For a number of years following the revolution, there were those in the east, and especially in New England, who suffered from myopia. They utterly failed to see the future of the republic, or the importance of holding the western country. To them, such men as Harrod and Kenton, Logan and Boone, were "lawless borderers" and willful aggressors on the rights of the red man. And yet, back of the crowning diplomacy of John Jay, that placed our western frontiers on the banks of the Mississippi, and extended our northern lines to the thread of the lakes, lay the stern resolution of the men of Kentucky and the supreme audacity of the mind of Clark.
From this crucible of fire and blood a great people emerged, hardy, brave, chivalrous, quick to respond to the cries and sufferings of others, but with an iron hate of all things Indian and British stamped eternally in their hearts. Others might be craven, but they were not.
Every savage incursion was answered by a counterstroke. The last red man had not retreated across the Ohio, before the mounted riflemen of Kentucky, leaving old men and boys behind to supply the settlements, and with a little corn meal and jerked venison for their provision, sallied forth to take their vengeance and demolish the Indian towns.
Federal commanders, secretaries of war, even Presidents might remonstrate, but all in vain. They had come forth into the wilderness to form their homes and clear the land, and make way for civilization, and they would not go back. In every family there was the story of a midnight ma.s.sacre, or of a wife or child struck down by the tomahawk, or of a loving father burned at the stake. To plead with men whose souls had been seared by outrage and horror was unavailing. All savages appeared the same to them. They shot without discrimination, and shot to kill. They marched with Clark, they rode with Harmar, and they fought with Wayne and Harrison. In the war of 1812, more than seven thousand Kentuckians took the field. It was, as Butler has aptly termed it, "a state in arms." You may call them "barbarians," "rude frontiersmen," or what you will, but it took men such as these to advance the outposts of the nation and to conquer the west. Strongly, irresistibly, is the soul of the patriot moved by the story of their deeds.
With all its b.l.o.o.d.y toil and suffering, Kentucky grew. After the spring of 1779, when Clark had captured Vincennes, the danger of extermination was over. Following the revolution a strong and ever increasing stream of boats pa.s.sed down the Ohio. The rich lands, the luxuriant pastures, the bounteous harvests of corn and wheat, were great attractions. Josiah Harmar, writing from the mouth of the Muskingum in May, 1787, reports one hundred and seventy-seven boats, two thousand six hundred and eighty-nine men, women and children, one thousand three hundred and thirty-three horses, seven hundred and sixty-six cattle, and one hundred and two wagons, as pa.s.sing that point, bound for Limestone and the rapids at Louisville. On the ninth of December of the same year, he reports one hundred and forty-six boats, three thousand one hundred and ninety-six souls, one thousand three hundred and eighty-one horses, one hundred and sixty-five wagons, one hundred and seventy-one cattle, and two hundred and forty-five sheep as on the way to Kentucky, between the first of June and the date of his communication. In 1790, the first census of the United States showed a population of seventy-three thousand six hundred and seventy-seven. On June 1st, 1792, Kentucky became the fifteenth commonwealth in the federal union; the first of the great states west of the Alleghenies that were to add so much wealth, resource and vital strength to the government of the United States.
THE BRITISH POLICIES
_--The British reluctant to surrender the control of the Northwest--their tampering with the Indian tribes._
The seventh article of the definitive treaty of peace between the United States and Great Britain in 1783, provided that "His Britannic Majesty,"
should, with all convenient speed, "withdraw all his armies, garrisons, and fleets from the said United States, and from every port, place and harbour within the same," but when demand was made upon General Frederick Haldimand, the British governor of Canada, for the important posts of Niagara, Oswego, Michillimacinac and Detroit, he refused to surrender them up, alleging that he had no explicit orders so to do, and that until he had received such commands, he conceived it to be his duty as a soldier to take no step in that direction. This action of Haldimand was cool and deliberate and received the full and entire approbation of the British cabinet. Tories, and apologists for Great Britain, have written much about a justification for this action, but there is no real justification. Lord Carmarthen, the British secretary of state, afterwards said to John Adams that English creditors had met with unlawful impediments in the collection of their debts, but the real reason why England violated her treaty he did not state. She retained the posts to control the tribes. She looked with covetous eye on the lucrative fur-trade of the northwest territory upon which the commerce of Canada was in great measure dependent, and sooner than resist the entreaties of her merchants and traders, she was willing to embroil a people of her own race and blood, in a series of long and merciless wars with murderous savages. For the fact remains, that if England had promptly surrendered up the posts; had not interfered with our negotiations for peace with the Indian tribes; had refused to encourage any confederacy, and had instructed her commanders to keep their spies and agents out of American territory, the murders on the Ohio, the slaughter of innocents, and the long, costly and b.l.o.o.d.y campaigns in the Indian country might have been avoided.
