THE WHISKY INSURRECTION.
Early Legislation Respecting Excise Duties—-An Incipient Rebellion in 1786—-National Excise Law passed in 1791—-The Situation in Western Pennsylvania—-Early Distillers of Bedford and Somerset Counties—-Insurgents Organizing—-An Act of Open Violence—-Washington’s Warning-— Seizure of U.S Mails—-The President’s Call for Troops—-Bedford County Men Indicted—-The Army Ordered to March—-Its Composition and Strength-— Gen. Lee’s Instructions—-Washington Visits Bedford—-Consternation of the Insurgents—-Gen. Lee’s Address to the Rebels—-Movements of the Army—-The Treatment Accorded Insurgent Prisoners—-Collapse of the Insurrection-—Pardons Granted—-U.S. Troops in Winter Cantonments—-Final Pardons and End of the Insurrection.
THE whisky insurrection is a phrase which has been applied usually to a series of unlawful and violent acts committed—-principally in 1794, but to some extent in previous years—-by inhabitants more especially in the southwestern quarter of the state, yet there were many others residing in adjoining counties (notably in Bedford, which then included the present county of Somerset) who not only sympathized, but made common cause with the most violent and boisterous of the insurrectionists. These illegal and insurrectionary acts embraced an armed resistance on several occasions to the operation of certain state and national laws imposing an excise tax on distilled spirits and stills used for the manufacture of such spirits. Although the tax was but a light one, comparatively, it was quite generally and peculiarly obnoxious to the people of Southwestern Pennsylvania, because they regarded it as bearing with especial and discriminating severity on the industries of their section as compared with other portions of the commonwealth.
The first excise tax imposed in the province of Pennsylvania was that authorized by an act of assembly approved March 16, 1684, entitled a "Bill of Aid and Assistance of the Government." As it was found to be objectionable to the major portion of the inhabitants, that part of the bill relating to the collection of excise duties was repealed soon afterward, and thereafter no similar legislation was enacted for more than half a century. In 1738, however, the provincial assembly passed "An Act for laying an excise on wine, rum, brandy and other spirits," but this act, like that of 1684, was received with such unmistakable disfavor that it remained in force only a few months. Again, in May, 1744, the assembly renewed the measure, "for the purpose of providing money without a general tax, not only to purchase arms and ammunition for defense, but to answer such demands as might be made upon the inhabitants of the province by his majesty for distressing the public enemy* in America." This enactment remained in operation but a short time. Another excise law was passed in 1756, but failed of execution; then for a period of nearly sixteen years the people of Pennsylvania were undisturbed by governmental attempts to collect duties on spirits.
In 1772 the subject was again considered by the assembly, and as a means of increasing the
*Meaning the French. Both France and England having declared war against each other in 1744.
revenues a bill was passed levying a duty on foreign and domestic distilled spirits. At first no energetic attempt was made to execute this law, in reference to domestic liquors; but after Pennsylvania became a state, and her necessities were greatly increased by the revolutionary war, then in progress, the law was put into force, and a very considerable revenue obtained in that way. The measure was less obnoxious at that time, because the majority of patriotic men were opposed to the consumption of grain in distillation at a time when every bushel was needed for the subsistence of troops in the field fighting for liberty. A large part of the proceeds collected at that time was appropriated to the "depreciation fund," created in this state (as in others, in pursuance of a resolution passed by congress in 1780) for the purpose of giving to officers and soldiers of the revolutionary army an additional compensation, a measure manifestly just and proper, because the value of their pay had been greatly diminished by the rapid depreciation of the continental currency.
Hence, laws imposing excise duties on distilled spirits remained on the statute books of Pennsylvania during the revolutionary war and until the year 1791, when they were repealed. During the period mentioned, however, from 1772 to 1791, although the excise laws of the state were by no means generally enforced, the collection of the revenue tax on spirits was several times attempted, but never successfully executed in the southwestern counties. In the year 1786, a Mr. Graham, excise officer of the district composed of Washington, Westmoreland and Fayette counties, made such an attempt. The treatment he received in the first named county is shown by a letter written by Dorsey Pentecost* to the Executive Council of Pennsylvania, as follows:
WASHINGTON COUNTY, 16th April, 1786.
GENTLEMEN: About ten days ago, a Mr. Graham, Excise officer for the three western Counties, was in the exercise of his office in this County, seized by a number of People and Treated in the following manner, viz: His Pistols, which he carried before him, taken and broke to pieces in his presence, his Commission and all his papers relating to his Office tore and thrown in the mud, and he forced or made to stamp on them, and Imprecate curses on himself, the Commission, and the Authority that gave it to
*See chapter entitled "Organization, etc., of the Ninth County or the Province."
him; they then cut off one-half his hair, cued the other half on one side of his Head, cut off the Cock of his hat, and made him wear it in a form to render his Cue the most conspicuous; this with many other marks of Ignominy, they Impos’d on him, and to which he was obliged to submit; and in the above plight they marched him amidst a Crowd from the frontiers of this County to Westmoreland County, calling at all the Still Houses in their way, where they were Treated Gratis, and expos’d him to every Insult and mockery that their Invention could contrive. They set him at Liberty at the entrance of Westmoreland, but with Threats of utter Desolution should he dare to return to our County.
