George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 20 March 1793

From Henry Knox

War department March 20th 1793


I have previously had some conversation with Doctor Williamson upon the subject of his letter to you of the 19th instant relative to certain posts which in his opinion would be proper to be established in the Western Country.1

The post which he mentions at Cumberland River would properly come under the cognizance of Governor Blount in whose territory it is & who possesses the powers of interior arrangement within certain limits. If he should think proper to establish it, he may do it either with Militia or regular troops as he shall judge proper one Company of which is under his orders.2

The post at Fort Massac would perhaps require to be postponed until the definition of the boundaries with the Wabash Indians with whom we have lately made a peace should take place.3 I have the honor to be with perfect respect Your humble servant

H. Knox


1The letter from North Carolina congressman Hugh Williamson to GW of 19 Mar. 1793 has not been found.

2After receiving no timely reply from Knox to a series of letters written in March 1793 about Indian attacks on the Cumberland River settlements, Southwest Territory governor William Blount on 13 April ordered two militia companies to the region. However, the soldiers did not leave Southwest Point, where the Clinch River flows into the Tennessee River, until 29 April (Blount to Knox, 20, 23, 28 Mar., 13, 25 April 1793, in Carter, Territorial Papers, description begins Clarence Edwin Carter et al., eds. The Territorial Papers of the United States. 27 vols. Washington, D.C., 1934–69. description ends 4:244–49, 252–54). Knox finally acknowledged Williamson’s recommendation for a “small post at the crossing of Cumberland river” in a letter to Blount of 14 May but informed the governor that “if it shall be your judgment that the Cumberland settlements require the assistance of the Militia . . . you will impart it to them for such time and in such a degree as shall be commensurate with the occasion, always taking care to report the number actually called into service, and the time for which they shall be engaged, and that they be dismissed as soon as the danger shall cease” (ibid., 257).

3Built in 1757 by the French but abandoned in 1764, Fort Massac lay on the Ohio River near the mouth of the Tennessee. GW and Knox believed that a post at Fort Massac would hinder communications between southern and northern Indians while providing protection for Americans in the area. Although GW had submitted the Treaty with the Wabash and Illinois Indians to the Senate on 13 Feb. 1793, the Senate had decided to delay action on it until the following January (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 1:135, 145–46). On 17 May, soon after a visiting Wabash and Illinois delegation left Philadelphia, GW approved the new fortification (GW to Chiefs and Warriors of the Wabash and Illinois River Indians, 7 May; Knox to Anthony Wayne, 17 May, 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 241; JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 143).

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