Nothing can ever extenuate the conduct of England in keeping in her employ and service such men as Alexander McKee, Matthew Elliott and Simon Girty. The chief rendezvous of the tribes after the revolution was at Detroit. Here were located a British garrison and a British Indian agency. This agency, while guarding the trade in peltries, also kept its eye on the fleets that descended the Ohio, on the growing settlements of Kentucky, and warned the Indians against American encroachment. In 1778, and while the revolution was in progress, the missionary John Heckewelder, noted the arrival at Goschochking on the Muskingum, of three renegades and fugitives from Pittsburg. They were McKee, Elliott and Girty. McKee and Elliott had both been traders among the Indians and understood their language. All three had deserted the American cause and were flying into the arms of the British. They told the Delawares and Wyandots, "That it was the determination of the American people to kill and destroy the whole Indian race, be they friends or foes, and possess themselves of their country; and that, at this time, while they were embodying themselves for the purpose, they were preparing fine sounding speeches to deceive them, that they might with more safety fall upon and murder them. That now was the time, and the only time, for all nations to rise, and turn out to a man against these intruders, and not even suffer them to cross the Ohio, but fall upon them where they should find them; which if not done without delay, their country would be lost to them forever." The same men were now inculcating the same doctrines at Detroit. They pointed out to the Indians that the Americans were bent on extinguishing all their council fires with the best blood of the nations; that despite all their fair promises and pretensions, the Americans cared nothing for the tribes, but only for their lands. That England by her treaty had not ceded a foot of the Indian territory to the United States. That all the treaties thus far concluded with the tribes by the Americans, were one-sided and unfair, made at the American forts, and at the cannon's mouth.
A powerful figure now arose among the savages of the north. Joseph Brant was a princ.i.p.al chief of the Mohawk tribe of the Six Nations of New York. His sister Molly was the acknowledged wife of the famous British Indian superintendent, Sir William Johnson. In his youth he had been sent by Johnson to Doctor Wheelock's charity school at Lebanon, Connecticut, where he learned to speak and write English and acquired some knowledge of history and literature. In the war of the revolution the Mohawks sided with England, and Brant was given a colonel's commission. He remained after the war a pensioner of the British government, and General Arthur St. Clair is authority for the statement that he received an annual stipend of four hundred pounds sterling.
The Mohawks had been terribly shattered and broken by the revolution, but they still retained that ascendency among the tribes that resulted from their former bravery and prowess. In the mind of Brant there now dawned the grand scheme of forming a confederacy of all the northwestern tribes to oppose the advance of the American settlements. The first arbitrary a.s.sumptions of the continental congress gave him a great leverage. They had a.s.sumed to exercise an unlimited power of disposal over the Indian lands. The surveyors of the government were advancing west of the Pennsylvania line and staking off the first ranges. Now was the opportune time to fan the flame of savage jealousy, and stand with united front against the foe.
It is probable that Brant took part in the grand council held at Coshocton in 1785, and reported to Captain John Doughty by Alexander McCormick. The account of McCormick relates that there "were present the chiefs of many nations," and that "the object of this council was to unite themselves against the white people." There was an excited activity on the part of McKee, Elliott, Caldwell and Girty and they were endeavoring to keep the tribes away from the American treaties. The newspapers of London in speaking of Brant's arrival in England in the latter part of the same year, gave accounts of his lately having presided over a "grand congress of confederate chiefs of the Indian nations in America," and said that Brant had been appointed to the chief command in the war which the Indians meditated against the United States.
In the month of December, 1785, the distinguished warrior arrived at the British capital. In an age of less duplicity his coming might have excited some feeling of compa.s.sion. He had journeyed three thousand miles across the seas, to see what the great English king could do to restore the broken fortunes of his people. The beautiful valley of the Mohawk was theirs no longer. Their ancient castles and villages had been destroyed, or were in the hands of strangers. All had been lost in the service of the great "father" across the waters. What would that "father" now do for his ruined and sorrowing children? He reminded Lord Sidney of the colonial department, that in every war of England with her enemies the Iroquois had fought on her side; that they were struck with astonishment at hearing that they had been entirely forgotten in the treaty of peace, and that they could not believe it possible that they could be so neglected by a nation whom they had served with so much zeal and fidelity. The Americans were surveying the lands north of the Ohio, and Brant now desired to know whether the tribes were still to be regarded as "His Majesty's faithful allies" and whether they were to have that support and countenance such as old and true friends might expect. In other words, the blunt savage wanted to know whether England would now support the Indian tribes in beginning hostilities against the United States.
