« ZurückWeiter »
THE first and most important inquiry respecting any history of social transactions is, its impartial truth. In order to answer this question, two others present themselves for examination. First, what have been the opportunities of accurate information enjoyed by the author? and secondly, how faithfully has he availed himself his opportunities? The latter enquiry must be left to every reader; the author's protestations neither shall, nor ought to interfere with the answer. To the former, he will reply most unreservedly.
The author has been no inattentive observer of public events in Kentucky, from his migration to the State in 1806; nor has he been destitute of intercourse with public characters. His curiosity, he may add, his heart, was early engaged in the story of Kentucky heroism, hardship, and enterprise. Nor during twenty-eight years' residence in the bosom of the State, has he felt his interest lessen in the fame and the fortunes of his adopted commonwealth. Still the author places the claims of his history to the public attention on a basis higher, than any personal intercourse he may have enjoyed, at the late period of his removal to the west. It is on a body of private papers belonging to some of the princi pal actors in Kentucky history. These have come into his possession from numerous sources in the most cheering and friendly manner.
In the first place are the papers of Gen. George Rogers Clark; these contain a memoir by the great western hero, of his public services, from 1775 to 79. These periods embrace the most interesting epochs; the papers also include an interesting correspondence with Patrick Henry and Jefferson, the early and distinguished Governors of Virginia, as with many military officers in the western country. These documents are now, after more than the lapse of half a cen tury, for the first time submitted to the public.
To the McAfee papers, preserved by Gen. Robert B. McAfee, the author has had full access. They form a part of the records of Providence church, the first established in Kentucky; and embrace the adventures of that enterprising and bold family of men from 1773 to the final settlement of the family in peace and in the plenty of Kentucky.
In addition to these almost untouched mines of western history, and memorials of Kentucky story, the author has, by the liberality of Colonel Charles S. Todd, John J. Crittenden, and Nathaniel Hart, Esqrs., been favored with the Shelby, Innes, and Floyd papers. Messrs. Thomas and Edmund Rogers, H. Marshall, Esq., judges Rowan, Underwood, and Pirtle, Hon. H. Clay, and Jas. Guthrie, Dr. D. Drake, of Cincinnati, Messrs. John and James Brown, and Gov. Pope, have all most freely and kindly contributed every thing in their power. From 7
Gen. James Ray of Mercer county, a living chronicle himself, Captain Gaines, of Woodford, and Colonel Vigo, of Vincennes, has been derived most interesting matter. From Gen. William H. Harrison, information essential to a critical estimation of Indian traditions, as well as elucidating the decisive campaigns of General Wayne, has likewise been received. To the Hon. Richard M. Johnson, the public are indebted for a copy of the treaty of fort Stanwix, of 1768. This treaty forms the corner-stone of our conventional relations with the Indians; it conveyed the first Indian cession of the soil of Kentucky, as far south as the Tennessee, Hogotege, or Cherokee river. It has been procured from a work in the library of Congress, and is annexed in full, as a part of the appendix.
In fine, the author may honestly say, and it has been one of the greatest consolations of his labors, (not a little embarrassing in a country destitute of historical repositories,) that he has been favored with the confidence and correspondence of all the parties, into which the ardent people of Kentucky have been so keenly divided. He tenders to them all, his sincere and profound acknowledgements of obligations conferred not in consideration of his humble pretensions, but of the pervading interest they have felt in the history of the State.
It may be interesting to collect into one view, the printed authorities on western history. The earliest printed account bearing on the history of the west, is the work of Lewis Hennepin, who in 1680, speaks of a tribe of Indians whom the Illinois called the "Oudebasche," and records the descent of the Mississippi, by Monsieur De la Salle, in the same year, re-published at London in 1698. In another place, in 1682, he says, "the Ouabache is full as large as the Mesachasipi."
After the French explorations, comes the "history of the Five Nations, by Cadwallader Colden, Esq., one of his Majesty's Counsel, and Surveyor General of New York." The only edition to which the author has had access, is the property of N. M. Hentz, Esq., of Cincinnati, published at London in 1750. It embraces the history of this remarkable confederacy, from 1603, to the treaty of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1746. It is much less interesting than the author supposed it to be, from the use of it in the memorial of Dr. Franklin to the King in Council, which is contained in the article, 'Ohio Settlement,' in the fourth volume of his works. The journalt of Major Washington's mission up the Alleghany in 1753, and that of Colonel Croghan's descent of the Ohio, in 1765, next present themselves in point of curiosity, and superior in authenticity and copiousness of detail. There is also a "journal by Patrick Kennedy, giving an account of an expedition undertaken by himself and several coureurs des bois in the year 1773, from Kaskaskia village, to the head waters of the Illinois river." It is solely topographical, and is to be found annexed to an edition of "Imlay's America, London, 1797." The memoir of Boone, dictated to John Filson in 1784, but not published till 1793, at New York, and the glittering letters of
*Notes of Dr. D. Drake, obligingly communicated to the author † Marshall's Washington, Appendix, vol. 1.
