George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 4 August 1792

From Henry Knox

War department August 4th 1792


By the letters of the 28th from General Wayne all was quiet on the frontiers.

Captain Hendricks left Buffaloe Creek on the 18th of June and others of the five Nations were to accompany him.1

A Mr McConnell a man of Credit has been in this city and left it without my seeing him, he left Fort Washington the first of July, he says the Indian prisoners, who were sent by the way of the Wabash to the hostile Indians had returned, and brought favorable reports of the disposition of the Indians for peace, excepting the Shawanese—and that Genl Wilkinson had written me fully upon the subject, but which I have not received.2

The accounts of the Recruits are not materially different from the last Return.3 I have the honor to be with the highest respect Your most obedt servant

H. Knox
secy of War


1For the reasons for Capt. Hendrick Aupaumut’s delayed departure from Buffalo Creek, N.Y., see Israel Chapin to Knox, 17 July, in Knox to GW, 7 Aug., n.5.

2On the afternoon of 4 Aug., Francis Vigo arrived from Fort Washington bringing two letters to Knox from James Wilkinson. An extract of the first letter, dated 6 July 1792, reads: “Mr Vigo brings an account, that information had been received at St Vincents, by means of a savage, that a party of four men, in the neighbourhood of one of our posts, bearing a flag, had been intercepted and murdered by a party of shawanese—This account is involved in obscurity, and is somewhat inconsistent—As my first party consisted of three men, and Col. [John] Hardin had one only, and major [Alexander] Trueman two—But, as these last parties were to continue together until they reached the Pickawa (Old Town) on the Big Miami, and as the time when the murder is said to have been committed, corresponds with that of their departure from this post, I dread Sir, I very much fear, ’tis too true, and every prospect of peace would of consequence be extinguished, was it not for the silence of my confidential agents—I am at a loss how to interpret this silence, unless they may have been obliged to take a circuitous route to get back” (DLC:GW).

An extract of Wilkinson’s second letter, also dated 6 July, reads: “Agreeably to my letter of the 21st ulto, I left this post on the evening of the 22d, and arrived at Fort Hamilton about noon the next day—a variety of arrangements relatively to the hay—the army—provisions and transport detained me at that post until the 24th in the morning, at which time I got in motion for Fort Jefferson, with a convoy of one hundred and twenty horses loaded with flour, under the escort of the Kentucky rifle corps.

“For the advantage of good food and water, I encamped that evening about six miles short of St Clair, and was at that post before seven o’clock the next morning—Here I met four militia rifle men, who had been engaged for the purpose and were occasionally employed as scouts and runners at and between the advanced posts—these men informed me, that about nine o’clock the preceding day, a large body of savages, had attacked a party of men who were mowing grass on a Prairie adjacent to Fort Jefferson—that being themselves a part of the guard ordered for the protection of this working party, they were cut off from the post and forced to retire to St Clair—that as they retreated they heard a heavy and continued fire of small arms and cannon, which they presumed to be an attack upon the Fort.

“I immediately ordered a subaltern and thirty men from the garrison of St Clair, to take charge of the convoy, and to move forward that day about six miles, there to wait my orders, and advanced myself with the rifle-horse men, in such a disposition, as guarded me against the enterprize of the enemy, and enabled me to feel his force (without committing myself) or to attack to advantage, as circumstances might direct—In the moment that I marched off, three horsemen arrived from Major [David] Strong, with a letter—The party which brought the letter informed me that the enemy were still in the neighbourhood of the post—This intelligence hastened my movements, but the necessary caution retarded my advance, and I did not reach it before sun-set.

“As Major Strong could give me no certain information of the Enemy, subsequent to the attack made upon the mowers (for they had not approached the garrison, altho’ they fired a general volley after the affair was over) I conceived they had retired, and accordingly dispatched a runner, with orders to the officer who had charge of the convoy to move forward as soon as it was light, and for his greater security I detached a subaltern and twenty five men to meet him—The next morning before sun rise I ordered out the rifle men to take the track of the enemy, to pursue, overtake, and attack him if possible, under the necessary prudential restrictions—This corps composed, generally, of select woods men, returned in about two hours, and Captain [Daniel] Barbee who commands, reported that he could not discover, by what route the enemy had moved off, as they had seperated on the ground where they made the attack—The security of my convoy was the next object of my attention, and fearing the enemy meant to play me a trick—Mr Barbee was ordered to march to its protection, and the whole got up about noon, without molestation—In the mean time, a light scout of rifle men on foot, who had been sent out to seek further discoveries, returned and made report, that they had surprized one of the enemy, who dropt his pack (which they brought in) and escaped, and they gave the opinion, that the main body was encamped about three miles west of the garrison—Tho’ doubting this information, I determined to ascertain the fact, and for this purpose I detached Capt. [Jacob] Kingsbury with fifty men from the garrison—the rifle horsemen and mounted infantry—But this party after a detour of several miles likewise returned without being able to make any discovery—Too much time had now elapsed to leave me a hope of coming up with the enemy, and it remained for me to ascertain, with all possible precision, the strength of the party—the route by which they had approached, and that by which they retired—To this end, I sent out a subaltern and twenty five rifle men to fall upon their back track, and trace it to the nearest encampment; and with the residue of the horse, I proceeded to the ground where the enemy had made the stroke upon the mowers—Here I soon discovered that they had pushed thro the prairie, which being extensive, and too soft for the horse, I dismounted twenty rifle men, and sent them across it to the nearest woodland where they immediately discovered the enemies trail, by which it was evident they had retreated, in the forenoon of the day, on which they made the stroke.

“The party employed in cutting and securing the hay, consisted of a Serjeant, corporal and twelve, and for their protection I had annexed, to major Strong’s command, a serjt and twelve of the mounted infantry, with the militia scout before mentioned—of these the serjeant and one of the infantry, two horsemen and one horse are certainly killed—the corporal and eleven of the infantry are missing, and three horses have been wounded—The enemy retired by the western margin of the Prairie, keeping a North course, and the rifle men who had been detached on the back track, in about four miles, fell in with the camp the enemy had occupied the night preceeding the attack, and from their fires and other demonstrations, it may be fairly concluded that their number was between eighty and one hundred, of which three were on horseback, one of these was dressed in scarlet—the rest of the party wore clean white shirts, and they butchered our dead with unexampled barbarity.

“But Sir, whilst we have been unfortunate at Fort Jefferson in our attempt to make hay, we have been much favored at Fort Hamilton, as we have now at that post at least one hundred Tons, cut and cured, and in quality little inferior to Timothy; and if I can secure that which is made and protect the prosecution of the measure, I shall with great facility be able to increase the quantity to 400 Tons, before the 20th of September: for this purpose I have increased the garrison, and have stationed the corps of mounted infantry under Lieutenant [Asa] Hartshorne in its vicinity” (DLC:GW).

3Knox enclosed a return of the 1,827 “Recruits at the respective rendezvous” in his letter to GW of 28 July.

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