Sunday, January 28, 2024

European Profit-Seekers covet the Lands of Americas' Natives

19C Print of U.S. Cavalry pursuing American Indians (artist unknown)

The American Indian Wars (also called American Frontier Wars, & the First Nations Wars) were fought by European governments seeking economic expansion into the Americas & by their colonists, & later by the newly formed United States & Canadian governments plus their settlers, against various American Indian & First Nation tribes. 

America's native people prior to the European invasion were a complex mixture of histories, alliances & conflicts. Humans are human, & some native tribes acted towards one another with the same brutality as the Europeans did towards them, & visa versa. Grudges & the lure of power were similar. It is believed that the colonists intentionally spread contagious diseases among the natives, usually through gifts of infected blankets or clothing. Measles & smallpox probably killed more natives than bullets & bayonets. The Native's "stone age" war technologies eventually succumbed to the deceptions & weapons of the Europeans. 

These particular conflicts occurred in North America from the time of the earliest European colonial settlements from the 17C until the early 20C. The various wars resulted from a wide variety of factors. These wars usually resulted in the sovereignty of combatants being either extended or lost; a massive native indigenous population decline; deportation & forced assimilation of indigenous tribes; many treaties, truces, & armistices made & then broken by combatants; & the establishment of "Indian reservations" in the United States & Canada.

The European political & economic powers & their colonies also enlisted allied Indian tribes to help them conduct warfare against each other's colonial settlements. 

After the American Revolution, many conflicts were local to specific states or regions & frequently involved disputes over land use; some entailed repeated cycles of violent reprisal.

As settlers spread westward across North America after 1780, armed conflicts increased in size, duration, & intensity between the European settlers & various Native & First Nation tribes. The climax came in the War of 1812, when major Indian coalitions in the Midwest & the South fought against the United States & lost. Conflict with settlers became less common & was usually resolved by treaty, often involving sale or exchange of territory between the federal government & specific tribes. 

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 authorized the American government to enforce Native American removal from east of the Mississippi River to Indian Territory west on the American frontier, such as the land that later became Oklahoma. The federal policy of removal was eventually refined in the West, as American settlers kept expanding their territories, to relocate native tribes to restricted land areas called reservations.


Barnes, Jeff. Forts of the Northern Plains: Guide to Historic Military Posts of the Plains Indian Wars. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 2008. 

Glassley, Ray Hoard. Indian Wars of the Pacific Northwest, Binfords & Mort, Portland, Oregon 1972 

Heard, J. Norman. Handbook of the American Frontier (Compilation of Indian-white contacts & conflicts) Scarecrow Press, 1987–98 

Volume 1: "The Southeastern Woodlands," 

Volume 2: "The Northeastern Woodlands," 

Volume 3: "The Great Plains," 

Volume 4: "The Far West,"

Volume 5: "Chronology, Bibliography, Index." 

Kessel, William and Robert Wooster. Encyclopedia of Native American Wars and Warfare (2005)

McDermott, John D. A Guide to the Indian Wars of the West. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998. 

Merrell, James H (1989). "Some Thoughts on Colonial Historians & American Indians" William and Mary Quarterly. 46 

Merrell, James H (2012). "Second Thoughts on Colonial Historians & American Indians" William and Mary Quarterly. 69 

Michno, Gregory F. Deadliest Indian War in the West: The Snake Conflict, 1864–1868, Caxton Press, 2007

Miller, Lester L, Jr. Indian Wars: A Bibliography US Army, 1988 online (lists over 200 books & articles)

Stannard, David. American Holocaust: Columbus and the Conquest of the New World, Oxford, 1992

Tucker, Spencer, ed. The Encyclopedia of North American Indian Wars, 1607–1890: A Political, Social, and Military History (3 vol 2012)

Wooster, Robert. The Military and United States Indian Policy, 1865–1903, Published 1995

Friday, January 26, 2024

Indigenous Women & the Fur Trade


This picture of Alexander & Natawista Culbertson, & their son Joe, was taken c. 1863. Natawista married the American Fur Company’s powerful manager at Fort Union, in 1840. Visitors to the fort, where the Culbertsons entertained in white-linen European elegance, described Natawista as a beautiful, adventuresome woman & a skilled rider. Natawista briefly accompanied Alexander, when he retired to Illinois, but returned to Canada to rejoin her Blood family. Montana Historical Society Photo Archives 

Brokers of the Frontier:  Indigenous Women & the Fur Trade

From Women’s History Matters (assisting the Montana Historical Society) December 2, 2014

For 2 centuries—from the mid-1600s to the 1860s—Indian & Métis women...brokered culture, language, trade goods, & power on the Canadian & American fur-trade frontier. They were partners, liaisons, & wives to the French, Scottish, Canadian, & American men who scoured the West for salable furs. Stereotyped by early historians as victims or heroines (and there were both), indigenous women also wielded significant, traceable power in this era of changing alliances, increasing intertribal conflict, & expanding European presence in the West.

The roles indigenous women played during the fur trade reflected the roles they historically held within their communities. Despite cultural distinctions among tribes, indigenous women generally shared the common responsibilities of procuring & trading food, hides, & clothing. Women also embodied political diplomacy as tribes forged internal & intertribal relationships around family alliances & cemented these social structures through (often polygamous) marriage. These traditional economic & political roles placed indigenous women at the center of trade, & made them desirable & necessary partners for fur traders.

A multicultural & economically diverse group working for international companies, the fur traders who came to Montana were all far from their families. Whether company managers, clerks, laborers, or trappers, the men sought companionship, intimacy, & entrée into local tribal communities, as well as assistance in making their economic endeavors a success. Marriage to indigenous women could provide all of these things.

In keeping with tribal customs, traders arranged liaisons with indigenous women by exchanging gifts with tribal families, who themselves recognized the potential benefits of establishing alliances. Depending on both partners’ preferences, relationships lasted a season, many months or years, or a lifetime.  Some indigenous wives returned to eastern settlements with their white husbands; some raised families together in the West.

Whatever the specifics of their individual relationships, the important socioeconomic positions indigenous women held in their own cultures manifested in their contributions to the fur trade. Indigenous wives gave fur traders invaluable ties to the land & tribes. Their knowledge of the region’s climate, wildlife, plants, languages, & topography shortened considerably the male outsiders’ learning curves. At the same time, the women brought inside information to their tribes about the reliability of traders & prices while relaying tribal news to their white partners.

Indigenous women also accomplished work fundamental to the survival of the fur traders & to their economic success. While incorporating European household goods into their daily lives (and thus making those goods more marketable), women in the fur trade continued to utilize indigenous methods to produce food & durable goods such as clothing, footwear, & blankets as well as baskets, parfleches, & other portable trade & traveling containers. Women also prepared hides, expertly cleaning & tanning them to command high prices.

Notwithstanding the power they derived from being experienced locals, many indigenous wives faced adversity & tragedy. They had to learn new languages, navigate European cultural norms, & often adapt to unfamiliar dwellings. Separation from their families & the reality of living amid an almost exclusively male population caused particular hardship; fur trade wives lost the support & companionship of other women with whom, in their native societies, they would have shared the duties of daily work & child rearing. Living at fur forts also placed them at increased risk of sexual exploitation. In addition, close proximity to Europeans exposed indigenous women to many infectious diseases. In 1837, when a steamboat brought smallpox up the Missouri, they were among the disease’s first victims—and its first carriers back to tribes...

The feelings & perceptions of women...who brokered the geographical & cultural frontiers of the North American continent’s fur trade, do not exist in written documents. Most of what we know of their lives comes from traders & territorial visitors, not the women themselves. Thus, we know from a visitor’s published account that Coth-co-co-na adorned her husband with her artistry, gifting him with a beautifully beaded tobacco sack. But we don’t know how she felt about her husband or her role as the indigenous wife of a Euro-American. Nevertheless, careful reading of existing documents can reveal glimpses of the complexities that she & other indigenous women faced as they melded their lives with men from a very foreign culture. 

The Métis are often called “children of the fur trade.”  


Boller, Henry A. Among the Indians: Eight Years in the Far West, 1858-1866.  Chicago: Lakeside Press, 1959 (1868).

Brown, Jennifer S. H.  Strangers in the Blood:  Fur Trade Company Families in Indian Country. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1980.

Graybill, Andrew. The Red & the White: A Family Saga of the American West. New York: W. W. Norton, 2013.

Lansing, Michael. “Plains Indian Women & Interracial Marriage in the Upper Missouri Trade, 1804-1868.” The Western Historical Quarterly 31, no. 4 (Winter, 2000), 413-33.

Meikle, Lyndel, ed. Very Close to Trouble: The Johnny Grant Memoir. Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1996.

Milner, Clyde II, & Carol O’Connor.  As Big as the West: The Pioneer Life of Granville Stuart. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Schemm, Mildred Walker. “The Major’s Lady: Natawista.” The Montana Magazine of History 2, no. 1 (January 1952), 4-15.

Van Kirk, Sylvia. Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur-Trade Society, 1670-1870. Winnipeg: Watson & Dwyer, 1980.

Waterman, Kees-Jan. Noel, Jan. “Not Confined to the Village Clearings: Indian Women in the Fur Trade in Colonial New York, 1695–1732.” New York History Vol 94 (2013): 40-58.

White, Bruce M. "The Woman Who Married a Beaver: Trade Patterns & Gender Roles in the Ojibwa Fur Trade." Ethnohistory Vol 46. (1999): 109-47.

Wischmann, Lesley.  Frontier Diplomats: Alexander Culbertson & Natoyist-Siksina among the Blackfeet. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

1757 The Washingtons' Douge Run Farm, originally Indian Lands, adjoining Mount Vernon

Washington Supervising the Farm Overseer

Dogue Run Farm

Dennis J. Pogue, PhD in Anthropology with an emphasis in historical archaeology, tells us that: in 1799, Mount Vernon consisted of 8,000 acres divided into 5 farms: Mansion House, Dogue Run, Muddy Hole, River, & Union, plus a gristmill & distillery. Dogue Run Farm was assembled over time through numerous purchases of smaller tracts. 

