1889 History of Allegheny County

“Strong suspicions were entertained about this time (fall 1777) of the loyalty of some of the inhabitants of Western Pennsylvania and Virginia, and numerous arrests were made; but the greater part of those arrested were paroled.  The most noted of these was Alexander McKee, who had formerly been deputy Indian agent at Pittsburgh, and who, as early as April, 1776, had been put on his parol, by a committee of whigs, “not to give any aid or comfort” to the British.  In the meantime he quietly plotted with the Indians for the removal of his effects from Fort Pitt across the Allegheny into the Indian country.  Well had it been for the western country had this arch-traitor been secured at once.  As it was, he was suffered to remain at large upon his promise not to correspond with or give any intelligence to the enemies of the United States, or to leave the neighborhood without permission.  He was soon afterward rearrested, and, after being confined to his own house, was paroled anew.  Hand afterward ordered him to report at York, Pa., to the continental board of war; but he feigned sickness, and remained at home.  The excitement against the tories subsided after a short time, and in the spring of 1778 all was apparently quiet.  But it was the lull that precedes the storm.  On the 28th of March all was changed; for not only McKee, but Mathew Elliott, who had lately arrived from Quebec, claiming to be a prisoner returned on parol, but in reality having a captain’s commission from the British in his pocket, and Simon Girty, an Indian interpreter, fled from the vicinity of Fort Pitt and joined the enemy.  These three renegades, as H. H. Brackenridge said, “of that horrid brood called refugees, whom the devil has long since marked as his own,” proved themselves active servants of the English, causing untold sufferings on the frontier, not only during the war with Great Britain, but so long as the war with the Indians continued.  Immediately after their departure they began to exert a sinister influence on the tribes, mainly the Delawares, inducing many of them who had remained neutral to become avowed enemies of the United States.  Their attempts were, however, in a measure, frustrated by the exertions of the friends of the Union.  With other tribes, and especially the Shawanese, they were more successful, and aroused them to a desire to harass the settlements.  After visiting neighboring tribes they made their way to Detroit.  The seeds of disorder were rooted more deeply at Fort Pitt and in its vicinity than was at first supposed, and other traitors were soon discovered.  On the night of April 20th several persons stole a boat and fled down the Ohio.  They were, however, overtaken at the mouth of the Muskingum by a party sent after them, and the ringleaders were killed or captured.  Six of the citizens escaped; but of those captured two were shot, one hanged, and two whipped, the latter receiving one hundred lashes each.  “The activity displayed by the British Indians along the western border, during the fall of 1777, induced Pennsylvania to bestir herself to protect the distant settlements.  Congress, urgently appealed to by these suffering states, determined to make common cause with them against the enemy.  Commissioners, acting under authority of the United States, were sent to Fort Pitt to inquire into the disaffection of the frontier people, and to provide for carrying the war into the enemy’s country.  They reported that the western Indians were stimulated in their hostility by the British commandant at Detroit.  They drew up and presented to Gen. Hand an elaborate plan for the protection, by the militia alone, of the frontiers until recommendations made by them to Congress could be approved and carried into execution.  On the 2d of May, 1778, Congress resolved to raise two regiments in Virginia and Pennsylvania to serve for one year unless sooner discharged, for the protection of the western frontier, and for operation thereon – twelve companies in the former and four in the latter state.  It was likewise determined that, as Gen. Hand had requested to be recalled from Pittsburgh, a proper person should be sent to relieve him.  Washington was called upon to make a nomination.  After much deliberation upon the subject, he named Brig. Gen. Lachlan McIntosh, an officer of worth and merit, a Georgian by birth.”  Washington expressed the high opinion he had of the integrity and ability of this person, and declared that he parted with him with the utmost reluctance.  He wrote:  “His firm disposition and equal justice, his assiduity and good understanding, added to his being a stranger to all parties in that quarter, point him out as a proper person; and I trust extensive advantages will be derived from his command, which I could wish was more agreeable.”

          Detroit, it was felt, not only by the inhabitants but by the military authorities of Western Pennsylvania and Virginia, was the source whence the Indians received their inspiration and support, and Congress was also at length convinced of the same truth.  Accordingly, with the appointment of Gen. McIntosh to the command of Fort Pitt and of the forces of the west, it was resolved by Congress that an expedition should be undertaken against this British stronghold, as the most certain means of overcoming the Indians and restoring peace and security to the frontier.  It was proposed to enlist three thousand men in the expedition.  Virginia was requested to call forth as many militia, not exceeding twenty-five hundred, as should be judged necessary to complete the number appropriated for the undertaking.  The continental board of war was directed to cooperate with McIntosh, who had not yet entered on the duties of his new appointment, but who was soon to have command of affairs in the west, in measures necessary for the enterprise, and give him such instructions as might appear best adapted to promote the expedition.  Over nine hundred thousand dollars were voted to defray the expenses, and a person was appointed to procure provisions, packhorses and other necessaries for the army.  To give effect to the action of Congress, a plan was immediately set on foot for raising the necessary force and for the purchase of supplies for the expedition.  Fifteen hundred men were to march by way of the Kanawha to Fort Randolph, and a like number was to descend the Ohio from Fort Pitt to the same place, whence they were to march into the enemy’s country.  Prior to this Washington, having heard of the ravages of the Indians in Western Pennsylvania, had ordered the Eighth Pennsylvania regiment, a choice body of men who had been raised in the west, to prepare to march to Pittsburgh.  Col. Daniel Brodhead was at the head of this regiment.  That part of the Thirteenth Virginia regiment remaining at Valley Forge was also placed under marching orders for Fort Pitt, under command of Col. John Gibson.  Brodhead did not reach Pittsburgh before the 10th of September.”

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