Indian Appropriation

While these Indian chiefs were at Philadelphia, a bill was passed by Congress, and ratified by the president, appropriating fifteen hundred dollars annually, for the benefit of the Iroquois, in purchasing for them clothing, domestic animals, implements of husbandry, and for encouraging useful artificers to reside in their villages.

They were engaged also to go on a pacific embassy to the hostile Indians of the West, and assure them of the friendly disposition of the United States toward them;–that they want nothing which belongs to the hostile Indians;–that they appointed commissioners to treat with them for their lands, and give them a large quantity of goods;–that a number of chiefs signed the deeds, and from the reports of the commissioners, it was supposed the lands had been fairly obtained;–that under this supposition large tracts had been sold, and hence difficult to restore again; but as the United States desire only what is just, they will attentively hear the complaints of the western Indians;–they will re-examine the treaties, and inquire into the manner in which they were conducted;–and if the complaints of the western Indians, appear to be well founded, the United States will make them ample compensation for their lands. They will do more;–so far from desiring to injure, they would do them good; they would cheerfully impart to them that knowledge, and those arts, by which they propose to increase the happiness, and promote the welfare of the Six Nations.

It was during this visit that President Washington, in token of his friendship and esteem, gave Red Jacket a large silver medal bearing his likeness, which he ever after preserved with much care, and took great pride in wearing.

General Knox, the secretary of war, directed also that a military suit of clothes be given to each member of the deputation, including a cocked hat, as worn by the officers of the United States army. When Red Jacket’s suit was presented to him he eyed it carefully, and rather admiringly, but requested the bearer to inform General Knox that the suit would hardly become him, as he was not a war-chief but a sachem, the sachems being civil, rather than military officers. He desired therefore that another suit be prepared, which would accord better with the relation he sustained to his people; at the same time declaring the one sent very good, and manifesting a disposition to retain it, until the other was prepared. A plain suit was accordingly prepared and brought to him, and with this he seemed to be highly pleased. The bearer tarrying a little, and manifesting a readiness to carry back the other suit, Red Jacket coolly and rather playfully remarked, that though the present suit was more in keeping with his character as sachem, it nevertheless, occurred sometimes, in cases of emergency, that the sachems also went to war, and as it would then be very becoming and proper for him to wear it, he was happy to have one in case a circumstance of this kind should occur.

These Indian chiefs were all highly gratified with the attention shown them, during this visit to the general government. They were especially pleased with the interest that had been taken in the improvement of their people, and the pledges they had received of aid in carrying out the benevolent designs entertained toward them. And they all, Red Jacket with the rest, were favorably impressed with the views of Washington, in desiring to introduce among them the improvements of civilized life.

These conferences were brought to a close on the thirtieth of April, and President Washington in a concluding speech, said to them,–“When you return to your country, tell your nation that it is my desire to promote their prosperity, by teaching them the use of domestic animals, and the manner that the white people plough and raise so much corn, and if upon consideration, it would be agreeable to the nation at large, to learn those arts, I will find some means of teaching them at some places within their country, as shall be agreed upon 1 .”

The government had taken special pains also to secure the attendance of the celebrated Thayendanegea or Brant, with this deputation of friendly chiefs. The invitation, though a pressing one, was declined, and not without reason. For besides the powerful influence exerted over him by the officers of the British government in Canada, who strenuously opposed his coming, it has since been ascertained that he was the leading spirit who directed with so much success to the Indians, the onslaught upon General St. Clair’s army, the preceding fall. Hence his own feelings could not have been of the most friendly character. He was, nevertheless, induced to visit the seat of government during the month of June following, and pledged himself to exert his influence in an effort to secure peace for the United States, with the Indians at the West.

A very large Indian council, composed of delegates from many and some of them very distant nations, was held at Au Glaize, on the Miami of Lake Erie, in the autumn of 1792. A large delegation from the Six Nations, friendly to the United States, was present and took part in the deliberations. Red Jacket was the principal speaker, and strenuously advocated the settlement of their difficulties, by peaceful negotiations instead of war.

The Shawnee as strenuously advocated the continuance of hostilities. They taunted the Six Nations with having induced them to form a great confederacy, a few years before, and of having come to the council now, “with the voice of the United States folded under their arm;”–referring to the belt which was significant of their embassy.

The Shawnee, Miami and Kickapoo were addicted to horse-stealing, and while hostilities were continued, they reaped from this source, their greatest harvests.