The conduct of the British was characteristic. The lands in controversy had just been ceded by solemn treaty to the new republic. To openly espouse the cause of Brant was to declare war. A little finesse must be resorted to in order to evade the leading question, and at the same time hold the tribes. They therefore wined and dined the American chief, and presented him to the king and queen, but promised him nothing. Lord Sidney rained plat.i.tudes. He said the king was always ready to attend to the future welfare of the tribes, and upon every occasion wherein their happiness might be concerned he was ready to give further testimony of his royal favor. He hoped that they might remain united and that their measures might be conducted with temper and moderation. In the meantime, the arts of diplomacy must be employed. The barbarian chief must be bribed with a pension, and covertly used as a tool and instrument of British design.
The great chief then and afterwards entertained misgivings, but he proceeded to play the dupe. In November and December, 1786, he was back in America, and a great council of the northwestern tribes was convened at the Huron village, near the mouth of the Detroit river. Present were the Five Nations, the Hurons or Wyandots, the Delawares, Shawnees, Ottawas, Potawatomi, Miamis, and some scattering bands of the Cherokees.
A letter was here formulated and addressed to the congress of the United States, which at once marks Joseph Brant and the British agents back of him as the originators of the idea that all the Indian lands were held in common by all the tribes, and that no single tribe had the right to alienate. In answer to the treaties of Fort Stanwix and Fort McIntosh, they alleged that congress had hitherto managed everything in their own way, and had kindled council fires where they thought proper; that they had insisted on holding separate treaties with distinct tribes, and had entirely neglected the Indian plan of a general conference. They held it to be "indispensably necessary" that any cession of Indian lands should be made in the most public manner, "and by the united voice of the confederacy;" all partial treaties were void and of no effect. They urged a full meeting and treaty with all the tribes; warned the United States to keep their surveyors and other people from crossing the Ohio, and closed with these words: "Brothers: It shall not be our fault if the plans which we have suggested to you should not be carried into execution. In that case the event will be very precarious, and if farther ruptures ensue, we hope to be able to exculpate ourselves and shall most a.s.suredly, with our united force, be obliged to defend those rights and privileges which have been transmitted to us by our ancestors; and if we should be thereby reduced to misfortune, the world will pity us when they think of the amicable proposals which we now make to prevent the unnecessary effusion of blood. These are our thoughts and firm resolves, and we earnestly desire that you transmit to us, as soon as possible, your answer, be it what it may."
Brant's whole scheme of a confederacy among savage tribes was, of course, wild and chimerical. The same savage hate and jealousy which was now directed toward the Americans, would, at the first favorable moment, break out in fiery strifes and dissensions in the Indian camp, and consume any alliance that might be formed. To imagine that the Miami and the Cherokee, the Shawnee and the Delaware, the Iroquois and Wyandot, after centuries of war and bloodshed, could be suddenly brought together in any efficient league or combination, that would withstand the test of time, was vain and foolish. The history of the Indian tribes in America from the days of the Jesuit fathers down to the day of Brant, had shown first one tribe and then another in the ascendency. Never at any time had there been peace and concord. Even within the councils of the same tribe, contentions frequently arose between sachems and chiefs. It is well known that in his later days the Little Turtle was almost universally despised by the other Miami chieftains. A deadly hatred existed between the Cornplanter and Joseph Brant. Tec.u.mseh and Winamac were enemies. Governor Arthur St. Clair, writing to the President of the United States, on May 2, 1789, reported that a jealousy subsisted between the tribes that attended the treaty at Fort Harmar; that they did not consider themselves as one people and that it would not be difficult, if circ.u.mstances required it, "to set them at deadly variance."
Equally pretentious was Brant's claim of a common ownership of the Indian lands. The Iroquois themselves had never recognized any such doctrine. In October, 1768, at the English treaty of Fort Stanwix, they had sold to the British government by bargain and sale, a great strip of country south of the Ohio river, and had fixed the line of that stream as the boundary between themselves and the English. At that time they claimed to be the absolute owners of the lands ceded, to the exclusion of all other tribes. At the treaty of Fort Wayne, in 1809, between the United States and the northwestern tribes, the Miamis claimed the absolute fee in all the lands along the Wabash, and refused to cede any territory until a concession to that effect was made by William Henry Harrison. In the instructions of Congress, of date October 26th, 1787, to General Arthur St. Clair, relative to the negotiation of a treaty in the northern department, which were the same instructions governing the negotiations at Fort Harmar in January 1789, specific directions were given to defeat all confederations and combinations among the tribes, for congress clearly saw the British hand behind Brant's proposed league, and knew how futile it was to recognize any such savage alliance.
