George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 31 March 1791]

Thursday 31st. From this time, until the 7th. of April, I remained at Mount Vernon—visiting my Plantations every day—and

Was obliged also, consequent of Colo. Henry Lees declining to accept the command of one of the Regiments of Levies and the request of the Secretary of War to appoint those Officers which had been left to Colo. Lee to do for a Battalion to be raised in Virginia East of the Alligany Mountains to delay my journey on this account—and after all, to commit the business as will appear by the letters & for the reasons there-mentioned to Colo. Darke’s management.

From hence I also wrote letters to the Secretaries of State—Treasury and War in answer to those received from [them] on interesting subjects—desiring in case of important occurrances they would hold a consultation and if they were of such a nature as to make my return necessary to give me notice & I would return immediately. My rout was given to them & the time I should be at the particular places therein mentioned.

The regiment of which Henry Lee was offered command was one of two regiments of six-month levies that Congress had recently authorized to be raised as part of an expeditionary force that Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair was preparing to lead against hostile Indians in the Ohio Valley. Lee’s refusal of the command, about which GW did not definitely learn until 31 Mar., was unwelcome news, for it meant delay in officering and recruiting of the regiment’s three battalions, one to be raised in Pennsylvania, one in Maryland, and one in Virginia. To minimize the delay Secretary of War Henry Knox suggested in letters of 24 and 27 Mar. 1791 that the command be offered to either Col. Josias Carvill Hall or Col. Moses Rawlings, both of Maryland, and that GW in the meantime appoint the officers for the Virginia battalion (Knox to William Jackson, 24 Mar. 1791, and Knox to GW, 27 Mar. 1791, DLC:GW). Unprepared for Lee’s refusal, GW hastily approved offering the command to Hall but was reluctant to take time out of his schedule to secure the Virginia officers (William Jackson to Henry Knox, 30 Mar. 1791, and GW to Henry Knox, 1 April 1791, DLC:GW). GW settled the matter by writing to Lt. Col. William Darke of Berkeley County on 4 April to ask him to appoint the officers for the Virginia battalion and to accept command of the regiment if Hall declined it (GW to Darke, 4 and 7 April 1791, DLC:GW). Hall did decline, and Darke accepted. In the defeat that St. Clair’s force suffered at the hands of the Indians near the Wabash River 4 Nov. 1791, Darke was severely wounded and his son Capt. Joseph Darke mortally wounded (William Darke to GW, 9 Nov. 1791, DLC:GW).

The letters that GW wrote from Mount Vernon to Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson are dated 31 Mar. and 1 and 4 April 1791, to Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton 4 April 1791, and to Secretary of War Henry Knox 1, 4, and 7 April 1791 (DLC:GW). The instructions for “important occurrances” are in a letter of 4 April 1791 addressed jointly to the three cabinet members. Vice-President John Adams was not included in the consultations only because he was going to Boston (DLC:GW).

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