During the last days of September, 1796, several boats were being prepared at Fort Washington for passengers who expected to travel to Pittsburgh. Since the signing of the treaty of Greenville, Indians had become less hostile and travelers might use the river with relative safety, although they had to suffer many discomforts. Only the best keel boats had separate cabins for men and women and fireplaces that furnished means for heating and cooking. No matter how watchful, pilots could not always escape running into sawyers, planters, and shoals. Barring common accidents and attacks from savages en route, not more than •ten to fifteen miles could be counted on as the average upstream distance that might be covered in a single day; and such progress was always accomplished at the price of great labor with cable, oars, and sail. To cover the round trip from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh in four weeks required both luck and skill. In 1794 Winthrop Sargent consumed twenty-eight days in actual travel on the upstream leg of the journey.1
Wilkinson made it in about ten days less when he set out on or about the 3rd of October, 1796.2 He was accompanied by Mrs. Wilkinson and Master Joseph Biddle, who was now almost eleven, a connection or two of the Harrises, and presumably several officers and soldiers who were using this opportunity to go East before the coming of winter.3 Already maple leaves were yellowing and little patches of corn and pumpkins that pioneers had planted were covered with hoarfrost during some of the early mornings. Perhaps Biddle — for so his mother called him — welcomed a buffalo robe or bearskins thrown over him when night winds blew cold across the surface of the river, p159 although his father had seen to it that their cabin was new and comfortable and spacious. He was accustomed to travel, knew the things that made it easier, and usually provided them for his family and friends. Like many others of the frontier, he was generous, too; and when he reached Pittsburgh on the 20th of October, he offered his boat to Andrew Ellicott, who was then planning to descend the river to survey the boundary line in accordance with the provisions of the Pinckney treaty.4
The Wilkinsons remained in Pittsburgh only long enough to visit a few of their friends and secure transportation. They were eager to be off; crossing the mountains was difficult when snow began to fly, and they all yearned to see John and James, who had been in Philadelphia since 1792 for schooling.5 The General had additional reason for haste; he wanted to make sure of his own professional future while there was opportunity. But before starting they were stunned by distressing news. John, who used to read so prettily and write amazingly well, had been stricken, perhaps with yellow fever, and had died while they were moving slowly up the Ohio.6 In the presence of such a disaster there was nothing they could do; they could only hold him closer in memory and keenly recall the love they bore him or perhaps break down in sorrow beside a newly made grave on some dreary autumn day.
Under this burden of grief, they reached Philadelphia, which was still enjoying intervals of Indian summer. Senators and representatives were returning to the city in anticipation of the second session of the Fourth Congress. Wilkinson had a number of friends among them. Some time before coming East he had written Jonathan Dayton, an associate in land speculation and now speaker of the House, about renting a place for Mrs. Wilkinson and the family.7 John Brown had been a full-fledged senator from Kentucky since 1793; Aaron Burr, from New York, was enjoying an even longer period of similar service. Besides, James McHenry, Secretary of War, and John Adams, President-elect, seemed favorably inclined toward Wilkinson; even Washington himself, now eager for retirement, had given tokens of appreciation for good work accomplished in the Northwest. On the other hand, there was Humphrey Marshall, senator from Kentucky p160 since 1795, who harbored bitter memories of lawsuits and investigations and was ready to employ almost any means to bring humiliation upon his old-time rival. Andrew Jackson and Wade Hampton were also in Congress, but at this time their hatred of Wilkinson, if conceived, was not so violent as in later years.
Wilkinson appreciated that these friends and enemies of his could make or mar his future through Army legislation; he also knew that his record was subject to attack from several angles. He realized it was Wayne's privilege to forward to the War Department all matters that might arouse suspicion in his own mind about the character of his second in command. Wayne had apparently done so, perhaps acquainting a few in Philadelphia with some of the facts relating to Robert Newman and the $9,460 that had come up the Mississippi and been turned over to Nolan. Being partially acquainted with Power's rôle in the transfer of the money, Wayne had ordered him arrested on the eve of Wilkinson's departure for the East.8 If the public once learned of what was going on, Wilkinson would immediately lose his precarious hold in the Army and wholly unfit himself for a continuance of Spanish favor. It therefore behooved him to proclaim loudly his innocence and to offer every good proof that he could muster for his defense. Not knowing the direction Wayne's counterattack might take, he had to buttress himself against every possibility by securing helpful evidence and friends whenever either could be found.
To this difficulty was added an even greater one; he could not foresee what events were in the making and how they might directly affect him. A new President was soon to be inaugurated; but he was not well supported, and the Vice President was of opposite political faith. The recently made treaties with England and Spain had not yet become fully operative, and no one dared prophesy that they would be faithfully fulfilled. France, angry ever since Washington's declaration of neutrality, constantly irritated the United States and soon would precipitate a naval war. England, no longer friendly with Spain, had begun war against her, and soon Spaniards in Louisiana would be fearful of an invasion of their province by British subjects from Canada and American allies from the upper Mississippi. Under these conditions Wilkinson could not tell what to do for himself or p161 for the interests that he secretly served. To Gayoso he wrote on November 6:
Point out with precision, the object to be pursued, and if attainable, you shall find my activity, exertions equal to your most sanguine expectations; — but involved as I am in uncertainty, it is impossible to act with energy or even propriety.9
In such a quandary, Wilkinson felt that Philadelphia offered an unequaled point of vantage from which to observe the important events of the day. It was winter, and a return journey to the West would be full of hardship for himself and family. He also wanted to be on hand when Wayne arrived to answer the charges that had been preferred. The defense, however, never told its side of the story. Wayne failed to come; ten days before Christmas he died at cheerless Presque Isle. Wilkinson then realized that to assail the memory of the dead would merely detract from his own reputation, and hence he concentrated on offering evidence that would render his own character invulnerable. Believing that an inquiry would be favorable to him in its conclusions, he conferred in January with James McHenry, the new Secretary of War, about the prospect of having one.10 The Secretary, being naturally averse to wrangling and perhaps believing in Wilkinson's innocence, suggested that the whole matter be dropped.
Shortly afterward, on the last day of the Fourth Congress, the grade of major-general being abolished, Wilkinson found that he had to content himself with the same rank that he had held since March 5, 1792. Although he was now General-in‑Chief with greater powers and larger responsibilities, his pride was hurt and his hopes disappointed because Congress had not seen fit to promote him. Its action, however, was not based entirely on personal hostility or distrust, for there existed a deep-set and far-reaching desire to reduce the Army.
The incoming President, John Adams, appeared friendly. On the 4th of March, 1797, Wilkinson sat in honorable place among the august few and saw him take the oath of office. In less than a year afterward he was to receive further proof of the Executive's regard in the form of a courteous letter expressing esteem for his services and skepticism about the stories of his intrigues.11 Adams, himself the p162 frequent victim of unjust rumors, was loath to punish another unless the evidence was beyond question; he knew that, in the bitterness of party strife, slander was a common weapon for ruining an adversary.
A few weeks after the inauguration, Wilkinson left Philadelphia and traveled to Pittsburgh with his family. After making them comfortable at this place, he set out to inspect the scattered posts in the West and to arrange for a few changes in the location of troops. By the terms of the Jay and Pinckney treaties, England and Spain had agreed to evacuate certain areas, and in them the United States was now obliged to take over the duty of maintaining law and order. On Wilkinson fell the task of disposing of the Army in diminutive detachments and preventing them from lapsing into ignorance and vice because of long isolation and the weakness of those in immediate command.