The British officials were well aware of the shortcomings of Brant's league, but they hailed its advent with delight. If the tribes could be collected together under the shadow of the British forts, and freely plied by the British agents, they could be kept hostile to the American vanguard. If the government of the United States could not acquire a foothold north of the Ohio, the British forts were safe, and the trade in peltries secure. The result of this policy was of course foreseen. It meant war between the United States and the Indian tribes. But in the meantime England would hold the fur-trade. Thus in cold blood and with deliberation did the British rulers pave the way to the coming hostilities.
In November, 1786, Sir Guy Carleton, now Lord Dorchester, arrived at Quebec. Like most of the royal officers of that day he looked with disdain upon the new republic of the United States. It was evident that the old confederation could not be held together much longer. There was constant strife and jealousy between the states. In Ma.s.sachusetts Shays'
rebellion was in progress, which seemed at times to threaten the existence of the commonwealth itself. The courts were occluded, and the administration of justice held in contempt. In the west, the people of Kentucky were embittered toward the states of the Atlantic seaboard.
Their prosperity in great measure depended upon the open navigation of the Mississippi, and a free market at New Orleans. Spain had denied them both, and in the eyes of the Kentuckians congress seemed disposed to let Spain have her own way.
Under all these circ.u.mstances, which appeared to be so inauspicious for the American government, Dorchester determined to keep a most diligent eye on the situation. Spain had the nominal control, at least, of the lands west of the Mississippi. She had designs on the western territory of the United States, and was about to open up an intrigue with James Wilkinson and other treasonable conspirators in Kentucky, who had in mind a separation from the eastern states. To hold the posts within the American territory, was to be on the ground and ready to act, either in the event of a dissolution of the old confederation, or in case of an attempt on the part of Spain to seize any portion of the western country. Added to all this was the imperative necessity, as Dorchester looked at it, of maintaining a "game preserve" for the western tribes.
If the Americans advanced, the Indian hunting grounds were endangered, and this would result in lessening the profits of the English merchants.
Brant was impatient, but Dorchester, like Lord Sidney, proceeded cautiously. On March 22, 1787, Sir John Johnson, the British Indian superintendent wrote to Brant, expressing his happiness that things had turned out prosperously in the Indian country, and saying that he hoped that the chief's measures might have the effect of preventing the Americans from encroaching on the Indian lands. "I hope," he writes, "in all your decisions you will conduct yourselves with prudence and moderation, having always an eye to the friendship that has so long subsisted between you and the King's subjects, upon whom you alone can and ought to depend. You have no reason to fear any breach of promise on the part of the King. Is he not every year giving you fresh proofs of his friendship? What greater could you expect than is now about to be performed, by giving an ample compensation for your losses, which is yet withheld from us, his subjects? Do not suffer bad men or evil advisors to lead you astray; everything that is reasonable and consistent with the friendship that ought to be preserved between us, will be done for you all. Do not suffer an idea to hold a place in your mind, that it will be for your interests to sit still and see the Americans attempt the posts. It is for your sakes chiefly, if not entirely that we hold them. If you become indifferent about them, they may perhaps be given up; what security would you then have? You would be left at the mercy of a people whose blood calls aloud for revenge." On May 29th of the same year, Major Matthews of the English army, who had been a.s.signed to the command of the king's forces at Detroit, communicated with Brant from Fort Niagara, expressing the views of Dorchester as follows: "In the future his Lordship wishes them (the Indians) to act as is best for their interests; he cannot begin a war with the Americans, because some of their people encroach and make depredations upon parts of the Indian country; but they must see it is his Lordship's intention to defend the posts; and while these are preserved, the Indians must find great security therefrom, and consequently the Americans greater difficulty in taking possession of their lands; but should they once become masters of the posts, they will surround the Indians, and accomplish their purposes with little trouble. From a consideration of all which, it therefore remains with the Indians to decide what is most for their own interests, and to let his Lordship know their determination, that he may take measures accordingly; but, whatever their resolution is, it should be taken as by one and the same people, by which means they will be respected and become strong; but if they divide, and act one part against the other, they will become weak, and help to destroy each other. This, my dear Joseph, is the substance of what his Lordship desired me to tell you, and I request that you will give his sentiments that mature consideration which their justice, generosity, and desire to promote the welfare and happiness of the Indians, must appear to all the world to merit." Thus did this n.o.ble lord, while refraining from making an open and a manly declaration of war, secretly and clandestinely set on these savages; appealing on the one hand to their fear of American encroachment, and urging on the other the security the tribes must feel from the British retention of the frontier posts. In the meantime, he bided that moment, when the weakness of the states or their mutual dissensions would enable him to come out in the open and seize that territory which the king had lately lost. One is reminded of the remarks that Tec.u.mseh made to Governor William Henry Harrison in 1810. "He said he knew the latter (i. e., the English) were always urging the Indians to war for their advantage, and not to benefit his countrymen; and here he clapped his hands, and imitated a person who halloos at a dog, to set him to fight with another."
