George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Stanwix, 15 July 1757

To John Stanwix

[Fort Loudoun] July 15th 1757.

To Colo. Stanwix
Dear Sir,

Your obliging favour of the 11th instant I received this morning. It will seem odd to send you three letters under one cover; and those so widely differring in their dates:1 But the truth only shall account for it.

Mr Atkin has told me day after day, since the date of my first, that his Express wou’d go off the next morning, as he wou’d the preceding evening be able to finish his dispatches to you. This prevented my enquiring after any other conveyance, and is the cause of the delay of my letters ’till now.

Militia, you will find, Sir, will never answer your expectation—No dependendance is to be placed upon them: They are obstinate and perverse; they are often egged on by the Officers, who lead them to acts of disobedience: And, when they are ordered to certain posts for the security of Stores, or the protection of the Inhabitants, will, on a sudden, resolve to leave them, and the united vigilance of their Officers can not prevent them. Instances of the above nature I have now before me, which put me to some difficulty.

No man I conceive was ever worse plagu’d than I have been with the Draughts that were sent from the several counties in this Government, to compleat its Regiment: out of 400 that were received at Fredericksburgh, and at this place, 114 have deserted; notwithstanding every precaution, except absolute confinement, has been used to prevent this infamous practice. I have used the most vigorous measures to apprehend those fellows who escaped from hence (which amounted to about 30;) and have succeeded so well, that they are taken, with the loss of one of their men, and a Soldier wounded. I have a Gallows near 40 feet high erected (which has terrified the rest exceedingly:) and I am determined, if I can be justified in the proceeding, to hang two or three on it, as an example to others.2

An affair has happened at this place which may, I apprehend, be productive of very unhappy consequences: it is this. About 6 days ago came to this town, from Chota, in the cherokee nation, ten Indians; some of whom call themselves Mingo’s tribe of the Six nations; others Cherokees, &c. But, as they gave no good account of their intentions, Mr Atkin suspected their loyalty; and taking them for Spies, has caused them to be put in close confinement, in which they now remain.3

This proceedure greatly alarmed, and at the same time exasperated about 12 cherokees, who were at this place and knew all the prisoners; and has obliged Mr Atkin to send an Express to the South-Branch, to bring Outassity down, who now lies sick there, to clear the matter up. He is not yet arrived.4

Nineteen Indians, and the Officer I mentioned in my last, marched from Fort Cumberland the 9th instant for Ft du Quesne[.] By their return, I hope I shall receive some intelligence worth transmitting to you: At present we are pretty peaceable.

The Philadelphia post, which formerly came to this place, being stopped, prevents our hearing any foreign news, but what are transmitted in the channel of friendly Letters. We greatly regret the loss of this post, and wou’d gladly keep it up by private subscription, from this to Carlyle, if it comes that length.5 I am Your &c.



1The other two letters are dated 28 June and 8 July.

2A court-martial held at Fort Loudoun on 25 and 26 July 1757 sentenced fourteen soldiers to be hanged for desertion and eight to be whipped. Two were hanged on 29 July 1757. See General Court-Martial, 25–26 July 1757.

3Indian superintendent Edmond Atkin wrote a long and circumstantial letter on 22 July to the commander of Fort Prince George in the Cherokee country giving his version of the affair from the time the party of Cherokee arrived in Winchester on 10 July until he released them from confinement on 21 July. He explained his decision to lock the Indians up in this way: “On the 10th of this Month 10 Indians were conducted up from Williamsburg to this Place to me as Cherokees; they did not come near me that Day. The next Day I was informed that they were not Cherokees, but Northward Indians out of the Six Nations, and that the French and Mingoe Tongues were spoken among them. Their Captain only was brought to me that Day who proved a little in Liquor and spoke to me in the Mingo Tongue by an Interpreter. He said that he came from Chota, that he was the Head Man of all the Cherokee Nation which I knew to be not true. . . . As he was disposed to behave rudely, I was forced to leave him and received further Informations afterwards, which made me suspect those ten Indians being of different Sorts, to be employed by the French. . . . The Day following [12 July] my Suspicions being increased by further Reasons I sent for them all in the Afternoon and having examined them, they gave such Answers to my Questions and so bad an Account of themselves and their Business . . . I caused them all to be put under Confinement” (McDowell, S.C. Indian Affairs, 1754–1765 description begins William L. McDowell, Jr., ed. Documents relating to Indian Affairs. 2 vols. Columbia, S.C., 1958-70. In Colonial Records of South Carolina, 2d ser., vols. 2–3. description ends , 406–8).

4Atkin wrote that after he confined the ten Indians, “a few Cherokees then in this Town (without a Headman) discovered their Uneasiness thereupon signifying that there were 2 or 3 of their People among them. I had no Interpreter . . . but questioned them by making them sensible that no Hurt was intended to any of the Cherokees, our Friends and Brothers, and I immediately dispatched an Express the same Hour to Otojoity of Tomotley [Otacite Ostenaco of Tomatly] and Jud’s Friend [Judge’s Friend] then at or in the Neighbourhood of Fort Cumberland . . . to acquaint them with what had been done, desiring them to come down immediately. . . . They were both ill of the Fever and therefore could not set out immediately. But Outosuity of Tomatley and Testoe of Keowee sent me a Letter, desiring me not to let them escape before they should come, for that they believed them to be Enemies” (ibid.). Ostenaco of Tomatly and Judge’s Friend are usually identified as the same person.

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