References in George Washington's diaries as early as 1762 to "Doeg Run Quarter," which was likely composed of at least the western portion of a 500-acre tract purchased from Sampson Darrell in 1757. This holding was enlarged by several smaller parcels acquired in the early 1760s.

Early references to "Doeg Run" describe it as a "Quarter," a term generally used in the region to designate a remote section of a large farm or plantation. During the colonial 18C, the phrase usually denoted a portion of the farm that functioned separately with an overseer & a basic complement of enslaved workers, buildings, & stock, & probably developed because of the fragmented pattern of larger landholdings common in the colonial Chesapeake.

This early quarter was significantly enlarged by the 3 purchases that became the central core of the resurveyed & renamed Dogue Run Farm. The key acquisitions were: 75 acres from Valinda Wade in 1770, 400 acres from Thomas Marshall in 1779, & 118 acres from William Barry in 1783. By 1786 Washington reconfigured these holdings & embarked on a plan to bring order to Dogue Run.

Washington, however, faced inherent obstacles: field systems based on disparate ownership, as well as buildings that were scattered across the newly imagined farm but constructed for outmoded needs. Among the buildings that can be identified on the new farm in the late 1780s were at least 2 dwelling complexes, "Wade's houses" located near "the old dam" on Dogue Run, & "Barry's houses," positioned in reasonably close proximity to Wade's. These dwelling houses were occupied by prior owners, & each complex included a typical array of domestic & agricultural buildings associated with a small tobacco farm.

There was also at least one tobacco house built by Washington at Doeg Run Quarter in the 1760s, as well as a hay barracks, a corn house, & huts for the enslaved people who worked the Washimgton's fields. With the new field system in place, a dwelling available for his overseer & housing for the enslaved workers, Washington turned his attention to improving the agricultural buildings at Dogue Run. In 1786 there were 39 enslaved men, women, & children living on the farm. The number of people grew to 45 in 1799.

These physical improvements were modest at first. The tobacco house was adopted for other crop storage needs & work crews spent available time in the fall of 1788, cutting & hauling rails for enclosing the new fields & preparing stack yards for wheat, oats, & rye. 

A simple fodder house was built as well as farm pens & a cellar to store potatoes. Construction work was still at full bore on the Ferry barn in the spring of 1789, when George Washington turned his attention to the need for more substantial improvements at Dogue Run, anticipating a new, solidly built barn on that farm.

The construction of the Ferry barn complex had another 2 years to run to reach completion. However, the bricks for the Ferry complex had been completed the previous fall, & the enslaved bricklayers' duties were nearly complete there as well. Washington seemed intent on shifting to his next project, one that had already been discussed in at least conceptual terms. But no further record of significant building activity can be linked to Dogue Run Farm until 1791. In June of that year, Washington prepared a memorandum of carpentry work to be done throughout the Mount Vernon plantation under the supervision of farm manager Anthony Whiting.

Other needs at Dogue Run took precedence, & by September the Washington's carpenters were at work on a new overseer's house for the farm. The old house of Valinda Wade was incompatible with the new field system & had become a distracting & inconvenient intrusion. It was replaced by a new frame house located in close proximity to the middle meadow. 

In the fall of 1792, Washington was prepared to make a major commitment to a new agricultural complex at Dogue Run. By October 28, Washington completed a framing plan & a structural section for a uniquely innovative barn designed specifically to tread wheat.

Washington had several types of wheat planted by enslaved workers in an attempt to find the perfect fit for his fields, including summer wheat, red-straw wheat, lamas wheat, double-headed wheat, yellow-bearded wheat, early wheat, & Russian wheat. He finally settled on a variety known simply as white wheat.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Geo Washington's Favorites - Native American Hoecakes & Honey


Hoecakes & Honey

George Washington grew most of the plants used for the meals at his Virginia Plantation, & he "enjoyed a bounteous table at his home at Mount Vernon. Various contemporary sources discuss the amount, quality, & variety of items served to Washington & his guests. In both his earlier days as a country gentleman & in his later role as an elder statesman, George & Martha Washington frequently hosted guests at their home.

"As such, the Washingtons had a ready supply of a variety of foods, some of which were imported & many of which were produced at Mount Vernon itself. While foods at Mount Vernon ranged from fish to mutton to hazelnuts, washed down with liberal helpings of whiskey, wine, & home-brewed beer, one of General Washington's favorite meals was also one of the simplest: hoecakes & honey.

"Hoecakes & honey is a distinctly American dish. The recipe originated with Native Americans & subsequently was utilized by enslaved people & European settlers alike. Recipes varied, but the basic idea of a flat cake made of cornmeal mush spread all throughout the country. Various incarnations of the recipe were consumed in New England, Virginia, the Deep South, & the Southwest.

"The American diplomat & poet Joel Barlow immortalized the hoecake in his 1793 poem "The Hasty Pudding," calling it "fair Virginia's pride," but also attested to other regional variants such as the New England johnnycake, which "receives a dash of pumpkin in the paste."1 Along with these names, it was also known variously as a journey cake, ash cake, cornpone, spider bread, mushcakes, Injun bread, & bannock.

"As its many names & its wide regional dispersal illustrates, the hoecake was a ubiquitous food in colonial America. It was a staple for many poor & middling Americans, & was especially associated with enslaved people's diet. Multiple guests of the Washingtons noted hoecakes & honey being a significant component of a Mount Vernon breakfast. George Washington preferred his hoecakes "swimming in butter & honey."2 One guest surmised that having the hoecakes softened with honey & butter made it easier for Washington to chew his breakfast.

"Over the years as hoecakes have faded in their historical memory as a food for the enslaved community or a prominent regional dish of Virginia, they have become more strongly associated with Washington. Although he also enjoyed other foods such as nuts, fish, & Madeira wine, the simple American hoecake has become entwined with his reputation as a simple American."

Mount Vernon Digital Encyclopedia By Katie Uva, Graduate Center, City University of New York


1. Joel Barlow, "The Hasty Pudding," Selections From the American Poets, ed. William Cullen Bryant (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1860). See FTP Address:;view=fulltext.

2. Nelly Custis, quoted in Dining With the Washingtons: Historic Recipes, Entertainment, & Hospitality From Mount Vernon (Chapel Hill: UNC Press Books, 2011), 38.


Dining With the Washingtons: Historic Recipes, Entertainment, & Hospitality from Mount Vernon. Chapel Hill: UNC Press Books, 2011.

The Oxford Companion to American Food & Drink, ed. Andrew F. Smith. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Selections from the American Poets, ed. William Cullen Bryant. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1860.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

The Oneida Indians join Gen. Washington in The American Revolution

John Reuben Chapin, Battle of Oriskany, State of New York. Ballou's Pictorial 12, no. 18, May 2, 1857, 280.

Mount Vernon tells us that the Oneida are one of the Six Nations Iroquois (Haudenosaunee), & the only one that openly declared its support for the American Revolution. In describing the group's support of the revolution, George Washington explained that, "The Oneidas have manifested the strongest Attachment to us throughout this Dispute."1 The Oneida provided American forces with troops & spies throughout the Revolution, beginning at the Battle of Oriskany in New York's Mohawk Valley August 1777.

Initially, the Oneida remained neutral, though they were sympathetic to the American cause, partly because of their friendship with the patriot missionary Samuel Kirkland described by Washington as having "an uncommon Ascendency over them."2 The sympathy Kirkland evoked turned into outright support when the British told the Oneida that General Barry St. Leger would march a combined force of British & American loyalist soldiers through the Oneida lands to attack Fort Schuyler, where he hoped to join forces with General John Burgoyne. The Oneida did not believe themselves to be subservient to either the British or their Mohawk allies, & so the Oneida saw St. Leger's action as an offence they were honor-bound to oppose.3

On August 2, 1777, the Oneida rode out to warn the local patriots at Fort Schuyler & in the New York militia of the impending British attack.4 Four days later, the Oneida fought alongside the militia to defend Fort Schuyler. Commanded by General Nicholas Herkimer, the New York troops went into battle & were ambushed by St. Leger & the Mohawk.5 Eventually, however, the Oneida & the New York militia turned back the British after the Mohawk fled, thus preventing St. Leger from meeting Burgoyne as planned. The achievement helped set the stage for a decisive patriot victory at Saratoga in October.

The Battle of Oriskany, named after the nearby river, was one of the bloodiest battles in the Revolution & the only battle where Native Americans fought each other on a large scale.6 Despite the British retreat, the victors sustained heavy losses. The New Yorkers lost almost their entire local militia & the nearby Oneida village was pillaged by the retreating Mohawk.7 Equally important, this battle determined the sides the different Iroquois nations would take in the war & signified the end of the centuries-old Iroquois alliance.

After the Battle of Oriskany, General Washington invited the Oneida to assist the Americans at Valley Forge. When they arrived, Oneida leaders dined with Washington, who gave each leader a wampum belt in gratitude for their help.8 In addition to troops, the Oneida brought much-needed food & supplies. Most notable is the example of Polly Cooper, who gave white corn to the starving troops & taught them how to prepare the grain to make it edible. Polly Cooper remained at Valley Forge that winter, serving as Washington’s cook.9 Despite the great services they performed, the Oneida refused payment for what they had done. To show her gratitude, Oneida oral tradition holds that Martha Washington presented Polly Cooper with a shawl & bonnet.10

General Washington also deployed the Oneida as scouts, soldiers, & spies. Oneida scouts patrolled the area around Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-78. In May 1778, during the Battle of Barren Hill, the Oneida scouts stayed behind so that General Lafayette & his troops could escape, after which they assisted other American officers.11 Oneida men also fought alongside American patriot forces in many battles. Ten Oneida soldiers attained officers' commissions in the Continental Army, & one rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel.12 Some Oneida acted as spies, intercepting British communications & gathering information on troop movements & strategies, including Deacon Thomas, who hid in the rafters of the council house in a Mohawk village until his assassination in 1779.13

After the war, Congress thanked the Oneida for their help & granted them war reparations. While the U.S. government punished Native American tribes that sided with the British, the Oneida were left in relative peace. Despite their professed friendship for the Oneida, however, state & federal governments prevented the group from buying back most of their ancestral lands.14 The situation worsened when the State of New York claimed land that, according to a treaty, belonged to the Oneida. Congress ruled that the land was to be returned to the Oneida & that New York should pay reparations. However, when New York then attempted to force the Oneida to pay taxes on their land, Congress issued a mixed verdict, exempting the Oneida from state taxes but also ruling that they did not have sovereignty in the lands that they bought.15 

Alejandra Smith, George Mason University


1. "From George Washington to the Commissioners of Indian Affairs, 13 March 1778," Founders Online, National Archives. Source: The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 14, 1 March 1778?–?30 April 1778, ed. David R. Hoth (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2004), 167–8.