He inspected Fort Washington and found out that officers were violating conventions with concubines and soldiers had too many washerwomen to suit regulations; cards and dice were also being used in quarters for sinful purposes. Backgammon was regarded as better amusement for soldiers. At Detroit he tried to stop drunkenness and improve discipline. Lydia Conner, a camp follower, and William Mitchell, a sutler, were found guilty of selling liquor without permission; both were sentenced to be drummed out of the fort and through the town to the accompaniment of the "Rogues' March." They had to make their unhappy exit, joined hand in hand, with two bottles suspended from each of their necks, and were forbidden ever to return. On July 4, 1797, the date set for the execution of a deserter, Wilkinson exercised clemency, and ordered that the culprit "be conducted to the standard where kneeling and grasping with his right hand, his left uplifted, he is to renew the oath of fidelity to be administered by the Judge Advocate. He is then to be reconducted to the main guard, discharged from confinement and from the corps." One can speculate how fervently such an oath was taken upon that summer day. Rulings were also made concerning the allowance of rations: children of the Army were to have one; suckling infants none, but their mothers one and a half. Presumably another order was issued when weaning was reached. Often the ranks had been thinned because men had been detailed as "hunters, fishermen, hostlers, Gardners, fatigue men, scullions, etc. at the expense of the meritorious soldier and to the p163 great injury and disgrace of the service." Such lawless impositions were therefore strictly prohibited.12
But to such routine matters Wilkinson was not entirely confined. He kept a meteorological journal at the fort and another when he went to Mackinac, both of which he later gave to the American Philosophical Society.13 He often conferred with Colonel Hamtramck, who, as commanding officer at Detroit, was kept busy settling quarrels between Indians and the frontier riffraff and trying to prevent American soldiers from deserting into Canada. The British observed the dwindling of the garrison with satisfaction. Wilkinson had long held a strong dislike for them, and now it was greatly increased on hearing that they were furnishing asylum for army renegades.14
Wilkinson was therefore more than willing to comply with the wish of the Secretary of War, to resist the intrusion of the British in any attempt that they might make to pass through federal territory for an attack on Louisiana. The possibility of this invasion worried the Spaniards; they suspected that Americans, stirred with bitter memories of overbearing dons, might join with the British and revel in a heyday of vengeance. The prospect of what this mismated alliance might do, filled Carondelet with fear. It was increased still more when he realized the violent opposition of the Americans to imperial delay. He had recently received instructions that were to incense John Adams and many a backwoods trader.
In such an extremity Carondelet sent Thomas Power as his agent up the Mississippi to interview Wilkinson and other prominent characters in the hope that they might be induced to further the interests of Spain. The governor seemed to harbor the notion that the restless spirits of the West might be duped through fair promises into becoming submissive subjects of the Crown or invincible warriors for the winning of a fantastic empire. In all the arrangements planned, Wilkinson, of course, was to be an important figure. If he were unmoved by enticing tales of conspiracy he might at least be influenced to prolong the days for the Spaniards to hold the lower Mississippi against the assaults of the British from Canada or of Americans angered at continued deception and delay.
p164 Power left New Orleans during the summer of 1797 with authority to offer $100,000 to those who would start a revolution in Kentucky and Tennessee. He was to tell them of a new Spanish province to be carved out of the country lying east of the Mississippi and stretching from the Ohio to the Yazoo. When once the revolution was under way an equal amount of money and the requisite munitions of war would be forthcoming. As success gave play to imagination and effort, more territory might be acquired, the trans-Mississippi West might be won, a realm that kings might covet — all to be ruled in harmony by Spaniards and Americans beneath a flag of their own choosing.15
When Power had reached Natchez on his journey north he told Gayoso this opium dream of empire. Although the governor proved rather unbelieving, he did furnish a little money to help pay expenses for travelling farther and planting seeds of conspiracy in Tennessee and Kentucky. Not dismayed, the ubiquitous Power continued on his way. He was soon writing Carondelet that Wilkinson, George Rogers Clark, and others, whom the common folk would blindly follow, were devoted adherents of Spain, and that they could not afford to reject the flattering offer to be made them. He could ill afford to tell the truth. An interview with Benjamin Sebastian, one of Spain's most trusted pensioners, failed to kindle any enthusiasm. The ex-preacher thought the time not ripe for such a project, although Power sought his support by promising him that those who lost their position on account of Spanish affiliations would be fully indemnified. He also added that the boundaries of Kentucky as the nucleus of a newborn state would be greatly enlarged. Nevertheless Sebastian showed little interest; he merely promised to discuss the matter with his friends and let Power know the result; he also expressed a willingness to visit New Orleans for a conference, should this be desired.16
Power had accomplished nothing so far in an area that he had stated would listen greedily to his plans. Pushing farther north, he was destined to meet with even greater apathy. On the 16th of August he reached Detroit. Wilkinson was absent at Mackinac. About a fortnight later the General returned, burning to know the news from p165 New Orleans but realizing that if he received Power enthusiastically all the tongues in the neighborhood would be set wagging; he therefore ordered him held in nominal arrest in officers' quarters under directions to prepare for returning to New Madrid immediately. To further increase the impression that he cared nothing for Spanish overtures, he detailed Captain Shaumburgh with several men to see that Power was hustled on his way under guard.17 By this trick no one could halt and search him for suspicious papers. Wilkinson also wanted Carondelet to know as quickly as possible that the British were not planning to invade Spanish territory via Mackinac, and that, if by any chance they did so, he would effectively stop them. He wished the Spaniards to think that his expectation to protect them from the north was a matter of his own volition, not induced by orders of the Secretary of War to prevent violation of neutral territory.18 According to the route Power was compelled to travel, he would have opportunity to see how Wilkinson was shifting troops, apparently for meeting any such threatened invasion. If he had been allowed to go by Cincinnati and Louisville as he wished, he might have heard a different story; but Wilkinson was deaf to entreaty, writing Carondelet that his emissary was receiving every facility for a speedy return.19
Carondelet must have been gratified to learn that affairs were turning his way in one quarter, even if in another failure attended the plans that he cherished. He expressed the hope that Wilkinson would not insist on too hasty an occupation of Walnut Hills, Natchez, and other places, in spite of the fact that Andrew Ellicott was growing angry at delay and had accused Gayoso of stirring up the Indians to prevent the surveying of our southern boundary line. Counter accusations had followed, then "swearing and indecent words." To keep the peace, Carondelet requested Ellicott's powers be circumscribed to the limits of his commission. Wilkinson apparently did nothing to restrain him or prevent Captain Guion from continuing on with his men to Natchez.
