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Letter from James Bowdoin to General Washington


Boston, July 30, 1776.

SIR: At the time your Excellency' s letter was received, requesting the aid of this Government in procuring a body of the Eastern Indians for the service of the United States,


it happened very fortunately that a number of them were here as delegates from the St˙ John' s and Mickmack tribes, in Nova Scotia. They came on a visit to you, in consequence of your letter to them, which they produced; and soon after a couple of chiefs arrived here from the Penobscot tribe. At the conference held with the former, there appeared in them a very good disposition towards the United States, and the General Court having resolved that a regiment should be raised for the service of the State, to consist of five hundred Indians and two hundred and fifty English, it was strongly urged upon them to join with us in the war; and accordingly they have engaged to do it, and have signed a treaty for that purpose. By what they said at the conference, it appeared the six villages they represented could furnish about one hundred and twenty men; but as those villages are at a great distance from each other, their men dispersed in hunting, and they proposed to call the whole together, they said they should not be able, and they could not engage to come until next spring. The St˙ John' s delegates, however, on being told they lived near, and could be soon here again, promised to return early in the fall, with about thirty of their tribe. There are six other nations of Mickmacks, who had not been informed of your letter, and had not therefore sent delegates, but are equally well disposed, and have about the same number of men belonging to them. These, therefore, probably will furnish for the service a like number of men with the other. With regard to the Penobscots, they appeared well disposed. They said that when General Washington sent his Army to Canada, five of their people went with them, and were at the siege of Quebeck, two of whom were wounded, and three taken prisoners, who had since returned; that they had been promised an allowance should be made to those who went with Colonel Arnold, the support of whose families in their absence had been a great burden to them; and that they had had no recompense for their services. They were told this matter would be represented to General Washington, and that what was right and just he would order to be done. They said further, they looked upon themselves to be one people with us, and that whatever Government we were under they were willing to subject themselves to; that they had no doubt their tribe would be willing to join General Washington, and that when they got home they would call the tribe together and consult them for that purpose.

This good disposition appearing in all the Indians, the Council thought it best, in consequence of your letter, to send with the Indians into their own country the most suitable persons that could be had, in order to procure, with the utmost expedition, the number of Indians you desire may be engaged in the service of the States, or as many as can be procured. An armed vessel is accordingly engaged to carry these Indians to Penobscot and St˙ John' s, where those tribes will be respectively assembled, and all that can be persuaded to it inlisted into the service immediately. Mr˙ Fletcher, who came with the Penobscots, is engaged in this business with regard to that tribe, and Major Shaw employed with regard to the St˙ John' s and their neighbours at Passamaquoddy. It being expected a considerable number might be had from these tribes in a short time, the said vessel was engaged to bring them hither as soon as may be. One Mr˙ Gilman is also employed to go to the St˙ François Indians, and engage as many of them as he can. On the conference with the St˙ John' s and Mickmacks, (a copy of which is enclosed, together with a copy of the treaty,) three of them offered themselves to join the Army at New York immediately, and their offer was accepted, as it might not only secure the fidelity of the tribes to which they belonged, but induce many others of them to engage in the service. Another has since joined them. Accordingly, these four (one of whom can speak French) will immediately set off for New York, under the conduct of Mr˙ William Shaw, who is ordered to wait upon you with them.

The Council hope these measures will be effectual for the purpose they were ordered. In their name and behalf, I have the honour to be, with every sentiment of respect, your Excellency' s most obedient, &c.,

To His Excellency General Washington, &c.

P˙ S˙ The names of the four Indians abovementioned, viz:

Joseph Denaquara, of Windsor, who speaks French and English; Peter André, of Le Heve; Sebattis Netobcobwit, of Gaspee; Francis, of St˙ John' s.