George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Board of War, 27 July 1778

From the Board of War

War Office [Philadelphia] July 27th 1778


I have the Honour to enclose several Resolutions of Congress relative to two Expeditions intended to be undertaken against the Indians.1 Had our Affairs permitted an earlier Attention to this Business or our Abilities in the Articles of supply enabled us sooner to proceed in it much Distress to the Inhabitants of the Frontiers would have been avoided. But as the principal Armies were our primary Objects it was impossible to procure the Means of prosecuting these Expeditions without interfering too much with more important Concerns. Your Excellency will percieve that the Views of Congress in one of the Enterprizes are narrowed by the present Plan, Detroit being originally in Contemplation but from our exhausted Situation in the Articles of Provisions Horses & other Necessaries & the Lateness of the Season the Attempt against this Place is laid aside. The Supplies however for the intended Expedition against that Place were in some Forwardness & will afford us an Oppertunity on the present smaller Scale to strike the Savages with Terror & overawe them into present Submission at least if not to prevent them by Destruction of the hostile Towns from doing us farther Mischief Every necessary Measure is taken for the forwarding the western Expedition & General McIntosh has Orders to march from Fort Pitt the first of September by which Time we have not the least Doubt all Things will be in Readiness.

As your Excellency now immediately commands the Northern Department it is necessary for the Board to correspond with you on the Subject of the Expedition into the Seneca Country which I am to desire in Persuance of the Resolutions of Congress may be forwarded with all possible Disspatch. This Expedition is not merely intended against the Senecas but against all such of the six Nations as are hostile. General Gates will inform you in what Forwardness the Bussiness of this Expedition now is. In his Letter to Congress of the 28th of June he mentions that he had “ordered Col. Bedel’s Regiment to assemble at Albany the 1st of August & should have every thing there prepared to invade this Country” In his Letter of the 2d July he confirms the Idea of the Men being ready on the Day first mentioned but says that a Supply of Provisions depended upon Mr Commissary Cuyler suggesting too that the Expedition against the Senecas had better have been undertaken from Wioming,2 but however proper this might have been, it is now impossible for a Variety of Reasons. General Gates had fixed upon Lieut. Col. Willett of Gaansevorts Regiment to command the Expedition. The Board concieve the highest Opinion of Col: Willetts Abilities but are of Opinion much Inconvenience & Disgust will arise from giving so extensive a Command to an Officer of his Rank: But leave this & all other Matters relative to this Expedition to your Excellency’s Determination. General Schuyler is of Opinion that the Place of Rendezvous should be Fort Schuyler & thinks that the greater Part of Gaansevorts Regiment might go on the Expedition leaving Militia to garrison the Fort; if you should be of this Opinion & should order the Regiment Col. Willet will go with it & his Knowledge of the Country & military Talents would then be made use of altho he had not the superior Command. As your Excellency must have your Hands full of Bussiness the Board beg Leave to suggest to you the Propriety of appointing some active Officer to take the whole Management of all Things relating to the forwarding the Expedition as well in Ease of yourself as the more readily to facilitate the Wishes of Congress who are anxious that their Plan may be perfectly executed by the Proceedure of both Expeditions about the same Time which will effectually chastize distract & terrify the Savages. The Person you appoint may consult your Excellency on important Points & manage all lesser Concerns himself. I have the Honour to be with great Respect your very obed. Servt

Richard Peters
By Order of the Board

By the latest Advices from the Frontiers of this State we have the greatest Reason to believe the main Body under Butler after breaking up the Wioming Settlement are on their Way towards the Frontiers of New York carrying off their Prisoners & Plunder but they have left a Number of small Parties who are committing daily Ravages & the most savage Barbarities. Col. Brodhead is now at Munsey on the West Branch of Susquahanna protecting the Inhabitants in getting in their Harvest. Col. Hartley it is hoped is near him & will take his Place as Col. Brodhead must march to Fort Pitt & compose Part of the Troops under General McIntosh.3 The enclosed Letter from Genl Schuyler contains a disagreeable Piece of Information unless Matters are in greater Forwardness than he seems to be acquainted with.4


1Peters enclosed copies of resolutions of 11 June and 25 July. The former proposed an expedition “to reduce if practicable, the garrison of Detroit” and another “from the Mohock river to the Seneca Country in order to chastise that insolent & revengefull Nation.” The latter “deferred” the expedition against Detroit in favor of the destruction of “such Towns of the Hostile tribes of Indians as … will most effectually tend to chastise & terrify the savages & to check their Ravages on the frontiers of these states” and directed that the Seneca expedition “be forwarded with all possible dispatch” (DLC:GW; see also 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 , 11:587–90, 720–22).

2These letters are in DNA:PCC, item 154.

3Col. Daniel Brodhead arrived in the township of Muncy in Northumberland (now Lycoming) County, Pennsylvania, by 20 July and remained there until early August. In August and September, Col. Thomas Hartley had Fort Muncy constructed in that area, north of the Muncy Hills near a sharp bend in the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, about three and a half miles north of the modern town of Muncy.

4In the enclosed letter to Henry Laurens, dated 19 July, Maj. Gen. Philip Schuyler reported from Albany: “I believe it will be labour lost to hold any more Conferences with the Senecas, Cayngas And Onandagers until an Army is marched into their Country, the necessaty of which becomes daily more evident, and I was in hopes that preperations for the Enterprize, which Congress directed on the 11th ult. to be prosecuted from the Mohawks River would have been in considerable Forwardness by this time but I cannot learn that any orders have been received in this quarter for the purpose, nor have I been favoured with a line from Genl Gates on the Subject.

“I am very Sorry to find that the Indians who returned from Philadelphia were informed that Expeditions were to be carryed on from Fort Pitt & the Mohawk River, because if it is still the intention of Congress to prosecute them, some disadvantage may arise from the objects being known, & because as soon as Butler knows of it, he will hasten his march to Schoharie & the German Flatts, and destroy those places before any Troops can arive, and because if the Expedition should be laid aside it will induce the Indians to believe that we cannot spare any Men from the Sea-Coast and they will be the more encouraged to continue their Barbarous incursions on the destressed Frontier Inhabitants.

“On Wednesday last four Chiefs of the Oneidas and Tuscaroras arived here—They inform me that as all hopes of bringing the Cayngas & Senecas to peacable Sentiments are lost they are now ready to join our Arms & Assist us in punishing them—I have sent a small Party of Oneidas by the Way of Schoharie to watch Butlers motions and directed others to remain in the neighbourhood of the German Flatts and keep out Scouts from thence” (DLC:GW).

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