Nor was Power able to suborn the General into supporting the plan that he had already unfolded to Sebastian and others in Kentucky, although Carondelet gave promise of great reward:
p166 You will have the Grant you solicit in the Illinois Country, and you ought to depend upon an annual bounty of four thousand dollars which shall be delivered to you at your order and to the person you may indicate."20
In spite of such a retaining fee Wilkinson would not share in Power's chimerical project. He explained, as others had done, that the western peoples, now enjoying the navigation of the Mississippi, had no special reasons for leaving the Union. He also added that his honor and position would not allow him to continue his former connection; in fact, he had gone so far as to destroy his cipher and previous correspondence with the Spaniards. In keeping with this apparent determination to serve only his country, he now advised them to carry out the treaty as they had agreed to do; but he also remarked that he might become governor at Natchez, and there opportunities might be found for making new plans. Wilkinson did not wish to break entirely his contact with the Spaniards; hence he did not fail to ask Power about the $640, which they still presumably owed him. The answer was disappointing; Power said that he had not cared to risk bringing the money along.21
Shortly after this interview with Power, Wilkinson made preparations to leave Detroit. At one time he thought of accompanying troops to Kaskaskia in order "to keep our neighbors in check, to countenance our friends, and confound the Banditti";22 but after Winthrop Sargent arrived there and established tranquil conditions, he decided to make directly for Pittsburgh. For nearly two months he was travelling •four hundred miles across snow-covered country, sleeping under canvas in the open with the temperature frequently around zero.23 One of those with him was ex-Senator Mitchell's son, a likable boy, worth taking under one's wing according to Wilkinson's notion. Kindnesses of this sort might be bountifully returned by the old gentleman himself. Another companion was Little Turtle, a chief who wielded great influence among the Indians.24 His good will meant present safety for the travelers and valuable help in any later negotiations with Indians of the Northwest. Wilkinson accordingly treated him with consideration. Shortly after the middle of December, when the detachment reached Pittsburgh, he wrote a very courteous letter to his brother-in‑law, p167 Owen Biddle, suggesting that Little Turtle be introduced to the Philosophical Society when he made a visit to Philadelphia to see the President. In the same letter were some very thoughtful observations about Indians in general:
"My late intercourse," he wrote, "with various tribes and nations, from this neighborhood to Lake Superior, convinces me that the corruptions of the Savages, are derived from those who stile [sic] themselves Christians — because, the further they are advanced from communications with white people the more honest, temperate and industrious I have found them.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"If this people are not brought to depend for subsistence on their fields, instead of their forests, and realize ideas of distinct property, it will be found impossible to correct their personal habits, and the seeds of their extinction already sown, must be matured.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"The experiments heretofore made to reform the Indian character, have not been well adapted to the object. Our missionaries have in general been narrow minded, ignorant, idle, or interested, and have paid more regard to forms than principles. The Education of Individuals at our Schools, have [sic] turned out the most profligate of the nation to which they belonged. — Speaking once to George White Eyes [a Miami chief], who was I believed educated at Princeton, respecting the incorrigible attachment of the Indians to savage life, he replied to me: 'it is natural we should follow the footsteps of our forefathers, and when you white people undertake to direct us from this path, you learn us to Eat, Drink, Dress, read and write like yourselves, and then you turn us loose to beg, starve or seek our native forests, without alternative and outlawed by your society, we curse you for the feelings you have taught us, and resort to excesses that we may forget them.'
"A great source of my present happiness is the conviction that I have deserved and enjoy the confidence and the friendship of the Indians N. W. of the Ohio."25
Wilkinson wrote with uncommon truth on that Christmas Eve of 1797. It is regrettable that he did not employ enough of his masterful energy and cleverness to win over the leaders of his country into adopting the ideas that he had so clearly expressed. His own reputation p168 and that of the federal government in the treatment of its Indian wards would have been greatly enhanced. As it was, the American Philosophical Society thought well of him, making him a member on January 19, 1798.26 Unfortunately Wilkinson could not hold grimly to a group of theories over an extended period; he discarded them as a skillful opportunist when they became too bitterly opposed, or when he was too busily engaged to rise up in their defense. Just then he felt no inclination to go to Philadelphia and help Little Turtle champion them.
He did not care to take the •297‑mile journey across the mountains just after completing one even longer and more dangerous; he was comfortable at his present station and nothing much could be gained by visiting the seat of government, where he might be coldly received. Like Hamilton and Washington, he did not have a very high opinion of the ability of the Secretary of War, James McHenry. To the General he was a "mock minister," who did not answer official correspondence and would make the Army the victim of ignorant and untimely experiments.27 He therefore thought better to stay at Pittsburgh, a sort of halfway station between the western posts and the important cities of the East. In this location he could readily receive and transmit orders. Meanwhile he endeavored to make the place worthy of the station of the general-in‑chief. Quarters were papered and painted and plastered. Bundles and boxes of household supplies were sent to him from Philadelphia to make his quarters comfortable for his family and guests. A pipe of wine was hauled over the mountains, followed by kegs of different sizes, and these helped to make merry the long winter evenings.28 Friends came and went, doubtless happier because of the easy hospitality of the Wilkinsons. Ann welcomed them. She was now in good health and the full enjoyment of her husband and the two boys. It was years since all of the family had been together for such a long time. The General hated the idea of separation, and hence made arrangements for them to accompany him when he started for the Southwest in the summer of 1798.
Many things were calling for his presence there. Indians, land speculators, British agents, and French sympathizers were proving frequent disturbers of the peace. Spaniards looked kindly upon some of them, hoping that they might be an indirect means of disrupting p169 the Pinckney Treaty. Over part of this troubled area Winthrop Sargent was preparing to preside, for he had received his commission as governor of Mississippi Territory on May 28, 1798. Wilkinson planned to travel down the Ohio, perhaps with him, and give support to the civil government soon to be organized. The two had known each other since the Revolution. Although they had occasionally disagreed as to the limits of civil and military authority, they had a number of friends and several interests in common. Each wanted to build up the West with hardy immigrants; each tried to plant in its nourishing soil the fruits and vegetables older countries had long enjoyed. In March, Wilkinson had written to Sargent asking for some Alpine strawberry seed; a month later he was forwarding to Sargent a shoot of the "Antwerp raspberry," worth twenty guineas as his letter ran.29
If Sargent received this expensive gift, he probably never enjoyed its fruit, for he was usually moving from place to place, trying to maintain law among the settlers and keep peace among magistrates who complained that Army officers were disregarding civil authority. Wilkinson promised to bring to account any such offenders in his own command. At the same time he requested Sargent to furnish him with the names of any British subjects enjoying federal office in the Northwest. They, of course, should be removed before an investigation was made.30 As he thought on those of double allegiance, his own dealings with the Spaniards came to mind. On the selfsame day that he wrote to Sargent, the following lines were sent to Gayoso:
"Observed everywhere, I dare not communicate with you, nor should you try to do so with me; [Humphrey] Marshall has attacked my honor and fidelity. You should not trust the western people, because some are traitors. Fortify your frontiers well. While I remain as at present all is safe. Have buried my cipher, but I will recover it. You have many spies in your country. Do not mention me nor write my name. I implore you in the name of God and our friendship. Fort Pitt, fifth March."31
There was reason for anxiety. Bitter enemies of the General might find opportunities to read the letters that passed to and from him over the long distance from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. The use of codes might delay, but did not always prevent, disclosure of important p170 secrets. Less chance of discovery lay in personal conferences between those who would engage in intrigue. If anything of consequence was to be attained, Wilkinson had better go to Natchez, where his presence was needed as commanding general of the Army and he would be in a more convenient position for extracting money from the frequently credulous Spaniards.
About the first week in June the Wilkinsons left Pittsburgh, and by the 14th they had reached Cincinnati, where the General remained over a month engaged in routine work of the Army and in settling difficulties between Indians and lawless whites.32 He soon knew what was going on in this section; perhaps the $100 that he spent for secret service made talking easier for those who had things to tell. A similar amount of federal funds went to pay a messenger who brought news and letters from the country of the lower Mississippi. To ingratiate himself with the savages, he had a great dinner — an $85 one — for chiefs of neighboring tribes. His friend Little Turtle was present, and he and four of his associates so enjoyed this gesture of hospitality that they lingered a month and were boarded at public expense.