Captain Brant on account of sickness was unable to be present, and it may be noticed that from this time on, his efforts to form a North-western Indian Confederacy, were very sensibly remitted. He no doubt found there were so many conflicting interests and national jealousies in the way, as to render the project comparatively hopeless. But more than all, he had depended upon the following of the entire body, composed of the Six Nations, and when he saw them coming largely under the influence of the United States, he could realize that the strength and permanence of his contemplated position, were so seriously affected, as to render its attainment extremely doubtful. The addition of the entire Iroquois family, to the proposed confederation, would have brought into it an element of intellectual superiority, and their long established polity of acting in concert, would have been of essential service among forces that were wild and chaotic. And we are not surprised that the diversion effected among them, should have changed somewhat the views of the distinguished Thayendanegea.

No decisive action was reached at this council, but an agreement was made to suspend hostilities during the winter, provided the United States would withdraw their troops from the west side of the Ohio; and another council was appointed to meet at the Miami Rapids during the following spring.

The Iroquois delegation forwarded to our government a report of the service they had rendered, the action taken by the council, and the agreement to meet in the spring, and requested that agents might be sent, “who were men of honesty, not land-jobbers, but men who love and desire peace. We also desire that they may be accompanied by some Friend, or Quaker, to attend the council.”

On the 19th of February, 1793, General Benjamin Lincoln, Beverly Randolph and Colonel Pickering were commissioned by the president to attend the great Indian council at Miami Rapids, in the ensuing spring.

Meanwhile the Indians, dissatisfied with the views of the president, as transmitted by the Six Nations, held another council at Au Glaize in February, and framed a very explicit address to the Six Nations, affirming they would listen to no proposition from the United States, that did not concede the Ohio river, as the boundary line between them, and the Indian country. They desired the United States to be fully apprised of this, before sending their delegation; and they notified the Six Nations of a private council at Miami Rapids, before meeting the American commissioners, to adjust their opinions, so as to speak but one language at the council; they further declared their intention not to meet the commissioners at all, until assured they had authority to conclude a treaty on this basis.

In this determination they were encouraged, and sustained by the British Indian Department of Canada. President Washington, in a letter to Mr. Jay, our minister in London, writing in 1794, very clearly sets forth the work thus accomplished.–He says:–“There does not remain a doubt, in the mind of any well informed person in this country, not shut against conviction, that all the difficulties we encounter with the Indians, their hostilities, the murder of helpless women and children, along our frontiers, result from the conduct of agents of Great Britain in this country. In vain is it then for its administration in Britain to disavow having given orders which will warrant such conduct, whilst their agents go unpunished; while we have a thousand corroborating circumstances, and indeed as many evidences, some of which cannot be brought forward, to prove that they are seducing from our alliances, and endeavoring to remove over the line, tribes that have hitherto been kept in peace and friendship at great expense, and who have no causes of complaint, except pretended ones of their creating; whilst they keep in a state of irritation the tribes that are hostile to us, and are instigating those who know little of us or we of them, to unite in the war against us; and whilst it is an undeniable fact, that they are furnishing the whole with arms, ammunition, clothing, and even provisions to carry on the war, I might go farther, and if they are not much belied, add, men in disguise 2 .”

The commissioners of the United States appointed to confer with the Indian tribes at the West, proceeded on their way, arriving at Niagara the latter part of May, 1793. Here they were very kindly entertained by Governor Simcoe until the council was ready to receive them.

While here they were visited by a large deputation from the council at Miami Rapids, who desired an explicit answer to the inquiry whether they were authorized to run and establish a new boundary? Which they answered in the affirmative, at the same time reminding the Indians that in almost all disputes there were wrongs on both sides, and that, at the approaching council, both parties must expect to make some concessions.

This reply was well received and sanguine hopes were entertained of a favorable termination of their mission.

The Indians returned again to their council at Miami, and the commissioners supposing they would now be prepared to receive them, proceeded on their voyage westward. Arriving at the mouth of Detroit river they were obliged to land, being forbidden by the British authorities to proceed any farther toward the place of meeting.

They were met here by another Indian deputation, bringing a paper with a written statement of their determination, to make the Ohio the boundary line between the Indian country and the United States, and requiring the latter, if sincere in their desires for peace, to remove their settlements to the south side of that river. To this the commissioners were desired to give an explicit written answer.

They replied, referring to the understanding from their conference at Niagara, that some concessions were to be made on both sides, and giving a brief history of the treaties by which a title had been acquired to land north of the Ohio, on the faith of which, settlements had been formed which could not be removed; hence they answered explicitly.–“The Ohio river cannot be designated as the boundary line.”

They expressed the hope that negotiations might proceed on the basis of these treaties, closing with some concessions, and liberal offers for some lands still held by the Indians.

The debate at this council, it is said, ran high. Thayendanegea, and others of the Six Nations were strenuous in their advocacy of peace. The offer of the commissioners to establish a boundary line that would include the settlements already made north of the Ohio, they regarded as reasonable, and that farther concessions ought not to be required. Quite a number of tribes were influenced to adopt this view, which at one time it was thought would prevail. But there were certain ruling spirits present determined to make no concession, and the council broke up without allowing the commissioners, or any other white person, not in sympathy with Britain, to be present.

