George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Daniel Brodhead, 3 May 1779

From Colonel Daniel Brodhead

Fort Pitt [Pa.] May 3rd 1779

Dear General

Civil Law in this part of the Country is very feeble and by the confession of the Magistrates cannot answer the end of restraining the Inhabitants from committing the most flagrant abuses on the troops by selling them Liquor at the most exorbitant prices for Money or public Stores causing Drunkeness & other lewdness to prevail, which inervates the Men and causes them to be guilty of many unwarrantable Acts for which they alone can be punished whilst those who are the greatest aggressors pass with impunity to the great injury of the Service. Many other Arguments might be advanced, why in case of extream urgency Martial Law ought to be established in this District during the Campaign.

One of the privates of the 13th V. Regt has maliciously killed one of the best young Men of the Delaware Nation and I fear the Consequences will be bad to the innocant Inhabitants. I have the fellow confined but cannot try him for want of a Field Officer and if I could it might perhaps not be so proper as to deliver him over to the Civil Law where he may linger in Goal many Months and in the present temper of the Inhabitants, I predict, he will with the most pointed Evidence against him escape Punishment. Several parties have been assembled to Murder the Delaware Chiefs now on their way to Philadelphia. Should they effect their Malicious purpose there will be an end to negotiation and a general war with the Savages will be the enivitable consequence of their Barbarity.1

Great Numbers of the Inhabitants are daily moving down the Ohio to Kantucke & the Falls2 which greatly weakens the Frontier. But as they have passes from the civil Magistrates I do not conceive any right in me to prevent them going to settle where they please. The great emigration of the Inhabitants prevents the Quarter Master & Commissary from hiring Men on any terms And it would require at least half the Soldiers in this Department to enable them to do their Duty.3 The Quarter master has a number of Men employed under the direction of a Master workman in getting Timber for the Boats and upwards of twenty Men are employed in making large Canoes.

I have never been informed how far this district or Department extends and it is necessary for me, to know it, to prevent improper interference.

Inclosed are three Copies of Letters received from Major Vernon Colo. Lochery & Captn Morehead Many of the Inhabitants are fled but some begin to retaliate and have lately taken several Scalps.4

I have this Moment learnt from good authority that the Inhabitants of Monongahela County by the direction of the Lieutt, in contempt of orders, have forcibly seized the public Provisions although the Troops here have been without fleshmeat for ten Days past.

Two Spies are gone into the Seneca Country several Days ago, one of them is a whiteman who speaks their Language very well and the other is a Delaware Indian I shall send another couple as soon as possible.

A considerable quantity of Boat stuff is ready and I hear seventy odd Boat Builders from below will be here in a few Days.

I have heard nothing of Colo. Rawlins although I wrote to hasten his March Neither do I hear of any resources worth mentioning and begin to fear we cannot set out So early as I could wish—The waters continue too low to bring down Flour in Boats.

The recruiting Officers seem discouraged I fear they will get no Men since common Labourers receive from six to eight Dollars a Day in this neighbourhood. Fort Laurens will be evacuated the 25th instant and I expect all the Stores will be brought off.5

I shall be happy if we can move by the first of June My Men have worn out their Shoes & their feet in scouting after the Indians but with little success hitherto. I have heard where the Mingoes & Muncy’s have their grand rendevouz about fifteen Miles above Kittanning and hope to give a good account of them a few Days hence. I shall immediately send another Express to Colo. Rawlins to hasten his March. I have the Honor to be with every Sentiment of the Most perfect regard & Esteem Your Excellencies most obedt & Humble Servt

Daniel Brodhead
Commandg W.D.

ALS, DLC:GW; copy (extract), WHi: Draper Collection.

1The delegation of Delaware Indian chiefs met with Congress on 4 May, conferred with GW on 12 May, and subsequently returned to Congress; for details of their mission and activities, see George Morgan to GW, 9 May. GW passed on Brodhead’s warning in his letter to George Morgan of 21 May.

2Brodhead is referring to the falls of the Ohio River at what is now Louisville, Kentucky.

3This “great emigration” was in part the result of two acts passed in the spring of 1779 by the Virginia general assembly, generally known together as the “Virginia Land Law” or the “Occupying Claimant Law”: “An Act for adjusting and settling the titles of claimers to unpatented lands under the present and former government, previous to the establishment of the commonwealth’s land office,” and “An act for establishing a Land office, and ascertaining the terms and manner of granting waste and unappropriated lands” (Va. Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends [Hening], 10:35–65). These acts, which greatly simplified the means by which settlers could obtain and hold land on the “western waters,” or Kentucky, resulted in a wave of emigration to the region through 1781.

