Primary tabs

Letter from Arthur St˙ Clair, Ligonier, to Governour Penn



Ligonier, May 29, 1774.

I doubt not before this time you have expected some account from me of the situation of this country, but as I could not write with certainty respecting the intentions of the Indians I choose to defer it.

In my last to Mr˙ Shippen I think I mentioned that Mr˙ Croghan had sent a Delaware Chief (White Eyes) with two of our traders with a message to the Shawanese; their return had been impatiently expected. Tired at last with the suspense, I determined to go to Fort Pitt whatever might be the consequence, and am just returned from thence. I was lucky enough to arrive there the day they came in, and though their accounts are alarming enough, yet I cannot think they are equal to the panic that has seized the country.

The Shawanese message is insolent enough; and we have a certain account that twenty of their warriors are gone out, but we have still reason to think they do not mean mischief to the people here, as they lay all to the charge of the Big Knife, as they call the Virginians. The substance of their speech is, that they think what Mr˙ Croghan and Mr˙ McKee says to them is lies; that they know the path is open from Philadelphia, and that they will keep it so if they please; but that the Big Knife has struck them, and when they have satisfaction they will speak to him, but not before; that now they have no King, and are all upon their feet, with other threatening expressions in their way. There were several Chiefs of the Delawares, and the Deputy of the Six Nations, (Goyasutha) with eight others of the Seneca tribe, at Pittsburg, by Mr˙ Croghan' s advice. They were called together and I made a short speech to them; they received it with pleasure, and in return gave the strongest assurances that they wished for nothing more than to continue in peace with this Province, and to become as one people. I think there can be no doubt of the sincerity of the Delawares; they have given substantial proofs of it in the care they have taken of the traders that were to have gone to the Shawanese; and if the Six Nations are in the same disposition, the war will be of little consequence, but I fear it is to be doubted whether Goyasutha knows the sense of the league or not.

One of the traders who went with White Eyes was detained at Newcomers Town; they it seems thought it imprudent that more than one should go very soon after the others left it. They were met by a Shawanese man who fired at Duncan, within a very small distance, but fortunately missed him. White Eyes immediately called to him to make back to the town, and he himself got betwixt the Indian and him, and came up with him where he had stopped to load his gun, and disarmed him; they both got safely back to the town, and were immediately shut up


in a strong house, and a guard kept on them day and night to preserve them from any attempt that might be made by the Shawanese or Mingoes (a small party of these last live near the Shawanese, and are in a manner incorporated with them) and this was continued till White Eyes went down to the Shawanese town and returned, during all which time they were furnished with provisions and every thing that could be procured for them in the most liberal manner. This I think must be an unequivocal mark of their disposition.

The mischief done by Cresap and Greathouse had been much exaggerated when I wrote to Mr˙ Shippen, but the number of Indians killed is exactly as I informed Mr˙ Allen, viz: thirteen. Cresap has lately been in the neighbourhood of Pittsburg, with intention it appeared to pursue the blow he had before struck, but Mr˙ Conolly sent a message to him forbidding him to attempt any thing against the Indians; this he has taken in high dudgeon, and declares publicly that what he did before was by Mr˙ Conolly' s orders; so that it is to be hoped some of the devilish schemes that have been carrying on here will come to light. I ventured to say that an Indian war was part of the Virginia plan; I am satisfied it must at least be part of Mr˙ Conolly' s plan, for he has already incurred such an expense by repairing the fort and calling out the militia, that I think it is impossible that Colony will ever discharge it unless disturbances be raised that may give his manoeuvres the appearance of necessity.

It is scarcely possible to conceive the distressed situation of this country: one day the spirits of the people are raised a little, and some prospect of their being able to remain on their farms; the next a story worse than any they have heard before, and a thousand times worse than the truth, sinks them in despair; and those about Pittsburg are still in a more pitiable state, being harrassed and oppressed by the militia, who lay their hands on every thing they want without asking questions, and kill cattle at their pleasure; they indeed appraise them, when the owner happens to know of it, and give him a bill on Lord Dunmore, which is downright mockery.

From what I saw it was evident to me that the country must very soon be totally evacuated unless something was done to afford the inhabitants the appearance at least of protection. I therefore consulted with some of the inhabitants at Piitsburg, and Mr˙ Mackay, Mr˙ Smith, Colonel Croghan, Mr˙ Butler and myself entered into an association to raise victuals, and pay a ranging company of one hundred men for one month, to which a number of the inhabitants, as I came down, readily acceded, and I think in a few days we will have it completed. We flattered ourselves indeed that your Honor if you approve the measure, would take such measures with the House as would release us from the expense; but as you may probably want a formal requisition to lay before the House, I have acquainted you with it in another letter. One thing further I had in view: the inhabitants of Pittsburg propose stockading the town; when that is done should your negotiation with Lord Dunmore miscarry, throwing a few men into that place would recover the country the Virginians have usurped.

I beg pardon for so long a letter, and yet I believe I should have given you more but that I am detaining Mr˙ Montgomery, who charges himself with forwarding this to your Honor. I have only to request that you will please to give us your directions as soon as possible.

I am, sir, your most obedient and most humble servant,


The Hon˙ John Penn, Esq˙, Governor of Penn' a.

P˙ S˙ An affair that has given me much trouble and vexation had like to have escaped my memory, the murder of a Delaware Indian, Joseph Wipey, about eighteen miles from this place. It is the most astonishing thing in the world the disposition of the common people of this country; actuated by the most savage cruelty, they wantonly perpetrate crimes that are a disgrace to humanity, and seem at the same time to be under a kind of religious enthusiasm, whilst they want the daring spirit that usually inspires. Two of the persons concerned in this murder are John Hinkson and James Cooper. I had got information of their design some time before they executed it, and had wrote to Hinkson, whom I knew to be a leader amongst them, to dissuade


them and threatened them with the weight of the law if they persisted; but so far from preventing them, it only produced the enclosed letter. The body was discovered hid in a small run of water, and covered with stones. I immediately sent for the Coroner, but before he had got a jury together the body was removed, so that no inquest could be taken. I have issued warrants on suspicion, but they are so much on their guard I doubt they cannot be executed. Your Honor will please to consider whether it may be proper to proclaim, them; it is most unlucky at tins time. The letter may perhaps be made use of as evidence.

Mr˙ McKee had not time to transcribe the speeches of the Indians, but in a few days I shall probably receive them, and will forward them by the first opportunity. Nobody offered the arrest they have threatened me so much with.