They liked liquor, which was generously supplied. The tavern keeper had reasons for being agreeable — possibly thrift and fear. He presented a bill for boarding Little Turtle and his associates that included the following items:
|June 25th 1798||To Boarding 5 Indians 4 weeks @ 4 dollars per week||80|
|Boarding one Indian 2 weeks @ 4 dollars per week||8|
|28 quarts of wine equal to one quart per day @ 1.50 p. q.||42|
|14 quarts of Brandy equal to 1 pint per day @ 2.00 per qt||28|
|1¾ quarts of Gin equal to 72 gill per day @ 2D per qt||3||50|
|8¾ quarts Bounce equal to ½ pint & ½ Gill per day @ 1D50cts||13||12½|
p171 Little Turtle had already experienced a bit of the General's kindness and the government's munificence at Pittsburgh. There his heart had been gladdened by the gift of seven shirts, a pair of boots, a plated bridle, two pots, and some firearms. Besides, wine and brandy were his for the asking. The liquor may help explain why his favorite musical instrument needed repair. Nor had Mrs. Little Turtle been entirely forgotten during those days. She had been wheedled into complacent grunts by a present of •twelve and one-half yards of calico and two pairs of black silk gloves, appropriate finery for covering her swarthy figure and calloused hands when winter winds were strong and cold.34
Wilkinson understood these children of the forest and, like Jefferson, felt that the cost of stuffing them with food and decking them out in gewgaws was nothing to compare with the expense and horror of an Indian war. Along with methods of conciliation, he simultaneously quickened their fear and admiration by dazzling parades and the salvos of many guns. At the same time he tried to prevent the whites from cheating them in trade or settling upon lands reserved to them by treaty. At Fort Washington, as in other cases, his efforts met with success, and toward the end of July he was ready to resume his journey to Natchez in one of the government barges.
His family did not accompany him. It was better for his wife and boys to remain behind, for he could not feel sure just what accommodations might be obtained for them in the lower country, where yellow fever had recently appeared and various endemic diseases prevailed. During the first days of August he reached Fort Massac, situated near the juncture of the Ohio and the Mississippi. Nine years before, he had passed this point en route to New Orleans with great cargoes of Kentucky tobacco; now he had a flotilla of nearly thirty boats filled with armed men for taking over the forts that the Spaniards had promised to surrender. From an entrepreneur who had awakened the West to the great profits from down-river trade, he had become the chosen instrument of his government for sweeping aside the barriers that hindered its natural flow. Thoughtful persons could readily foresee that the Army's coming was a mere prelude to the further extension of federal domain. In five years Louisiana p172 would be taken, and before Wilkinson's death the American invasion of Texas would be well upon its way.
Indians, hidden in willows and canebrakes, did not look with friendly eyes upon this roughhewn armada moving sluggishly through the loops and oxbows of the great river that they had long considered their peculiar possession. When the boats drew close inshore at the end of the day, a chain of sentinels was posted on land, spreading fanwise out from the center of the flotilla to prevent the intrusion of Chickasaws and Choctaws. At reveille the outguards were drawn in and a few minutes afterwards the General gave a signal for getting under way. His boat led, followed in turn by the ones used respectively for kitchen, cows, and supplies. Then came the rest, in equal divisions commanded by various officers. Travel was slow, not much faster than the current of the river. The ordinary soldier liked changing station in such a fashion; fatigue details were not large except when a boat ran aground or met with some other disaster. He had a reasonably comfortable place for a bed, although it was commonly closed in. Even if he might have protected himself from mosquitoes he did not dare to sleep in the open; for the dews and night air were regarded as unfailing sources of disease. Although he found swimming refreshing in the hot summer weather, it was permitted only before sunup and after sunset, apparently for reasons of safety rather than modesty.35
In early fall Wilkinson reached Loftus Heights; and here, after the boats had been tied up, the men began to establish a camp, which was soon to bear the name of Fort Adams in honor of the President. Wilkinson was in and out as circumstances demanded. He often went up the river to Natchez, a nine-hour trip by boat, to make arrangements for establishing a garrison there and to confer with Winthrop Sargent, Daniel Clark, Sr., and others, on matters of personal and public concern.
The political and economic conditions of the neighborhood had greatly changed since Wilkinson's last trip to New Orleans in 1789. Cotton had displaced tobacco and indigo as the most remunerative crop, and many more planters had drifted down the Mississippi and settled along its banks, finding the rule of the Spaniards easily bearable and the land unusually fertile. With Whitney's invention they now p173 had a staple crop yielding exceptional profits. The necessities of life grew abundantly in the rich alluvial soil, which had been acquired often without cost to the owner. Slaves did most of the common drudgery, leaving to their masters a good deal of leisure. The more affluent of the whites usually spent it in politics, entertaining, and the rising of numerous progeny.
In spite of the fact that the country already belonged to the Indians and Spaniards, and that dangerous fevers usually prevailed within its boundaries, many prominent men of the frontier ardently coveted it, not infrequently seeking foreign aid to promote their desires. William Blount, senator from Tennessee, was an outstanding example of the type. During the winter of 1796‑1797, Wilkinson and Jefferson had been his dinner guests in Philadelphia. According to the story, John D. Chisholm, a garrulous adventurer from the Cherokee country, was to drop in casually and disclose the schemes that he and Blount and others were forming to win the Southwest from Spain by means of British aid along the coast and active support from Indian tribes of the interior; but, for some reason, he kept his peace and the Vice President and the commanding general of the Army did not become, at least for the time, companions in conspiracy.
However, Robert Liston, the British minister, when acquainted with the freebooter's program, seemed to see enough in it to pay Chisholm's passage to London. While he was sailing to England, Blount was hurrying back to Tennessee and had gone as far as Colonel King's, just south of the Virginia line, when he learned of the special session of Congress that President Adams had called. Under the necessity of returning to Philadelphia, he wrote to James Carey, his one-time subordinate but now an accomplice, who was employed as a federal agent among the southern Indians. The letter, after disclosing encouraging progress of the conspiracy, directed Carey to burn it after reading three times; on the contrary, he became drunk and careless and allowed it to fall into unfriendly hands. It soon became the property of the President, and by July 3, 1797, the Senators knew in what shady transactions their colleague was involved. They took immediate action and expelled him from their body. He then made a headlong flight to Tennessee, where he labored with diminishing success to regain his prestige until he died in 1800.36
p174 Among the associates of Blount was Zachariah Cox, whose reputation was already soiled from his connection with the "notorious Yazoo Land Grants." When this real estate venture proved abortive he and Mathias Moher became the chief promoters of the Tennessee Land Company, to which the pliant legislature of Georgia had made an extensive grant near Muscle Shoals during January, 1795. After establishing a settlement known as Smithland on the Ohio between the Tennessee and the Cumberland, Cox prepared to descend the Mississippi for the avowed purpose of closing the country west of it and making a commercial connection in New Orleans. He set out for the South a few weeks after the departure of Winthrop Sargent, the newly appointed governor of Mississippi Territory, and managed to reach Natchez several days ahead of Wilkinson. There his troubles began. On August 18, 1798, seven days after his arrival, Captain Isaac Guion, a trusted officer of Wilkinson, reached town, and about midnight a detail of soldiers surrounded Cox's lodging and took him away to keep company with an odd lot of horse thieves for more than a month.37
Wilkinson had written Sargent from Massac recommending such strong-armed action on the basis that "he had taken a position on the lands guaranteed to the Indians by the Treaty of Hopewell, — that he had there assembled, organized, and arranged an armed force, inlisted [sic] for twelve months, and that he had erected Tribunals, which have proceeded to inflict punishments unknown to the nation." Wilkinson further added that against such an armed rabble operating far from the seat of government and opposed by inadequate military forces, it was expedient to act, particularly since a great conspiracy from Georgia to the Monongahela was expected to mature in December. Therefore "we must stifle the monster in Embryo, or extensive Calamities may ensue; Cox's followers begin to doubt his stability, but are reluctant to let go the lure by which he has attracted them — to unmask the Impostor, to dispel his delusions, and to blow up the whole combination, it is only necessary to seize this chief actor and to hold him in safe custody."38
Under secret charges, Cox was held at Fort Panmure until the night of September 26. Then he managed to escape by climbing over the walls of his place of confinement while the guard was perhaps p175 intentionally negligent, and Wilkinson and Hamtramck were having a party. Cox did not linger in the neighborhood but traveled south, reaching New Orleans on October 3, and without delay called on the Spanish Governor, Gayoso de Lemos, and told him a story of persecuted innocence. Before his arrival, however, a messenger had come posthaste from Wilkinson, bringing a warning that a leader of bandits was coming to arouse disorder and tumult. Gayoso, thereupon issued a proclamation telling the inhabitants the news that he had received and enjoining them to be on their guard. When Cox put in an appearance, he was not molested in spite of Wilkinson's request that he be arrested and turned over to American authorities. With no treaty of extradition, the Governor, of course, did not comply; the General, in fact, had exceeded his authority and the Secretary of War took him to task for doing so.39
When rumors spread north that Cox might return to vaunt his freedom and "rescue his Brethren in confinement," Wilkinson wrote and offered Sargent $300 from federal funds to secure his apprehension. Money bred success; the fugitive was taken in the lower towns of the Choctaws. But here, Samuel Mitchell, federal Indian agent, interposed his authority and dispatched him under guard to Tennessee, where he was very eager to be sent. Thus Wilkinson, though chagrined at his failure to bring Cox to book, did feel that he had driven another "disreputable" from the district of Natchez; he was also glad "White the rascal" was off, and would have felt further relieved if "Old Hutchins, the scoundrel" had left with the other two.40
Although Wilkinson's strenuous efforts to be rid of Cox may have been inspired by the reasons given to Sargent, others, not openly avowed, may have also influenced his actions. In New Orleans, Cox expected to form business connections, and these might interfere with the General's personal interests there; he also wanted to open up a trade route from the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers directly to the Gulf, a scheme that might complicate federal relations with both Indians and Spaniards. By vigorously suppressing men like Cox, Wilkinson would have a better chance to promote his own ends and advertise his loyalty to the government.
