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Report from the Western District

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Source Name Image(s)
CollectionLibrary of Congress: Alexander Hamilton Papers view image
Document Information
Date January 31, 1799
Author Name James McHenry (primary) Location: War Department
Recipient Name James Wilkinson (primary)
Summary General Wilkinson gives his interpretation of the affairs of the Western District during the latter part of 1798.
Document Format Letter Signed
Document Notes Cited in McHenry to Hamilton, 02/04/1799, McHenry to Hamilton, 04/15/1799, and McHenry to Hamilton, 05/21/1799.
Content Notes [not available]
Related Persons/Groups James Wilkinson; James McHenry; General Washington; Major General Hamilton; Major General [Charles Cotesworth] Pinckney; augmented Army; troops on the Western Frontier; Committee of Congress on Ways and Means; Agents of Leslie and Panton; settlers near Walnut Hills; Governor of the Mississippi Territory; Subaltern; boatmen; Governor of Louisiana; Governor Gayoso; major force of our troops; Indians; the President [John Adams]; a real friend; Commandant; Councils of Spain; Captain Guion; Paymaster General; Accountant of the Department of War; Governors of the Northwestern and Mississippi Territories; Superintendents of Indian Affairs; Congress; Secretary of the Treasury [Oliver Wolcott, Jr.]; Governor Sargeant; ;
Related Places War Department; the Mountains; Pittsburgh; Spanish territory; posts on the Mississippi; the Ohio; post of Natchez; White River; Chickasaw Bluffs; France; Northwestern and Mississippi Territories; ;
Keywords double appropriations; economy; convenience; welfare of the officers and soldiers; clothing; medicine; stores; transportation; proper seasons; separate boxes; claims to land; galley; excitement of jealousy; emergency; treaty; friendly connection with Spain; division of Galleys; instructions to meet every measure; boats; safety; peace; hostilities; possession of Louisiana or the Floridas; pay of the troops; provisions; ammunition; frontiers; prudence and economy; public stores; clothing; serious sufferings and complaints; appropriation; search of boats; Customs and Revenue; buildings; Court House; public office; ;
Key Phrases I trust Governor Gayoso is before this time perfectly satisfied that the movement intends nothing even eventually hostile. General Washington having declined agreeably to the conditions of his acceptance of the Command of the Armies, any immediate authority until his presence shall be required for active operations in the field.

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War Department

January 31, 1799


I have to acknowledge the receipt of your several letters of the 20th and 25 th July, 28th August 6th and 29th September, 26th and 31st October, and 3rd November last.

If I have appeared remiss in my communications with you latterly, you will attribute it to the great, important, and pressing objects which have claimed, and unremittingly engaged my attention for a long time past- to the presence of General Washington and Major General Hamilton and pinching at the Seat of Government, called there to obtain the aid of their ecperience and knowledge in the arrangements necessary to our augmented Army; and to an unusual weight of business, to be prepared for Congress. I knew too, that some way on my part, could not occasion serious inconvenienced or injury to the United States, while you was actively upon the Spot, tending the interests of your Country.

The intimation in your letter of the 28th. August is certainly just. I am fully convinced that all the [indecipherable] destined for the troops on the Western Frontier should pass the mountains in the Autumn; to accomplish this, has however been heretofore impracticable, as there has been no anticipation of appropriations, to meet the wants of the ensuing year. I have lately proposed, to a committee of Congress, on ways and means, as a measure recommended by economy convenience, and the welfare of the Officer and Soldier, to make a double appropriation for the present year, after which the appropriation might always be only [commensurate?] with the estimate.


for the current year, altho' a sum would be always ready in advance, to provide clothing, medicines, stores & so as to ensure them transportation at proper seasons, and of course a regular and full supply to the Soldier.

Medicines and stores for the Army with some [indecipherable] of Articles on the list, that were either deemed not essential or had risen greatly in price, or could not be procured have been ordered, and will be forwarded to Pittsburg in separate Boxes, marked for the different posts.

It is proper that the agents of [indecipherable] and panton, be permitted to proceed in the course of writing up the business, and collecting the debts owing to that house.

It will perhaps be expedient, for the present, to refer the case of Settlers near Walnut Hills, entirely to the Governor of the Mississippi Territory, to examine into, and report upon, before any states of a military nature are taken; indeed it is questionable whether this Department can properly interfere with claim to land.

The Galley should be placed in a situation secure from injury, and kept ready for Service. I do not mean, unless it shall appear to you to be indispensable that she is to be fully manned, and officered, or any expense incurred which can and ought to be avoided; on the contrary it is expected, that you will be able to select a Subaltern qualified to take charge of her, and the necessary number of men from the Troops to act as Boatmen until a final arrangement can be made. The [indecipherable] galley remains at pittsburg.

I have no doubt that your proceedings respecting box, your endeavors to break up his projects, and to recover him


after he escaped, were well meant, and [indecipherable] in general, due pre=
sence. I must however regret, that the Governor of Louisiana was called upon to surrender him. A demand of such a nature, might never to be made, without the previous knowledge and concur=rance of Government; it might become a National Question, and involves principles and consequences, which require to be well weighed, and deliberately canvased. Your agency in this [indecipherable], I am con-vinced, was dictated by a full impression, of the right to make it, and it is presumable that Governor Gayoso, complied informally with the request by ordering Cox, as I think there is reason to believe he did out of the Spanish Territory.