Pursuant to the instructions of the continental congress heretofore referred to, Governor Arthur St. Clair, in the year 1788, opened up a correspondence with the tribes of the northwest in order to bring them to a treaty. The government, though suffering from a paucity of funds, had determined to enter into engagements looking to the fair and equitable purchase of the Indian lands. It was plainly to be seen that unless an accommodation could be arrived at with the tribes that the government either had to abandon the territory north of the Ohio, or levy war. This they were reluctant to do. The treasury was practically empty and the people poor. The country had practically no standing army, nor was there the means to raise one. In fact, the new const.i.tution had not as yet been ratified by an adequate number of states, and the first president of the United States had not been elected. Again, something must be done, if possible, to relieve the sufferings of the western people. They were loudly complaining of the inattention and neglect of the government, and if they were left entirely without support in fighting their way to the Spanish markets at New Orleans, and in repelling the constant attacks of the Indian raiders urged on by British agents, grave doubts might justly be entertained of their continued loyalty. In fact, during the month of November, in this same year of 1788, the infamous Dr. John Connolly, arrived at Louisville. He came as a direct agent of Lord Dorchester, seeking to undermine the allegiance of the Kentuckians to their government, and offering them arms and ammunition with which to attack the Spaniards. This inglorious mission ended in Connolly's disgraceful and cowardly flight.
In their efforts to negotiate a fair compact, the United States had some reason to antic.i.p.ate a friendly disposition on the part of the Delawares and Wyandots. Large numbers of the latter tribe had been won over to the principles of Christianity and were inclined towards peace, but the Miamis of the Wabash, the Shawnees and the Kickapoos were hostile. At Miamitown were the Little Turtle and Le Gris; close by, were the Shawnees under Blue Jacket; all were under the influence of the Girtys, George and Simon, and all had been engaged in the Indian raids. The Miami confederates at Eel River, Ouiatenon and Tippecanoe all looked to the head men at Miamitown for inspiration. Miamitown was in turn connected with the British agency at Detroit. The confederates of the Three Fires, the Ottawas or Tawas, the Chippewas and Potawatomi, otherwise known as the "Lake Tribes," were also under the influence of the British. On July 5th, 1788, General Arthur St. Clair, writing to the Secretary of War from Pittsburg, said that the western tribes, meaning those under the influence of the Miami chiefs, had been so successful in their depredations on the Ohio river, their settlements were so distant and "their country so difficult," that they imagined themselves to be perfectly safe, and that as they were able by these incursions "to gratify at once their pa.s.sions of avarice and revenge, and their desire for spirituous liquors, every boat carrying more or less of that commodity, few of them may be expected to attend; nor are they much to be depended on should they attend generally." He further remarked: "Our settlements are extending themselves so fast on every quarter where they can be extended; our pretensions to the country they inhabit have been made known to them in so unequivocal a manner, and the consequences are so certain and so dreadful to them, that there is little probability of there ever being any cordiality between us. The idea of being ultimately obliged to abandon their country rankles in their minds, and our British neighbors, at the same time that they deny the cession of the country made by them, suffer them not to forget for a moment the claim that is founded upon it."
The first attempt of the government in 1788, to form a treaty ended in disaster. In order to mollify the tribes, it was proposed to hold the negotiations at the falls of the Muskingum river, in what the Indians were pleased to term "their own country" and "beyond the guns of any fort." General Josiah Harrnar was instructed to erect a council house there, and appropriate buildings in which to house the goods to be distributed among the Indians. On the night of July 12th, some Ottawas and Chippewas attacked the sentries and attempted to steal the goods they were guarding. Two soldiers were killed and two wounded. Friendly Delawares who arrived identified an Indian who was slain in the fight, as an Ottawa. It was learned that both the Chippewas and Ottawas were opposed to a treaty, "and in favor of war, unless the whites would agree to the Ohio as a boundary line." Who set on these wild tribes from the north may well be imagined. General St. Clair now determined to hold the treaty at Fort Harmar at the mouth of the Muskingum, and sent a message to the tribes now collecting on the Detroit river, to that effect.