2. Ibid.

3. James Kirby Martin, "Forgotten Heroes of the Revolution: Han Yerry & Tyona Doxtader of the Oneida Indian Nation," in Alfred F. Young, Gary Nash, & Ray Raphael, eds., Revolutionary Founders: Rebels, Radicals, & Reformers in the Making of the Nation (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011), 203; Joseph Glatthaar & James Martin, Forgotten Allies: Oneida Indians & the American Revolution (New York: Hill & Wang, 2006), 156.

4. Martin, "Forgotten Heroes," 205.

5. Paul A. Boehlert, The Battle of Oriskany & General Nicholas Herkimer: Revolution in the Mohawk Valley (Charleston, S.C.: The History Press, 2013), 80.

6. Martin, "Forgotten Heroes," 205; Karim Tiro, The People of the Standing Stone: The Oneida Nation from the revolution through the Era of Removal (Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 2011), 48.

7. Glatthaar & Martin, Forgotten Allies, 177; Boehlert, Battle of Oriskany, 101.

8. Glatthaar & Martin, Forgotten Allies, 285.

9. William Sawyer, "The Oneida Nation in the American Revolution," Fort Stanwix, National Park Service.

10. William Rockwell et. al., "The Polly Cooper Shawl," Oneida Indian Nation.

11. Martin, "Forgotten Heroes,", 208; David Norton, Rebellious Younger Brother: Oneida Leadership & Diplomacy, 1750-1800 (DeKalb, Ill,.: Northern Illinois University Press, 2009), 99.

12. Tiro, People of the Standing Stone, 51; Barbara Graymont, "ATIATOHARONGWEN," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003.

13. Tiro, 51.

14. Norton, 111.

15. Glatthaar & Martin, 320-3.


Boehlert, Paul A. The Battle of Oriskany & General Nicholas Herkimer: Revolution in the Mohawk Valley. Charleston, S.C.: The History Press, 2013.

Glatthaar, Joseph T. & James K. Martin. Forgotten Allies: Oneida Indians & the American Revolution. New York: Hill & Wang, 2006.

Martin, James Kirby, "Forgotten Heroes of the Revolution: Han Yerry & Tyona Doxtader of the Oneida Indian Nation. In Alfred F. Young, Gary Nash, & Ray Raphael, eds., Revolutionary Founders: Rebels, Radicals, & Reformers in the Making of the Nation. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. Pages 199-214.

Norton, David. Rebellious Younger Brother: Oneida Leadership & Diplomacy, 1750-1800. DeKalb, Il: Northern Illinois University Press, 2009.

Tiro, Karim. The People of the Standing Stone: The Oneida Nation from the Revolution through the Era of Removal. Amherst & Boston, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2011.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

The Creek Nation joins Gen. Washington in The Revolution

Creek War Treaty at Fort Jackson 1814, New York Public Library

Mount Vernon tells us that in the 18C, though, the Creek Nation was instead the Creek Confederacy, a multi-ethnic coalition of migrant peoples with a territorial expanse that encompassed much of the Deep South: from South Carolina to Alabama. The Confederacy evolved out of the Mississippian civilizations that collapsed in the southeast during the 16C & 17C as a consequence of European colonialism. 

Specifically, Muskogean-language groups such as the Abihka, Tallapoosa, & Apalachicola coalesced into a polyglot alliance of towns, who were later joined by groups of non-Muskogean speakers like the Yuchi, Hitchiti, Shawnee, Natchez, Chickasaw, Apalachee, & others. Over the course of a century, these multilingual communities continuously merged, precipitated by the founding of the “mother” towns – Coweta, Cusseta, Tukabatchee, & Abeka. By the turn of the 18C, they were all collectively identified by Europeans as the “Creek Indians.”

Such fluidity continued to define the Confederacy throughout the eighteenth-century. For example, the primary source of identity in the Creek world was one’s town (talwa). From the annual Busk festival, political councils, & ritual gatherings, to economic exchange, preparation for war, & recreation & sport, all manners of life unfolded in the town square. T

herefore, the Confederacy was less a “nation” as defined by Western standards, & more of a flexible union of towns. The British Superintendent of Indian Affairs, John Stuart, observed as much when he remarked in 1764, “The Towns…may be considered as so many Different Republicks which form one State, but each of these Towns has separate Views & Interests.”1 Yet the autonomous nature of the Confederacy existed side-by-side with “Upper” & “Lower” Creek affiliations, as communities along the Coosa & Tallapoosa Rivers (“Upper”) & towns on the Chattahoochee & Flint Rivers (“Lower”) occasionally acted cooperatively, as in times of war or in negotiations with Europeans.

In addition, Creek society pivoted around family & clan, agriculture, & a particular cosmology. Along with town & regional identities, the Creek privileged their family & clan connections. For instance, each individual belonged to a clan moiety & resided with their extended relatives in a town in clan clusters. 

Creek society was also matrilineal, as children inherited the clan of their mothers. Women controlled the means of production, commanded the power to incorporate outsiders, & wielded authority over the household. Similarly, women & men performed complementary yet distinct tasks: men hunted fur-bearing animals for food & trade & waged war, while women cultivated agriculture, the most important responsibility in Creek society. 

This gendered labor system was embodied in the Creek cosmology, in which the world was divided into three separate planes of existence: the Upper World, Under World, & This World. Since the Creek lived in This World – the in-between world – they were tasked with maintaining balance between the Upper & Under Worlds, & did so through ritual. For instance, during the Green Corn Ceremony (Posketv), the entire town ritually & physically cleansed their bodies, minds, homes, & communities. Thus, the Confederacy functioned within social & cosmological structures of balance.

When it came to politics, the Confederacy operated at a more local & individual level, as town headmen (micos) competed with one another for authority inside & outside of their towns. Since political authority in the Creek world did not revolve around coercive power as it did in Europe, micos engaged in consensus politics, having to persuade their peers to support them, with the assumption that they had the community’s best interests in mind. 

Creek headmen often achieved consensus by redistributing trade goods & presents to the community, sustaining a vibrant trade with Europeans, & mediating conflict with other Native peoples & Europeans. Yet there were instances when micos attempted to assert broader authority over their towns. For example, in 1718, Brims articulated a collective foreign policy – known as the “Coweta Resolution” – that committed all Creek towns & micos to end internal conflict in the Confederacy & to open trilateral negotiations with the French, English, & Spanish. 

The Resolution pitted Europeans against one another for the loyalty of the Confederacy, which translated into greater leverage & more favorable trade for the Creek.2 In doing so, the Creek extended their political & commercial reach as far west as the Arkansas & Ohio River Valleys, & north to the Great Lakes & Iroquoia.

While the Confederacy abided by the “Coweta Resolution” for most of the 18C, the American Revolution dramatically changed their situation. No longer able to play Europeans off of one another, the Confederacy at first clashed violently with the United States during the 1780s & 1790s, before embarking on a “Plan of Civilization” – as coined by U.S. officials like Benjamin Hawkins – during the Washington, Adams, & Jefferson administrations. 

In this case, “Civilization” was envisioned by a new generation of Creek leaders – many of whom were born of the unions between Creek women & Euro-American men – as a means to counter American colonialism by reinventing the Confederacy as a “nation” similar to the United States, thus putting the two states on equal footing. 

Consequently, the Creek Nation adopted a written constitution, established a National Council & other federal forms of government, implemented a legal system that privileged property ownership & patriarchy, & turned to plantation agriculture & African slavery. Such adaptations came at the cost of the clan & town identities, consensus politics, & matrilineality that once characterized the Confederacy. 

While such efforts ultimately failed to deter the United States from its violent removal of the Creek during the 1820s-1840s, the Muscogee Nation still thrives to this day, a testament to the fluidity & adaptability that has defined the Creek Indians for centuries.

Bryan Rindfleisch, Marquette University


[1] Clarence Edwin Carter, ed. “Observations of John Stuart & Governor James Grant of East Florida on the Proposed Plan of 1764 for the Future Management of Indian Affairs,” American Historical Review Vol. 20: No. 4 (July 1915): 828.

[2] Steven C. Hahn, The Invention of the Creek Nation, 1670-1763 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004).


Ethridge, Robbie. Creek Country: The Creek Indians & Their World. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.

Frank, Andrew K. Creeks & Southerners: Biculturalism on the Early American Frontier. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005.

Hahn, Steven C. The Invention of the Creek Nation, 1670-1763. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004.

Piker, Joshua. Okfuskee: A Creek Indian Town in Colonial America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004.

Saunt, Claudio. A New Order of Things: Property, Power, & the Transformation of the Creek Indians, 1733-1816. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Washington joins U.S. Army to Deal with the British & Displaced, Angry Native Americans


George Washington (1732-1799) By Charles Willson Peale Dated 1772

During the summer of 1787, 55 men assembled in the Pennsylvania State House (Philadelphia's Independence Hall) to hammer out a new form of government for the United States of America. On the morning of 15 June 1775, as he had for the past month, George Washington entered Independence Hall & took his seat with the rest of the Virginia delegation to the Continental Congress. He was an imposing presence. At 43, he stood six feet four inches, weighed over 225 pounds & was renowned for his military bearing. The quiet planter was respected as a judicious Patriot with a natural dignity & an intense sense of personal honor. He was also known for an iron will that kept a passionate nature firmly in control. 

Congress had already agreed to accept responsibility for the improvised army that had set siege to General Thomas Gages' British regulars in Boston in the aftermath of the fighting at Lexington & Concord. New Englanders had responded to that 1st revolutionary bloodshed by taking up arms, but, unaided, they could not hope to withstand the full might of the British. When Congress convened in mid-May, the New England delegates, supported by New Yorkers worried about an invasion from Canada down the Hudson River-Lake Champlain corridor, pleaded for united military action. Colonel Washington's military experience (he had commanded Virginia's troops in the French & Indian War) led his fellow delegates to listen to his views. Acting on his advice, Congress adopted all existing forces as "the American continental army."