This Bandittie, I am told, denounces distruction, vengeance against all manner of People who dare to oppose or even ganesay this their unparrelled behaviour, and that they will support every person concerned against every opposition. I suppose they depend on their numbers, for I am told the Combination is large.
I have thought it my duty as a good citizen to give your Honorable Board information of this matchless and daring Insult offered to Government, and the necessity there is for a speedy and Exemplary punishment being inflicted on those atrocious offenders, for if this piece of conduct is lightly looked over, no Civil officer will be safe in the Exercise of his duty, though some Gentlemen with whom I have conversed, think it would be best, and wish a mild prosecution; for my part I am of a different opinion, for it certainly is the most audacious and accomplished piece of outragious and unprovoked Insult that was ever offered to a Government and the Liberties of a free People, and what in my opinion greatly aggrivates their Guilt is that it was not done in a Gust of Passion, but cooly, deliberately and Prosecuted from day to day, and there appears such a desolute and refractory spirit to pervade a Certain class of People here, particularly those concerned in the above Job, that demands the attention of Government, and the most severe punishment.
I am not able to give the names of all concerned, nor have I had an opportunity of making perticular enquiry, but have received the aforegoing information from different people on whom I can rely, neither do I think they have as many friends as they suppose, or would wish to make the public believe. I have it not in my Power at this time to be as full, and explicit as I could wish on this subject, as I have but Just time to hurry up this scrawl while the carrier is waiting.
I am, Gentlemen,
with the highest Esteem and Respect,
your most obdt. very Humble Servt.,
His Excellency the President and Members of the Supreme Executive Council of Pensylvania.
P.S.— I have just snatched as much time as to write a short note to the Chief Justice on the above subject.
Upon the adoption of the federal constitution it became necessary to provide ways and means to support the government, to pay just and pressing revolutionary claims, and sustain the army, still engaged in protecting the western frontier against the Indians. Thereupon, at the suggestion of Alexander Hamilton, then secretary of the treasury, a bill was framed which provided for the imposition of an excise duty of four pence per gallon on all distilled spirits. This bill was passed by congress March 3, 1791,* though against the strong opposition of many members.
Those interested asserted that the law of 1791 bore more heavily...and unjustly on the interests of the region west of the Alleghenies, or its vicinity, than on those of any other part of the United States. Rye was a chief product of the farmers. For this there was but a limited home demand, and the surplus could not be transported across the mountains at a profit except in the form of whisky. "A horse could carry but four bushels, but he could take the product of twenty-four bushels in the shape of alcohol. Whisky, therefore, was the most important item of remittance to pay for their salt, sugar and iron." As a result of these circumstances, there were a greater number of stills and a larger amount of whisky manufactured in this portion of the state than in any other region of the same population in the whole country. There were very few or no large manufactories where grain was bought and cash paid. There was not capital in the country for that purpose. In some neighborhoods every fifth or sixth farmer was a distiller,* who, during the winter
*An act entitled "An Act to repeal so much of every act or acts of assembly of this state as relates to the collection of excise duties" was approved September 21, 1791 more than six months after the passage by congress of the national excise law which brought about the Insurrection in the southwestern counties of Pennsylvania.
*Although distillers were not quite so numerous in Bedford (in proportion to the number of inhabitants) as in counties to the westward of it, yes, that it could once boast of a respectable number, the following list of still-owners for the year 1792 will show. They were John Black, John Dibert, John Helsel, John Sill, George Wisegarver, Peter Wertz and Henry Wertz in Bedford township; Valentine Bowser and Sebastian Shoup in Hopewell township; Robert Campbell, John James and Abraham Miley, Jr., in Cumberland Valley township; Peter Cape in Milford township; John Tate and Nicholas Liabarger, Jr., in Londonderry township; Stephen Bruner, Oliver Drake, Henry Noel and Jacob Smith in Turkey-Foot township; Edward Cowen, Abraham Nisewanger, John Snyder, John Stahl John Shirley, William Satorus and Valentine Hay in Woodbury township; George Sipes in Belfast township; Nicholas Friend in Bethel township; Jacob Gundriman, Michael Kuntz, Peter Martin, George Matthias, Thomas Phreaton, Simon Phillips and Nicholas Miller in Brother’s Valley township; Christian Hipple, Philip Kimmel Sr., Christian Levenstone, William McDermot and Michael Mowry in Quemahoning township, and Michael Miller in Elk Lick township. Of these men, Michael Kuntz, of Brother’s Valley, owned three stills. George Wisegarver and Henry Wertz, of Bedford, Robert Campbell, of Cumberland Valley, Peter Cape, of Milford, John Tate, of Londonderry, John Snyder and John Stahl, of Woodberry, Jacob Gundriman and Peter Martin, of Brother’s Valley, Philip Kimmel, Sr., of Quemahoning, and Michael Miller, of Elk Lick, owned two each, while the remainder owned one still each.