The machinations of the British agents at Detroit in the summer and autumn of 1788, while involved in some degree of mystery, seem to have been about as follows: Lord Dorchester was apprehensive that the Americans contemplated the taking of the posts and thereby uprooting the British influence. In order to avoid such action, it might be the safer policy to make certain concessions and advise the Indians to give up a small portion of the territory north of the Ohio, rather than to bring on an armed conflict. But all the tribes must be kept together, if possible, and under the direction of the authorities at Detroit. No single tribe must be allowed to negotiate a separate treaty, for that might result in the cultivation of friendly relations with the United States, and if one tribe could be brought under the American influence, this might ultimately lead to the disintegration of the British power over all. Therefore it was resolved that before any negotiations were entered into with General St. Clair, that another grand council of the northwestern tribes should be held in the valley of the Miami of the Lake, or Maumee, and that to that council should be summoned the princ.i.p.al sachems and warriors of all the tribes. Alexander McKee, the British Indian agent, was to be there, and Joseph Brant, and all action taken was to be under their supervision and control.
On July 14th, General Richard Butler wrote to General St. Clair that about eighty chiefs were present at the Detroit river, awaiting the arrival of Brant. On August the 10th that chieftain reached Detroit, but instead of meeting with unanimity of counsel, he found that the Wyandots were for "a private and separate meeting with the Americans to settle matters for themselves," while the warlike Miamis were against any peace at all and in favor of open hostilities. After five weeks of waiting and cajolery, Brant got them all together in the Miami valley, and the council started to deliberate. The Hurons, Chippewas, Ottawas, Potawatomi and Delawares stood with Brant, and in favor of surrendering up a small portion of their country, rather than of entering headlong into a destructive war. The Potawatomi, Ottawas and Chippewas were far to the north and were probably indifferent; the Wyandots and Delawares were sincerely for peace. But insuperable objections were now offered by the Miamis, Kickapoos and the Shawnees. Horse stealing was their "best harvest," and the plundering of the boats they would not forego. In vain did the Wyandots urge a treaty. They presented the Miamis with a large string of wampum, but this was refused. They then laid it on the shoulder of a princ.i.p.al Miami chieftain, but he turned to one side and let it fall on the ground without making any answer. In the end the Wyandots withdrew and the council broke up in confusion. It was plain that if any agreement was entered into with the American government that it would not be through any concerted action on the part of the tribes.
Tribal jealousy and savage hate rendered that impossible.
It has been related that when Brant perceived that his confederacy was a failure, and that he could not secure united action, that he said "that if five of the Six Nations had sold themselves to the devil, otherwise the Yankees, that he did not intend that the fierce Miamis, Shawnees and Kickapoos should do so." However this may be, it is evident that from the time of the breaking up of the Indian council on the Miami, that Brant and the British agents did all that lay within their power to frustrate the American negotiations with the Wyandots and Delawares at Fort Harmar. According to reports reaching the ears of General St.
Clair, stories were placed in circulation among the tribes that in case they attended the treaty, that the Americans would kill them all, either by putting poison in the spirits, or by inoculating the blankets that would be presented to them, with the dreaded smallpox. Brant, after coming within sixty miles of the fort, turned back to Detroit, taking all the Mohawks with him, and urging back the oncoming tribes of the Shawnees and Miamis. "It is notorious," says President Washington, in a letter to governor Clinton, of New York on December 1st, 1790, "that he (Brant) used all the art and influence of which he was possessed to prevent any treaty being held; and that, except in a small degree, General St. Clair aimed at no more land by the treaty of Muskingum than had been ceded by the preceding treaties."
Thus did the British government, through its duly authorized agents, its governor and army officers, retain the posts belonging to the new republic, encourage the tribes in their depredations, and defeat the pacific intentions of the American people, and all from the sordid motives of gain. On April 30th, 1789, when George Washington was inaugurated as the first President, every savage chieftain along the Wabash, or dwelling at the forks of the Maumee, was engaged in active warfare against the people of the United States, largely through the instrumentality of the British officials.
--_The first military invasion of the Northwest by the Federal Government after the Revolution._
The treaty of Fort Harmar, on January 9th, 1789, so far as the Wabash tribes were concerned, was unavailing. The raids of the Miamis and the Shawnees continued. Murders south of the Ohio were of almost daily occurrence. For six or seven hundred miles along that river the inhabitants were kept in a perpetual state of alarm. In Kentucky, killings and depredations took place in almost every direction; at Crab Orchard, Floyd's Fork and numerous other places. Boats were constantly attacked on the Ohio and whole families slaughtered, and their goods and cattle destroyed.
