George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 15 September 1792

From Henry Knox

War department September 15th 1792


I have had the honor to receive yours of the 7th instant and I have transmitted a copy of it to Major General Wayne.1

I have the honor to enclose you a copy of his last letter of the 7th instant. No. 1. and my answer thereto No. 2. From every account, I learn that he is indefatigable in disciplining his troops.2

Money to the amount of Forty five thousand six hundred and thirty seven dollars and thirty three Cents to complete the pay to the first of August left this town yesterday under the charge of two careful men—I had previously desired General Wayne to have an escort at Bedford by the 20th for the purpose of escorting the money from that place to Pittsburg—and at the request of the Secretary of the Treasury I wrote to the Officer the enclosed Note No. 3 and to General Wayne No. 4. both of which I hope will meet your approbation.3

As soon as the Waters of the Ohio will permit, General Wayne will forward a respectable detachment from Pittsburgh including those rifle Companies raised on the South Western frontiers of Virginia, to Fort Washington.4

All our pacific overtures to the Indians have been marked with misfortune excepting Captain Hendricks they have all miscarried whether conducted by Whites or Indians5—The enclosed letter which I have this moment received from General Chapin No. 5. gives the account of the death of Good Peter and the sickness of Captain Brant, besides the death of others of our friends.6

The enclosed letter No. 6 from Governor Lee however will show that affairs are more tranquil on the South western frontier than they were expected to be by him.7

The Messieurs Dunn and Jones who are recommended by General Wayne were early applicants for commissions, but upon the failure of their applications they both joined as Sergeants in the dragoons on the hope of promotion conditioned on their good behaviour—there will be vacancies to be filled and they may upon further trial be promoted—Joseph Richardson mentioned by Mr Spriggs in his letter to you will be in the same predicament.8

I am inclined to the opinion that the orders to General Wayne for the ulterior disposition of his troops for winter may be delayed sometime without any injury—perhaps until your arrival here—but the preparations may be making of the materials for barracks.9

It was not until yesterday that all evidences in behalf of General St Clair against Ensign Morgan were delivered to this office—Until the evidences were forwarded, I conceived it unnecessary to order him on to the Army to undergo his trial—But as the case is now circumstanced I think no further delay should be permitted. It is probable however he will attempt to evade or disobey the order unless it is given explicitly in your name—This opinion is founded on a conversation which took place between his father and Major Stagg a few days ago. The father said his Son intended to present a memorial to you requesting that he might have his trial in this City, saying it was a matter of great importance in the minds of the people at large, and that he should prefer its being held during the session of Congress.

If after receiving your ultimate orders he should disobey them, he will place himself in a new and more critical situation—and in this event it will become a consideration what steps shall be taken upon the subject.

Whether to add this new charge to those made by General St Clair and use force to convey him to Pittsburg or whether to dismiss him the service without further process—Although in the event contemplated, no doubt could be entertained of the abstract propriety of compelling Ensign Morgan to take his trial according to law, yet considering the clamour that such a strong measure might excite, together with the probable severity of his punishment, it may be perhaps be politically expedient to adopt the second alternative.10

Colonel Fish has declined the office of Adjutant General as by his letter will appear No. 7. Colonel Sproat has signified his desire of that office. Colonel Posey has also been mentioned[.] It seems necessary that it should be filled immediately.11 I have the honor sir to be with the highest respect Your obedient Servant

H. Knox

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW. The closing and signature of the LS are in Knox’s hand.

1Knox enclosed this copy in his letter to Wayne of 14 Sept. (see note 2).