p176 Knowing that his own reports would not sufficiently impress the administration in the ways that he wanted he cultivated the friendship of men like Andrew Ellicott and Winthrop Sargent, who were constantly writing to important people in the East. Ellicott had been in or around Natchez since February 24, 1797. Before leaving Philadelphia he was particularly enjoined to keep peace with the Spaniards, an injunction that he tried to observe although his patience was sorely tried. At first Gayoso seemed willing to coöperate. Then, in accordance with instructions from Carondelet, he reversed himself, and placed as many stumbling blocks as possible in the way of those who would execute the provisions of the Pinckney treaty. At one time Ellicott had to look impotently on and see the Spanish cannon remounted in position at the fort from which they had been recently taken and laboriously hauled to the river landing. A few days later Gayoso issued a proclamation declaring that he would not give up the district until he felt sure that land titles would be respected and the Indians pacified. Next, Nolan added to the ill feeling by bringing word from New Orleans that Carondelet had declared: "Lead for the Americans, hemp for the inhabitants." Somewhat later a small-minded Baptist preacher came and, after stirring up tumult in a drunken wrangle, was rightfully thrown in the stocks by the urbane Gayoso. His confinement was considered tyrannical by the already indignant settlers, and Gayoso had to take refuge in the fort to escape their retaliation. From this time until the arrival of Sargent the government rested in the hands of a committee composed of inhabitants of the district.41
Thus almost a year slipped by, and Ellicott had nothing to show for his efforts, although he might congratulate himself that he had escaped being tomahawked by drunken Indians and had not succumbed to the fevers of the lower Mississippi. Philip Nolan had often come to his rescue when beset by savages, and Dr. Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia had supplied him with a great quantity of pills for bi-weekly dosing. Ellicott had great faith in them, believing that if he had had enough of them his sickness two years later might have been prevented. These wonder-working pills were made of "calomel and gamboge combined by means of a little soap."42
Finally, in January, 1798, Ellicott learned that the Spaniards p177 would immediately begin to evacuate Natchez and Nogales. Godoy, having changed his mind, had decided that the treaty should be carried out; and Gayoso became the instrument for making mutually satisfactory arrangements for the establishment of the new boundary line. On the 9th of April, Ellicott left Natchez to begin surveying;43 for him the most critical days concerning the treaty were past. To be sure, he still had many problems; but with the aid of Wilkinson, now on the way south, they would yield to solution.
Perhaps Sargent, the newly appointed Governor of Mississippi Territory, who arrived on the 6th of August, had an even greater need for the General's active support. Until late in September, Sargent had suffered from ill health; and when he began to improve he was still handicapped by a brittle mind and unbending manner. Meticulous by nature, he could not understand why many showed an easy disregard for law and order. From time to time he sought help from Wilkinson in establishing his new regime. Frequently he asked rations for his assistants and visiting Indians. On occasions he wanted to use some of the public buildings that he thought Wilkinson could spare. As a rule the General complied, but sometimes rather grudgingly.44 Both men saw that they must, at least, be outwardly friendly if the civil and military governments were to prosper under their direction. Besides asking aid of the governor in cases like that of Cox, Wilkinson did not hesitate to make requests of a very personal kind, going so far as to ask Sargent to write Mrs. Wilkinson a few lines "commendatory of the climate and society" in order that she might hasten to the South.45 Since the governor liked her, abominated Natchez, and also had a regard for truth, one wonders if he complied, especially at a time when he was recovering from a month's illness and writing Wilkinson to express sympathy for the large number on the Army's sick report. He hated the place worst of all on Sundays, when it was overrun with drunken soldiers, Indians, and negroes. For the purpose of quelling these disturbers he asked aid of the garrison and expressed the hope that if troops were to have whisky they would be prohibited from drinking it within the limits of the town.
p178 In spite of these difficulties the civil government grew in strength, and the Indians gave fewer signs of hostility. The Spaniards procrastinated as usual but showed a willingness to execute their part of the treaty. For the Americans, political conditions had decidedly improved since the early days of 1797. By the time Wilkinson reached Natchez on September 27, 1798,46 much of the difficult preliminary work had been accomplished; his task was largely to further what had already been started. Being a natural diplomat and enjoying the Army's support, he quickly became a very formidable figure in Mississippi Territory. He liked the orders that he had received to promote peace with the Indians and Spaniards; the idea was congenial to his real temperament and made for his personal advantage.
Andrew Ellicott had similar instructions and was also determined to obey them. While in the Southwest he and Wilkinson were friends. Each visited the other as well as Daniel Clark, who, with his wife, often sent them neighborly tokens of regard. Once Ellicott was favored with a few cows. Before long he was writing a letter asking what had become of the milkmaids.47 At a later day Wilkinson might have inquired why he asked for such companion pieces when already possessed of Betsy the harlot. But in 1798 Wilkinson and Ellicott were on congenial terms. They were government officials, far from home, and quarreling might defeat their separate missions. They were also about the same age, had come under Quaker influence, and were endeavoring to establish themselves as faithful servants of the Federalist party. Both had relatives and friends among well known people of Philadelphia, and they eagerly looked forward to the day when they could be there again. Each had reached the height of his respective profession, and that fact was enough to excite mutual admiration. Although without a natural bent toward science, Wilkinson respected men like Owen Biddle, Rittenhouse, and Franklin who had won distinction in it. These three, and Ellicott, were all members of the Philosophical Society, an honor that Wilkinson had only lately received.