One hundred and forty-five miles northwest of the mouth of the Kentucky river were the Indian villages at Ouiatenon, on the Wabash river. On the south side of that stream and near the outlet of Wea creek, were the towns of the Weas; across the river from these towns was a Kickapoo village. About eighteen miles above Ouiatenon was the important trading post of Kethtipecanunck (Pet.i.t Piconne or Tippecanoe) near the mouth of the Tippecanoe river, commanded by the chieftain Little Face. About six miles above the present city of Logansport, and on the Eel river, was the Miami village of Kenapacomaqua or L'Anguille, commanded by "The Soldier." At the junction of the St. Marys and the St. Joseph, one hundred and sixty miles north of the Kentucky river, was the princ.i.p.al Indian village of Kekionga or Miamitown, commanded by Pecan and LeGris.
All these towns were visited by the French and English traders who communicated with Detroit and all were under the domination and control of the British. The savages in these various Indian villages were so far away from the Kentucky settlements that they considered themselves immune from any attacks; they were taught by the English to look with contempt upon the American government, and were given to understand that as long as the British held the upper posts they would be fully protected. In war parties of from five to twenty they suddenly appeared upon the banks of the Ohio to pillage the boats of the immigrants and murder their crews, or crossing that stream they penetrated the settlements of the interior, to kill, burn and destroy, and lead away horses and captives to the Indian towns. Pursued, they were often lost in the almost impenetrable forests of the north, or the savage bands scattered far and wide in thicket and swamp.
In the winter of 1789-1790 strange things were happening in the Miami villages on the St. Joseph and the Maumee. Henry Hay was there, the British agent of a Detroit merchant. Here are some of the facts that he has recorded in his diary. LeGris, the Little Turtle, Richardville, and Blue Jacket, the Shawnee chief, were all in that vicinity. George Girty lived close by in a Delaware town. He had married an Indian woman and was really a savage. On the twenty-sixth of December 1789, Girty came to Miamitown to report to Hay. He said that the Delawares were constantly being told by the Miamis that the ground they occupied was not theirs; that the Delawares had answered that they were great fools to fight for others' lands, and that they would war no longer against the Americans, but would remove to the Spanish territory beyond the Mississippi. These facts Hay must report in writing to Alexander McKee, the British Indian agent. On the second of January, 1790, it was reported that Antoine Laselle, a French trader who had resided at Miamitown for nineteen years, was a prisoner in the hands of the Weas.
The crime charged against him was that he had written a letter to the Americans at Vincennes apprising them of an Indian attack, and that as a consequence of that letter the attacking party had been captured. One of them was the son of a Wea who had burned an American prisoner at Ouiatenon the preceding summer, and the Weas now charged that this son would be burned by his American captors. Laselle was supposed to be in imminent peril, and all the French and English traders at Miamitown called on LeGris. LeGris said that he had always warned the traders about penetrating the lower Indian country, but that numbers of the French had gone to trade there without his knowledge. He had cautioned Laselle, but Laselle had gone without letting him know. If Laselle had told him of his intended trip, he would have sent along one of his chiefs with him, or given him a belt as a pa.s.sport. LeGris said that no time must be lost, and that he would at once send forward three of his faithful warriors to put a stop to the business. On the fifth day of January, one Tramblai arrived from Ouiatenon, and said that all the reports concerning Laselle were false and that he was having a good trade. On the thirteenth, Laselle himself arrived with Blue Jacket and a Frenchman. He bore a letter from the Indians and the French-Canadians at Tippecanoe to LeGris, certifying that "the bearer Antoine Laselle is a good loyalist and is always for supporting the King," That was a satisfactory certificate of character along the Wabash in 1790.
On the thirteenth of February, 1790, the Shawnees who live near Miamitown, arrive at that village with the prisoner McMullen. His face is painted black, as one who approaches death. In his hands he holds the "Shishequia" made of deer hoofs. He constantly rattles this device, and sings, "Oh Kentuck!" He thinks that the day of doom is at hand and that he will be burned at the stake. Some Indian chief, however, has lost a son. The paint will be washed off and the feathers fastened in his scalplock, and he will be adopted to take the place of the slain, but he does not know that now. The story of his capture is typical of the times. He was born in Virginia and came to Kentucky to collect a debt.
