George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Patterson, 3 April 1779

From William Patterson

Cumberland County [Pa.] April 3d—1779


This day Hicks returned from Shamong,1 where he met with Twenty five of the Troops in pay of Britain, & about thirty warriors of the Mingo, Munsey, & Tuskaroro Tribes, The whites were commanded by a Serjet who Told Hicks the Officer was gone to the lake to meet a reinforcmt of Troops, The Serjt said he knew but little more than there was an Expedition talked of among the Officers. & Indians, That the six Nations and their dependants were all preparing for war, those at Shamong live on Corn, Sugar, & wild Meat No publick Stores there—he Hicks Saw sundrie empty Pork and flour Barrels & a few prisioners, he dilevered the letters to the Serjt who said he dare ‘ot Oppen but promised to forward them to his Officer, The Indian chief of the Town pointed out a path of Safety for the conveyance of an answer. or continuance of a correspondence, The whites & Indians objected to Hicks’s carrying the letters thro’ their Country which Ocasioned his quick return.

from every thing Hicks cou’d hear he thinks Shamong and the other Town’s nearest will soon be evacuated and their inhabitants take shelter under the Bark of the Senekee Country at & near a Town call’d the big Ax on the watters of Lake Ontaria about sixty. or seventy Miles from Shamong2—the distance between the Navigable watters of the Alegeny & Cayuga branch for small Boats about thirty five Miles, the Country leavel but in part Swampey Beetchland.3

I Just now recived a letter from Captn Bush commandg at Sunbury says that on Sunday last was a week a large party of Indians attacked a party of our Troops on the Wyoming plains near the Fort commanded by Colo. Butler, but did not give the particulars of that days affair, that on the Tuseday following they attacked the Fort & kept firing the most of that day, afterwards retired taking with ’em 100 head of Black Cattle & 30 Horses, Tho’ your Excellency will have the particulars of this affair I cant but mention it with pleasure & rejoice that the Enimy attacked Wyoming instead of Fort Wallis which place might have fell into their hands;4 with Captn Bushes letter came one for the Captn of a few light Hor. At York Town, seeing it wrote on publick service I forwarded by express immediately after it came to hand5—In my letter to General Green of the 28th of March last I mentioned that I cou’d not find a trusty Hand willing to undertake the Journey with Hicks. But unexpected I met with an Honest man of good charactor & fortune who offered his service in case your Excellency think proper to have further discoverys attempted, I shall wait your approbation before I put the publick to more expence on this Busness.6

I gave Hicks three Hundred dollars, & paid his expences, keep his wife & two Children in my family to have him under my Eye ready for the same services, he says the Enimy treated him rough at first, but, in the end kind, That the party attacked Wyoming were Not from Shamong, but thinks they came from Chananga, & Chewnote,7 That he went undiscovered until within half a Mile of Shamong & kept the com[mo]n road all the way, That on his return he Tracked warriors at the head of Munsey Creeck steering their course towards Sunbury, on his way up heard several Guns fired near Wyalusing,8 there is a small Stokade a little below Shamo[n]g but no one in it, he further says there are several empty Houses in the Town appears to have been long evacuated as they used them for Cow Stables and quantities of dung lie in them—I Just now heard that on wednesday last a party of Indians Murdered a family 10. in Number about twelve Miles from Sunbury.9 I am Your Excellencies Obedient Huml. Servent

W: Patterson

ALS, DLC:GW. GW replied to this letter on 11 April (DLC:GW).

1Patterson is referring to Chemung, New York.

2Big Ax may be an erroneous rendering of Big Tree, an older name for Geneseo, N.Y., as well as the name of another Seneca Indian village located on a nearby bluff. Both places are about eighty-five miles northwest of Chemung and thirty-five miles south of Lake Ontario.

3Gershom (Garshum) Hicks (born c.1734) claimed to have been captured by Delaware Indians while young and to have learned their language, as well as some Shawnee, while a captive. After serving as a guide for the British in western Pennsylvania in 1761, Hicks signed with his mark a receipt acknowledging his payment, which suggests that he could not write (see Bouquet Papers description begins Donald H. Kent et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Bouquet. 6 vols. Harrisburg, Pa., 1951-94. description ends , 5:407). Hicks subsequently lived among Indians in Ohio, and he spent several months during 1764 in British custody as a suspected spy for the Delawares (see Deposition, 14 April 1764, and Re-examination, 19 April 1764, in Bouquet Papers description begins Donald H. Kent et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Bouquet. 6 vols. Harrisburg, Pa., 1951-94. description ends , 6:514–16, 522–26). After his release, Hicks appears to have lived and traveled in central Pennsylvania, and during the Revolutionary War he served as a private in the 1st and 2d Pennsylvania regiments. Captured by the British, probably on 7 April 1778, he was paroled in time to be employed as a scout by Patterson.

4Capt. George Bush’s letter to Patterson has not been identified, but for the Loyalist and Indian attack near Wyoming, Pa., on 21 March, and enemy activity in that vicinity over the next week, see Zebulon Butler to GW, 23-28 March. George Bush (c.1753–1797), son of a prominent merchant in Wilmington, Del., joined the Continental army in July 1776 as a lieutenant in the Delaware Battalion of the Flying Camp. Receiving a captain’s commission dated 13 Jan. 1777 in Col. Thomas Hartley’s Additional Continental Regiment, Bush was wounded at the Battle of Brandywine on 11 Sept. 1777, but he continued in active service, retaining his rank as captain when Hartley’s regiment was merged into the “new” 11th Pennsylvania Regiment in early 1779. Bush commanded the 11th Pennsylvania’s light infantry company, and in May 1779 he was appointed regimental paymaster. He transferred to the 6th Pennsylvania Regiment in January 1781 and then to the 3d Pennsylvania Regiment in January 1783. After the war, Bush received appointments to treasury positions in Delaware (see Bush to GW, 5 May 1789, in Papers, Presidential Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series. 19 vols. to date. Charlottesville, Va., 1987–. description ends , 2:209–10). Bush is best remembered, however, for the notebook in which, beginning in September 1779, he transcribed the music and lyrics of songs popular among Continental officers (see Kate Van Winkle Keller, Fiddle Tunes From the American Revolution [Sandy Hook, Conn., 1992]).

5This letter for a light horse captain at York, Pa., has not been identified.

6For Patterson’s letter to Nathanael Greene of 28 March, see the enclosure with Greene to GW, 9 April (DLC:GW); see also Greene Papers description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends , 3:371–72. Patterson’s prospective companion for Hicks has not been identified.

7Patterson is referring to Chenango and Chocinote (Chugnut, Choconut), Indian villages located near present-day Binghamton and Vestal, New York. Both places are on the Susquehanna River about sixty miles directly north of Wyoming, Pennsylvania.

8Muncy Creek rises about twenty miles southwest of Wyalusing, Pa., and flows southwesterly for about thirty miles before entering the West Branch of the Susquehanna River about twenty-five miles north of Sunbury, Pennsylvania.

9Brig. Gen. James Potter wrote Pennsylvania president Joseph Reed on 17 April from Penn’s Valley that “Whitmore and his family” had been killed “up Chilasquaque” (Reed, Joseph Reed description begins William B. Reed. Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed, Military Secretary of Washington, at Cambridge; Adjutant-General of the Continental Army; Member of the Congress of the United States; and President of the Executive Council of the State of Pennsylvania. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1847. description ends , 2:84–85). Chillisquaque Creek enters the Susquehanna River about six miles north of Sunbury, Pa., after flowing in a southwesterly direction for about twenty miles.

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