Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 70,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Darke, William (1736-1801) to George Washington

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.05233 Author/Creator: Darke, William (1736-1801) Place Written: Cincinnati, Ohio Type: Autograph document signed Date: 9 November 1791 Pagination: 7 p. : docket ; 33.6 x 22.8 cm.

Summary of Content: Written from Fort Washington, near present-day Cincinnati, Ohio. Battle report providing extensive details of the defeat of General [Arthur] St. Clair at the hands of the Miami Indians on the Northwest Frontier. Docketed by George Washington.

Full Transcript: [draft]
fort washington Nineth of Novr. 1791
I Take the liberty of Communicating to your Excelency The disagreable news of our defeat
We left fort washington the Begining of Septr. a ...Jornel of [inserted: our march to the plan of Action &] the whole proseeding on our march I hoped to have [inserted: had] the Honour to inclose to you but that and [inserted: all other] papers Cloathing [inserted: &tc] was Taken by the Indians.. this Jornel I know would have Gave you pain but thought it not amis to Give you a State of facts and Give you every Information in my power and had it Ready to send to you the very morning we were attacked
We advanced 24 Miles from fort washington and bult a Small fort, which we I thought were long about from thence we advanced: from the banks of the Meammee River where the fort was erected 44 ½ Mils on a Streight line by the Compass [inserted: west ¼ north] though farther the way the Road went and bult another fort.. which we left on the 23 October and from that time to the 8th Novr got 31 Miles where we incamped in two lines about 60 yards apart the [strikeout] Right whing in frunt Commanded by general Butler, the left in the Rear which I commanded, our puequots Discoverd Some Sculking [inserted: Indians] about Camp in the Night and fired on them. Those we expected were [inserted: [strikeout]] [por] Islanders as they had Taken Many of our horses near fort washington and on the way and killed a few of our Men.
As Soon as it was light in the Morning of the 4th Novr - the advanced Guards of the Militia fired the Militia Being incamped a Small distance [inserted: in front] a Scatering [inserted: fire] soon [inserted: new] [illegible] The Troops were instantly formed to Receive them and the pannack Struck Militia Soon broke in to the Center of our incampment in a few Minutes our Guards were drove in and our whole Camp Surrounded by Savages advancing up there to our lines and [Made] from behind trees Logs &tc. Grate Havok with our Men I for Some time having no orders indevoured to prevent the Soldiers from braking and Stil finding the enemy Growing more bold and Coming to the very Mouths of our Cannon and all the brave artilery officers killed [2] ~killed I ordered the left whing to charg which with the assistance of the Gallent officers that were then left I with [dificuaty] prevailed on them to do, the Second US Regt - was then the least disabled the Charge begat with them on the Left of the left whing I placed a Small Company of Rifelmen on that flank on the Bank of a Small Creek and persued the enemy about four hundred yards who Ran off in all directons but by this time the left flank of the Right whing Gave way and Number of the Indians Got into our Camp and Got pocession of the Artilery and Scalped I supose a hundred men or more I turned back and beat them quite off the Ground and Got posesion of the Cannon and had it been possible to Get the troops to form and push them we Should then have Soon beat them of the Ground but those that Came from the left whing Run in a huddle with those of the Right the enemys fire being allmost on us for Many Munites and all exertions Made by many of the brave officer to get them in some order to persue Victory [struck: all were] [inserted: was all] in Vain. they would Not form in any order in the confution they Remained [struck: in] until the enemy finding they were not pushed and I dare say active officers with them and I believe Several of them white. the Came on again, and the whole Army Ran together like a mob at a fair, and had it not bean for the Gratest Exertions of the officers would have Stood there til all killed the Genl then Sent to me if possible to Get them off that Spot by Making a Charge - I found my indevours fruitless for Some time, but at length Got Several Soldiers together that I had observed behaving brave and Incoraged them to lead off which they did with [inserted: charged bayonets &] Success the whole followed with Grate Rapidity I then endeavored to halt the front to get them in Some order to turn and fire a few Shots but the horse I Rode being good for little and I wounded in the thigh Early in the Action and having fatigued my Self much was So Stif I could make a poor hand of Runing [struck: that] the Confution in the Retreat is beyound discription, the men throughing away their arms not withstanding all the indevour of the few Remaining Brave officers I think we must have lost 1000 Stand of arms Militia included. It is impossible to Give any Good account of the Loss of men at this time but from the Loss of officers you may Give some Gess a list [3] of their Names you have In Closed the Brave and much to be Lemented [inserted: G.B.] at their Head: I have Likewise in Closed you a Small Rough Scetch of the feeld of battle, I at this time am Scarely able to write [struck: lying] being worn out with fatigue Not having Slept 6 hours Since the defeat. This fatigue has been accationed by the Cowardly behaviour of Major John F. Hamtramck, and I [struck: must] [inserted: am sorry to] say that the Same exertions of the Governor that I expected. Hamtramck was about Twenty four Miles in our Rear with the first us Regiment Consisting of upwards of 300 effective men and on hearing of our defeat, insted of Coming on as his orders was [inserted: I believe] to follow us Retreated back 7 miles to fort Jefferson's we know [inserted: ing] of his being on his march after us and was in hopes of Grate Relief from him in Covering the Retreat of perhaps upwards of 200, [inserted: or 300] wounded men Many of whome might easily been saved with that fresh Regiment with whome I should not have bean afraid to have [Rased] the whole Indian Army if they had persued us they would have been worn down with the [Chaice] and in Grate Disorder when we Got to the fort 31 miles in about 9 hours no one [inserted: having] eat any from the day before the action we found the Garison without more then one days bread and no meat having been on half alowance two days there was a Council Called to which I after believe [inserted: they] had agreed what was to be done [inserted: was [Call'd]] it was Concluded to march of or [Recommence] the Retreat at 10 oclock which was begun I think an hour before that time more then 800 wounded and Tired in our rear the Govenor asured [inserted: me] he expected provition on every hour I at first Concluded to Stay with My Son who was very dangerously and I expected Mortaly wounded but after Geting Several officers dressed and as well provided for as possible and seing the Influance Hamtramck had with the Genl about twelve oclock I got a horse and followed the army as I thought from apearences that Major Hamtramck [strikeout] [inserted: had] Influance anough [struck: not] to prevent the Garison from being supplied with the provition Coming on [inserted: by keeping the first Regt as a guard for him self] I Rode alone