George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Irvine, 16 June 1782

Fort Pitt June 16th 1782


In my letter of the 21st of May I mentioned to your Excellency that a body of Volunteer Militia were assembling at the Mingo Bottom to go against Sandusky; The inclosed letters; one from Colonel Williamson second in Command, and the other from Lieutenant Rose my Aid de Camp contains all the particulars of this transaction which have yet come to my knowledge, I am of opinion had they reached the place in seven days (in stead of ten,) which might have been done especially as they were chiefly mounted they would have succeeded, they should also have pushed the advantage evidently gained at the commencement of the Action; they failed in another point which they had my advice and indeed positive orders for Viz. to make the last days march as long as possible and attack the place in the night, but they halted in the evening within nine miles, fired their Rifles at seven in the morning before they marched—These people now seem convinced that they can not perform as much by themselves as they some time since thought they could, perhaps it is right that they should put more dependence on Regular Troops I am sorry I have not more to afford them Assistance. I have the honor to be Your Excellencys Most Obedient Humble Servant

Wm Irvine

DLC: Papers of George Washington.


Mingo Bottom June 13th 1782.


Those volunteers who marched from here on the 24th of May last, under the Command of Col. Wm Crawford, are this moment returned, and recrossing the Ohio with Col. Williamson. I am sorry to observe, they did not meet with that success, which so spirited an enterprise, and the heroic bravery of the greater part deserved.

So small a body could only expect success by surprising the ennemy. We therefore begun a rapid and secret march in the straitest direction through the Woods for the downs of Sandusky. Our horses soon tired under their heavy Loads in those enormous hills and Swamps, we had to cross. This obliged us to incline to the Southward towards the moravian Towns, into a more level country, though more frequented by hunters & Warriors. On crossing the Muskingham on the 28th we were unfortunate enough to be discovered by the ennemy, which gave them sufficient time to prepare for our reception and alarm the adjacent Indian nations. Notwithstanding our small numbers, amounting in the whole to 480, we continued our march with great precaution, and met the ennemy, the 4th of June on the plains of Sandusky. Our advanced Light horse fell in with them a short distance from their town, and at 4 P.M. the action was general, close and hot. Both parties contended obstinately for a piece of Woods, which the ennemy was forced to quit at Sun set, with the loss of several Scalps. We had 5 Killed and 19 Wounded.

The firing began early on the fifth. The ennemy had received so severe a Blow the preceeding evening that he did not venture an attack but contented himself to annoy us at a distance. We were so much incumbered with our Wounded and Sick, that the whole day was spent in their care and in preparing for a general attack the next Night, which was thought dangerous with a part only. But our intentions were frustrated by the arrival of a large body of mounted rangers and 200 Shawnois in the afternoon. As this succours rendered the ennemy so vastly superior to us in numbers, and as they could collect all their forces in a circuit of about 50 Miles, who Kept pouring in hourly from all Quarters to their relief, prudence dictated a retreat. This was effected in the Night of the 5th & Morning of the 6th instant.

The whole Body was formed to take up their Line of march, & we had called in all our Sentinels, when the ennemy observing our intentions begun a hot fire. We secured all our Wounded and retreated in four parties, of which that one suffered most, that retired along the common road between the encampments of the Shawnois & Delawares in our Rear. In a body trained to the strictest discipline, some confusion would have arisen: upon such an occasion. Severals were consequently separated. But the main body was collected at day-break 5 Miles from the place of action, on the ground where the Town formerly stood. Here the command devolved upon Col. Williamson, as Col. Crawford was missing, whose loss we all regretted.

The ennemy hung upon our Rear through the places. It was [evidently] their design to retard our march, untill they could possess themselves of some advantageous ground in our front, and so cut off our retreat, or [oblige] us to fight them to disadvantage. Though it was our business studiously to avoid engaging in the plains, on account of the ennemy’s superiority in Light Cavalry, they pressed our Rear so hard, that we concluded [for] a general and vigorous attack, whilst our Light horse secured the [entrance] of the Woods. In less than an hour the ennemy gave way on all sides & never after attempted to molest us any more on our march. We had 9 killed and 8 Wounded in this action, besides several missing, who afterwards joined us again, before we crossed the Muskingham on the [10th] instant, between the Two upper Moravian Towns.

The unremitting activity of Col. Williamson surmounted every obstacle and difficulty, in getting the Wounded along. Severals of them are in a dangerous condition, and want immediate assistance; of which they have been deprived since the loss of Dr Knights.

Since our arrival here I find that different small parties, [   ] were separated from us either by the ennemy or by fear, are arrived before us. Our loss will also not exceed 30 Men at a moderate [ tation] in Killed & missing. Col. Crawford has not been heard off since the Night of the 5th instant; & I fear is among the Killed. I have the honor to be Your most obedient humble Servant

John Rose

[   ] A.d. Camp


June the 13th 1782

Dr Sir

I take this Opportunity to make you acquainted with our retreat from the Senduske planes June the 6th we ware reduced to the necessity of making a forc’d march through their lines in the Night much in disorder but the main Body march’d round the Shawny Camp who ware luckly enough to escape their fire and march the whole night—and the next morning ware reinforce’d by some companies which I cannot give a particular Account as they were so Irregular and so Confused, but the number lost I think Cannot be Assertained at this time, I must Acknowledge myself ever Oblig’d to Major Rosse, for his Assistance both in the field of Action and and in the Camp his Character in our camp is Estemable and his Bravery cannot be Outdone. Our Country Must be ever Oblig’d to Genl Erwin for his favour Done in the late Expedition Major Rosse will give you particular Account of our Retreat. I hope when your Honor takes into Consideration the Distress of the Brave men in the present Expedition and the Distress of our Country in general I hope you will do us the favour to Call the Officers together, as our Dependance is Entirely upon you and we are ready and willing to Obey your Commands when call’d upon. I have nothing more particular to write to you but with Sing[ular] Respect your most Obed. Humb. Sert

David Williamson

N.B. Col. Crawford Our Commandant we can give no Account of since the Night of the Retreat.

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