season, manufactured his own grain and that of his neighbors into a portable and salable article.*
A large proportion of the early settlers of Western Pennsylvania were Scotch-Irish, or of that descent, and the remainder chiefly Germans, people whose early homes, or that of their fathers, had been beyond the sea, in lands where whisky, ale or beer had been freely used, and where excise laws and excise officers were regarded as the most odious of all the measures and minions of tyranny. It can scarcely be wondered at, then, that among people holding such opinions the law was regarded as most unjust and oppressive, nor that the more hotheaded "and turbulent ones freely and fiercely announced their determination to oppose its enforcement, even to the extremity of armed resistance to the government.
This rebellious sentiment was so widespread, so unmistakable in its’ character, and indicated by such open threats of violence to any officers who might be hardy enough to attempt the collection of the excise duty, that it became extremely difficult to find proper persons willing to serve as inspectors and collectors. As time passed the spirit of resistance became more determined and soon found expression in a public act, which may be said to have marked the commencement of the famous "whisky insurrection." This was a preliminary meeting held at Redstone Old Fort (Brownsville, Pennsylvania) on July 27, 1791, of people opposed to the execution of the law. At this meeting it was arranged that county committees should be formed in each of the counties of Fayette, Westmoreland, Washington and Allegheny to meet at their respective county-seats and inaugurate measures looking to a common end-—successful resistance to the operation of the law. An idea of the spirit which predominated among those composing these committees can he formed by scanning the proceedings of the Washington county, committee. That committee assembled at the county-seat on August 23, 1791, and passed resolutions to the effect that any person who had accepted or might accept an office under congress in order to carry the excise law into effect should be considered inimical to the interests of the country, and recommending to
*Address of Rev. Dr. Carnahan.
the people of their county to treat every person who had accepted, or might thereafter accept, any such office, with contempt, and absolutely to refuse all kind of communication or intercourse with him, and to withhold from him all aid, support or comfort.
On September 7 following, a meeting, was held at Pittsburgh, composed of three members from each of the four county committees, for the purpose of expressing the sense of the people in an address to congress "upon the subject of the excise law, and other grievances." These delegates were among the most prominent citizens of the counties mentioned, and passed a series of resolutions censuring the legislation of the late congress, especially the obnoxious excise law, which they characterized as "a base offspring of the funding system, being attended with infringements on liberty, partial in its operations, attended with great expense in the collection, and liable to much abuse," and declaring that "it is insulting to the feelings of the people to have their vessels marked, houses painted and ransacked, to be subject to informers, gaining by the occasional, delinquency of others. It is a bad precedent, tending to introduce the excise laws of: Great Britain, and of countries where the liberty, property, and even the morals of the people are sported with to gratify particular men in their ambitious and interested measures." The meeting also adopted a remonstrance to "be presented to the legislature of Pennsylvania" and further, "resolved, that the foregoing representations (the resolutions adopted) be presented to the legislature of the United States."
The day before the above-mentioned meeting, however, or September 6, the opposition to the law broke out in an open act of violence, said to have been the first of the kind committed in the western counties. It appeal’s that at a place near Pigeon creek, in Washington county, a party men, armed and disguised, waylaid Robert Johnson, collector of revenue for Allegheny and Washington counties, cut off his hair, stripped him of his clothing, tarred and feathered him and took away his horse, thus "obliging him to travel on foot a considerable distance in that mortifying and painful situation." During the same season Benjamin Wells, the collector of revenue for Fayette and Westmoreland counties, was also subjected to harsh treatment on account of his official position.
Said the secretary of the treasury, in reporting to President Washington the circumstances of the attack on Robert Johnson: "Mr. Johnson was not the only officer who, about the same period, experienced outrage. Mr. Wells, collector of revenue for Westmoreland, and Fayette, was also ill-treated at Greensburg and Uniontown. Nor were the outrages perpetrated confined to the officers; they extended to private citizens who only dared to show respect for the laws of their country."