about ten miles from twelve oclock at night until I over took the Regiment and the Genl I Stil kept on until I met the pack horses about daylight much alarmed at having heard Somthing of the defeat, the Horsemaster Could not prevail on the drivers to Go on with him until I assured them I would Go back with them same as I was [4] I ordered the horses to be loaded immediately and Returned as fast as I could to hault the first Regiment as a guard, and when I met [strikeout] them told them to halt and make fires to Cook immediately as I made sure they would be Sent back with the provitions but when I met the Govenor and Major Hamtramck I pervaild with Genl St Clair to oder 60 men back [inserted: only which was all I could possbly get] and had the bulock drivers known that was all the Guard they were to have the would not have gone on [inserted: neither would the horse drivers] I believe insted of the 120 horse loads if [34]on all the Rest went back with the army and though the Men had been so Long Starving and we then [44] 1/2 miles from the place of action I could not prevail on them [inserted: the Genl and his family of advisers] to halt for the Starved worn down Soldiers to Cooke, nor did they I belive even kill a bullock for their Relief - I went back to fort Jefferson that Night with the flour bread &c. [struck: the re] where they [inserted: was] no kind of provition but a Misrable poor old horse and many Valuable officers wound there and perhaps 200 Soldiers it was night when I Got back I Slept not one moment that night my Son and other officers being in Such Distress the next day I was busy all [struck: night] [inserted: day] Getting boxes made to Carry off the wounded officers there being no Medison there Nor any Nurishment not even quart of Salt but they were not able to bare the Motion of the horses & That night I Set off for this place and Rode til about 12 oclock by which time my [struck: leg] thigh was amassingly sweld near as Large as my body and So hot that I could feel the warmth with My hand 2 foot off of it I could Sleep none and have Slept very Little since the [struck: the] wounds begin to Separate and are much esier - I am aprehensive that fort Jeferson is now beseiged by the indians - as Certain Information has been Received that a large body were on Sunday night within fifteen miles of it Coming on the Road we Marched out and I am Sorey to Sae no exertions to Relieve it I cannot tel whether they have the Cannon they took from us or not if the have not, they Cannot take it nor I dont think the Came with, far want of Ball which they have No Grate Number of, They took from us [struck: six or] eight pieces of Ordinence [5] Ordinence 130 bullucks about 300 horses upwards of 200 Tents a Considerable quantity of flour ammunition and all the officers and Soldiers Cloathing and bagage except [inserted: what] they had on I believe they Gave quarters to none as most of the women were Killed before we Left the Ground. I think the Slaughter far grater than Bradocks there being 33 brave officers Killed Dead on the Ground 27 wounded that we know of, and Some Mising exclusive of the Militia and I know their Colo [strikeout] and two Captains were Killed. I donot think our Loss so Grate as [inserted: to] strike the surviving officers with Ideas [inserted: of [dispare]] as it Seems to. the Chief of the Men Killed are of the Levies and indeed many of them are as well out of the world as in it as for the Gallent officers they are Much to be lemented as the behaviour of allmost [inserted: all] of them would have done honour to the first Vetrans in the world.. the few that escaped without wounds it was Chiefly axedent that Saved them as it is impossible to Say More in their praise then they deserve
In the few horse officers though they had no horses good for [struck: nothing] [inserted: anything] - Capt Truman - Lieut Sedam Debuts [inserted: Boins] and Glen behaved like Soldiers) Capt. Snowden is I think not Calculated for the [inserted: army] [struck: and Sulivan Quarter master and [illegible] is as Grate a poltroon as I ever Saw in [inserted: the world]], Ensign Shamburg of the first United States Regiment is as brave Good and determened [inserted: a] Herow as any in the world Lieutinent James Stephenson from Berkeley, of the Levies. is aded to [inserted: one of] the most unspoted and Respectable Carectors in the world in private Life as good an officer as ever drew breth, his Gallent behavior in action drew the attention of every officer that was near him more then any other, There is one Bisset perhaps a volentier in the Second US Regiment who Richly deserved perfirment for his bravery through the whole action he made the finest use of the Baonet of any Man I notices in the Carcases of the Savages. John Hamilton I cant [inserted: say too much in praise of] who was along with the army a packhorse master he picked up the dead mens Guns and used them freely when he found them Loaded and when [6] when the Indians entered the Camp he took up an ax and at them with it, I am intirely at a loss to give you any act what [strikeout] General St Clair in tends to do. I well Know what I would do was I in his place and would venter to forfet My Life if the Indians have Not Moved the Cannon farther then the Meamme Towns if I did not Retake them by Going there in three days insted of two month I well know the have Lost Many of their braves & wariors and I make no doubt the have near 100 wounded their killd I cannot think Bare any perpotion to ours as they lay so Concealed but many I know wer killd and those the most dareing fellows which has weakened them Grately and I Know we were able to beat them, and that a violent push with one hundred brave men when the Left whing Returned from persuing them would have turnd the Scale in our favour in deed I think fifty would in the Scatered State they were in) and five or Six hundred mount Rifel men from Conetuck aded to the force we have would Be as Sure of Sucksess [inserted: as they woud] Many hear offer to Go with me a number of officers ofer to Go as privates and I never was Treated with So much Respect in [inserted: any] part of the world as I have bean this day in this wilderness in the time) I am offered my Choice of any horse belonging to the town as I lost all my own horses. I shall Se the General in the Morning and perhaps be no more Satisfied then I am now.. Though I have [struck: said] Spoke of all the officers with that Respect they Richly deserve I Cannot in Justice to Capt Hannah help mentioning him as when all his men were killd wounded and scatered [inserted: except four] he Got [struck: a few of them] [inserted: a] Sailor that belonged to Capt. Darks Company [struck: as] when the Cannon was Retaken the the [sic] artilery Men being all Killd and Lying in heaps about the peases who he Draged a way and Stood to the Cannon him Self til the Retreat and then within a few yards of the enemy Spiked the gun with his Baonet Capt. Brock and all the Captains of the Maryland Line I cannot Say too much in their praise. I have taken the Liberty of Writing So particuler to you as I think no one Can Give a better account nor do I think you will Get an account [inserted: from] any that Saw So much [struck: of] of the action Genl St. Clair [7] Genl St. Clair not Being able to Run about as I was if his Inclination had been as Grate; I hope in the Course of the winter to have the pleasure of seeing you when I may have it in my power to answer any question you are pleased to ask Concerning the unfortunate Campain [struck: and know]