If such reasons did not induce Wilkinson to show himself friendly, perhaps another, more important than all the rest, determined his attitude — a fear that Ellicott might be a channel through which tales of bribery and intrigue traveled to Congress and the President. In p179 fact, Ellicott had already acted on Washington's request; namely, to inform him about certain citizens, particularly Wilkinson, who were suspected of being too friendly with the Spanish government.48 In the summer of 1797 he had made a report concerning Wilkinson to the Secretary of State.49 On June 5 he wrote that Thomas Power, an agent of Carondelet, was on the way to the Ohio country with the object of detaching Kentuckians from the Union and of paying a visit "in the first instance" to General Wilkinson, then in Detroit. Toward Power, Ellicott gave no sign of mistrust; on the contrary, he gave him a letter for the General, telling how the Spaniards were thwarting the provisions of the treaty and requesting that an officer of "sobriety, talent and industry" be sent to take command at Natchez. Captain Isaac Guion, certainly of more than average ability and experience, had already been selected for the detail and was travelling down the river to his new station.
In the following November, Ellicott sent even more startling information to Philadelphia.50 He declared that Wilkinson, John Brown, Sebastian, and La Cassagne were all in possession of "annual stipends" from Spain, and that once in a while others received bribes from the same source. Letters to them were written in cipher and hidden in barrels of sugar. The first object of the conspirators, as he went on to say, was to detach Kentucky and Tennessee from the Union and place them under the protection of Spain. Then was to follow the "great plan" — creation of a new empire with Mexico as its center. Wilkinson was to lead Kentucky troops thither along a route that had been already explored. Spanish officers had agreed to the idea and were trying to cover up their plotting by a pretended zeal for the interests of the Crown. The ubiquitous Power, of course, was the secret disseminator of this conspiracy.
What Ellicott reported, Carondelet was endeavoring, in general, to do. Pickering, the Secretary of State, however, was not stirred into action; he was too practical for that. He knew the West was not in a mood to listen to Power's piping; he knew that Wilkinson could not be convicted of any serious charge on the evidence that had been lately received, even if the Spaniards should be willing to disclose their disreputable diplomacy and testify against him. He therefore p180 very wisely waited for the turn of events and the receipt of more information.
Less than a year after this last report Wilkinson arrived at Loftus Heights. On October 14, 1798, he visited Ellicott in camp and remained with him for about three days. The General, wanting the good will of his host, tried to make his short stay one of mutual pleasure; he talked a good deal about the "state and situation of the country," and his ideas about both seem to have met with approval.51 They also discussed and reached agreement concerning two of Ellicott's subordinates. One of them was Thomas Freeman, an assistant surveyor, who was frequently drunk and went absent without leave. He also disturbed others by rehearsing scenes from Shakespeare; he was especially eloquent in the rôle of Falstaff and delighted to brandish a sword.52 To these rather exhilarating defects he added a seditious correspondence with Captain Guion, whom Ellicott very much hated. Another whom Ellicott thoroughly disliked was Lieutenant John McClary, commandant of the escort, who was charged with being "lazy and under hostile influence." Wilkinson agreed to relieve McClary and to support Ellicott in his charges against Freeman. On October 18, two days after Wilkinson's departure, Freeman was suspended as a surveyor of the United States because of "impropriety" in the discharge of his duties, disobedience, and "inflammatory conversation."53 "An idle, lying, troublesome, discontented, mischief-making man," as Ellicott would say, no longer had a job.54
Now stranded, Freeman had to seek employment, and within less than a month he was talking things over with Wilkinson, who almost immediately sat down and wrote Ellicott a very pertinent letter. In it he said Freeman "has given me a certificate of old Bare Bones to him touching my Spanish Commission, and written me a letter of vindication." There was also included news of more personal importance to Ellicott; Freeman was not planning to prefer any charges unless forced to do so in his own defense.55 A counterattack of this kind would probably not have been successful, but it might have caused a great deal of trouble for Ellicott. Wilkinson realized his p181 advantage in maintaining peace between the two; he saw in Freeman a man whom he could use. Within six months he put him on the pay roll in place of William Dunbar, a recent suicide. Employing him, as Wilkinson explained, arose from necessity and meant "no deadening of affection" for Ellicott, who in the meantime had gone to New Orleans and moved eastward to complete the boundary survey. In this new area he and Freeman would not be embarrassed by crossing each other's paths.
Just before leaving the Natchez neighborhood, Ellicott gave proof of his friendship for Wilkinson. On December 16, 1798, he wrote him, in part, as follows:
"I have seen a letter in the handwriting of M. Power dated the 23rd. ultimo in which your name is mentioned in a manner that astonishes me. I dare not commit any part of it to paper but if I should ever have the pleasure of another interview with you I will communicate the substance of it under the injunction of secrecy. If the design of it has been to injure you in my opinion it has failed in its effect for on the most material point I am confident it is false. Any coolness toward him on your side or any indiscreet observations not in his favor to any person whatsoever might excite suspicion detrimental to me in our present situation."56
To find out the contents of this astonishing letter was evidently one of the reasons that Wilkinson had visited not only Ellicott but also Stephen Minor during October. Gayoso declared neither trip had been necessary, because such papers, like those belonging to the subscribers of the "great plan," should cause no worry to Wilkinson, Sebastian, or Brown so long as they conducted themselves with propriety. In fact, all the General's original letters, as he said, had been forwarded to Spain; only copies had been retained.57
With a persistence that seemed to make no impression, Ellicott forwarded the above information to the Secretary of State on November 8, just as he had done in two other instances during the previous year. Even if Wilkinson did not know what the government was learning about him through this source, he must have known that tales none too flattering to his reputation were being glibly told. On the 19th he wrote to Gayoso:
"My commercial correspondence with New Orleans, and our p182 personal friendships, have been interpreted into the most sinister designs, and falsehoods and fictions have been invented, from Natchez to Philadelphia, to rob me of my Fame and Fortune."58
Granted that Gayoso had no original letters, he could still produce evidence, if he chose, that would be ruinous to Wilkinson. But the General knew that he would not do so, and thereby reveal a seamy side of Spanish diplomacy. He could, therefore, afford to evince little anxiety about Ellicott's letter of December 16. To it the General replied on Christmas Eve. Though baffled by its contents, he would observe "his uniform conduct" toward Power, to whom, as he said, he had written only once privately in the last three years. He revealed no anxiety to see Ellicott soon and learn what could not be safely committed to paper; instead, he merely expressed himself as he might have done to many another of his friends: "To‑morrow is Xmas and I wish you were here to enjoy it with us. We shall make the cannon roar and remember our Atlantic friends. I make no doubt you will be better entertained in the gay city of New Orleans."59
From New Orleans, Ellicott went to the Floridas. While he was at St. Marks, Madame Portel, wife of the Spanish commandant, told him of Wilkinson's pension money previously sent from New Madrid.60 At the time he did nothing about this interesting bit of information. Wilkinson was a long way off, and Pickering, the Secretary of State, was not hunting for additional trouble. Being of a pacific disposition, Ellicott had no flair for controversy; perhaps he also realized that there were many others who were tarred with the same stick as Wilkinson. Not until years later did he seem inclined to injure the General with what he had learned.
His information, like most of that published by Wilkinson's detractors, was based on sources not highly regarded. Spanish officials were really the only ones who could produce testimony that would convict him, and they would suffer loss of reputation and probably of office by doing so. Miró, Carondelet, and Gayoso also had other reasons for silence. Wilkinson constantly showed himself friendly and sometimes engaged with them in schemes for mutual profit; but he almost always cut the cloth of his personal enterprises to fit the pattern of orders that he had received from the federal government. Perhaps Washington, Adams, and Jefferson understood his methods, believing that he would p183 never go so far as to commit open treachery, although he might use his office as an aid to fattening his purse. Each of the three Presidents wanted to maintain peace with Spain; and Wilkinson, as an important official in trying times and in critical areas, vigorously endeavored to carry out this phase of their policies.