In October of the same year, another outrage was committed in Washington county on the person of Robert Wilson, who was not an excise officer, but a young schoolmaster who was looking for employment, and "carried with him reputable testimonials of his character."* It was supposed that he was a little disordered in his intellect, and having, unfortunately for himself, made some inquiries concerning stills and distillers, and acted in a mysterious manner otherwise, he was suspected of being in the service of the government. On this account he "was pursued by a party of men in disguise, taken out of his bed, carried about five miles back to a smith’s shop, stripped of his clothes, which were afterward burnt, and having been inhumanly burnt in several places with a heated iron, was tarred and feathered, and about daylight dismissed, naked, wounded, and in a very pitiable and suffering condition. These particulars were communicated in a letter from the inspector of the revenue of the 17th of November, who declared that he had then himself seen the unfortunate maniac, the abuse of whom, as he expressed it, exceeded description, and was sufficient to make human nature shudder. The symptoms of insanity were during the whole time of inflicting the punishment apparent, the unhappy sufferer displaying the heroic fortitude of a man who conceived himself to be a martyr to the discharge, of some important duty."* For participation in this affair Col. Samuel Wilson, Samuel Johnson, James Wright, William Tucker and John Moffit were indicted at December sessions, 1791; but before the offenders were arraigned in court, the victim, Wilson (probably through fear of further outrage), left that part of the country, and at June sessions,
*Extract of a letter addressed to Gov. Mifflin, by James Brison, of Allegheny, November 9, 1792.
*Report of the secretary of the treasury, Pennsylvania Archives.
1792, the indicted persons were discharged. Said Gen. Hamilton to President Washington in again referring to this affair: "The audacity of the perpetrators of these excesses was so great that an armed banditti ventured to seize and carry off two persons who were witnesses against the rioters in the case of Wilson, in order to prevent their giving testimony of the riot to a court then sitting or about to sit."
On the 8th of May, 1792, congress passed an act making material changes in the excise law, among these being a reduction of about one-fourth in the tax on whisky, and giving the distiller the alternative of paying a monthly instead of a yearly rate, according to the capacity of his still, with liberty to take a license for the precise term which he should intend to work it, and to renew that license for further term or terms. This provision was regarded as peculiarly favorable to the western section of the state, where very few of the distillers were in the habit of distilling during the summer months. "The effect has in a great measure," said Hamilton, in 1794, "corresponded with the views of the legislature. Opposition has subsided in several districts* where it before prevailed, and it was natural to entertain, and not easy to abandon, a hope that the same thing would, by degrees, have taken place in the four western counties of the state."
Hamilton’s hope, however, was not realized. The modifications made in the law, favorable as they had been thought to be for the western counties, did not produce acquiescence and submission among the people of that section. Public meetings, generally controlled by men of ability and influence, were held by the disaffected throughout the four western counties; United States revenue officers continued to be the victims of studied insult and maltreatment, and the power of "Tom the Tinker" became greater in these regions than that of President Washington.
On the 21st and 22d days of August next following the passage of the modified law "a meeting of sundry inhabitants of the western counties of Pennsylvania" was held at Pittsburgh, which was organized by the choice of Col. John Canon as chairman, and’ Albert Gallatin as clerk. The subject of the excise law was then
*Having reference more especially to the counties of Bedford, Bucks, Chester and Northumberland, where more or less violent opposition to the law had at times prevailed.
"taken under consideration and freely debated," and after adopting various resolutions the final declaration of those present was to the effect that,
WHEREAS, some men may be found amongst us so far lost to every sense of virtue and feeling for the distresses of this county as to accept offices for the collection of the duty.
Resolved, therefore, that in future we will consider such persons as unworthy of our friendship; have no intercourse or dealings with them; withdraw from them every assistance, and withhold all the comforts of life which depend upon those duties that as men and fellow-citizens we owe to each other; and upon all occasions treat them with that contempt they deserve; and that it be, and it is hereby, most earnestly recommended to the people at large to follow the same line of conduct towards them.
How men of character and good standing, such as were a majority of those composing the Pittsburgh meeting, could have given their assent to the passage of such extreme heartless resolutions, it is difficult to understand. They were aimed in a general way at all who might be even remotely concerned on the side of the government in the collection of the revenue, but more particularly at Gen. John Neville, of Allegheny county, against whom no charge could be brought, except that he had dared to accept the office of inspector of the Western Revenue District. "In order to allay opposition as far as possible," said Judge Wilkeson, "Gen. John Neville, a man of the most deserved popularity, was appointed to the inspectorship for Western Pennsylvania. He accepted the appointment from a sense of duty to his country. He was one of the few men of great wealth who had put his all at hazard for independence. At his own expense he raised a company of soldiers, marched them to Boston, and placed them, with his son, under the command of Gen. Washington. He was brother-in-law to the distinguished Gen. Morgan, and father-in-law to Majs. Craig and Kirkpatrick, officers highly respected in the western country. Besides Gen. Neville’s claims as a soldier and a patriot, he had contributed greatly to relieve the sufferings of the settlers in his vicinity. He divided his last loaf with the needy; and in a season of more than ordinary scarcity, as soon as his wheat was sufficiently matured to be converted into food, he opened his fields to those who were suffering with hunger. If any man could have executed this, odious law, Gen. Neville was that man. He entered upon the duties of his office, and
appointed his deputies from among the most popular citizens. His first attempts, however, to enforce the law were resisted."