With two companions he crosses the Ohio at the mouth of the Kentucky to hunt wild turkeys. They separate in the woods, and the Shawnees surround him, and cut off all means of escape to the canoe. He tries to break through the encircling ring but is. .h.i.t on the head with a war billet, and now he is here. The Shawnee band who captured him were out for revenge. Last spring they had gone out to hunt. A party of Miamis who were on the warpath returned by another route. The Kentuckians who followed them, fell in with the Shawnees, and slew some of their women and children. Thus runs the tale of blood and reprisal of those savage days.
On the twelfth day of December, 1789, and shortly after his arrival at Miamitown, Hay relates that he saw the heart of a white prisoner, "dried like a piece of dried venison," and with a small stick "run from one end of it to the other." The heart "was fastened behind the fellows bundle that killed him, with also his scalp." On Sunday, the twenty-first day of March, 1790, and shortly before Hay's departure from Detroit, a party of b.l.o.o.d.y Shawnees arrived with four prisoners, one of them a negro.
Terrible havoc had been done on the Ohio. One boat had been attacked on which were one officer and twenty-one men. All had been killed, the boat sunk, and its contents hid in the woods. Nineteen persons had been taken near Limestone, now Maysville, Kentucky. All were prisoners, save two or three. John Witherington's family had been separated from him. He had a wife "7 months gone with child" and seven children. In addition to all the above outrages, information was gathered from time to time of all affairs along the Ohio. The garrisons were numbered, the officers named, and every motion of governor St. Clair closely scrutinized.
Thus in the very heart of the American country did British officers and agents control the Indian trade; heartlessly wink at or encourage the scalping parties of the savages, and keep a close and jealous watch on the numbers and movements of the American forces. The diary of the Englishman reveals the whole story.
The spring of 1790 was one of horror. Says Judge Burnet: "The pioneers who descended the Ohio, on their way westward, will remember while they live, the lofty rock standing a short distance above the mouth of the Scioto, on the Virginia sh.o.r.e, which was occupied for years by the savages, as a favorite watch-tower, from which boats, ascending or descending, could be discovered at a great distance. From that memorable spot, hundreds of human beings, men, women and children, while unconscious of immediate danger, have been seen in the distance and marked for destruction." On the fourth of April, William W. Dowell writing to the honorable John Brown of Kentucky, relates that about fifty Indians were encamped near the mouth of the Scioto. To decoy the pa.s.sing boats to the sh.o.r.e they made use of a white prisoner, who ran along the bank uttering cries of distress and begging to be taken on board. Three boats and a pirogue were captured, and several persons brutally murdered. A boat belonging to Colonel Edwards of Bourbon, Thomas Marshall and others, was hailed by the same white prisoner who pleaded to be taken on board and brought to Limestone. The stratagem failing to work the savages at once exposed themselves and began to fire on the boats, but without effect. They then pushed off from the sh.o.r.e with a boat load of about thirty warriors and gave chase, and as they were better supplied with oars than the white men, they would have soon overtaken them. The cool resolution and presence of mind of one Colonel George Thompson now saved the day. He threw out all the horses in the boat he commanded, received Colonel Edward's crew into his own, and after a frantic chase of fifteen miles, effected an escape. Seventeen horses were lost, fifteen hundred pounds worth of dry goods, and a considerable quant.i.ty of household goods.
The leading spirits in all these attacks at the mouth of the Scioto were the Shawnees. The attacks became so frequent, that it was now determined to organize a punitive expedition against them. Two hundred and thirty Kentucky volunteers under General Charles Scott crossed the river at Limestone and were joined by one hundred regulars under General Harmar.
They struck the Scioto several miles up from its mouth and marched down that stream, but the savages scattered in front of them and only four Indians were slain. Harmar reported to the government that he might as well have tried to pursue a pack of wolves.
The movements of the federal government in 1789 and 1790 were extremely slow. In the first place, a great many of the people of the eastern seaboard regarded the Kentuckians and all ultra-montane dwellers with positive distrust. This feeling crept into the counsels of the government itself. On June 15th, 1789, in a report of Henry Knox, secretary of war, to President Washington, on the Wabash Indians, the secretary says that since the conclusion of the war with Great Britain, "hostilities have almost constantly existed between the people of Kentucky and the said Indians. The injuries and murders have been so reciprocal, that it would be a point of critical investigation to know on which side they have been the greatest." It was probably just such sentiments as these that led to the orders of July, 1789, withdrawing the Virginia scouts and rangers who had helped to protect the frontiers, thus leaving the western people entirely dependent upon the limited garrisons stationed at the few and widely separated frontier posts. In the second place, the government neither had the men nor the money at command wherewith to undertake a successful expedition against the savages. The number of warriors on the Wabash and its communications were placed by Secretary Knox at from fifteen hundred to two thousand.
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