2Wayne enclosed in his letter to Knox of 7 Sept. “an extract from General Orders, containing the arrangement of the Officers of the four Sub Legions, and the principles upon which rank is to be determined, . . . also for the mustering and making out the necessary Muster and pay rolls.” Wayne suggested the creation of “Sub Legionary and Battalion Paymasters. . . . I am of opinion that they are really necessary; Pay however is much wanted. do have the goodness to give immediate and necessary Orders for that purpose—let us pay—and feed well—we then have a right to expect due subordination.” Wayne complained about the poor quality and tardiness of provisions from the contracting firm of Robert Elliott and Eli Williams, and he reported that neither dragoons nor clothing intended for Fort Washington could be sent from his headquarters at Pittsburgh because “no boat can possibly pass at present down the Ohio. . . . The Paymaster General [Caleb Swan] has not been ordered to this place because there was no means of doing it by water and I am of opinion that it would be very improper for him to attempt it by land—the Ohio has never been known so low, nor is there any prospect of its rising before the Equinox and perhaps not then as it will depend upon a very heavy fall of Water—but Lieut. [Daniel] Britt is on the spot who I have directed to instruct the Officers as to the form and correctness of the Muster and pay Rolls—Query might it not be expedient to appoint him Deputy Pay Master pro tem?” Wayne mentioned that the offices of brigade major, sublegionary and battalion adjutants, and adjutant general also needed to be filled. “In fact,” he wrote, “I never experienced so great a want of Officers.” He suggested promoting sergeants George H. Dunn and Abraham Jones. Wayne also enclosed “extracts from General orders approving the sentences of a general Court Martial held at this place by which four Soldiers were condemned to death and one to be shaved, branded and whipt. John Elias alias Ebbert alias Eli, has been pardoned—the other three were shot to death on Sunday last—these exemplary punishments, I trust will have the desired effect.” Wayne concluded with a report on the frequency of target practice and the subsequent improvement in the skills of the soldiers and with a report that the Indians were in “pretty great force at Sandusky” (DLC:GW; see also Knopf, Wayne, description begins Richard C. Knopf, ed. Anthony Wayne, a Name in Arms: Soldier, Diplomat, Defender of Expansion Westward of a Nation; The Wayne-Knox-Pickering-McHenry Correspondence. Pittsburgh, 1960. description ends 87–89). For details on the court-martial and for the general orders enclosed in Wayne’s letter, see Burton, “General Wayne’s Orderly Book,” description begins C. M. Burton, ed. “General Wayne’s Orderly Book.” Collections and Researches Made by the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society, 34 (1904): 341–733. description ends 370–78.

In his reply to Wayne from Philadelphia on 14 Sept., Knox agreed with Wayne’s request for sublegionary paymasters and quartermasters, but not battalion paymasters. He promised to submit both ideas to the president for his consideration. He enclosed a copy of his 11 Sept. letter to Wayne and reported that money for the army’s pay left Philadelphia on 14 September. Concerning the future assignment of the U.S. Army in the Northwest Territory, Knox wrote: “I will write immediately to the President of the United States and request his orders on certain conditional statements relatively to the proportion of troops which may probably be necessary to retain on the upper parts of the Ohio.” In the meantime “the Quarter Master should be making arrangements for scantling boards, Bricks &c. for the covering of the troops at the places which shall be decided upon for their stations.”

Enclosing a copy of GW’s letter to Knox of 7 Sept., in which GW reviewed Wayne’s proposed plan of war, Knox wrote: “I am persuaded that the President who is highly anxious on the subject will be well pleased with your exertions to discipline the troops. Every thing depends on that pivot. The public interest, the national character and your personal reputation—Aware of the consequences, no doubt can be entertained that you will continue unremittingly to pursue in every proper way, the accomplishment of so indispensible a qualification of your troops.

“The sentences of the Courts Martial you have confirmed, seemed absolutely necessary—Hereafter it is to be hoped there may be less call for the punishment of death. The Branding however is a punishment upon which some doubts may be entertained as to its legality. Uncommon punishments not sanctioned by Law should be admitted with caution although less severe than those authorized by the articles of War.”