On the 15th the delegates turned to selecting a general who could be trusted to lead these men. They needed an individual with military experience, but also one who shared their fundamental political values & therefore posed no threat to the Patriot cause. Washington, the highest-ranking native-born American veteran, appeared the ideal choice. He had served in Virginia's House of Burgesses & in both Continental Congresses, where he had impressed his peers as a man who could be trusted with authority. The fact that he came from Virginia would help convince London that Americans from all sections were united in resistance. His habit of wearing a uniform to the sessions indicated his interest in the assignment. His election as commander of "all the continental forces raised, or to be raised, for the defense of American liberty" was unanimous. 

The need to defend the relatively poor & sparsely settled colonies against both Native American tribes & European powers led to a new military arrangement in America. Defense had played a major role in colonial life. No colony could afford to maintain enough troops to meet all contingencies, so all relied on the concept of the citizen-soldier to defend the community. Within 2 years of its founding in 1607, for example, Jamestown had organized itself into a virtual regimental garrison complete with companies & squads. Plymouth, on the advice of Miles Standish, formed 4 companies of militia within a comparable period. The Massachusetts Bay Colony by 1629, had a militia company, equipped with the latest weapons, at Salem; by 1636, it had formed 3 permanent regiments throughout the colony.

The colonies expanded the trained-band concept to encompass all settlers. Only Pennsylvania remained an exception to the general pattern. Settled by Quakers, it did not pass a law establishing a mandatory militia until 1777. In the early fighting between settlers & Native Americans, citizen-soldiers actually fought in defense of their homes. Later, when more elaborate retaliatory offensive operations were launched against the tribes, the colonists tried to minimize the economic dislocation by using detachments temporarily organized for a specific occasion. Although the immediate military danger subsided as the frontier & the displaced Native Americans moved westward, the colonial standing militia remained as the means to train young men in the rudiments of war, as a law-enforcement agency, & as a source of recruits or draftees for short-lived military assignments on the frontier.

Eventually, hired military volunteers began to range the wilderness throughout colonial America, patrolling outposts & giving early warning of an attack by Native Americans. Other volunteers combined with friendly Native Americans for offensive operations deep in the wilderness, where European tactics were ineffective. This volunteer concept matured during the colonial wars. Regiments completely separated from the militia were raised for specific campaigns. These units, called Provincials, were patterned after regiments in the regular British Army & were recruited from the militia, often during normal drill assemblies. In 1754, Royal Governor Robert Dinwiddie of Virginia raised a Provincial regiment to secure the colony's claims to the Ohio Valley against French encroachment. Major George Washington led the vanguard of this regiment toward the forks of the Allegheny & Monongahela rivers (now Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) with instructions to force a French withdrawal. After some initial success, he eventually surrendered to superior numbers, thus setting off the French & Indian War, the last & greatest of the colonial wars between France & England.

See: Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution by Robert K. Wright, Jr. and Morris J. MacGregor, Jr.  Center of Military History, United States Army. Washington, D.C., 1987

Friday, January 12, 2024

The Natives Strike Back - Pontiac's Rebellion

Famed soldier of the French & Indian War & the American Revolution, Israel Putnam also served during Pontiac's Rebellion.  Major General Israel Putnam, 1864 lithograph by Dominique C Fabronius (1828-94)

Seems like we’ve been in wars in the past 20-40 years that don’t really end & raise more problems than they resolve. In that that sense, Pontiac’s War is a classic & hopefully instructive insurgency.

The military career of George Washington spanned over 45 years of service (1752–1799). Washington's service can be broken into 3 periods, French & Indian War, American Revolutionary War, & the Quasi-War with France, with service in 3 different armed forces - the British Colonial Provincial Militia, the Continental Army during the American Revolution, & the United States Army.

Mount Vernon tells us that for much of George Washington's life, the Ohio Valley was a driving force of politics & the politics of expansion. Pontiac’s Rebellion (1763-1765) was an armed conflict between the British Empire & Algonquian, Iroquoian, Muskogean, & Siouan-speaking Native Americans following the Seven Years’ War. 

Also known as “Pontiac’s War” or “Pontiac’s Uprising,” the violence represented an unprecedented pan-Indian resistance to European colonization in North America, in which Indigenous nations – Ottawa, Delaware, Potawatomie, Shawnee, Mingo (Seneca), Wyandot, Ojibwe, Huron, Choctaw, Piankashaw, Kickapoo, Tunica, Peoria, & Mascouten – challenged the attempts by the British Empire to impose its will & abrogate Native sovereignty. 

Although the war originated in the Great Lakes & Ohio River Valley, the violence spread as fast west to the Illinois Country & as far east to western Virginia. Even though the conflict ended in a stalemate after 2 years of intense fighting, the British Empire was forced to reconsider its policy toward Native Americans, ultimately recognizing Indigenous autonomy. 

However, the British American colonists resented the empire’s change of heart, given that such conciliatory measures ran counter to their anxieties & hostility toward Native Americans, which contributed to the growing disillusionment that culminated in revolution.

The origins of “Pontiac’s Rebellion” can be traced to the political fallout of the Seven Years’ War. Following the victory in 1763, the British empire sought to integrate former French & Spanish territories – Canada, Florida, & the Great Lakes – into its American dominion. 

At the same time, the English inherited an elaborate system of alliances with the Indigenous peoples of those regions, which prompted imperial administrators to deliberate on whether or not Native Americans were the subjects of empire or autonomous polities. 

In the end, the governor general in North America – Jeffrey Amherst – summed up British attitudes toward Native Americans, who were “the Vilest Race of Beings that Ever Infested the Earth,” & he was “fully convinced the only true method of treating those [Indians] is to keep them in a proper subjection.” 

Most egregiously, Amherst discontinued the political tradition of gift-giving, an unnecessary cost in his eyes. But in most Indigenous societies, gifting was culturally important & cemented the political relationships between two parties. 

Therefore, Amherst violated Native expectations &, in effect, severed potential alliance between the British Empire & Indigenous nations. Coupled with the post-war encroachments on Native territories by colonists, imperial restrictions on trade, & stationing English troops in the Great Lakes & Ohio River Valley, Native American groups such as the Ottawa & Iroquois complained “These steps appears to them as if the English have a mind to cut them off the face of the earth.”1

Simultaneous to these developments was the spread of a revitalization movement by the Delaware Prophet, Neolin. Burdened with a vision from the “Master of Life” (the “Great Spirit” to others), Neolin expressed that Native Americans had become too dependent on Europeans for their livelihoods, particularly when it came to the tools & weapons they used on a daily basis. 

In addition, alcohol corrupted Indigenous societies, missionaries threatened Native ways of life, & colonists trespassed on their lands. Neolin’s message also represented a fusion of Delaware & Christian traditions, driven by a millenarian faith that the world was on the brink of disaster unless they acted against the European threat. After which Neolin promised their old ways – & previous lives – would return & flourish. It did not take much to convince leaders like the Ottawa headman, Pontiac, “it is important for us, my brothers, that we exterminate from our lands this nation [British] which seeks to destroy us.”2

In May 1763, Native American in the Great Lakes & Ohio River Valley went on the offensive & overran Britain’s westernmost fortifications, from Fort Edward Augustus in present-day Wisconsin to Fort Presque Isle in western Pennsylvania. 

While historians dispute whether “Pontiac’s Rebellion” started as a coordinated or spontaneous assault, the war quickly spread throughout Native America. From the beginning, Indigenous strategy revolved around besieging the western forts, cutting off all communications & reinforcements, & subduing the surrounding settler communities. 

For the most part, the offensive was successful, & by the end of June 1763, only three forts remained – Niagara, Detroit, & Pitt. British responses proved sluggish, since Amherst believed Indigenous peoples incapable of concerted action. 

It was not until the following year that the empire launched expeditions to try & relieve the pressure on the surviving garrisons. Even then, British forces scored only minor victories, which were offset by continuous raids in western Pennsylvania, Maryland, & Virginia. 

The war came to an end in early 1765 when French aid failed to materialize for Native Americans, the prospect of the Iroquois Confederacy’s intervention on behalf of the empire, & – more significantly – promises by imperial administrators to conform to Native understandings of their alliances & recognize Indigenous sovereignty.

The results of “Pontiac’s Rebellion” were many. Most important, the conflict enabled Native Americans to endure as major players in the geopolitics of North America during the 18C by compelling the British to reevaluate its “Indian Affairs” & give in to Native demands for fear of a prolonged war. Similarly, it displayed pan-Indian resistance to colonization & provided examples for future pan-Indian movements like the “Northwest Confederacy” of the 1790s & Tecumseh & Tenskwatawa’s coalition in the early 19C. 

The violence also produced unforeseen consequences. Those who bore the brunt of the violence were Americans settlers; scholars estimate that over 500 civilians lost their lives. The mortality & resulting trauma & resentment incited indiscriminate settler attacks against Native populations during & after the conflict, including the infamous Paxton Boys massacre of the Conestoga (Susquehannock) Indians. 

Emerging in the Btitish American colonies was a culture of “Indian-hating” – or the “anti-Indian sublime”3 – in which Europeans of different religions, ethnicities, & political affiliations rallied together, despite their dissimilarities, against a Native “Other.” 

And when the British Empire across the Atlantic took measures to defend Native sovereignty, like enforcing the Proclamation Line of 1763, the colonists vented their frustrations upon the mother empire, all of which contributed to the revolutionary storm brewing in the American colonies between 1763 & 1775.

Bryan Rindfleisch, Marquette Universtiy


1. Silverman, David J. Thundersticks: The Violent Transformation of Native America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016) 130, 122, 128.

2. Calloway, Colin G. The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 & the Transformation of North America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006) 70.

