Page images

through the Indian nations that it would make a great [impression ] on them, as well as the inhabitants of Detroit, and have a better effect than if we were now to slip off, and take the place with so small a force -- that the British would not wish to weaken Niagara by sending any considerable reinforcements to Detroit — that it was more difficult for that post to get succor from Canada, than it was for us to receive it from the states that the garrison at Detroit would not be able to get a reinforcement in time to prevent our executing our designs, as we might with propriety expect ours in a few weeks :- In short, the enterprise was deferred until the — of June; when our troops were to rendezvous at Post Vincennes. In the meantime every preparation was to be made, procuring provisions, &c. - and, to blind our designs, the whole, except a small garrison should march immediately to the Illinois; and orders were sent to Kentucky to prepare themselves to meet at the appointed time. This was now our proposed plan, and directed our operations during the spring.

“ A company of volunteers from Detroit, mostly composed of young men, was drawn up; and when expecting to be sent off into a strange country, they were told that we were happy to learn that many of them were torn from their fathers and mothers and forced on this expedition: others, ignorant of the true cause in contest, had engaged from a principle that actuates a great number of men, that of being fond of enterprise; but that they now had a good opportunity to make themselves fully acquainted with the nature of the war, which they might explain to their friends, and that as we knew that sending them to the states, where they would be confined in a jail probably for the course of the war, would make a great number of our friends at Detroit unhappy, we had thought proper, for their sakes, to suffer them to return home, &c. A great deal more was said to them on this subject. On the whole they were discharged on taking an oath not to bear arms against America until exchanged. They received an order for their arms, boats, and provisions, to return with; the boats were to be sold and divided among them when they got home. In a


few days they set out; and as we had spies who went among them as traders, we learned that they made great havoc to the British interest, on their return to Detroit — publicly saying that they had taken an oath not to fight against Americans, but they had not sworn not to fight for them, &c.—and matters were carried to a such a height that the commanding officer thought it prudent not to take notice of any thing that was said or done. Mrs. McComb, who kept a noted boarding house, I understand, had the assurance to show him the stores she had provided for the Americans. This was the completion of our design in suffering the company to return. Many others that we could trust, we suffered to enlist in the cause; so that our charge of prisoners was much reduced.

“I had yet sent no message to the Indian tribes, wishing to wait to see what effect all this would have on them. The Piankeshaws, being of the tribe of the Tobacco's son, were always familiar with us. Part of the behavior of this grandee, as he viewed himself, was diverting enough. He had conceived such an inviolable attachment for Captain Helm, that on finding that the Captain was a prisoner, and not being as yet able to release him, he declared himself a prisoner also. He joined his brother, as he called Captain Helm, and continually kept with him, condoling their condition as prisoners in great distress - at the same time wanting nothing that was in the power of the garrison to furnish. Lieutenant Governor Hamilton knowing the influence of Tobacco's son, was extremely jealous of his behavior, and took every pains to gain him by presents, &c.

When any thing was presented to him, his reply would be that it would serve him and his brother to live on. He would not enter into council, saying that he was a prisoner and had nothing to say; but was in hopes that when the grass grew his brother, the Big Knife, would release him; and when he was free, he could talk, &c. In short, they could do nothing with him; and the moment he heard of our arrival, he paraded all the warriors he had in his village (joining Post Vincennes,) and was ready to fall in and attack the fort; but for reasons formerly mentioned, he was desired to desist.


