George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the United States Senate and House of Representatives, 27 January 1791

To the United States Senate and House of Representatives

United States January 27th 1791

Gentlemen of the Senate, and House of Representatives.

In order that you may be fully informed of the situation of the frontiers, and the prospects of hostility in that quarter; I lay before you the intelligence of some recent depredations, received since my message to you upon this subject, of the 24th instant.1

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LS, DNA: RG 46, First Congress, 1789–1791, Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages; copy, DNA: RG 233, First Congress, 1789–1791, Records of Legislative Proceedings, Journals; LB, DLC:GW.

1GW enclosed a copy of Rufus Putnam’s letter to him, describing an Indian attack on the American settlement at Big Bottom on the Muskingham on 2 Jan. 1791 (see Putnam to GW, 8 Jan. 1791). He also enclosed a copy of Putnam’s letter of the same date to Henry Knox, which reads: “I snatch a moment’s time, to tell you that on the 2d instant the Indians surprized a Block-House of ours about 40 miles up the Muskingum, killed 14 persons & carried off three others, these last lodged in a hutt about 50 Rod from the Block house—4 others who also lodged a distance from the Block-house made their escape. This event clearly proves that the expedition against the Shawanese will not produce peace, but on the contrary a more general & outrageous war; in which case there is with us but one alternative, Government must either give us some troops, or we must eventually be obliged to quit the Country, our numbers are too small to make head against an host of Savages without aid from the General Government; being confident that we deserve, we endeavour to believe that we shall obtain, their protection—and in the mean time are taking all possible measures in our power for our own preservation, and shall endeavour not only to defend the Town of Marietta, but the most considerable out-settlements that remain, till such time as Congress shall take their measures respecting the war which has been blown into a flame, by the expedition against the Shawanese—I hope Government will not be long in deciding what part to take, for if we are not to be protected, the sooner we know it the better—better for us & better for Government—better that we withdraw ourselves at once than remain to be destroyed by piece-meal, and better that Government disband their troops now in the Country and give it up altogether than be wasting the public money in supporting a few troops altogether inadequate to the purpose of giving peace to the territory” (DNA: RG 46, First Congress, 1789–1791, Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages).

GW also enclosed a letter from David Zeigler, a captain in the 1st U.S. Regiment, to Arthur St. Clair, dated Fort Harmar, 8 Jan. 1791, which reads: “I have the mortification to inform your Excellency that on the 2’nd instant in the evening the settlements called Big Bottom, consisting of 16 men, one woman and two children were destroyed by the savages, and only two men escaped and three supposed taken prisoner as the body was not found—As soon as I got acquainted, assisted Colonel Sprout to make a detachment with as many men as I possible could spare towards that settlement—the indians were gone before the party arrived.

“Since your departure, no indians has made their appearance here, and they are to a great number at the Great Rock and White Woman’s Creek, and do not seem to be inclined to come in. The 4th instant was the day I had appointed for George White-eyes, the old, which is amongst us, to go as far as said place, but now he is apprehensive of danger not only from them but also from own people, which obliged me to save him from trouble—Polly the Wyandot woman is also here, and informed me the 1st instant in a crying manner that she apprehended all the savages were hostile inclined, when being in their town, numbers of the Chippewas and Otawas have passed to join those banditti, with their usual mode of singing, by giving farewell to their nation for some time—To give credit to all that, I let your Excellency judge.

“Since this unhappy affair happened the Ohio company voted troops to be raised for their defence and for such time, until more troops will be sent on to this post—They also voted three block-houses to be erected—the troops so raised, to have the same pay and rations (but no clothing) as the troops got last war in the service of the United States—this I am afraid will hurt the establishment.

“Upon application from the directors of the Ohio in giving them assistance, shall order Ensign Morgan with fifteen men on his return to guard one of those block-houses, and any other aid possible on my part, they shall have.

“All our settlements must become more careful, otherwise they may meet with the same fate.

“The french families I expect will take shelter in this garrison so quartered at Campus Martius, as by their law made—The women and children in the different settlement will repair to said place.

“No new Commissary has made his appearance as yet, and of course no provision” (copy, DNA: RG 46, First Congress, 1789–1791, Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages).

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