3. Silver, Peter. Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008)


Anderson, Fred. Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War & the Fate of Empire in North America, 1754-1766 (New York: Vintage Books, 2001)

Calloway, Colin G. The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 & the Transformation of North America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)

Dowd, Gregory Evans. War Under Heaven: Pontiac, the Indian Nations, & the British Empire (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2002)

Silver, Peter. Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008)

Silverman, David J. Thundersticks: The Violent Transformation of Native America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016)

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

1754 Young Washington Encounters the French Commander & the Native Americans

A portrayal of a young George Washington by Rembrandt Peale 1778-1860. The son of portraitist Charles Willson Peale, the young man spent hours of copying portraits in his father's museum. His first encounter with George Washington took place on July of 1787.
British Colonial George Washington in the French & Indian War

George Washington's military experience began in the French & Indian War with a commission as a major in the militia of the British Province of Virginia. In 1753 Washington was sent as an ambassador from the British crown to the French officials & Indians as far north as present-day Erie, Pennsylvania.

The following year he led another expedition to the area to assist in the construction of a fort at present-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Before reaching that point, he & some of his men, along with Mingo allies led by Tanacharison, ambushed a French scouting party. 

This peacetime act of aggression is seen as one of the 1st military steps leading to the global Seven Years' War. The French responded by attacking fortifications Washington erected following the ambush, forcing his surrender. Released on parole, Washington & his troops returned to Virginia.

In 1755, he participated as a volunteer aide in the ill-fated expedition of General Edward Braddock, where he distinguished himself in the retreat following the climactic Battle of Monongahela. He served from 1755 until 1758 as colonel & commander of the Virginia Regiment, directing the provincial defenses against French & Indian raids & building the regiment into one of the best-trained provincial militias of the time. 

He led the regiment as part of the 1758 expedition of General John Forbes that successfully drove the French from Fort Duquesne, during which he & some of his companies were involved in a friendly fire incident. When Washington did not get a commission commission in the British Army, he resigned from the provincial militia, married, & took up the life of a Virginia plantation owner.

Journey to the French Commandant: Narrative

On Wednesday the 31st. of October 1753 I was Commission’d & appointed by the Honble. Robert Dinwiddie Esqr. Governor &ca. of Virginia

To visit & deliver a Letter to the Commandant of the French Forces on the Ohio, & set out on the intended Journey the same Day. The next I arriv’d at Fredericksburg, & engag’d Mr. Jacob Vanbraam, Interpreter, & proceeded with him to Alexandria where we provided Necessaries. From thence we went to Winchester & got Baggage Horses &ca. & from there we pursued the new Road to Wills Creek, where we arriv’d the 14th: of November.

Here I engag’d Mr. Gist to Pilot us out, & also hired four others as Servitors (vizt.) Barnaby Currin, & John McGuier (Indian Traders) Henry Steward, & William Jenkins; & in Company with those Persons I left the Inhabitants the Day following. The excessive Rains & vast Quantity of Snow that had fallen prevented our reaching Mr. Frazer’s, an Indian Trader at the Mouth of Turtle Creek, on Monongehela, ’til Thursday.

22d: We were inform’d here, that Expresses were sent a few Day’s ago to the Traders down the River to acquaint them with the General’s Death, & return of Major Part of the French Army into Winter Quarters. The Waters were quite impassable, without Swimming our Horses, which oblig’d us to get the loan of a Canoe from Mr. Frazer, & to send Barnaby Currin & Henry Steward down Monongehela, with our Baggage to meet us at the Forks of Ohio, about 10 Miles to cross Allegany.

As I got down before the Canoe, I spent some Time in viewing the Rivers, & the Land in the Fork, which I think extreamly well situated for a Fort; as it has the absolute Command of both Rivers. The Land at the Point is 20 or 25 Feet above the common Surface of the Water; & a considerable Bottom of flat well timber’d Land all around it, very convenient for Building. The Rivers are each a quarter of a Mile, or more, across, & run here very nigh at Right Angles; Allegany bearing N: E: & Monongehela S: E: The former of these two is a very rapid swift running Water the other deep & still, with scarce any perceptable Fall. About two Miles from this, on the S: E: Side of the River, at the Place where the Ohio Company intended to erect a Fort; lives Singess, King of the Delawars; We call’d upon him to invite him to Council at the Logstown.

As I had taken a good deal of Notice Yesterday of the Situation at the Forks; my Curiosity led me to examine this more particularly; & my Judgement [is] to think it greatly inferior, either for Defence or Advantages, especially the latter; For a Fort at the Forks wou’d be equally well situated on Ohio, & have the entire Command of Monongehela, which runs up to our Settlements & is extreamly well design’d for Water Carriage, as it is of a deep still Nature; besides a Fort at the Fork might be built at a much less Expence, than at the other Place. Nature has well contriv’d the lower Place for Water Defence, but the Hill whereon it must stand, being a quarter of a Mile in Length, & then descending gradually on the Land Side, will render it difficult & very expensive making a sufficient Fortification there. The whole Flat upon the Hill must be taken in, or the Side next the Descent made extreamly high; or else the Hill cut away: otherwise the Enemy will raise Batteries within that Distance, without being expos’d to a single Shot from the Fort.

Singess attended us to Logstown, where we arriv’d between Sunsetting & Dark, the 25th: Day after I left Williamsburg. We travel’d over some extream good & bad Land to get to this Place. As soon as I came into Town, I went to Monacatoocha (as the Half King was out at his hunting Cabbin on little Bever Creek, about 15 Miles off) & inform’d him, by John Davison Interpreter that I was sent a Messenger to the French General, & was ordered to call upon the Sachems of the Six Nations, to acquaint them with it. I gave him a String of Wampum, & a twist of Tobacco, & desir’d him to send for the Half King; which he promis’d to do by a Runner in the Morning, & for other Sachems. I invited him & the other Great Men present to my Tent, where they stay’d an Hour & return’d.

According to the best Observations I cou’d make, Mr. Gist’s new Settlement (which we pass’d by) bears about W: N: W: 70 Miles from Wills Creek, Shanapins, or the Forks N: B[y]: W: or N: N: W: about 50 Miles from that; & from thence to the Logstown, the Course is nearly West, about 18 or 20 Miles; so that the whole Distance, as we went & computed it, is at least 135 or 40 Miles from our back Settlements.

25th: Came to Town four of ten French Men that Deserted from a Company at the Cuscusas, which lies at the Mouth of this River; I got the following Account from them. They were sent from New Orlians with 100 Men, & 8 Canoe load of Provisions, to this Place; where they expected to have met the same Number of Men, from the Forts this Side Lake Erie to convoy them, & the Horses up, but were not arriv’d when they ran off. I enquir’d into the Situation of the French on the Mississippi, their Number, & what Forts they had Built: They inform’d me that there were four small Forts between New Orlians, & the Black Islands, Garrison’d with about 30 or 40 Men, & a few small Pieces of Cannon in each. That at New Orlians, which is near the Mouth of the Mississippi, there is 35 Companies of 40 Men each, with a pretty strong Fort, mounting 8 large Carriage Guns; & at the Black Islands there is several Companies, & a Fort with 6 Guns. The Black Islands is about 130 Leagues above the Mouth of the Ohio, which is 150 above New Orlians: They also acquainted me, that there was a small Palisadoed Fort on the Ohio, at the Mouth of the Obaish, about 60 Leagues from the Mississippi: the Obaish heads near the West End of Lake Erie, & affords the Communication between the French on Mississippi, & those on the Lakes. These Deserters came up from the lower Shawnesse Town, with one Brown an Indian Trader, & were going to Philadelphia.

About 3 o’Clock this Evening the Half King came to Town; I went up & invited him & Davison privately to my Tent, & desir’d him to relate some of the Particulars of his Journey to the FrenchCommandant, & reception there, & to give me an Account of the Way & Distance. He told me that the nearest & levelest Way was now impassable, by reason of the many large miry Savannas; that we must be oblig’d to go by Venango, & shou’d not get to the near Fort under 5 or 6 Nights Sleep, good Traveling. When he went to the Fort he said he was receiv’d in a very stern Manner by the late Commander, who ask’d him very abruptly, what he had come about, & to declare his Business; which he says he did in the following Speech.

Fathers I am come to tell you your own Speeches, what your own Mouths have declar’d.fathers You in former Days set a Silver Bason before us wherein there was the Leg of a Beaver, and desir’d of all Nations to come & eat of it; to eat in Peace & Plenty, & not to be Churlish to one another; & that if any such Person shou’d be found to be a Disturber; I here lay down by the Edge of the Dish a rod, which you must Scourge them with; & if Me your Father shou’d get Foolish in my old Days, I desire you may use it upon me as well as others.

Now Fathers it is you that is the Disturber in this Land, by coming & building your Towns, and taking it away unknown to us & by Force. fathers We kindled a Fire a long Time ago at a Place call’d Morail, where we desir’d you to stay, & not to come & intrude upon our Land. I now desire you may dispatch to that Place; for be it known to you Fathers, this is our Land, & not yours. fathers I desire you may hear me in Civilness; if not, We must handle that rod which was laid down for the Use of the obstropulous. If you had come in a peaceable Manner like our Brothers the English, We shou’d not have been against your trading with us as they do, but to come Fathers, & build great Houses upon our Land, & to take it by Force, is what we cannot submit to.

Fathers Both you & the English are White. We live in a Country between, therefore the Land does not belong either to one or the other; but the great being above allow’d it to be a Place of residence for us; so Fathers, I desire you to withdraw, as I have done our Brothers the English, for I will keep you at Arm’s length. I lay this down as a Tryal for both, to see which will have the greatest regard to it, & that Side we will stand by, & make equal Sharers with us: Our Brothers the English have heard this, & I come now to tell it to you, for I am not affraid to discharge you off this Land. This, he said, was the Substance of what he said to the General, who made this Reply.

Now My Child I have heard your Speech. You spoke first, but it is my Time to speak now. Where is my Wampum that you took away, with the Marks of Towns in it? This Wampum I do not know, which you have discharg’d me off the Land with; but you need not put yourself to the Trouble of Speaking for I will not hear you: I am not affraid of Flies or Musquito’s; for Indians are such as those; I tell you down that River I will go, & will build upon it according to my Command: If the River was ever so block’d up, I have Forces sufficient to burst it open, & tread under my Feet all that stand in Opposition together with their Alliances; for my Force is as the Sand upon the Sea Shoar: therefore here is your Wampum, I fling it at you. Child, you talk foolish; you say this Land belongs to you, but there is not the Black of my Nail yours, I saw that Land sooner than you did, before the Shawnesse & you were at War: Lead was the Man that went down, & took Possession of that River; it is my Land, & I will have it let who will stand up for, or say against it. I’ll buy & sell with the English (mockingly). If People will be rul’d by me they may expect Kindness but not else.

