George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 7 August 1792

From Henry Knox

War department August 7th 1792


I have just been honored with yours of the first instant.

The papers which you have been pleased to require shall be transmitted by the post of Monday next.1

The communications last received from Fort Washington were such, that I thought it proper Major General Wayne should be possessed thereof by express in order to enable him to form a proper judgment of the measures to be pursued.2

I have the honor to enclose you copies of my letters of this date to Generals Wayne and Putnam.3

Any observations which you shall please to make thereon will be respectfully received.4

I have also the honor to enclose you copies of Israel Chapins letters of the 18 of July—He appears to have conducted with great propriety and zeal.5

I am inclined to believe Major Fish would not accept the Office of Adjutant General—I am not well informed how Coll Posey would answer for that office; but if his industry and talents at arrangements are equal to his character for bravery—he would be an acquisition to the service.6

Major Gaither will sail on Thursday or Friday—he has been detained for a vessel—his instructions will be pointed as to the preservation of the peace.7 I have the honor to be Sir Your obedient Servant.

H. Knox


1See GW to Knox, 1 August. For the background to this request, see Alexander Hamilton to GW, 22 July 1792, and note 2. Knox apparently dated his report to GW, which has not been found, Saturday, 11 Aug., not Monday, 13 August.

2For the intelligence that Knox had recently received from Fort Washington, see Knox to GW, 5 Aug., and notes 1, 2, and 4.

3Knox’s letter to Anthony Wayne, which was written at the War Department on 7 Aug. 1792, reads: “Having received, by the way of Kentucky, the dispatches herein enumerated from Fort Washington, and conceiving that the lowness of the Waters in the Ohio, mentioned in yours of the 28th Ultimo, may have prevented you from receiving similar intelligence, I have thought proper to forward copies for your information and consideration ⅌ express.

“Comparing the information now transmitted with that from Newton contained in my last but little doubt can remain that poor [Alexander] Truemans fate is sealed—but I hope Colonel [John] Hardin may have escaped.

“Although two sets of Messengers (Hardin perhaps excepted) have thus been destroyed the hostile Indians may be possessed of the desires of the United States for peace—unless [Simon] Girty and such wretches dependent on the traders under the British auspices, may have concealed them.

“If Hardin should also be murdered our remaining hope for the hostile tribes to be acquainted with our pacific overtures must rest upon the Senecas, Captain Hendricks [Hendrick Aupaumut] Colonel Louis [Cook; Atoyataghroughta; Atyatoghhanongwea] and Captain [Joseph] Brant the Indians who were in this City for that purpose.

“I estimate that some of the above Indians are at the Glaize at present and perhaps most of them will be there in a few days—I should hope that considerable dependence may be placed on Captain Brant—He is well acquainted with the subject, and if his faithfulness in the cause he has undertaken, be equal to his intelligence, he will probably effect a treaty.

“Time will shortly disclose whether the murder of our messengers has been the premeditated act of the Council of the hostile tribes—the act of the Shawanese and other opposers of a peace or the effect of the blood thirsty disposition of individuals.

“I have enclosed you Brigadier General Putnams plan for carrying on the War—I feel exceedingly obliged to him or any other person for any plans ideas or even hints which they may think proper to offer[.] But every idea which he has brought forward has been weighed maturely by the President of the United States previously to the present arrangement. The result was that the Wabash and the Omie river of Lake Erie should be the boundary in case of progressing hostilities.

“If the propositions made by General Putnam were then relinquished for the present plan reasons for a perseverance therein multiply greatly. I shall therefore attempt to point out the exceptions to the Big Beaver and Cayahoga Route which occur to my mind:

“First Reasons of national policy will restrain (during the present negociations relative to the posts) all army arrangements on the lakes which might occasion collisions with the British inferior agents[.] This is a delicate point and is not therefore to be undertaken.

“Secondly. That in case of offensive operations a division of the probable efficient force would be such as to render the success problematical.

“Thirdly—No immediate object could be found for the operation of the said force moving by the way of Cayahoga—provided the information given by Captain Brant could be depended upon, to wit, that the Wyandots and Delawares have left San Dusky.

