George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 27 June 1791

From Henry Knox

War-department [Philadelphia] June 27th 1791.


I have the satisfaction to transmit a copy of a letter received from Judge Innes and the board at Kentuckey relative to his first desultory expedition against the indians1—We may soon expect to hear of the result of this incursion.2 I have the honor to be Sir with perfect respect, Your most obedient Servt

H. Knox


For background to Brig. Gen. Charles Scott’s Kentucky militia expedition against the Ouiatanon (Wea) villages on the Wabash River, see Henry Knox to GW, 22 Feb. 1791 and note 8, 30 May and note 8, and 6 and 8 June.

1Knox’s instructions of 9 Mar. to Scott and Scott’s 28 June report of the expedition are in ASP, Indian Affairs, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:129–33. The enclosed copy of the letter of 20 May of Harry Innes, Benjamin Logan, and Isaac Shelby to Knox reads: “The board appointed by your letter to General Scott of the 9th of March took the subject into consideration on the 8th day of April, and it is with real satisfaction we inform you that the propositions contained in the letter were received with pleasure by the inhabitants of the district, and that the first detachment authorised to be raised marched on the 17th instant from Frankfort on the Kentucky in high spirits under the command of General Scott. We shall not be considered vain when we observe that a more choice body of men could not be raised in the United States—young—healthy—well armed—well mounted—and amply provided with provisions—We are flattered that nothing can prevent success unless the enemy should gain information of their approach and evacuate their towns—Of this we have some apprehensions, as two prisoners have been taken since the inlistment of the volunteers commenced. On the return of the army, the board will make to the War-Office a special report of their proceedings—For the present we hope the above information is sufficiently satisfactory” (DLC:GW). Innes’s postscript of 30 May adds: “I yesterday received a letter from Mr [John] Brown who is gone on the expedition as a private dated the 23d inst: wherein he says that the detachment will march that day in good spirits with 20 days provision, and this day unless greatly impeded in their march hope to make their stroke—The spies had seen no recent sign of indians near the Camp on the bank of the Ohio opposite the mouth of Kentucky, therefore he concluded that the army had not then been discovered by the enemy” (DLC:GW).

2Knox received no news of Scott’s expedition until Jonathan Williams’s letter of 5 July arrived from Staunton, Va., on or about 16 July, when Knox probably had Tobias Lear submit it to GW. Knox wrote that the “circumstances are such; that it appears to me a very considerable reliance may be placed on his success” (DLC:GW). Williams’s letter to Knox reads: “Although I think your official dispatches will have given you satisfactory Accounts of Genl Scotts movements & success, yet I presume you will not think it improper to take the chance of this Letters coming sooner to hand. A Mr Bowman passed through this Town 3 days since from the Falls of the Ohio, and reported that at Beards Town he saw 2 men who were in Scotts expedition, who informed him that the Party had recrossed the Ohio on their return, after having destroyed three Indian Towns, killed 32 Warriors, and brought away 50 or 60 Women & Children Prisoners. He left one house for the aged & infirm women, and left them a supply of Provisions with Letters for Indians of other nations who might pass that way. Genl Scott lost no men in the action which appears to have been a surprize, but 3 were wounded, & three more were drowned in crossing the river. As Mr Bowman passed through this place without stopping I had not an opportunity of seeing him, but I have gathered this account from Mr Buchanan who saw him and who knows his family, which is a very creditable one. There are several other reports in Town, which come much in the same way from other persons of the party, and there is ever uniformity in the whole which gives it credibility in this place; As such I give it to you, and I hope it will be confirmed by more authentic Accounts. I have not been able to fix the dates with accuracy, but as Genl Scott crossed the Ohio in his way out on the 21st of may, they may be tolerably ascertained by those who know the distance, and the time usualy taken for such a march. It seems that the Towns were on the wabash river and are called the Weeyaw Towns. Genl Scott it is further said began his march in a direction towards the Miami Towns, but, having lost some horses, which appeared to have taken that road, he was apprehensive of the Indians taking an alarm, so changed his object. Two of the Towns he destroyed had been abandoned; But one therefore was surprized” (NNGL: Knox Papers).

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