4The enclosed copy of a letter from Capt. Samuel Morehead to Brodhead, dated 27 April at “two OClock” at Fort Hand, Pa., reads: “Yesterday about one OClock this Garrison was Attacked by a Number of Indians and Whites Supposed to be not less than one hundred, untill about three hours ago, during which time, almost a Continual firing has been kept up between us night and day. the loss on our Side is but three men wounded one of which Slightly. A Surgeon is much Wanted. I have great Reason to think that they are not Glad about the matter. my people in general behaved exceedingly well and is in Great Spirits A Reinforcement of Men, a fresh Supply of Ammunition and flour will be wanted as soon as Convenient... if the Savages be gone from here, I think they are gone to the Settlement. A better Oppertunity would cause me to Write more fully” (DLC:GW).

The enclosed copy of a letter from Maj. Frederick Vernon to Brodhead, dated 29 April at Fort Laurens, reads: “I recd yours of the 30th march which doth not only give me pleasure but all the Gentlemen at this post. I recd Some other letters from you which gave me pleasure to believe you would have been here in a Short time, which made me neglect Sending you a return of Provision on hand at this post.

“we have at present but 2500 lbs. flour and 700 lb. Porke we draw 128 Rations pr day. the greatest part of the Porke is not fit for Consumption but necessity obliges us to eat it.

“Should you not Send provisions in a very short time necessity will Oblige us to begin on some Cow hides which the Indians and Wolves left which will keep us Knawing two or three days. Our men Continue healthy but almost naked there is not one pair of Shoes in the Garrison fit to wear. I have delivered to the Officers what few deer Skins I had to get them dressed to make mockisons for their men which Cannot be accomplished for want of Brains.

“I have had no accounts of any Indians being about except Some small partys who are going to and from Some of our Settlements, I heard of three who Came past Fort Beason on their way home, they had two Scalps and Several Horses and kept the road all the way to the moravian Town.

“late this afternoon I heard at a Small distance from the Garrison the Scalp halloo given three dift times. I apprehend there has been a party of Indians coming from War that had taken three Scalps or Prisoners.

“I recd a letter from Mr Zeisberger one of the Moravion Ministers dated 19th Instant. I send you a Certain quotation of it, it is as follows, Sir Yesterday I recd a letter from Mr Hackenwelder from Coochocking, who informeth me that Messengers were Retd from Sandusky who brought the following Accts Viz: that the Munsey Chief was retd from Detroit to Sandusky who brought the news that a number of the Virginians came privately to a Fort at a place Called Chupeeking which Governor Hamilton took last Winter, and made themselves masters of it, that they took all the people that was in the Fort Prisoners. it is Said that Governor Hamilton is taken also, that a Great Quantity of Goods and provisions had been on the way to that place, but hearing that the Fort was taken they turned back and took all to Detroit again, this is likely to be true because the Muncy Chief who is no friend to the States hath related it. he Says that the English has built a new Fort at Detroit in Sight of the old one and much Stronger. at Sandusky the English and Waynots differ with one another. the former waits to go to Tuscorawas with their Cannon and the latter have no mind to go with them.

“I have no more news worth Communicating to you at present. I would be glad if you would Send the Expresses that I Send with this letter back, as it is their desire to return to this Garrision as Soon as Possible” (DLC:GW). For Johann Heckenwelder’s letter to Brodhead, see Brodhead to GW, 14 May, n.1.

The enclosed copy of a letter from Col. Archibald Lochry to Brodhead, dated 1 May at “Hannas Town,” Pa., reads: “I recd your favour of the 28th April by your Express but I am persuaded the Accounts of our party Coming up with the Rascals had not Arrived at your head quarters when the express Set Off from you.

“I have the pleasure to acquaint you that the party I Sent out overtook the Savages and took from them near £1000 pounds of plunder. I return you thanks for your Intentions to assist our frontiers and you may depend on every effort in my power to keep the people from abandoning their Settlements till further resources may come to our aid.

“I was out with a party to Fort Hand and found the Enemy had been there but thro the Activity and Conduct of the Officer Commanding, they were Repulsed—it is too true that the Enemy has destroyed every thing without the Fort and killed all the Cattle and Hoggs they came aCross, the loss of men were one killed and two wounded.

“It is worth mentioning that while the men were firing out of the Fort, the women were busily employed in running Bullets for them.

“It is absolutely impossible for me to come to Fort Pitt, but you may depend upon my giving you the earliest Information of every Occurrence in this Quarter.... The following is an account of the damages done in this quarter by the Enemy. at Legonir one man Killed two missing a number of Houses burnt and Creatures killd. about three miles from this place two killed and two missing and a number of Creatures killed and taken off—about the Same distance and on the South of the great Road three men Killed and Six or Seven missing. at this place we took an Indian Scalp and tis Supposed wounded Some Others. At Marshalls you have an Account by Mr Nielly. I have recd Some other Information but Cannot inform you with any degree of Certainty but this I can assure you there never was so large a number of the enemy in the Settlements as evidently appears by their tracts” (DLC:GW).

5For the ongoing dispute over whether to maintain a garrison at Fort Laurens, see GW to Brodhead, this date, n.2.

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