The Half King told me, he enquir’d of the General after two English Men that were made Prisoners, & receiv’d this Answer.

child You think it is a very great Hardship that I made Prisoners of those two People at Venango, don’t you concern yourself with it we took & carried them to Canada to get Intelligence of what the English were doing in Virginia.

He inform’d me that they had built two Forts, one on Lake Erie, & another on French Creek, near a small Lake about 15 Miles asunder, & a large Waggon Road between; they are both built after the same Model, but different in the Size; that on the Lake the largest; he gave me a Plan of them of his own drawing. The Indians enquir’d very particularly after their Brothers in Carolina Goal. They also ask’d what sort of a Boy it was that was taken from the South Branch; for they had, by some Indians heard, that a Party of French Indians had carried a White Boy by the Cuscusa Town, towards the Lakes.

26th: We met in council at the Long House, about 9 o’Clock, where I spoke to them as follows,

Brothers I have call’d you together in Council, by Order of your Brother the Governor of Virginia, to acquaint you that I am sent with all possible Dispatch to visit & deliver a Letter to the French Commandant of very great Importance to your Brothers the English: & I dare say to your their Friends & Allies. I was desir’d Brothers, by your Brother the Governor, to call upon you, the Sachems of the Six Nations, to inform you of it, & to ask your Advice & Assistance to proceed the nearest & best Road to the French. You see Brothers I have got thus far on my Journey. His Honour likewise desir’d me to apply to you for some of your young Men to conduct and provide Provisions for us on our Way: & to be a Safeguard against those French Indians, that have taken up the Hatchet against us. I have spoke this particularly to you Brothers, because His Hon. our Governor, treats you as good Friends & allies, & holds you in great Esteem. To confirm what I have said I give you this String of Wampum.

After they had considered some Time on the above, the Half King got up & spoke.

Now My Brothers. In Regard to what my Brother the Governor has desir’d of me, I return you this Answer. I rely upon you as a Brother ought to do, as you say we are Brothers, & one People. We shall put Heart in Hand, & speak to our Fathers the French, concerning the Speech they made to me, & you may depend that we will endeavour to be your Guard.
Brother, as you have ask’d my Advice, I hope you will be ruled by it, & stay ’til I can provide a Company to go with you. The French Speech Belt is not here, I have it to go for to my hunting Cabbin likewise the People I have order’d are not yet come, nor can ’til the third Night from this, ’till which Time Brother I must beg you to stay. I intend to send a Guard of Mingoes, Shawnesse, & Delawar’s, that our Brothers may see the Love and Loyalty We bear them.

As I had Orders to make all possible Dispatch, & waiting here very contrary to my Inclinations; I thank’d him in the most suitable Manner I cou’d, & told that my Business requir’d the greatest Expedition, & wou’d not admit of that Delay: He was not well pleas’d that I shou’d offer to go before the Time he had appointed, & told me that he cou’d not consent to our going without a Guard, for fear some Accident shou’d befall us, & draw a reflection upon him—besides says he, this is a Matter of no small Moment, & must not be enter’d into without due Consideration, for I now intend to deliver up the French Speech Belt, & make the Shawnesse & Delawars do the same, & accordingly gave Orders to King Singess, who was present, to attend on Wednesday Night with the Wampum, & two Men to their Nation to be in readiness to set off with us next Morning. As I found it impossible to get off without affronting them in the most egregious Manner, I consented to stay.

I gave them back a String of Wampum that I met with at Mr. Frazer’s, which they had sent with a Speech to his Honour the Governor, to inform him, that three Nations of French Indians, (vizt.) Chippaway’s, Ottaway’s, & Arundacks, had taken up the Hatchet against the English, & desired them to repeat it over again; which they postpon’d doing ’til they met in full Council with the Shawnesse, & Delawar Chiefs.

27th: Runners were dispatch’d very early for the Shawness Chiefs, the Half King set out himself to fetch the French Speech Belt from his hunting Cabbin.

28th: He return’d this Evening, & came with Monacatoocha & two other Sachems to my Tent, & beg’d (as they had comply’d with his Honour the Governor’s Request in providing Men, &ca.) to know what Business we were going to the French about? This was a Question I all along expected, & had provided as satisfactory Answers as I cou’d, which allay’d their Curiosity a little. Monacatoocha Informed me, that an Indian from Venango brought News a few Days ago; that the French had call’d all the Mingo’s, Delawar’s &ca. together at that Place, & told them that they intended to have been down the River this Fall, but the Waters were geting Cold, & the Winter advancing, which obliged them to go into Quarters; but they might assuredly expect them in the Spring, with a far greater Number; & desired that they might be quite Passive, & not intermeddle, unless they had a mind to draw all their Force upon them; for that they expected to fight the English three Years, (as they suppos’d there would be some Attempts made to stop them) in which Time they shou’d Conquer, but if they shou’d prove equally strong, that they & the English wou’d join to cut them off, & divide the Land between them: that though they had lost their General, & some few of their Soldiers, yet there was Men enough to reinforce, & make them Masters of the Ohio. This Speech, he said, was deliver’d to them by an Captn. Joncaire, their Interpreter in Chief, living at Venango, & a Man of Note in the Army.

29th: The Half King and Monacatoocha came very early & beg’d me to stay one Day more, for notwithstanding they had used all the Diligence in their Power, the Shawnesse Chiefs had not brought the Wampum they order’d, but wou’d certainly be in to Night, if not they wou’d delay me no longer, but send it after us as soon as they arriv’d: When I found them so pressing in their request; & knew that returning of Wampum, was the abolishing of Agreements; & giving this up was shaking of all Dependence upon the French, I consented to stay, as I believ’d an Offence offer’d at this Crisis, might have been attended with greater ill Consequence than another Day’s Delay.

They also inform’d me that Singess cou’d not get in his Men, & was prevented from coming himself by His Wife’s Sickness, (I believe by fear of the French) but that the Wampum of that Nation was lodg’d with Custaloga, one of their Chiefs at Venango. In the Evening they came again, & acquainted me that the Shawnesse were not yet come, but it shou’d not retard the Prosecution of our Journey. He deliver’d in my Hearing the Speeches that were to be made to the French by Jeskakake, one of their old Chiefs, which was giving up the Belt the late Commandant had ask’d for, & repeating near the same Speech he himself had done before. He also deliver’d a String of Wampum to this Chief, which was sent by King Singess to be given to Custaloga, with Orders to repair to, & deliver up the French Wampum. He likewise gave a very large String of black & white Wampum, which was to be sent immediately up to the Six Nations, if the French refus’d to quit the Land at this Warning, which was the third & last Time, & was the right of this Jeskakake to deliver.

30th: Last Night the great Men assembled to their Council House to consult further about this Journey, & who were to go; the result of which was, that only three of their Chiefs, with one of their best Hunters shou’d be our Convoy: the reason they gave for not sending more, after what had been propos’d in Council the 26th. was, that a greater Number might give the French Suspicion of some bad Design, & cause them to be treated rudely; but I rather think they cou’d not get their Hunters in.

We set out about 9 o’Clock, with the Half King, Jeskakake, White Thunder, & the Hunter; & travel’d on the road to Venango, where we arriv’d the 4th: of December, without any Thing remarkably happening, but a continued Series of bad Weather. This is an old Indian Town, situated on the Mouth of French Creek on Ohio, & lies near No. about 60 Miles from the Logstown, but more than 70 the Way we were oblig’d to come. We found the French Colours hoisted at a House where they drove Mr. John Frazer an English Subject from: I immediately repair’d to it, to know where the Commander resided: There was three Officers, one of which, Capt. Joncaire, inform’d me, that he had the Command of the Ohio, but that there was a General Officer at the next Fort, which he advis’d me to for an Answer.

He invited us to Sup with them, & treated with the greatest Complaisance. The Wine, as they dos’d themselves pretty plentifully with it, soon banish’d the restraint which at first appear’d in their Conversation, & gave license to their Tongues to reveal their Sentiments more freely. They told me it was their absolute Design to take Possession of the Ohio, & by G—— they wou’d do it, for tho’ they were sensible, that the English cou’d raise two Men for their one; yet they knew their Motions were too slow & dilatory to prevent any Undertaking of theirs. They pretended to have an undoubted right to the river from a Discovery made by one La Sol 60 Years ago, & the use of this Expedition is to prevent our Settling on the River or Waters of it, as they have heard of some Families moving out in order thereto.

From the best Intelligence I cou’d get, there has been 1,500 Men this Side Oswago Lake, but upon the Death of the General, all were recall’d to about 6 or 7 Hundred, which were left to Garrison four Forts, 150 or thereabouts in each, the first of which is on French Creek, near a small Lake, about 60 Miles from Venango near N: N: W: the next lies on Lake Erie, where the greatest Part of their Stores are kept about 15 Miles from the other; from that it is 120 Miles from the Carrying Place, at the Fall of Lake Erie, where there is a small Fort, which they lodge their Goods at, in bringing them from Morail, the Place that all their Stores come from; the next Fort lies about 20 Miles from this, on Oswago Lake; between this Fort & Morail there are three others; the first of which is near the English Fort Oswago. From the Fort on Lake Erie to Morail is about 600 Miles, which they say if good Weather, requires no more than 4 Weeks Voyage, if they go in Barks or large Vessells that they can cross the Lake; but if they come in Canoes, it will require five or six Weeks for they are oblig’d to keep under the Shoar.

