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Affairs at Fort Niagara

Sources & Images
Source Name Image(s)
CollectionNational Archives and Records Administration: Rev War Service Claims Files, RG217 view image
CollectionNational Archives and Records Administration: Rev War Service Claims Files, RG217 view image
Document Information
Date September 20, 1796
Author Name James Bruff (primary) Location: Niagara
Recipient Name William Simmons (primary)
Summary Report from Fort Niagara on pay and other affairs of the garrison, including the need for improving a road through Indian (Six Nations) lands, an expected dinner with Indian chiefs, state and costs of provisions for the garrison, relations with the nearby British garrison, his need for an allowance for entertainment of British officers, and his need for money to keep buildings in repair. Cited in Simmons to Bruff 11/24/1796, Cited in Simmons to Bruff 11/30/1796
Document Format Autograph Letter Signed
Document Notes Cited in Simmons to Bruff 11/24/1796, Cited in Simmons to Bruff 11/30/1796
Content Notes [not available]
Related Persons/Groups William Simmons; James Bruff; Col. Pickering;
Related Places Niagara; Canada; Britain; ;
Keywords Jay Treaty; ;
Key Phrases [not available]

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September 20, 1796
Enclosed with this are my Muster & Pay Rolls for August including disertion and Rowin's command at Oswego, which I doubt whether he will muster; but be that as it may, I cannot much err in accounting for it: He is instructed, however, to communicate with the War department and myself until otherwise directed; this month he reports his command all pursuant.
Until a regular mode of conveyance is established (or contingent money is sent on to defray the expense of runners to Cannadaigui, upwards of a 400 mostly through an intricate indian path) communications from this quarter must be quite casual _ depending on travellers. I am sorry Col. Pickering failed in obtaining the consent of the indians for a road through their lands: one is now almost necessary to this garrisson and wou'd be a great convenience to our neighbours on the opposite shore; who appear to have it much at heart. The officers civil and military, inquire frequently when they may expect one and a post to communicate with New York. They [undecipherable] me that in such an event, our papers would be generally taken, a considerable mail be weekly make up from this side the water, that their public dispatches to and from England wou'd pass through it, and that a post from Kingston by York wou'd (in a little time) exchange mails with [undecipherable] at this place.
I have mentioned this business [undecipherable] to the Sect of War - I have to much to say to him to go into it now - If you think it of consequence, please to take some time when he is at leisure and can attend to remind him of it: for I am sanguine that in my next I shall have the pleasure of informing him that the indians have something abated of their high intentions since Col. Pickering was with them, and have given leave for to improve their path into a wagon road to area settlements: This business is in train, & a runner has this morning inform'd me that about 600 Seneca's and others of the Six Nations, from within 80 miles of this, are on their way and will be here this evening, on a visit to congratulate the States on obtaining the possible possession of this post. To receive their flag & rum, & to assist us to sate the little provissions we have on hand. I shall, however, study to keep them in humours and to improve this feast (for they come for that express purpose) to the advantage of the United States; by way of reckoning, some of their chiefs who have visited this post, begin to think we must have a road; and that it wou'd be most to their honor to grant it fully on their first visit after our possession, then to hesitate, and perhaps grant it against their will sometime homes. I hope to see others of them brought over to the same opinion before we part. I shall mention it when I present the flag; and hope the Government will not think it officiousness, it wou'd not if acquainted with the prospect we have of starving this winter, if some road is not made.
The indians bring with them two interpreters (one of them a Mr. Johnstone, until lately in the British service with the rank of Lieutenant) said to be interested in obtaining a road: a Mr. Jones (also an interpreter) from the Ganasu, has been with me since the 9 ins. He is charged with a
a considerable sum of money as a payment to part of two tribes settled at Buffalo on this side, and at the Grand river on the British side; and intends waiting until they come. This money is due them by the State of New York and send on by their agent Mr. Chapin, who by letter introduces Mr. Jones and his business. The indians advised of his being here; have sent a message to detain him until they come. As he is said to be a good interpreter and to have great influence with these indians; he may assist in the business of the road. I shall get them off with as little expense as I can, and soon as is possible in good humours: they are much disturbed at our getting round them; and prejudis'd in favour of the British. Their chiefs (I am inform'd) will expect to dine with me while they stay, with the interpreters: it may not be well to disappoint them, but when you consider the wine, punch & brandy that 10 or 20 of these fellows will drink, you will agree with me (I hope) that some allowance for a table might to be made.
Provisions are as high here as in Philad. Figured from 2to [undecipherable] higher: and our small stock (which our neighbours and travellers find very good) goes off fast, we therefore want the means of replacing them. But is it not rather extraordinary that our commanding officers in situations like this, Oswego &c, have no allowance for conciliating foreigners to our interest, to overcome the prejudices of english settlers, to reconcile the inhabitants immediately within the jurisdiction of the posts to their change of political situation; or to keep up such an intercourse with officers of the British Garrisson opposite ours, as may comport with the obligations of treaty, or arrise out of politeness and contiguity of station? Whoever reckons that those points can be effected without a table, and now and then a good glass of wine; does it without his host. The British officers who have commanded here at Oswego inform me that their pay wou'd not support a table, and that their government make an allowance for that purpose (in some instances) exceeding their pay: shall our government (founded on justice) be the only one that requires officers to be polite, conciliating and to keep up an intercourse with foreigners & foreign officers at their private expense? I hope not, and that your next will inform me, you are authorized to make some allowances for a table; in which there is not too large deductions to be made on account of the honor of entertaining strangers we may never see again, & of savages we never wish to do; but when public business renders it indispensible.
The muster & Pay Rolls I hope you will find correct and you may remit our pay in Bank notes or Bills on New York or Albany. Notes are much in demand with merchants & traders. Hard cash is here, very scarce. I want contingent money for repairs to the works and buildings that are not only proper; but necessary to be done before winter. I am purchasing boards, plank & caulking, iron, steel & coal, straw and fuel, without any directions-at my own wishes-but which it wou'd be improper to be any longer without. The credit of the United States is good, but I dare not engage it. I hope I shall be relieved from this dilemma soon.
I wish the Sect of War to see this letter—you can choose the time, when he is at leisure.
I am, with respect, your Obedient Servant,
J. Bruff
The Accountant of the Department of War