Knox enclosed copies of letters written him on 5 and 6 Aug. by Gen. James Wilkinson and on 10 Aug. by deputy quartermaster John Belli. He reported that additional troops were on their way to Pittsburgh under Capt. William Eaton, Capt. John Peirce, and Lt. Ebenezer Massey (DLC:GW; see also Knopf, Wayne, description begins Richard C. Knopf, ed. Anthony Wayne, a Name in Arms: Soldier, Diplomat, Defender of Expansion Westward of a Nation; The Wayne-Knox-Pickering-McHenry Correspondence. Pittsburgh, 1960. description ends 95–97). A copy of Wilkinson’s letter of 6 Aug. is in DLC:GW, as is a copy of Knox’s first letter to Wayne of 11 Sept. (see also ibid., 90–91).

3For Knox’s previous instructions regarding this money, see his letter to Wayne of 7 Sept., enclosed in Knox to GW, 8 Sept. 1792 (second letter). Enclosure 3 is a copy of Knox’s letter to the commanding officer of Fort Bedford, Pa., of 11 Sept., directing him to protect “the persons having charge of the money, for the payment of the army.” Knox also ordered that officer to arrange protection for George Clymer, supervisor of the revenue for Pennsylvania, as he traveled to Pittsburgh (DLC:GW). Enclosure 4 is a copy of Knox’s second letter to Wayne of 11 Sept. instructing him to help protect Clymer when he reached western Pennsylvania (DLC:GW; see also Knopf, Wayne, description begins Richard C. Knopf, ed. Anthony Wayne, a Name in Arms: Soldier, Diplomat, Defender of Expansion Westward of a Nation; The Wayne-Knox-Pickering-McHenry Correspondence. Pittsburgh, 1960. description ends 92). For background on Clymer’s mission, see Hamilton to GW, 1 Sept., and note 3.

4These rifle companies were commanded by captains Alexander Gibson, Howell Lewis, Thomas Lewis, and William Preston (see Knox to Wayne, 15 June, 20 July 1792, in Knopf, Wayne, description begins Richard C. Knopf, ed. Anthony Wayne, a Name in Arms: Soldier, Diplomat, Defender of Expansion Westward of a Nation; The Wayne-Knox-Pickering-McHenry Correspondence. Pittsburgh, 1960. description ends 18, 40–41).

5For information on the failure of peace envoys Alexander Trueman and John Hardin and the peace mission of Stockbridge chief Hendrick Aupaumut, see Knox to GW, 16 Aug., nn.3–4. For Knox’s report on the failure of American efforts in 1792 to achieve a peaceful settlement with the Indians of the Northwest Territory, see Knox to GW, 6 Dec. 1792.

6On 25 Aug. 1792 Indian superintendent Israel Chapin, Sr., wrote Knox from Canandaigua, N.Y., about the current mood of the Iroquois Indians: “An Opportunity presenting . . . I do myself the honor to write you altho’ I have not received any answers to my two last letters—since which nothing material has occurred in this quarter, the Indians appear perfectly friendly and have a sincere wish for peace.

“Captain Scanando [Skenandon] one of the Oneida Chiefs returned yesterday from Buffaloe Creek not being able to proceed on to the Westward on account of his sickness—he informs me of the death of good Peter. for which I am extremely sorry as I think he was capable of doing much good among the Indians—he also informs me that twenty four Indians have died at Buffaloe Creek within the course of a few days, that Capt. Brant lay at the point of death, and it was thought there was scarce a possibility of his recovery; that a vessel and every necessary preparation was made to convey the Indians of the six Nations to attend the Council at the Westward, and it was probable they had taken their departure before this time.

“I have not as yet been able to obtain the particulars of the Murder of the Indian at the Oswego Falls, when I do will immediately inform you” (DLC:GW).

