From Alexander Hamilton
Philada 16th Septr 1791.
I have the honor to enclose the copy of a letter from Mr Brown of Kentucke, to Genl Irvine, giving an account of some interesting particulars in the Western Country.1 Part of the letter, I have understood, has been forwarded to you, but not the whole.2 Genl Irvine is of opinion that the waters will be still so far practicable as to permit the progress of the Troops under Genl Butler; by the expedient of dragging the Boats in the shallowest places. With perfect respect &a &a
In his instructions of 21 Mar., Henry Knox authorized Arthur St. Clair to undertake desultory expeditions of mounted Kentucky militia against the Indians in order to discourage incursions against frontier settlements (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 1:171–74; see also Knox to GW, 22 Feb., n.9). After the success of Brig. Gen. Charles Scott’s expedition against the Ouiatanon (Wea) towns on the Wabash River of early June (see Knox to GW, 6, 8, 27 June, 6 Aug., n.2), St. Clair directed the Kentucky board of war on 24 June to prepare another foray, and it selected James Wilkinson, a Kentucky militia lieutenant colonel who was second in command of Scott’s expedition, to lead 500 Kentucky cavalry troops against the villages at the junction of the L’Anguille or Eel River and the Wabash, near present-day Logansport, Indiana. St. Clair’s instructions to Wilkinson of 31 July noted: “It is the positive orders of the President of the United States, that all such captives be treated with kindness, and that they be carried and delivered to the commanding officers of some post of the United States upon the Ohio” and concluded: “To you, sir, I know I have no occasion to recommend clemency, but am under the express command of the President of the United States. The luster that is shed upon success by generosity, and the reputation that accrues to a country from a temperate use of victory, is clearly understood and appreciated by you, to whom nothing could be more contrary to your own natural disposition than an act bordering upon inhumanity. I beg you, sir, to oblige the people under your command to refrain from scalping the dead. It is an act which, though it does no injury to the dead carcass, debases the persons who commit it. Should they be disposed to it, you have a powerful argument to adduce from the example set in the former expedition, and the very general approbation it has met with” (Smith, St. Clair Papers, description begins William Henry Smith, ed. The St. Clair Papers. The Life and Public Services of Arthur St. Clair: Soldier of the Revolutionary War; President of the Continental Congress; and Governor of the North-Western Territory with his Correspondence and other Papers. 2 vols. Cincinnati, 1882. description ends 2:222–23, 227–29). Wilkinson left Fort Washington on 1 Aug. and reported to St. Clair on 24 Aug. from Frankfort, Ky., at the conclusion of his mission (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 1:133–35). See Knox to GW, 22 Sept. (second letter).
1. The enclosed copy of the letter of 22 Aug. from John Brown at Danville, District of Kentucky, to William Irvine, reads: “An Express from Gen: Wilkinson has this moment reached this place informing of his success. He has destroyed a large Indian Town situated at the banks of the Wabash; also a Kichapoo town containing about 30 houses, & has killed & taken 42 of the enemy. His loss two men killed & one wounded. I have not as yet heard where the Express left him, but expect he has repassed the Ohio before this time. Genl St. Clair is now here endeavouring to procure aid from the Kentucke militia. His regular force, as yet, does not exceed 500 or 600 men & the river is too low to admit of Boats descending from Fort Pitt. I fear he will meet with great difficulty in obtaining assistance from this Country as the Militia are extremely averse to a co-operation with the regulars, & I am doubtful whether they can be compelled by the Laws of this State, especially as the Executive of Virginia has given no orders upon the subject to the Lieutenants of this District” (DLC:GW).
2. The extract that Henry Knox sent to GW on this day consisted of only the first four sentences of the letter.