“On the 15th of March, 1779, a party of upper Piankeshaws, and some Pottawattamie and Miami chiefs made their appearance, making great protestations of their attachment to the Americans; begged that they might be taken under the cover of our wings, and that the roads through the lands might be made straight, and all the stumbling blocks removed; and that their friends, the neighboring nations, might also be considered in the same point of view. I well knew from what principle all this sprung; and, as I had Detroit now in my eye, it was my business to make a straight and clear road for myself to walk, without thinking much of their interest, or any thing else but that of opening the road in earnest, by flattery, deception, or any other means that occurred. I told them that I was glad to see them, and was happy to learn that most of the nations on the Wabash and Omi (Maumee] rivers had proved themselves to be men, by adhering to the treaties they had made with the Big Knife last fall, except a few weak minds that had been deluded by the English to come to warthat I did not know exactly who they were, nor much cared; but understood they were a band chiefly composed of almost all the tribes-such people were to be found among all nations - but as these kind of people, who had the meanness to sell their country for a shirt, were not worthy of the attention of warriors, we would say no more about them, and think on subjects more becoming us. I told them that I should let the great Council of Americans know of their good behavior, ond knew that they would be counted as friends of the Big Knife, and would be always under their protection, and their country secured to them, as the Big Knife had land enough, and did not want any more:- but, if ever they broke their faith, the Big Knife would never again trust them, as they never hold friendship with a people that they find with two hearts:—that they were witnesses of the calamities the British had brought on their countries by their false assertions, and their presents, which was a proof of their weakness; that they saw that all their boasted valor was like to fall to the ground, and they would not come out of the fort, the other day, to try to save the Indians that they flattered to war, and suffered to be killed in their sight: and, as the nature of the war had been fully explained to them last fall, they might clearly see that the Great Spirit would not suffer it to be otherwise -- that it was not only the case on the Wabash, but every where else— that they might be assured that the nations that would continue obstinately to believe the English, would be driven out of the land, and their countries given to those who were more steady friends to the Americans. I told them that I expected, for the future, that if any of my people should be going to war through their country, that they would be protected, which should be always the case with their people when among us; and that mutual confidence should continue to exist, &c. &c. They replied, that from what they had seen and heard, they were convinced that the Master of Life had a hand in all things that their people would rejoice on their return — that they would take pains to diffuse what they had heard, through all the nations, and made no doubt of the good effect of it, &c. and after a long speech in the Indian style, calling all the Spirits to be witnesses, they concluded by renewing the chain of friendship, smoking the sacred pipe, exchanging belts, &c. and, I believe, went off really well pleased —(but not able to fathom the bottom of all they had heard, the greatest part of which was mere political lies)—for, the ensuing summer, Captain Shelby, with his own company only, lay for a considerable time in the Wea town, in the heart of their country, and was treated in the most friendly manner by all the natives that he saw; and was frequently invited by them to join and plunder what was called "the King's Pasture at Detroit." What they meant was to go and steal horses from that settlement.

Things being now pretty well arranged, Lieutenant Richard Brashear was appointed to the command of the garrison, which consisted of Lieutenants Bayley and Chapline, with forty picked men-Captain Leonard Helm, commandant of the town, superintendent of Indian Affairs, &c. — Moses Henry, Indian Agent, and Patrick Kennedy, Quartermaster. Giving necessary instruction to all persons that I left in office, on the

20th of March I set sail on board of our galley, which was now made perfectly complete, attended by five armed boats, and seventy men.

The waters being very high, we soon reached the Mississippi; and the winds favoring us, in a few days we arrived safely at Kaskaskia, to the great joy of our new friends, Captain George and company waiting to receive


“On our passage up the Mississippi we had observed several Indian camps, which appeared to us fresh, but had been left in great confusion. This we could not account for, but were now informed that a few days past a party of Delaware warriors came to town, and appeared to be very impudent- that in the evening, having been drinking, they said they had come there for scalps and would have them, and flashed a gun at the breast of an American woman present. A sergeant and party that moment passing by the house, saw the confusion and rushed in: the Indians immediately fled: the sergeant pursued and killed [ ] of them. A party was instantly sent to rout their camps on the river. This was executed the day before we came up, which was the sign we had seen.

“ Part of the Delaware nation had settled a town at the forks of the White River, and hunted in the countries on the Ohio and Mississippi. They had, on our first arrival, hatched up a kind of peace with us; but I always knew they were for open war; but never before could get a proper excuse for exterminating them from the country, which I knew they would be loth to leave, and that the other Indians wished them away, as they were great hunters and killed up their game. A few days after this, Captain Helm informed me, by express, that a party of traders who were going by land to the falls, were killed and plundered by the Delawares of White River--and that it appeared that their designs were altogether hostile, as they had received a belt from the great council of their nation. I was sorry for the loss of our men; otherwise pleased at what had happened ; as it would give me an opportunity of showing the other Indians the horrid fate of those who would dare to make war on the Big Knife - and to excel them in barbarity

« PreviousContinue »