5th: Rain’d successively all Day, which prevented our traveling. Capt. Joncaire sent for the half King, as he had but just heard that he came with me: He affected to be much Concern’d that I did not make free to bring him in before; I excused it in the best Manner I was capable, & told him I did not think their Company agreeable, as I had heard him say a good deal in dispraise of Indians in General. But another Motive prevented my bringing them into his Company: I knew that he was Interpreter, & a Person of very great Influence among the Indians, & had lately used all possible means to draw them over to their Interest; therefore I was desirous of giving no more Opportunity than cou’d be avoided. When they came in there was great Pleasure express’d at seeing them, he wonder’d how they cou’d be so near without coming to visit him, made several trifling Presents, & applied Liquors so fast, that they were soon render’d incapable of the Business they came about notwithstanding the Caution that was given.

6th: The Half King came to my Tent quite Sober, & insisted very much that I shou’d stay & hear what he had to say to the French. I fain wou’d have prevented his speaking any Thing ’til he came to the Commandant, but cou’d not prevail. He told me that at this Place Council Fire was kindled, where all their Business with these People were to be transacted, & that the Management of the Indian Affairs was left solely to Monsieur Joncaire. As I was desirous of knowing the Issue of this, I agreed to stay, but sent our Horses a little Way up French Creek, to raft over & Camp, which I knew wou’d make it near Night.

About 10 oClock they met in Council, the King spoke much the same as he had done to the General, & offer’d the French Speech Belt which had before been demanded, with the Marks of four Towns in it, which Monsieur Joncaire refused to receive; but desired him to carry it to the Fort to the Commander.

7th: Monsieur La Force, Commissary of the French Stores, & three other Soldiers came over to accompany us up. We found it extreamly difficult getting the Indians off to Day; as every Stratagem had been used to prevent their going up with me. I had last Night left John Davison (the Indian Interpreter that I brought from Logstown with me) strictly charg’d not to be out of their Company, as I cou’d not get them over to my Tent (they having some Business with Custaloga, to know the reason why he did not deliver up the French Belt, which he had in keeping,) but was oblig’d to send Mr. Gist over to Day to fetch them, which he did with great Perswasion.

At 11 o’Clock we set out for the Fort, & was prevented from arriving there ’till the 11th: by excessive rains, Snows, & bad traveling, through many Mires & Swamps, which we were oblig’d to pass to avoid crossing the Creek, which was impassible either by Fording or Rafting, the Water was so high & rapid. We pass’d over much good Land since we left Venango, & through several extensive & very rich Meadows, one of which was near 4 Miles in length, & considerably wide in some Places.

12th: I prepar’d early to wait upon the Commander, & was receiv’d & conducted to him by the 2d. Officer in Command; I acquainted him with my Business, & offer’d my Commission & Letter, both of which he desir’d me to keep ’til the Arrival of Monsieur Riparti, Capt. at the next Fort, who was sent for & expected every Hour.

This Commander is a Knight of the Military Order of St: Lewis, & named Legadieur St. Piere, he is an elderly Gentleman, & has much the Air of a Soldier; he was sent over to take the Command immediately upon the Death of the late General, & arriv’d here about 7 Days before me. At 2 o’Clock the Gentleman that was sent for arriv’d, when I offer’d the Letters &ca. again, which they receiv’d, & adjourn’d into a private Appartment for the Captain to translate, who understood a little English, after he had done it, the Captain desir’d I wou’d walk in & bring my Interpreter to peruse & correct it, which I did.

13th: The chief Officer retired to hold a Council of War, which gave me an Opportunity of taking the Dimensions of the Fort, & making what Observations I cou’d. It is situated on the South or West Fork of French Creek, near the Water, & is almost surrounded by the Creek, & a small Branch of it which forms a Kind of an Island, as may be seen by a Plan I have here annexed, it is built exactly in that Manner & of that Dimensions. 4 Houses compose the Sides; the Bastions are made of Piles drove into the Ground, & about 12 Feet above sharpe at Top, with Port Holes cut for Cannon & Small Arms to fire through; there are Eight 6 lb. Pieces Mounted, two in each Bastion, & one of 4 lb. before the Gate: In the Bastions are a Guard House, Chapel, Doctor’s Lodgings, & the Commander’s private Store, round which is laid Platforms for the Cannon & Men to stand on: there is several Barracks without the Fort for the Soldiers dwelling, cover’d some with Bark, & some with Boards, & made chiefly of Logs, there is also several other Houses such as Stables, Smiths Shop &ca: all of which I have laid down exactly as they stand, & shall refer to the Plan for Explanation.

I cou’d get no certain Account of the Number of Men here; but according to the best Judgement I cou’d form, there is an Hundred exclusive of Officers, which are pretty many. I also gave Orders to the People that were with me, to take an exact Account of the Canoes that were haled up, to convey their Forces down in the Spring, which they did, and told 50 of Birch Bark, & 170 of Pine; besides many others that were block’d out, in Readiness to make.

14th: As the Snow increased very fast, & our Horses daily got weaker, I sent them off unloaded, under the Care of Barnaby Currin & two others, to make all convenient Dispatch to Venango, & there wait our Arrival, if there was a Prospect of the Rivers Freezing, if not, then to continue down to Shanapin’s Town at the Forks of Ohio, & there wait ’till we came to cross Allegany; intending my Self to go down by Water, as I had the Offer of a Canoe or two.

As I found many Plots concerted to retard the Indians Business, & prevent their returning with me, I endeavour’d all in my Power to frustrate their Schemes, & hurry them on to execute their intended Design. They accordingly pressed for admittance this Evening, which at length was granted them privately with the Commander, & one or two other Officers. The Half King told me that he offer’d the Wampum to the Commander, who evaded taking it, & made many fair Promises of Love & Friendship; said he wanted to live in Peace & trade amicably with them; as a Proof of which, he wou’d send some Goods immediately down to the Logstown for them, but I rather think the Design of that is to bring away all of our stragling traders that they may meet with; as I privately understood they intended to carry an Officer, &ca. with them; & what rather confirms this Opinion, I was enquiring of the Commander by what Authority he had taken & made Prisoners of several of our English Subjects. He told me the Country belong’d to them, that no English Man had a right to trade upon them Waters; & that he had Orders to make every Person Prisoner that attempted it on the Ohio or the Waters of it.

I enquir’d of Capt. Riparti about the Boy that was carried by, as it was done while the Command devolved upon him, between the Death of the late General & the Arrival of the Present. He acknowledg’d that a Boy had been carried past, & that the Indians had two or three white Scalps, (I was told by some of the Indians at Venango 8) but pretended to have forgot the Name of the Place that the Boy came from, & all the Particulars, tho’ he Question’d him for some Hours as they were carrying him past. I likewise enquired where & what they had done with John Trotter, & James McClocklan, two Pensylvania Traders, which they had taken with all their Goods: they told me that they had been sent to Canada, but were now return’d Home.

This Evening I receiv’d an Answer to His Honour the Governor’s Letter from the Commandant.

15th: The Commander order’d a plentiful Store of Liquor, Provisions & ca. to be put on board our Canoe, & appear’d to be extreamly complaisant, though he was ploting every Scheme that the Devil & Man cou’d invent, to set our Indians at Variance with us, to prevent their going ’till after our Departure. Presents, rewards, & every Thing that cou’d be suggested by him or his Officers was not neglected to do. I can’t say that ever in my Life I suffer’d so much Anxiety as I did in this affair: I saw that every Stratagem that the most fruitful Brain cou’d invent: was practis’d to get the Half King won to their Interest, & that leaving of him here, was giving them the Opportunity they aimed at: I went to the Half King and press’d him in the strongest Terms to go. He told me the Commander wou’d not discharge him ’till the Morning; I then went to the Commander & desired him to do their Business, & complain’d of ill Treatment; for keeping them, as they were Part of my Company was detaining me, which he promis’d not to do, but to forward my Journey as much as he cou’d: He protested he did not keep them but was innocent of the Cause of their Stay; though I soon found it out. He had promis’d them a Present of Guns, &ca. if they wou’d wait ’till the Morning. As I was very much press’d by the Indians to wait this Day for them; I consented on a Promise that Nothing shou’d hinder them in the Morning.

16th: The French were not slack in their Inventions to keep the Indians this Day also; but as they were obligated, according to promise, to give the Present: they then endeavour’d to try the Power of Liquor; which I doubt not wou’d have prevail’d at any other Time than this, but I tax’d the King so close upon his Word that he refrain’d, & set off with us as he had engag’d. We had a tedious & very fatiguing Passage down the Creek, several Times we had like to have stove against Rocks, & many Times were oblig’d all Hands to get out, & remain in the Water Half an Hour or more, getting her over the Shoals: on one Place the Ice had lodg’d & made it impassable by Water; therefore we were oblig’d to carry our Canoe across a neck Land a quarter of a Mile over. We did not reach Venango ’till the 22d: where we met with our Horses. This Creek is extreamly crooked, I dare say the Distance between the Fort & Venango can’t be less than 130 Miles to follow the Meanders.

23d: When I got Things ready to set off I sent for the Half King, to know whether they intended to go with us, or by Water. He told me that the White Thunder had hurt himself much, & was Sick & unable to walk, therefore he was oblig’d to carry him down in a Canoe: As I found he intended to stay a Day or two here, & knew that Monsieur Joncaire wou’d employ every Scheme to set him against the English, as he had before done; I told him I hoped he wou’d guard against his Flattery, & let no fine Speeches Influence Him in their Favour: He desired I might not be concern’d, for he knew the French too well, for any Thing to engage him in their Behalf, & though he cou’d not go down with us, he wou’d endeavour to meet at the Forks with Joseph Campbell, to deliver a Speech for me to carry to his Honour the Governor. He told me he wou’d order the young Hunter to attend us, & get Provision &ca. if wanted. Our Horses were now so weak & feeble, & the Baggage heavy; as we were oblig’d to provide all the Necessaries the Journey wou’d require, that we doubted much their performing it; therefore my Self & others (except the Drivers which were oblig’d to ride) gave up our Horses for Packs, to assist along with the Baggage; & put my Self into an Indian walking Dress, & continue’d with them three Day’s, ’till I found there was no Probability of their getting in, in any reasonable Time; the Horses grew less able to travel every Day. The Cold increas’d very fast, & the Roads were geting much worse by a deep Snow continually Freezing; And as I was uneasy to get back to make a report of my Proceedings to his Honour the Governor; I determin’d to prosecute my Journey the nearest way through the Woods on Foot. Accordingly I left Mr. Vanbraam in Charge of our Baggage, with Money and Directions to provide Necessaries from Place to Place for themselves & Horses & to make the most convenient Dispatch in. I took my necessary Papers, pull’d off my Cloths; tied My Self up in a Match Coat; & with my Pack at my back, with my Papers & Provisions in it, & a Gun, set out with Mr. Gist, fitted in the same Manner, on Wednesday the 26th.

