miami purchases, executed agreeably to instructions.10

I am, sir, yours respectfully,

Israel Ludlow.

Hon. Alex. Hamilton,
Sec. of the Treasury.

Henry Benton Teetor, Sketch of the Life and Times of Col. Israel Ludlow, One of the Original Proprietors of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, 1885), 50–52.

1Ludlow, a native of Morristown, New Jersey, had served as an assistant surveyor of the western country under Thomas Hutchins during the Confederation period.

3Letters not found.

4See note 2.

5John Doughty, who remained in the Army after service during the American Revolution, was responsible for the construction of Fort Harmar and Fort Washington.

6David Zeigler, who had been a major in the First Infantry Regiment, had resigned from the Army on March 5, 1792.

7Brigadier General Josiah Harmar was commander of the troops in the West from 1784 to 1791.

8Arthur St. Clair was governor of the Northwest Territory.

9James Wilkinson was brevetted brigadier general in the Continental Army on November 6, 1777. He resigned on March 6, 1778, to serve first as secretary to the Board of War in 1778 and then as clothier general in the Continental Army from July, 1779, to March, 1781. In 1782 he became brigadier general in the Pennsylvania Militia. After the Revolution Wilkinson settled in Lexington, Kentucky. From Kentucky he traded with the Spanish in Louisiana, and on October 22, 1791, he rejoined the Army as lieutenant colonel commandant of the Second United States Infantry. He became a brigadier general on March 5, 1792.

10On May 20 and August 14, 1792, Ludlow submitted bills for his services (DS, RG 217, Miscellaneous Treasury Accounts, 1790–1894, Account No. 2472 and 2870, National Archives). On May 22 and August 15, 1792, H certified on these bills that Ludlow’s services were performed at his direction and according to congressional resolutions (ADS, RG 217, Miscellaneous Treasury Accounts, 1790–1894, Account No. 2472 and 2870, National Archives). In addition to H’s certification on the bill of August 15, 1792, there is a second statement signed by H and dated August 15 which reads as follows:

“I certify that Mr. Ludlow was employed to calculate and delineate on a Plot or map the Surveys or tracts of Country granted to the agents of the directors of the Ohio Company by an Act of the last session.

“Mr. Ludlow has Also executed a Map delineating the extremities of the tract of Country contracted for by the Agents of the Scioto Company.

“For the first mentioned service he is clearly intitled to a quantum meruit. As to the last the Accounting Officers will judge how far it is or it is not a part of any service for what he has been otherwise compensated.” (DS, with additions in H’s handwriting, RG 217, Miscellaneous Treasury Accounts, 1790–1894, Account No. 2870, National Archives.)

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