A few days before the holding of the meeting at Pittsburgh, above referred to, an outrage had been committed upon Capt. William Faulkner, of the United States army, who had permitted his house in Washington county to be used as an inspection office. Being out in pursuit of deserters in the same neighborhood where Johnson was so brutally treated in the previous autumn, he encountered a number of disguised men, who reproached him for having let his house to the government officers, drew a knife on him, threatened to scalp him, tar and feather him, and burn his house if he did not solemnly promise to prevent all further use of it as an inspection office. He was induced by their threats to make the promise demanded, and on the 21st of August gave public notice in the Pittsburgh Gazette that the office of the inspector should no longer be kept at his house.
The secretary of the treasury reported the facts of this occurrence, as also the proceedings of the Pittsburgh meeting, to President Washington, who thereupon, on the 15th of September, 1792, issued a proclamation admonishing all persons to refrain and desist from all unlawful combinations and proceedings whatsoever, having for their object, or tending to obstruct the operation of the laws, declaring it to be the determination of the government to bring to justice all infractors of the laws, to prosecute delinquents, to seize all unexcised spirits on their way to market, and to make no purchases of spirits for the army except of such as had paid the duty. Immediately afterward a supervisor of the revenue was sent into Western Pennsylvania to gain information of and report on the true state of affairs; but his mission "had no other fruit than that of obtaining evidence of the persons who composed the meeting at Pittsburgh, and two of those who were understood to be concerned in the riot (against Capt. Faulkner), and a confirmation of the enmity which certain active and designing leaders had industriously infused into a large proportion of the, inhabitants, not against the particular laws in question only, but of a more ancient date against the government of the United States itself.*
*Reports of Secretary Alexander Hamilton, Pennsylvania Archives.
In April, 1793, a large party of men, armed and disguised, made an attack upon the house of Benjamin Wells, who was then the collector of revenue for Fayette and Westmoreland counties. His house, which stood on the west side of the Youghiogheny, opposite the present borough of Connellsville, was visited in the night by these rioters, who, having forced an entrance and finding that Wells was absent, contented themselves by terrifying and abusing his family. On the night of November 22, 1793, a second attack was made on the house of Wells. The insurrectionists again entered the house by force, and demanded a surrender of the officer’s commission and official books, and upon his refusal they threatened him, with pistols pointed at his head, and swore that if he did not comply they would instantly put him to death. By this means they forced him to surrender his books and commission, and, not content with this, they compelled Wells to promise that he would, within two weeks, publish his resignation. He did not resign, however, and finally about July 1, 1794, the rioters burned his house in his absence, captured him on his return, and again demanded that he resign his commission as collector and promise to accept no office under the excise laws in the future. These demands were made as the conditions on which his life and safety depended. He accepted them, submitted to all their requirements, upon which they desisted from all further ill treatment of him. He afterward removed to the Connellsville side of the river and established his residence there.
Not long after the destruction of Wells’ house by the insurgents, an United States officer went into Fayette county to serve processes against a number of non-complying distillers, and also against Robert Smilie and John McCulloch, two persons charged with participation in the riotous attack on the house of Collector Wells in the previous November. "The marshal of the district," said Secretary Hamilton, "went in person to serve these processes. He executed his trust without interruption, though under many discouraging circumstances, in Fayette county; but while he was in the execution of it in Allegheny county, being then accompanied by the inspector of the revenue (Gen. Neville), to wit on July 15, last (1794), he was beset on the road by a party of from thirty to forty armed men, who after much irregularity of conduct finally
fired on him, but, as it happened, without injury either to him or to the inspector."
The attack on the marshal and Gen. Neville, however, proved to be but the prelude to one of the most daring outrages that were committed during the continuance of the insurrection. The disaffected people were greatly incensed against Gen. Neville for going with the marshal to assist in serving the processes, piloting him to the homes of his victims, they claimed, and on this account the feeling against’ him became very intense and bitter.
At daybreak "on the day following the attack on the marshal and inspector," in conformity with a plan which seems to have been for some time entertained, and which was probably only accelerated by the coming of the marshal into the survey, an attack by about one hundred persons armed with guns and other weapons was made upon the house of the inspector (Neville) in the vicinity of Pittsburgh. The inspector, though alone, vigorously defended himself against the assailants, and obliged them to retreat without accomplishing their purpose."* However, they had only postponed and not abandoned the execution of their plans, for on the following day they reassembled in augmented numbers, amounting, it was said, to fully five hundred men, and renewed the attack on Gen. Neville’s house, which was then defended by a detachment of eleven men from the garrison of Fort Pitt. After a fight of about an hour’s duration, in which one of the insurgents was killed and several wounded, while three of those in the house were also wounded, the defending party surrendered, and the insurgents then burned the house to the ground, together with all the outbuildings, occasioning a loss of more than twelve thousand dollars. Gen. Neville had left the house before the commencement of the firing, and sought a place of concealment at a distance, wisely concluding that this was the only way to save his life. On the night of July 19, he and the marshal who had come to serve the processes (having been frequently threatened with death at the hands of the insurgents, and finding that no protection. was to be expected from the magistrate’s or inhabitants of Pittsburgh) made their escape from the place, fled down the Ohio river, and thence made their way east by a circuitous way, knowing the usual routes over the mountains to be beset by their enemies.