When you moved down with the major force of our troops to [indecipherable] heights on the Mississippi, it was to be expected Gayoso would have some apprehensions; it would have been [indecipherable] in unison with my sentiments, to have retained the principal body wearer to the Ohio, and possibly have avoided the excitement of jealousy, altho' they would have been nearly as ready to act by falling down the River upon an emergency. You must however be presumed to be better acquainted with the Country, than I can be, and to have acted, in consequence of a knowledge of circumstances, which might have induced me, to the same disposition you have made. I met Governor Gayoso is before this time, perfectly satisfied that the movement intends nothing, even eventually hostile?

Your reply to his enquiry, is perfectly satisfactory, the Governor seemed not to recollect, that one of the reasons, assigned for not delivery up the Post of Natchez, was, that the troops sent there, were not respectable as to numbers, and inadequate to keep the Indians from violating our treaty. Should suspicion still exist, in the missed wind Governor Gayoso, it will be proper you should take every fair


occasion to efface them, and to vonvince him, that the president desires nothing more sincerely than to preserve a perpetual friendly connection with Spain. Let Spain be sensible of this truth, and reciprocate its sincerity, and she will find in the United States a real friend, and on the Mississippi, I had almost said a protector

Governor Gayoso has announced to you, his intention of sending a Division of Gallies, to the vicinity of the White River, or higher up under pretences, or for reasons assigned this you disapprove of and ask for relative advice and instruction_ I will observe that it is not possible to contrive instructions to meet every measure that may be taken by a party having different supposed interests from ourselves. I can only say that the force, which the Governor may transport to the White River, and the actual design of the movement ought to regulate whether it will, or not, be expedient to [retrograde?] some of your force to the Chickasaw Bluffs, at all events to keep the [indecipherable] there, as well as at the other posts on the Mississippi, always in such a state, as to be ready for prompt Service, the last object has been enjoined before; it is to be punctually attended to, and impressed upon every Commandant. It will not suffice to our safety that we sincerely wish to preserve peace; we must consider the influence France exercises over the Councils of Spain, _ be at all times on our guard against hostilities, and as far as possible prepared to meet them, should the weakness of the latter oblige her to give to France possession of Louisiana or the Floridas.

Enclosed is a duplicate of my letter to Captain Guion dated the 26th day of November 1798. I expect the pay Master General has taken measures to keep the troops on the Mississippi regularly paid. No appropriation is yet passed, for the present year as soon as it does, I shall renew my instructions to the payments


general, to draw Bills on me, for the pay of the troops, in the Northwestern, and Mississippi Territories.

You will direct Capt. Guion to form and every Voucher necessary to the settlement of his accounts, to the Accountant of the Department of War.

The Governors of the Northwestern and Mississippi Territories are by law, an Officer Superintendants of Indian Affairs - it will come frequently be proper for Military Commandants to avoid, as much as possible, interfering with their duties and powers. I know the prediction the Indians have for the Military, and am sensible it would be impolitic, always to dismiss them from our posts, when they [indecipherable] there, without a portion of provisions; that under peculiar circumstances even presents of ammunition, cannot [indecipherable] with safe [indecipherable] to the frontiers, be denied to them. It is however expected, that the utmost prudence and economy will be observed and as encouragement given to them, to expect, at their pleasure, and on every display of their wants to a Commandant of a Garrison, other provisions or pre-sents from the public stores.

Clothing has been forwarded, to the extent of our means, for all the troops on the Frontiers, including the Mississippi, it is however to be regretted, that from a failure of the Contract of Supplies have in some instances fallen short of the complement, and in others have been so long delayed, as to produce doubtless serious sufferings, and complaints; nor will it ever be possible, to prevent like inconvenen-cies, unless Congress shall come into the measure of anticipation of appropriation before mentioned.

Upon the subject of the bringing to, and search of Brat, I have heretofore expressed my sentiments as much in detail, and with as much precision, as I conceive myself justified by law

to do, as however it is a subject appertaining to the Customs and Revenue, I will advise with the Secretary of the Treasury.

Hereafter you will receive your orders from Major General Hamilton, and forward your letters to him, through the Secretary of War. It is very probable he may wish to consult with you, on several Military [indecipherable], and for this purpose, require your presence, at his Head Quarters. General Washington having declined, agreeably to the condition of his acceptance of the Command of the Armies, any immediate authority, until his presence shall be required for active operations in the Field. I drop the hint, that if such an order comes, it may find one prepared to meet it, without loss of time

To revert back to a print, I had omitted the [indecipherable] delivered us by the Spanish to our Military. I have to observe that it will be very proper, should Governor Sargent find occasion for the use of any of them, for the purposes of his Government, as in a Court House, or Public Office & to accommodate him with such as are most suitable, provided the doing so, will not deprive the troops of necessary accommodation, or the public propose of secure deposit

I am Sir,

with great respect

Your most obed. servant,

James McHenry