Have the Honor to be
your Exclencys most obt and
most humble Servant
Wm Darke

10 Novr I have prevailed on the Good Genl to Send a Strong party To Carey Supplies to fort Jeferson which I hope will be able To Relive it and as I have polticed wound and the Swelling much Asswaged if I find my Self able to Set on horse back will Go with the party as I can be very worm by Laping myself with blankets
Wm Darke

His Excelleny
The President of the United States

[docket]
From
Colo. Willm. Darke
9th. Novr. 1791.
See More

People: Washington, George, 1732-1799
Darke, William, 1736-1801
St. Clair, Arthur, 1734-1818

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: American Indian HistoryNorthwest Indian WarFrontiers and ExplorationBattlePresidentGovernment and CivicsMilitary HistoryWestward ExpansionNorthwest TerritoryArtilleryMilitiaMassacreAtrocityInjury or WoundDeathWeaponryHealth and MedicalCavalryBraveryMilitary CampMilitary ProvisionsMilitary SuppliesMilitary UniformsFortificationChildren and FamilyDiet and nutritionTransportationDrugsAmmunitionClothing and AccessoriesWomen of the Founding EraWomen's HistoryLetter of Introduction or Recommendation

Sub Era: The Early Republic

Order a Copy Citation Guidelines for Online Resources