On the 25th of July the United States mail, near Greensburg, on the road from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, was stopped by two armed men, who cut open the pouch and abstracted all the letters except those contained in one package. The leaders of the insurgents—-notably Col. John Canon, David Bradford and Benjamin Parkison—-having thus possessed themselves of "certain secrets," as revealed in the stolen letters, addressed a circular to the militia officers of the western counties, calling upon them to render personal service, "with as many volunteers as you can raise, to rendezvous at your usual" place of meeting on Wednesday next, and thence you will march to the usual place of rendezvous at Braddock’s Field on the Monongahela, on Friday, the first day of August next, to be there at two o’clock in the afternoon, with arms and accouterments in good order. If any volunteers shall want arms and ammunition, bring them forward, and they shall be supplied as well as possible. Here, sir, is an expedition proposed in which you will have an opportunity of displaying your military talents, and of rendering service to your country. Four days’ provisions will be wanted; let the men be thus supplied."
Many of the militia Officers obeyed the directions contained in the circular, and marched their men to the appointed rendezvous. With reference to the readiness displayed by officers and soldiers to obey these orders, emanating as they did from no responsible authority, Judge Addison said that in consequence of the danger of Indian incursions having often rendered it necessary in this region to assemble the military force without waiting for orders from the government, "it had become habitual with the militia of these counties to assemble at the call of their officers, without inquiring into the authority or object of the call." This habit, well known to the contrivers of the rendezvous at Braddock’s Field, rendered the execution of their plan an easy matter.
At Braddock’s Field, therefore, on the appointed day, there gathered a vast and wildly excited assemblage, of which a large proportion was composed of militiamen and volunteers under arms. Among the great throng of persons there assembled, very few were favorable to the government and to the execution of the law. Such as were, however, had come to the rendezvous lest their absence might be made a
cause for proscription. There were also present some who went there merely as spectators, without any strong feeling on either side; but by far the greater portion were in full sympathy with the insurgent cause, though probably few of them had any very definite idea of the object of the meeting other than to denounce excise-officers and the government, and to shout in wild, accord huzzahs for "Tom the Tinker."
The place of rendezvous being but a few miles from Pittsburgh, the people of that place were generally alarmed lest those assembled at Braddock’s Field should, at the instigation of their leaders, march on the town "and destroy it, in a spirit of revenge against a number of officers and friends of the government who lived there. To ward off the anticipated danger a meeting of the inhabitants of the town had been held on the evening before the day of the gathering at the rendezvous, at which "a great majority—-almost the whole of the inhabitants of the town-—assembled." Among the resolutions adopted was one that a committee of twenty- one be appointed to expel and drive out of the town those most objectionable to the insurgents, and it was also resolved, "That the inhabitants, of the town shall march out and join the people at Braddock’s Field, as brethren, to carry into effect with them any measures that may seem advisable for the common cause."
The committee appointed at this meeting reported to the leaders at Braddock’s Field the resolutions which had been adopted, and that in pursuance of those resolutions some of the men most prominent as friends of the government, viz.: Edward Day, James Brison, Abraham Kirkpatrick and Col. Presley Neville, had been driven from the town and had fled down the Ohio. All this had, been done in deference to the demands of "Tom the Tinker," and the committee’s announcement was made to the assemblage in the hope of dissuading the leader’s from moving the forces into the town; but it failed to have the desired effect, though it probably curbed their excesses to a great extent.
It was Col. David Bradford, of Washington county, who, at the meeting at Braddook’s Field, proposed that the assembled insurgents should march to Pittsburgh and attack, the garrison of United States troops stationed there. But this proposition, though warmly entertained by the most violent, was voted down. Bradford then insisted that the militia and volunteers should be marched to the town, and in this he was seconded by Hon. Hugh H. Brackenridge, who, despairing of success in opposition to the project, conceived the idea of guiding and controlling the lawless movement by apparent acquiescence. "Yes," said Brackenridge, "by all means let us go, if for no other reason than to give a proof to our opponents that we are capable of maintaining the strictest order, and of refraining from all excesses. Let us march through the town, muster on the banks of the Monongahela, take a little whisky with the people, and then move the troops across the river." This plan was adopted, and under the lead of David Bradford and Edward Cook acting as generals, and Col. Gabriel Blakeney as officer of the day, the entire body moved over the Monongahela road to Pittsburgh. On their arrival there, they were received as the guests of the town, or rather as the guests of the principal citizens, who by a little stratagem, after treating them freely to liquor, succeeded in inducing the main body to cross the Monongahela without doing any damage. On reaching the south side of the river, however, they set fire to the buildings of Maj. Kirkpatrick, on the bluff opposite Pittsburgh and succeeded in destroying his barn at that place, though the dwelling was saved. Meanwhile a part of the men not included in the main body which had been enticed across the Monongahela had become riotous in Pittsburgh, and set fire to the town residence of Maj. Kirkpatrick. It had been their intention to destroy his house, as well as those of Neville, Gibson and others, but this design was frustrated by the interference of some of their leaders. Had they succeeded in firing the few houses referred to, without doubt the major portion of the town would have been laid in ashes.