“Fourthly—That even if the foregoing reasons did not exist so strongly the advanced season would prevent the measure this year unless the motives were so powerful as to be a reason for the troops encountering all the hardships and danger of the late season as in the last campaign.

“Fifthly—A Post or Posts established at and below the Miami Village towards Lake Erie would it is presumed have the direct effect to make all the hostile Indians hitherto resident to the Eastward of the said Omie River as at Sandusky and other places remove to the Westward of the said River provided they have not already removed which is highly probable.

“The above Objections together with others arising from the necessity and propriety of continuing our advance from Fort Jefferson to the Miami Village are offered on Brigadier General Putnam’s propositions for your consideration and remarks.

“The season of the Year is too far advanced, the number of the recruits too few and the undisciplined state of the army such, as to preclude any great expectations of all forward important movements this season.

“If the war is to progress the number of Recruits authorized by Law must be completed during the autumn and winter and every preparation by discipline and otherwise be made for the most forward and active operations as early in the ensuing spring as the waters and herbage will allow.

“Another conflict with the Savages with raw recruits is to be avoided by all means.

“I shall transmit these remarks to the President of the United States and his observations on the propositions of Brigadier Putnam and the objections herein stated shall be transmitted to you.

“You will judge from Brigadier General Wilkinsons letter of the propriety of forwarding him a respectable detachment of four or five hundred troops—The men designed for the Cavalry will of course be forwarded as they must be mounted there—but I pray you to give the proper orders that they be not prematurely hazarded.

“More Volunteers from Kentucky would be too expensive.

“In order that you may have all the information I possess on the subject of the navigation of the Big Beaver Creek and the route thence over to Cayahoga I enclose you the late Major [Jonathan] Hearts report upon that subject in consequence of instructions from me in the Year 1790.

“The letter of Brigadier General Putnam of the 9th of July relative to the establishment of a post on the Muskingum is referred to your judgment—If the Maps are to be depended upon a post at the place where Fort Lawrence stood, which was built in the Year 1764, would appear to have a good effect to protect Ohio and Washington Counties But whether it would be secure in itself unless the Garrison was very large, and whether it could be easily supplied are to be inquired into, and above all whether the division of force and the expence would be amply repaid by the benefits.

“I enclose you copies of the letters written to Brigadiers General Putnam and Wilkinson.

“It would be a species of injustice were it concealed that Brigadier General Wilkinson has afforded the greatest satisfaction by his Conduct, which has evinced the most indefatigable industry and zeal to promote the good of the service.

“I have this moment received the enclosed letter from Israel Chapin the Agent to the five nations—I transmit it to you as a new light upon the pacific overtures and the expectation which we may entertain of the agency of the Indians, independent of Captain Brant, who, I think will be at the Omie River of Lake Erie rather previous to the 20th instant.

“I am still of opinion and the more confirmed in it from Chapins letter that the Senekas with Captain [John] Jeffers’ party ought not to be pressed to stay in service—their continuance may have bad effects.

“I shall from time to time communicate to you all the information which I shall receive relative to the objects of your command, in order that you may be enabled to take a comprehensive view of the subject and decide accordingly as the public interests shall direct.

“The President of the United States, in a letter received from him this day mentions ‘Reiterate in your letters to General Wayne the necessity of employing the present calm in disciplining and training the troops under his command for the peculiar service for which they are destined—He is not to be sparing of Powder and lead (in proper and reasonable quantities) to make the Soldiers marksmen.’

“‘So long as the vice of drunkenness exists in the army, so long I hope ejections of those officers who are found guilty of it will continue; for that and gaming will debilitate and render unfit for active service any army whatever [’]” (DLC:GW).

Knox’s letter to Rufus Putnam, which was also written at the War Department on 7 Aug. 1792, reads in part: “You will cultivate and make peace with the Wabash tribes to the utmost of your power, and you will judge how far your going to Post Vincennes, or any other place will facilitate the object—Extend your treaties with one tribe after another as far as possible, always subjecting them to the ratification of the President and Senate of the United States.