Previous to the holding of this council, the army had been re-organized under the command of General Anthony Wayne, an officer of untiring energy and vigilance; a larger number of soldiers had been called into the field, and as they were placed under a severe discipline, to inure them to the dangers and hardships of the campaign, it was undertaken with flattering prospects of success.

Pittsburgh had been made the place of rendezvous; but fearing the influence of an encampment near a town, and wishing to inspire in his soldiers a feeling of self reliance, General Wayne, on the 27th of November, 1792, marched his army to a point twenty-two miles distant on the Ohio, which he called Legionville, fortifying it and taking up his quarters there for the winter.

On the 30th of April, 1793, as spring had opened, he broke up his garrison at Legionville, and led his army down the river, to Fort Washington, its site being that of the present beautiful and flourishing city of Cincinnati.

Here he remained while the negotiations were going on with the Indians at the West. As soon as they were ended and the result known, he took a more advanced position, marching in October in the direction pursued by, General St. Clair, to a point on the south-west branch of the Miami, six miles beyond Fort Jefferson, and eighty from Fort Washington, which he fortified and called Greenville.

On the 23d of December, a detachment of the army commanded by Major Burbeck took possession of the ground where the army of General St. Clair, two years before on the 4th of the preceding November, had sustained a terrible defeat. Here they gathered up sadly and sacredly the bones that marked this as a place of human slaughter, put in order the field-pieces that were still upon the ground, served them with a round of three times three, over the remains of their fallen comrades, and erected a fortress, appropriately naming it Fort Recovery.

The army at different points had skirmishes with the enemy that were not serious, but they served to create confidence and inspire courage in the minds of the soldiers.

It was not until the 20th of August, 1794, that General Wayne had a regular engagement with the Indians. Yet like a true gladiator he had been preparing for the struggle, and his wariness, which had gained for him the title of “Black Snake” may be gathered from the speech of Little Turtle, chief of the Miami, and one of the most active and brave warriors of his time. He counselled his countrymen to think favorably of the proposals of peace offered by General Wayne before giving them battle; saying,–“We have beaten the enemy twice under separate commanders. We cannot expect the same good fortune always to attend us. The Americans are now led by a chief who never sleeps. The night and the day are alike to him; and during all the time he has been marching on our villages, notwithstanding the watchfulness of our young men, we have never been able to surprise him. There is something that whispers to me,–it would be prudent to listen to his offers of peace.”

But this counsel was rejected by the Indians, who determined to give battle to the Americans the next day. They fought in the vicinity of a British fort, which Governor Simcoe of Canada had caused to be erected at the foot of the rapids of the Miami emptying into the lakes, far within the acknowledged territory of the United States.

The ground occupied by the Indians was well chosen, being a thick wood, where were old fallen trees that marked the track of some ancient hurricane, where the use of cavalry would be impracticable, a place suited to afford them shelter and well adapted to their peculiar mode of warfare. But the order of General Wayne to advance with trailed arms, and rouse the Indians from their covert at the point of the bayonet, and when up deliver a close and well directed fire on their backs, followed by a brisk charge, so as not to give them time to load again; was executed so promptly, and with so much effect that the Indians were driven in one hour more than two miles, and soon dispersed in terror and dismay, leaving the ground in full and quiet possession of the victorious army.

This battle, which terminated within reach of the British guns, decided the fate of the campaign. The Indians after this were dispirited and unable to make a general rally. The distrust awakened by the coolness of their supposed friends, the gates of whose fort remained unopened while they were fleeing thither for a covert, served not less than the victory to dishearten them, and incline their thoughts toward peace.

The few days spent by the army on the battle ground after its victory, were occupied in destroying the property of the Indians in that vicinity, including also the extensive possessions of Colonel McKee, an officer of the British Indian Department, whose influence had been exerted in promoting these hostilities, whose effects were now being experienced. The fort itself was poised in the General’s mind, as was also the torch of the gunner, who was only restrained by his commanding officer from firing upon Wayne, who, as he thought came too near, in making his observations on one of His Majesty’s forts. Prudence prevailed. The fighting was confined to a war of words in a spirited correspondence between General Wayne, and the officer in command of the fort.

General Wayne after laying waste their principal towns in this region, continued in the Indian country during the following year, bringing his campaign to a close by a treaty with the North-western tribes, which was entirely agreeable to the wishes of the United States.


Hubbard, John Niles. n Account of Sa-Go-Ye-Wat-Ha, or Red Jacket, and His People, 1750-1830. Self Published. 1885.

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  1. Irving’s Life of Washington[]
  2. Marshall’s Washington.[]

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