7Enclosure 6 was a copy of a letter that Virginia governor Henry Lee wrote Knox on 7 Sept. from Richmond: “I have perused your letter to the Lieutenant Governor received during my absence, and have the pleasure to inform you that my intelligence while on the frontier confirms the opinions you therein express. Governor Blount and General Pickens had reached Nashville and I understood the Goods were safely arrived. A very numerous assemblage of Indians from the Chickasaw nation had taken place, but only a few from the Choctaws. I found the troops employed on our southern frontier inadequate to the defence of that quarter, and therefore augmented the same by the addition of fifty militia. Excepting the killing of two Men and the capturing of a Woman and six Children (all of whom were afterwards retaken) and the loss of some horses, our people in that part of the frontier have been uninjured” (DLC:GW). For Knox’s letter to Virginia’s lieutenant governor, James Wood, of 13 Aug., see Calendar of Virginia State Papers, description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds. Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts. 11 vols. Richmond, 1875–93. description ends 6:38. For information on William Blount and Andrew Pickens’s journey to Nashville and their subsequent meeting with the Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians, see Blount to Knox, 4 July, and “Journal of the Grand Cherokee National Council,” 26 June–1 July 1792, 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 1:270–73.

8For Wayne’s recommendations of promotions for cavalry sergeants George H. Dunn (d. 1794) and Abraham Jones (d. 1831), see Wayne to Knox, 7 Sept., in note 2. Their promotions to cornet were effective on 18 Sept. and 7 Oct. 1792, respectively (see GW to the U.S. Senate, 22 Feb. 1793). Both men later advanced to lieutenant. Mr. Sprigg’s letter to GW has not been found, but Knox enclosed a copy of it in his letter to Wayne of 28 Sept. (see Knopf, Wayne, description begins Richard C. Knopf, ed. Anthony Wayne, a Name in Arms: Soldier, Diplomat, Defender of Expansion Westward of a Nation; The Wayne-Knox-Pickering-McHenry Correspondence. Pittsburgh, 1960. description ends 110). Neither Sprigg nor Richardson has been identified.

9GW arrived in Philadelphia on 13 Oct. (see GW to Anthony Whitting, 14 Oct. 1792). He did not wait until his return from Mount Vernon to offer directives concerning winter quarters for the troops but included them in his first letter to Knox written on 24 September. Knox relayed these suggestions to Wayne in a letter from Philadelphia of 28 Sept. (see ibid., 110–11).

10For background on John Morgan and his impending court-martial, see Knox to GW, 28 July 1792, and note 8. Morgan was the eldest son of Col. George Morgan, a Philadelphia merchant, fur trader, and western land speculator. After efforts to have influential family friends and associates intervene on his behalf, Ensign Morgan attempted to have his trial moved to Philadelphia, hoping this change of venue would be in his favor (see Morgan to Knox and Knox to Morgan, 19 Sept., enclosed in Knox to GW, 22 Sept., and Morgan to Knox, 20 Sept., enclosed in Knox to GW, 29 Sept. 1792). GW rejected that request (see GW to Knox, 24 Sept. 1792), and Morgan’s court-martial was held at General Wayne’s headquarters south of Pittsburgh in August 1793 (see Burton, “General Wayne’s Orderly Book,” description begins C. M. Burton, ed. “General Wayne’s Orderly Book.” Collections and Researches Made by the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society, 34 (1904): 341–733. description ends 462). Morgan was found guilty, and after unsuccessful appeals for redress, he was cashiered from the army on 31 Dec. 1793 (see Knox to GW, 22 Nov. 1793, Edmund Randolph to GW, 24 Nov. 1793).

11Knox wrote Nicholas Fish on 29 Aug. offering him the position of adjutant general (NNGL: Knox Papers). Fish declined the offer in a reply from Schoharie, N.Y., on 7 Sept., in which he wrote: “At present my views are so detached from military pursuits, that an appointment in that line, would not be in any degree desireable” (DLC:GW). Neither Ebenezer Sproat nor Thomas Posey received the appointment of adjutant general. For more information about Sproat’s efforts to acquire a federal position, either military or civil, see Sproat to GW, 9 July 1789, and source note, and Knox to GW, 29 Sept. 1792 (second letter), n.4. For Colonel Posey’s efforts to acquire a military appointment, see Posey to GW, 20 Nov. 1791, source note and notes 1 and 2.

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