The Day following, just after we had pass’d a Place call’d the Murdering Town where we intended to quit the Path & steer across the Country for Shanapins Town, we fell in with a Party of French Indians, which had laid in wait for us, one of them fired at Mr. Gist or me, not 15 Steps, but fortunately missed. We took this Fellow into Custody, & kept him ’till about 9 o’Clock at Night, & then let him go, & then walked all the remaining Part of the Night without making any Stop; that we might get the start, so far as to be out of the reach of their Pursuit next Day, as were well assur’d they wou’d follow upon our Tract as soon as it was Light: The next Day we continued traveling ’till it was quite Dark, & got to the River about two Miles above Shanapins; we expected to have found the River Froze, but it was not, only about 50 Yards from each Shoar; the Ice I suppose had broke up above, for it was driving in vast Quantities.

There was no way for us to get over but upon a Raft, which we set about with but one poor Hatchet, & got finish’d just after Sunsetting, after a whole days Work: We got it launch’d, & on board of it, & sett off; but before we got half over, we were jamed in the Ice in such a Manner, that we expected every Moment our Raft wou’d sink, & we Perish; I put out my seting Pole, to try to stop the Raft, that the Ice might pass by, when the Rapidity of the Stream through it with so much Violence against the Pole, that it Jirk’d me into 10 Feet Water, but I fortunately saved my Self by catching hold of one of the Raft Logs. Notwithstanding all our Efforts we cou’d not get the Raft to either Shoar, but were oblig’d, as we were pretty near an Island, to quit our Raft & wade to it. The Cold was so extream severe, that Mr. Gist got all his Fingers, & some of his Toes Froze, & the Water was shut up so hard, that We found no Difficulty in getting off the Island on the Ice in the Morning, & went to Mr. Frazers. We met here with 20 Warriors that had been going to the Southward to War, but coming to a Place upon the Head of the Great Cunnaway, where they found People kill’d & Scalpt, all but one Woman with very Light Hair, they turn’d about; & ran back, for fear of the Inhabitants rising & takeing them as the Authors of the Murder: They report that the People were lying about the House, & some of them much torn & eat by Hogs; by the Marks that were left, they say they were French Indians of the Ottaway Nation, &ca. that did it.

As we intended to take Horse here, & it requir’d some Time to hunt them; I went up about 3 Miles to the Mouth of Yaughyaughgane to visit Queen Aliquippa, who had express’d great Concern that we pass’d her in going to the Fort. I made her a Present of a Match Coat; & a Bottle of rum, which was thought much the best Present of the two.

Tuesday 1st: Day of Jany: We left Mr. Frazers House, & arriv’d at Mr. Gists at Monangahela the 2d. where I bought Horse Saddle &ca. The 6th: We met 17 Horses loaded with Materials & Stores for a Fort at the Forks; & the Day after, a Family or two going out to settle; this Day we arriv’d at Wills Creek, after as fatiguing a Journey as it is possible to conceive, rendered so by excessive bad Weather: From the first Day of December ’till the 15th. there was but one Day, but what it rain’d or snow’d incessantly & throughout the whole Journey we met with nothing but one continued Series of cold wet Weather; which occasioned very uncumfortable Lodgings, especially after we had left our Tent; which was some Screen from the Inclemency of it.

On the 11th. I got to Belvoir, where I stop’d one Day to take necessary rest; & then set out for, & arrived at Williamsburg, the 16th. & waited upon His Honour the Governor with the Letter I had brought from the French Commandant, & to give an Account of the Proceedures of my Journey. Which I beg leave to do by offering the Foregoing, as it contains the most remarkable Occurrences that happen’d to me.

I hope it will be sufficient to satisfy your Honour with my Proceedings; for that was my Aim in undertaking the Journey: & chief Study throughout the Prosecution of it.

With the Assurance, & Hope of doing it, I with infinite Pleasure subscribe my Self Yr. Honour’s most Obedt. & very Hble. Servant. Go: Washington

Almost immediately upon GW’s return to Williamsburg, Dinwiddie ordered publication of his journal. It appeared as The Journal of Major George Washington, Sent by the Hon. Robert Dinwiddie, Esq; His Majesty’s Lieutenant-Governor, and Commander in Chief of Virginia, to the Commandant of the French Forces on Ohio. To Which Are Added, the Governor’s Letter, and a Translation of the French Officer’s Answer (Williamsburg: William Hunter, 1754). GW prefaced the publication with the following “Advertisement”:

“As it was thought adviseable by his Honour the Governor to have the following Account of my Proceedings to and from the French on Ohio, committed to Print; I think I can do no less than apologize, in some Measure, for the numberless Imperfections of it.

“There intervened but one Day between my Arrival in Williamsburg, and the Time for the Council’s Meeting, for me to prepare and transcribe, from the rough Minutes I had taken in my Travels, this Journal; the writing of which only was sufficient to employ me closely the whole Time, consequently admitted of no Leisure to consult of a new and proper Form to offer it in, or to correct or amend the Diction of the old; neither was I apprised, or did in the least conceive, when I wrote this for his Honour’s Perusal, that it ever would be published, or even have more than a cursory Reading; till I was informed, at the Meeting of the present General Assembly, that it was already in the Press.

“There is nothing can recommend it to the Public, but this. Those Things which came under the Notice of my own Observation, I have been explicit and just in a Recital of:—Those which I have gathered from Report, I have been particularly cautious not to augment, but collected the Opinions of the several Intelligencers, and selected from the whole, the most probable and consistent Account.

G. Washington. See: The Maryland Gazette, 21 & 28 Mar. 1754; and The Boston Gazette, 16 April–21 May 1754). 

“Journey to the French Commandant: Narrative,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified October 5, 2016, [Original source: The Diaries of George Washington, vol. 1, 11 March 1748–13 November 1765, ed. Donald Jackson. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1976, pp. 130–161.]

On May 28, 1754 Virginia Regiment Lieutenant Colonel George Washington & Mingo chief Tanacharison led a party of roughly 40 men in a raid against 29 French soldiers in present-day western Pennsylvania killing 10 & capturing 21.  The attack represented the opening salvoes of the French & Indian War.

By 1753, the upper Ohio River Valley became an increasing source of friction between French & British imperial ambitions.  In October, following reports of the French constructing forts in the region, Virginia Lieutenant Governor Robert Dinwiddie dispatched Washington with a request for French withdrawal.1  

After a 3 month journey, Washington reported to Dinwiddie that the French had no intention of departing the Ohio & were in fact adding troops to the region.2  In response, Dinwiddie ordered the newly raised Virginia Regiment under Colonel Joshua Fry to the frontier.  After raising & equipping his force in Alexandria, Washington was to proceed with an advance portion of the regiment & aid Captain William Trent in establishing a fort at the Forks of the Ohio, where the Monongahela & Allegheny rivers converge.3

When Washington & his roughly150 men arrived at Wills Creek (present-day Cumberland, Maryland) in April 1754, they learned that 1,000 French soldiers under the command of Captain Claude-Pierre Pécaudy, sieur de Contrecœur had overrun the scant force of British already working at the Forks.4 

Washington ordered his small command over the Allegheny Mountains in the hopes of establishing a defensive position along Red Stone Creek & demonstrating British resolve to fight alongside their Native American allies in the region.  For the next month, Washington’s 150 men worked to open a road from Will’s Creek to their position in the Great Meadows (near present-day Farmington, Pennsylvania) while awaiting reinforcements.5

On May 27th, reports came into Washington’s camp of a force of 50 French soldiers less than fifteen miles from his position.  Washington met with Tanacharison, & they decided to take a portion of their troops & meet the French.  Throughout the night, the column of roughly 50 men traveled single file through the inky wilderness, with 7 Virginians getting lost along the way.  

The next morning, they discovered the French in a sheltered glen hidden from the main trail.  Tanacharison’s took his Mingos behind the French position, while Washington’s Virginias advanced towards the front of the glen.  With Washington in the lead, the Virginians swiftly moved on the French position & the resulting engagement lasted only 15 minutes before the French surrendered.6

The details of the “battle” continues to plague Washington’s legacy to this day.  By his own account, upon sighting the British advancing on their position, the French soldiers immediately went for their weapons prompting Washington’s soldiers to fire in their own defense.  According to the French, they had no knowledge of the British soldiers until the Virginians fired their 1st volleys.7  Since Great Britain & France were not at war, the French argued, the actions of Washington’s soldiers amounted to murder.  This was especially egregious since the French asserted they were an ambassadorial delegation under the command of Joseph Coulon de Villiers, Sieur de Jumonville, the commander of the French party & a mortal victim of the skirmish.  

To his death, Washington argued that, by hiding in the woods near the Virginian position for many days rather than openly acknowledging their presence, the French were acting in a military capacity, not a diplomatic one.8  As such, he & his soldiers were in danger of the French, & had a right to defend themselves & their camp.

The treatment of French wounded following the engagement also plagues Washington’s reputation.  French versions of the battle’s aftermath, related to them by a soldier that escaped, stated that the Virginians fired on the wounded French, & would have killed more if the Mingos had not intervened.  Washington’s account states that the Mingos killed & scalped the French wounded, later sending those scalps as proof to their allies that war had begun & requesting their assistance in the conflict.9

Just over a month after the skirmish at what became known as Jumonville Glen, 600 French soldiers & their Native American allies overwhelmed Washington’s position at Fort Necessity in the Great Meadows.10  

The capitulation was especially awkward because the French force was led by Jumonville’s half-brother, Louis Coulon de Villers.  During the surrender negotiations, the French had Washington sign a statement asserting that he and his troops had assassinated Jumonville.11  France later used the Jumonville Glen skirmish as causus belli to engage in the French & Indian War.

Joseph F. Stoltz III Mount Vernon Digital Historian at Mount Vernon Fred W. Smith National Library