Ever since arriving at Loftus Heights he had been making a strong bid for Spanish favor. By 1798 the chief barrier to friendly advances had been removed. Carondelet had received Godoy's orders of September 22, 1797, to evacuate the posts stipulated in the Pinckney treaty; and Gayoso, no longer handicapped by conflicting directions, found no particular reason to delay coöperation with the Americans, restless to acquire the land that had been ceded to them. As troops came down the Mississippi, Wilkinson gave assurance that they were designed only for the purpose of peaceful occupation61 and made satisfactory arrangements for some of them to be supplied over the more convenient routes that lay through Spanish territory. An agreement for the mutual surrender of deserters was also effected.62 Unfortunately, as Wilkinson thought, it did not include civil offenders like Zachary Cox.
As commanding general of the Army, Wilkinson often tried to return favors that the Spaniards had granted. Once when a Spanish subject, Matías Agustín, sold taffia without a permit to soldiers at three bits a pint, he was sentenced to one hundred lashes and drumming out of camp with two bottles suspended from his neck. After approving the sentence, the General remitted the punishment except dismissal from camp. He justified his clemency on account of the amicable relations "subsisting between his Majesty of Spain and the United States of America," and the consideration due a foreigner of a sovereign power whose good will was appreciated. Of course, he furnished Gayoso with a copy of the court-martial and the remarks justifying such leniency.63 For this gesture of good will he soon received a letter of thanks from New Orleans.
Gayoso was polite; he was also discriminating. He did not bestir himself to see that the general's pension was paid, and, as Carondelet's successor, his influence might have helped. Although showing to the General and his friends more than conventional interest and regard, p184 he did not yield to their schemes of personal gain unless the interests of Spain were well served in the bargain. Educated with Englishmen, he understood them and their point of view, although he did not practice their directness in manner or speech. He clothed his words with courtesy and carefully observed the outward forms decreed by Spanish gentlemen.
At times he favored Wilkinson's protégé, Philip Nolan; on other occasions he endeavored to hinder his plans. During the winter of 1796‑1797 Nolan had gone north into the general area of Missouri and made a map of the country. When ready to return south he had fallen in with Ellicott, who was happy to add to his party a frontiersman having a large following throughout the Southwest and knowing how to handle both the Indians and the Spaniards. While they traveled together, Nolan learned more about surveying and won from Ellicott lasting admiration. On reaching Natchez, Nolan continued on to New Orleans, where Carondelet became enthusiastic over the news and maps that he brought. Hoping for more topographical data, Carondelet, on June 17, 1797, granted a passport into Texas for Nolan and his followers. Gayoso, although apparently helping the enterprise by furnishing a sextant, was soon regarded by Nolan as an "implacable enemy." Gayoso knew that the adventurer's chief object was to introduce prohibited goods into Spanish territory and to return with horses that he could sell in Louisiana at a handsome profit. He may have suspected that the data wanted by Carondelet would fall into the hands of men like Wilkinson, who yearned for the acquisition of Texas. Possibly Gayoso believed that information derived by these methods did not compensate for the injury done to the interests of Spain; hence, on succeeding Carondelet, he wrote to the governor of Texas and requested that Nolan be apprehended. Nothing was done, and Nolan returned to Louisiana near the end of 1799 and before long was telling stories of Texas that aroused interest from Philadelphia to New Orleans. Apparently neither Nolan nor Wilkinson knew what steps had been taken to thwart the expedition until after Gayoso's death in 1799.64
No doubt Wilkinson would have vigorously remonstrated had he known of Gayoso's action. He usually did well by his friends, of whom he had a great number — recipients of his easy hospitality, associates p185 in commercial enterprises, and contractors who had profited from government business. These now saw Wilkinson in his prime and without the bitterness of later years. He was jovial, voluble, and successful; his nose was tinged with claret, and his waist had begun to thicken; his eyes were bright, and he talked enthusiastically about whatever caught his fancy. His listeners were usually impressed even if they were not convinced of the correctness of his thesis. He talked of things about which they liked to hear — politics, Indians, arms, hunting, fine houses, and women, too, in a gallant sort of way. He was masterful, and a splendid showman. When he walked, it was something of a strut; when he rode, his uniform was colorful and his mount was well bred and carefully groomed. Usually he was accompanied by a flashing turnout of officers and men. He was an easy spender of government money, and also of his own. He had exuberant and restless energy, and, although he insisted that his headquarters be provided with conveniences in keeping with his rank, he used them only casually. At Natchez there was a swinging cot with a canopy and mosquito net where he might recline to take his ease after a cup of wine, a bit of venison, and a fragrant cigar; but he did not frequently avail himself of a siesta, because the range of his duties was large and he had the desire to work. He spent hours in travel and writing voluminous letters concerning the units of his widely scattered command. With the rank and file he was not especially popular; they did not care for some of his reforms, and they knew what a tempest he could raise in moments of anger. The wiser ones tried to avoid incurring his ill will. They saw in him a man who was vain, pretentious, and wholly devoid of a sense of humor; they knew that when he took up the cudgels he seldom desisted until amends were made. To force and persistence he added an unrestrained and careless fluency. When once he had put his hand to quill and ink, he did not stop until he believed his case was proved and his enemies had been branded with the names that they deserved.
With Gayoso, however, the General was on pleasing terms of intimacy during the year of 1799. In the spring Gayoso offered Concordia, his country estate near Natchez, for the use of Mrs. Wilkinson and the boys, who were then on the way down the Mississippi under the care of eight sturdy boatmen. The General did not immediately avail himself of the offer. Perhaps he did not like the proposed p186 terms of rent or purchase. Nor could he very well leave Loftus Heights, where he was supervising the expenditure of $80,000 of federal funds on works that he had designed to make Fort Adams invincible. Nevertheless, he expressed a belief that Concordia had as good a title "as any," and that the price asked for it would be obtained in a couple of years. Meanwhile, he would try to find a buyer or suggest means for making it immediately productive.65 Such was the message that one Joseph Collins presumably bore; he may have proposed also that Concordia be turned over to the General to liquidate pension arrears. A transaction like this might have been hard on Gayoso and a little perplexing to an ordinary bookkeeper, but the Spaniards had a way of their own in the mixing of personal and royal accounts. In addition, Collins was prepared to unfold the details of a speculation in which the Governor, the General, and he might profit. The scheme must have had seductive points, for the promoter had means, a good deal of experience, and was favorably known.
Collins also brought along a little gift to Madame Gayoso from Mrs. Wilkinson: "a few cranberries, a northern berry valuable for its rarity in this quarter and its fine aromatic flavor when properly prepared."66 Both the General and his wife found pleasure in such acts of courtesy. Somewhat later they expressed a strong desire to have Gayoso's daughter for a visit. They hoped the rest of the Governor's family would come and stay awhile with them at Bayou Tara, where the General thought of making a home for the summer.67 Much to the disappointment of them all, his plans went awry. The Secretary of War wished to confer with him, and before long he was travelling to the seat of government as quickly as he could.