“The United States require no lands of the Wabash indians not heretofore ceded—Impress this idea upon all the tribes—Apply the goods at Fort Washington to the purposes of the said treaties.

“If it should so happen that in pursuance of your instructions you should have an immediate opportunity of repairing to the hostile indians you will appoint such time for assembling the Wabash tribes and all their connexions, as not to militate with the first object.

“I will endeavor to have more indian goods transported to Fort Washington, and I hope that an opportunity by a peace will be presen[te]d you of bestowing them to the benefit of the United States.

“I have communicated a copy of your letter of the 8th inst. to the President of the United States.

“The advancement of the public interest being the sole object of my pursuit and not the establishment of any particular opinion, I am sincerely obliged to you for the propositions relative to a different route by the Cayahoga.

“The Plan of operations was considered and approved by the President of the United States upon as full a view of all circumstances political as well as military which could be obtained at the time of decision.

“We are in a delicate situation politically with respect to th⟨e⟩ British government. There are existing circumstances of such a nature as to render it highly expedient to avoid all cases of a possible collision with that power—Were we posted on the margin of the lake and had therein a naval arrangement of the most diminutive size, the peace and dignity of the country might be committed to the discretion of a subalterns party.

“The President has therefore judged it prudent to keep at a distance from the lakes for the present—Hereafter arrangements similar to the one you proposed may be adopted. . . . I have also communicated to major general Wayne, your letter of the 9th, relative to a post on the Muskinghum, in order that he may take such measures thereon as he may judge proper.

“It will still be left to your discretion, when to deliver the prisoners—Brigadier General Wilkinson seems to think that most of them ought to be retained, to see what part their tribes will take.

“The enclosed letter is from General Israel Chapin, who is the Agent to the five Nations, and which I communicate to you as important information” (DLC:GW).

4For GW’s observations on this and several earlier letters from Knox, see GW to Knox, 13 Aug. 1792.

5Israel Chapin wrote Knox on 17 July from Canandaigua, N.Y.: “Agreeably to the directions I received for the purpose, I set out for Buffaloe-Creek the ninth Ultimo. It was out of my power to dispatch Captain Hendrick, as soon as I could have wished. The Chiefs of the five nations at first peremptorily insisted on his waiting to accompany them and it was not without difficulties that they were induced to relinquish the point. After a Council which was protracted for several days they however gave their consent. He set out in a bark Canoe on the eighteenth with suitable attendants and provisions. It was the opinion of the Indians he would reach the place of destination in eight days. As I had possessed myself with all the information I expected I would have returned home after the departure of Captain Hendricks but the Chiefs would by no means consent to my leaving them while the treaty continued—And indeed I have not since been sorry, as I have reason to believe that my continuance has been the means of more perfectly reconciling the Anadaugas and Cyugas. The far greater part of both Nations have resided at buffaloe Creek ever since the late war. On my first arrival the principal chief of the Cyuaga Nation commonly known by the name of the Fish Carrier and indeed the whole of both nations were extremely disaffected, for the grounds of their disaffection, I must refer you sir, to, the speeches delivered me on the occasion which I ordered to be taken down in writing on the Spot, and transmit to you by this dispatch. After several conferences with the Fish Carrier in which I was greatly assisted by several chiefs who attended Congress he gradually relaxed in his severity and at last became perfectly friendly. A number of young Warriors had gone off in the Spring to join the hostile Indians. The Fish Carrier promised me that he would not only recall the party but would go in person to the Southern treaty and use every exertion to bring about a general pacification between Congress and the Southern Indians, that after he had been useful he would go and see General Washington and could then take him by the hand with confidence and pleasure, few Indians Chiefs have a more extensive influence than the fish Carrier, the alteration therefore of his sentiments could not but afford me the highest pleasure, I can only express it as my private wish that all his reasonable requests might be gratified.