Imlay annexed to the topographical description of the second author, comprise the earliest publications connected with western history.
To these, succeeded the history of Kentucky, by Humphrey Marshall, Esq., in one volume, in 1812, and which was enlarged to two volumes in 1824. This work has formed the substratum of the author's authority for the current of ordinary events; not without considerable, and as it is believed, important additions. In the complexion of many events, as well as the character of most of the early statesmen of Kentucky, this work differs from that of Mr. Marshall, wide as the poles. The public must determine between him and the author. Mr. Marshall enjoyed opportunities of cotemporary intercourse and observation, which the author freely acknowledges have been unrivalled. Yet while sagacity and orginal information are fully and sincerely accorded to the primitive historian of Kentucky, the author's solemn convictions of historical duty extort his protest against the justice and impartiality of the representations of his competitors in public life. The author painfully feels the compulsion of making this declaration; much as he respects the talents and public services of Mr. Marshall, now silvered with venerable age. Yet he owes it to himself, he owes it to that posterity, who may feel curious to investigate the conduct of their ancestors, to declare, as he most solemnly does, his conviction that every man and party of men, who came into collision with Mr. Marshall or his frie.ds, in the exciting and exasperating scenes of Kentucky story, have been essentially and profoundly misrepresented by him, however unintentionally, and insensibly it may have been done. The contentions between this gentleman and his competitors for public honors, have been too fierce to admit of justice to the character of either, in each others' representations. These enmities have transformed his history into a border feud, recorded with all the embittered feelings of a chieftain of the marches. Yet his picturesque portraits of the pioneers of Kentucky, distinct from party inЯuences, have ever given the author the utmost delight.
But to have been opposed to Mr. H. Marshall in the political struggles of Kentucky, seems to have entailed on the actors, a sentence of conspiracy, and every dishonorable treachery. Our Shelby, Innes, Wilkinson, Messrs. John and James Brown, Nicholas, Murray, Thomas Todd, and John Breckenridge, have been thus unjustly denounced by Mr. Marshall. The author of this work, appeals from this sentence of an ancient antagonist, to a generation which has arisen, free in a great degree, from the excitements of the times in question. Whether he has caught an opposite impulse, he cheerfully submits to the verdict of his countrymen.
The author cannot conclude this preface, without apprising the reader of a most injurious mutilation of the despatch of General Wayne, to the President of the United States, announcing the important victory over the Indians at the Rapids of the Maumee, on the 20th of August, 1794. This mutilation consists in omitting five important passages, substituting and in
terpolating many words. The pregnant paragraph omitted, which has led Mr. Marshall as well as the author, into reflections injurious to the memory of the gallant Wayne, is as follows, "The bravery and conduct of every officer belonging to the army, from the Generals down to the Ensigns, merit my highest approbation. There were however, some, whose rank and situation placed their conduct in a very conspicuous point of view, and which I observed with pleasure, and the most lively gratitude: among whom I must beg leave to mention, Brigadier General Wilkinson and Colonel Hamtramck, the commandants of the right and left wings of the legion, whose brave example inspired the troops; to these I must add the names of my faithful and gallant aids de camp, Captains De Butts and T. Lewis, and Lieutenant Harrison, who, with the Adjutant General, Major Mills, rendered the most essential service by communicating my orders in every direction, and by their conduct and bravery exciting the troops to press for victory." Thus, so far from not "distinguishing Wilkinson," or "ungenerously omitting him," as mentioned by the author, General Wayne mentions all his gallant officers, Hamtramck, Captains De Butts, T. Lewis, Lieutenant W. H. Harrison, and the Adjutant General, Major Mills.
The sources of this mutilation, the author cannot trace; his own copy of the despatch is contained in a collection of public documents entitled "Indian wars," compiled by Metcalf;* another copy to which he has had access, is contained in a work entitled "History of the discovery of America, &c., by Henry Trumbull," published at Boston, the native city of Major Mills, by Stephen Sewell, 1819. The copy right taken out is dated in 1811. Th above extract is from the Casket of 1830, published with the approbation of Isaac Wayne, Esq., the son of the General; and enriched with many original papers. It is too important to omit, that General Wayne had positive authority from President Washington, to attack and demolish the British fort of Miamis. But on reconnoitering it closely, and discovering its strength, added to his own weakness in artillery, the General, with a prudence not always accorded him, most judiciously declined an attack.
In this daring reconnoiter, the General was near falling a victim to his gallantry. He had rode within eighty yards of the fort, accompanied by his aid, Lieutenant William H. Harrison, and within point blank shot of its guns, when a considerable disturbance was perceived on the platform of the parapet. The intelligence of a deserter the next day explained the whole affair. It appeared that a Captain of marines, who happened to be in the garrison when General Wayne made his approach, resented it so highly, that he immediately seized a port fire, and was going to apply it to the gun. At this moment Major Campbell, the commandant, drew his Dr. Metcalf, it is believed, now of New York.