1 Bond, The Civilization of the Old Northwest, 351‑361.
2 Wayne to McHenry, Oct. 3, 1796, Wayne Papers, Vol. XLVI.
3 To Innes, Sept. 4, 1796, Innes Papers, Vol. XXIII.
4 The Journal of Andrew Ellicott, 6.
5 Wayne to Wilkinson, July 7, 1792, Wayne Papers, Vol. XX.
6 Butler to Wayne, Oct. 19, 1796, Wayne Papers, Vol. XLVII.
7 Dayton to Wilkinson, Mar. 16, 1796, Wilkinson Papers, Vol. I, Chicago Hist. Soc.
8 Wayne to McHenry, Oct. 3, 1796, Wayne Papers, Vol. XLVI.
9 To Gayoso, Nov. 5, 1796, A. G. I., Seville, Papeles de Cuba, leg. 2375.
10 To Adams, Dec. 26, 1797, in Wilkinson, Memoirs, II, App. XXXVIII.
11 Adams to Wilkinson, Feb. 4, 1798, in Wilkinson, Memoirs, II, 154‑156.
12 G. O., Fort Washington, May 22, 1797, G. O., Detroit, July 4, 20, Nov. 3, 10, 1797, in War Dept., Adj.‑Gen.'s Off., Old Records Bur.
13 Early Minutes of the American Philosophical Society, Dec. 7, 1798, and Dec. 6, 1799.
14 To Wayne, July 12, 1797, Wilkinson Papers, Vol. I, Chicago Hist. Soc.
15 Carondelet to Power, May 26, 1798, Amer. State Papers, Miscel., II, 102‑104; Ellicott to Pickering, Nov. 14, 1797, in Matthews, Andrew Ellicott, 161‑163; Cox, "Wilkinson's First Break with the Spaniards," in Biennial Reports Archives and History West Va., 1911‑1912, 1913‑1914, pp49‑56.
16 Cox, loc. cit.
17 Power to Gayoso de Lemos, Dec. 5, 1797, Amer. State Papers, Miscel., II, 107‑109.
18 To Carondelet, Sept. 4, 1797, A. G. I., Seville, Papeles de Cuba, leg. 2375.
19 To Power, Sept. 5, 1797, Amer. State Papers, Miscel., II, 105; to Carondelet, Sept. 4, 1797, A. G. I., Seville, Papeles de Cuba, leg. 2375.
20 Carondelet to Wilkinson, Apr. 20, 1797, A. G. I., Seville, Papeles de Cuba, leg. 2375.
21 Power to Gayoso, Dec. 5, 1797, Amer. State Papers, Miscel., II, 107‑109.
22 To Sargent, Sept. 6, 1797, Sargent Papers.
23 Gazette of the United States, Dec. 16, 1797. L. C.
24 To Pratt, Dec. 27, 1797, Pratt Papers.
25 To Owen Biddle, Dec. 24, 1797, Collection T. R. Hay.
26 Early Minutes of Amer. Philosophical Society, Jan. 19, 1798.
27 To Pratt, Dec. 27, 1797, Pratt Papers; to Sargent, Jan. 3, 1798, Sargent Papers.
28 Expenditures in the Naval and Military Establishments . . . 1797‑1801, 34, 35, 38, 233, 234.
29 To Sargent, Mar. 24, Apr. 23, 1798, Sargent Papers.
30 To Sargent, Jan. 3, Mar. 5, 6, 1798, Sargent Papers.
31 To Gayoso, Mar. 5, 1798, A. G. I., Seville, Papeles de Cuba, leg. 2375; and Cox, op. cit., 54.
32 To Jacob Reed, June 24, 1798, Gates Papers.
33 Bill of William Austin, in Gratz Coll.
34 Expenditures in the Naval and Military Establishments . . . 1797‑1801, 203, 204, 219, 222, 264.
35 G. O., Aug. 8, 9, 10, 1798, Wilkinson's Book of General Orders, 1797‑1801, W. D., A. G. O., O. R.
36 Whitaker, The Mississippi Question, 104‑115.
37 Cox, "Documents Relating to Zachariah Cox," in Quarterly Publications of Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio, VIII, 31‑114.
38 To Sargent, Aug. 2, 1798, Sargent Papers.
39 Cox, op. cit., 78 et passim, and McHenry to Wilkinson, Jan. 31, 1799, Wilkinson Papers, Vol. I, Chicago Hist. Soc.
40 To Sargent, Nov. 4, 1798, Sargent Papers; to McHenry, Dec. 6, 1798, Hamilton Papers, Vol. XXXIII.
41 The Journal of Andrew Ellicott, 40‑65, 85, 96‑100, 167.
42 Op. cit., 292.
43 Op. cit., 177.
44 Sargent to Pickering, Sept. 27, Nov. 1, 1798, Mar. 3, 1799, in Rowland, Mississippi Territorial Archives, 1798‑1803, I, 53‑56, 74‑76, 111; Wilkinson to Sargent, Oct. 28, 1798, Sargent Papers.
45 To Sargent, Oct. 20, 1798, Sargent Papers.
46 Sargent to Pickering, Sept. 29, 1798, in Rowland, op. cit., I, 53‑56.
47 Clark to Ellicott, July 21, 1798, Ellicott Papers, Vol. II; Ellicott to Hawkins, Feb. 25, 1798, Ellicott Papers, Vol. I.
48 Whitaker The Mississippi Question, 280.
49 Ellicott to Pickering, June 5, 1797, and Ellicott to Wilkinson, June 5, 1797, in Wilkinson, Memoirs, II, 164, 168.
50 Ellicott to Pickering, Nov. 14, 1797, Pickering Papers.
51 Ellicott notes, without heading, Ellicott Papers, Vol. I, and Ellicott to Sargent, Oct. 20, 1798, Ellicott Papers, Vol. III.
52 Drewry, Episodes in Western Expansion, etc., 118.
53 Ellicott to Sargent, Oct. 20, 1798, Ellicott Papers, Vol. III; Ellicott to Freeman, Oct. 18, 1798, Ellicott Papers, Vol. I.
54 Ellicott to Mrs. Ellicott, Nov. 6, 1798, in Mathews, Andrew Ellicott: His Life and Letters, 160.
55 To Ellicott, Nov. 10, 1798, Ellicott Papers, Vol. II; to Ellicott, May 8, 1799, Ibid.
56 Ellicott to Wilkinson, Dec. 16, 1798, Ellicott Papers, Vol. I.
57 Enclosure from Ellicott to Jefferson, Nov. 8, 1798, Jefferson Papers, Vol. CVII.
58 To Gayoso, Nov. 19, 1798, A. G. I., Seville, Papeles de Cuba, leg. 2375.
59 To Ellicott, Dec. 24, 1798, Wilkinson Papers, Vol. I, Chicago Hist. Soc.
60 The Journal of Andrew Ellicott, 238.
61 To Gayoso, Nov. 19, 1798, A. G. I., Seville, Papeles de Cuba, leg. 2375.
62 To Hamilton, Apr. 10, 1799, Hamilton Papers, Vol. XXXIX; to Hamilton, May 24, 1799, Hamilton Papers, Vol. XLII.
63 G. O., Loftus Heights, Nov. 19, 1798, Wilkinson's Book of General Orders, 1797‑1807, W. D., A. G. O., O. R.; Wilkinson to Gayoso, Nov. 17, 1798, A. G. I., Seville, Papeles de Cuba, leg. 2375.
64 Wilkinson, Memoirs, II, App. II; Parker, Philip Nolan and the Forerunners of American Expansion in the Southwest, 32‑40.
65 To Gayoso, Mar. 15, 1799, A. G. I., Seville, Papeles de Cuba, leg. 2375.
66 To Gayoso A. G. I., Seville, Papeles de Cuba, leg. 2375.
67 To Gayoso, Mar. 26, 1799, Ibid.
Images with borders lead to more information.
The thicker the border, the more information. (Details here.)
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
if its URL has a total of one *asterisk.
If the URL has two **asterisks,
the item is copyright someone else, and used by permission or fair use.
If the URL has none the item is © Bill Thayer.
See my copyright page for details and contact information.
Page updated: 11 Jul 13