“You have no doubt heard Sir that a number of Senecas were concerned with our people in cutting off a scout of hostile Indians. This event has occasioned a good deal of uneasiness among the five Nations. Their resentment is peculiarly excited against the Commander at Fort Jefferson. They say that contrary to the advice they received from Congress he has excited some of their thoughtless young men to strike the tomahawk into the heads of their brothers. That it has occasionned an uneasiness towards the whole of their nation and thrown obstacles in the way of their influence in favor of their friends.

“The Chiefs from Onida did not arrive during the Council I should otherwise have been able to have dispatched the Chiefs of the five Nations to the Southern treaty, previously to my leaving Buffaloe Creek two of the Massasioga Chiefs attended council with the five Nations—their appearance was perfectly friendly—The[y] expressed a wish to be made acquainted with our Great Men [.] The Mohawks were sent for from the Grand River but as Captain Brant was absent and their principal Chief Sick they did not attend—Colonel Butler the Brittish Superintendant of the six Nations was also requested to attend. He came as far as the Garrison. The Commanding Officer would not permit him to proceed further[.] He however sent a speech to the Indians in which he told them they were in the right path and advised them to continue in it. I was visited by several Brittish Officers and Gentlemen from the settlement of Niagara, they behaved with a politeness that seemed nearly to approach to real friendship.

“On the whole every circumstance that respects the six Nations wears at present a most flattering appearance. The Chiefs that went to Congress are our Zealous friends, they particularly explained to the nations who convened for the purpose the speeches they had made and received while absent. The reception and treatment they received at Philadelphia, and I had the pleasure of observing that they meet with universal approbation.

“From the best intelligence I could procure the southern Nations rest in quiet except the Delaware and Shawanoes neither Can I learn that they at present have any thoughts of sending out war parties but are very attentive lest an enemy should surprize their Villages. The grand Council of Indian Nations are now convening at the Falls of the Big Miami. It is thought it will be the largest ever known, the Indians from Canada have been invited and are every day expected at Niagara. No offensive step will probably be taken until after the General deliberation and from the number of friends we shall have there, I am induced to expect a favorable issue.

“The five Nations manifested gratitude to Congress for their intention of erected Schools among them and providing them with Blacksmiths. I would however inform you Sir that it will be out of my power to do either except greater encouragement is given and if I may be permitted to give my private judgment if Congress would establish at present only one School to the West of Genesee River and endow it with a Stipend that would make it an object for a Gentleman of Character it might prove of infinite service both in conciliating the affections of the Indians and in laying a foundation for their civilization.

“I would wish, Sir, some direction how far I am to distribute to the Indians. I am continually surrounded by a Cloud of them since my appointment. They all expect to be fed from my Table, and made glad from my Celler, some instances too of Cloathing I have not been able to deny—I would Suggest the Idea whether a small store of Provissions and goods to be distributed on necessary occasions might not be a saving to the public” (DLC:GW).

On the following day Chapin wrote Knox: “My dispatches were made out and the post was waiting previous to the receipt of your last letter, I am able only to detain him to inform you in haste of the arrival of Captain Brant who is not in health but in good spirits. We have a regular conveyance from this to Albany once in two weeks. by the next post I will do myself the honor of answering particularly to your last favour” (DLC:GW).

6Knox wrote Nicholas Fish on 29 Aug. offering to appoint him adjutant general of the U.S. Army (NNGL: Knox Papers), but Fish declined the offer on 7 Sept., writing: “At present my views are so detached from military pursuits, that an appointment in that line, would not be in any degree desireable” (enclosed in Knox to GW, 15 Sept. 1792, DLC:GW). Col. Thomas Posey, who was later offered the position, declined it in mid-October (see Posey to GW, 10 Oct. 1792, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). GW nominated Michael Rudulph adjutant general and inspector on 22 Feb. 1793, and the Senate consented to his appointment the following day (see GW to the U.S. Senate, 22 Feb. 1793; Executive Journal, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends 1:132, 134).

7Henry Gaither, who recently had been appointed to command troops on the Georgia frontier, intended to sail from Philadelphia either on Thursday, 9 Aug., or Friday, 10 Aug. (see also Knox to GW, 21 July GW to Knox, 1 Aug. 1792).

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