To the state and national authorities an account of the turbulent proceedings at Braddock’s Field, and Pittsburgh was forwarded without delay, and on the 7th of August President Washington issued a proclamation, reciting in its preamble that "combinations to defeat the execution of the laws laying duties upon spirits distilled within the United States, and upon stills, have from the time of the commencement of those laws existed in some of the western parts of Pennsylvania, that many persons in the said western parts of Penn-
sylvania have at length been hardy enough to perpetrate acts which I am advised amount to treason, being overt acts of levying war against the United States." He then commanded "all persons being insurgents, as aforesaid, and all others whom it may concern," to disperse and retire peaceably to their respective abodes on or before the 1st of September following; also, warning all persons "against aiding, abetting or comforting the perpetrators of the aforesaid treasonable acts, and requiring all officers and other citizens, according to their respective duties and the laws of the land, to exert their utmost endeavors to prevent and suppress such dangerous proceedings."
At the same time the president called for troops to be raised and equipped in the States of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and New Jersey, to be held in readiness to march at shortest notice, for the purpose of suppressing the insurrection and enforcing the law. The quotas required of these states were as follows:
Penna...Infantry, 4,500; Cavalry, 500; Artillery, 200; Total, 5,200.
New Jersey...Infantry, 1,500; Cavalry, 500; Artillery, 100; Total, 2,100
Maryland...Infantry, 2,000; Cavalry, 200; Artillery, 150; Total, 2,350
Virginia...Infantry, 3,000; Cavalry, 300; Artillery, ...; Total, 3,300
Infantry total: 11,000; Cavalry total: 1,500; Artillery total: 450; Overall total: 12,950.
On the same day Gov. Mifflin, of Pennsylvania, issued his proclamation directing that the state’s quota of men be armed and equipped as speedily as possible, "and to be held in readiness to march at a moment’s warning," and a second proclamation was issued by him, calling together the assembly of the state in special session.
Again directing our attention to the doings of the insurgents, it seems that the events of the first two days of August, 1794, at Braddock’s Field and Pittsburgh, and of the two or three succeeding weeks marked the culmination of the popular frenzy on the subject of the excise law, and from July 15 to the latter part of August was the period of the greatest excitement that exhibited itself during the insurrection. During that time great numbers of "liberty-poles" were erected by the active insurgents and those in sympathy with them in many parts of the region west of the Alleghenies, and even east* of that
*We say "even east of that range," an assertion proved true by the records of Bedford county, which show that during the November sessions in 1794, before James Riddle, Esq., president judge, and George Woods and Hugh Barclay, Esqs., his associates, the following named residents of Bedford county were bound in sums varying from £30 to £300 each, to appear at the Bedford county court of general quarter sessions, January term 1795, "to answer to such bills of Indictments as shall be then and there preferred against them for Riot and other Treasonable proceedings in assisting and abetting the setting up a seditious Pole in opposition to the Laws of the United States," namely: Simon Kenton, John McGaughey, John Linn, George Sill, Baltzer Hess, John Cochran, William Todd, Ludwick Samuels, Thomas Smith, Peter Morgart, William Wilson, of Hopewell; Isaac Bonnett, Martin Fritz, Michael James Doyle, William Wilson, of Bedford; Joseph Scullknot, Hill Wilson, Nicholas Wilson, Jacob Reickard, Conrad Haverstock, Neal McMullin, Michael Barndollar, Joseph Lilly, Thomas Moore, Barnabas Blue, Henry Reickard, Andrew Sheets, John Paxton, Sr., Adam Ritchey, Joseph Sparks, John Kenton, John Foster, Jacob Chamberlain, John Mackey, Henry Beeckley, George Bastion, Frederick Hill, John Britz, John Utsler, Peter Vorces, Jacob Earnest, George Croyle, George Bowser, James Smith, Michael Iron, John McClimans, Jacob Nagle, Robert Moore, David Ford, Simon Ford, William Kagy, Jacob Way, Michael Samuel, John Wisegarver, Jacob Helm, William McCauley, John Sill, George Cardue, Philip Wolfe, John Mortimore, James Mortimore, Jr., Peter Countz, Peter Countz, Jr., Conrad Hartzel Daniel McCarty, Samuel Countz, Adam Davebaugh, Jacob Davebaugh William Nickerson, John Peck, George Williams, Thomas Blair, William Paxton, Martin Utsler, John Hartzel, Adam Bowers, Doct. John Kimmel, George Swarts, Michael Kuntz, Nicholas Cover, Jacob Hell, Daniel Lindle Smith, Jacob Hoil, John Miller, Abraham Cable, Jr., Daniel Bowers, Adam Stahl, Jacob Cuffman, Joseph Dugle, James Smith, Peter Bower, George Wymer, Benjamin Brown, Manuel Browler, George Switcher, John Hemminger, George Ankeny, Jacob Cysor, Jacob Huff, John Armstrong; Abraham Miller, George Tedrow, Michael Mourer, John Seel, James Conner, John Killpatrick, Jonathan Woodsides, Daniel McCarty, John Martin, William Pinkerton, John Miller, Jr., Peter Augustine, Henry Everly, Henry Foust, Adam Hoil, Jonathan Pollard, Robert Culbertson, Nathaniel Chaney, Michael Blue, Benjamin Lupton, Francis Reynolds, Samuel Chance and George Bewer.
These men all appeared at the January sessions, 1795, and plead guilty to the charges against them, whereupon they were sentenced to pay fines ranging from five shillings to £15 each. Those paying more largely than the majority were William Wilson, Simon Kenton, George Sill, Joseph Scullknot, Conrad Haverstock, Andrew Sheets, John Britz, Jacob Helm and Baltzer Hess.
range. Upon these were hoisted flags bearing such inscriptions as "Death to Traitors," "Liberty and No Excise," "Equal Taxation and No Excise," "No Asylum for Traitors and Cowards." But very few persons were found hardy enough to refuse assistance in the erection of these poles, for to do so was to be branded as an enemy to the cause, and a fit subject for the vengeance of "Tom the Tinker." Some of these poles were cut down, immediately after their erection, by brave, determined men, and in one or two instances by women, who defied the insurrectionists, while others stood, bearing their threatening flags and inscriptions, until the tide of insurrection began to turn before the menace of military force, and then those who had raised them were glad enough to see them fall, and to deny, if they could, all agency in their erection.
Meantime the leaders of the insurgents had determined to hold a mass-meeting at Parkison’s Ferry (now Monongahela City) "to take into consideration the situation of the western country," and from the muster-place at Braddock’s Field, about August 1st, Col. David Bradford, the insurgent "major-general," issued the following circular:
To the Inhabitants of Monongahela, Virginia.
GENTLEMEN: I presume you have heard of the spirited opposition given to the excise law in this State. Matters have been so brought to pass here that all are under the necessity of bringing their
minds to a final conclusion. This has been the question amongst us some days: "Shall we disapprove of he conduct of those engaged against Neville, the excise-officer, or approve?" or, in other words, "Shall we suffer them to fall a sacrifice to Federal persecution, or shall we support them?" On the result of this business we have fully deliberated, and have determined, with head, heart, hand and voice, that we will support the opposition to the excise law. The crisis is now come, submission or opposition: we are determined in the opposition. We are determined in future to act agreeably to system; to form arrangements guided by reason, prudence, fortitude and spirited conduct. We have proposed a general meeting of the four counties of Pennsylvania, and have invited our brethren in the neighboring counties in Virginia to come forward and join us in council and deliberation in this important crisis, and conclude upon measures interesting to the western counties of Pennsylvania and Virginia. A notification of this kind may be seen in the Pittsburgh paper. Parkison’s Ferry is the place proposed as the most central, and the 14th of August the time. We solicit you by all the ties that an union of interests can suggest to come forward and join us in our deliberations. The cause is common to us all. We invite you to come, even should you differ with us in opinion. We wish you to hear our reasons influencing our conduct.
According to appointment, the meeting was opened at Parkison’s Ferry on the 14th of August. Two hundred and twenty-six delegates were present from townships in Fayette, Westmoreland, Allegheny, Washington, and that part of Bedford (now Somerset county) lying west of the Allegheny mountains, with a few from Ohio county, Virginia. The proclamations of the president and of Gov. Mifflin, before alluded to, had not been received, neither had the commissioners* for the state nor those for the United States yet, made their appearance, but intelligence came during the progress of the meeting, that the two delegations were on their way from Philadelphia, and that two of the United States commissioners had just arrived at Greensburg.
At Parkison’s the first ceremony performed was the erecting of a tall "liberty-pole" on the
*On the 6th of August the governor had appointed Chief-Justice McKean and Gen. William Irvine, to proceed immediately to the disaffected counties, to ascertain the facts in reference to the recent acts of violence and lawless gatherings, and, if possible, to induce the people to submit to the law. And on the day following the issuance of his proclamation the president appointed James Ross, United States senator, Jasper Yeates, associate judge supreme court of Pennsylvania, and William Bradford, attorney-general of the United States, commissioners on the part of the general government, with full instructions and ample powers, to repair to the western counties, for the purpose of conferring, at their discretion, with Individuals or bodies of men, "in order to quiet and extinguish the insurrection."
hill or bluff in rear of the present Episcopal church, and the hoisting upon it of a flag bearing a legend similar in phrase to those already quoted. Soon, afterward the meeting was organized by choosing Col. Edward Cook and Hon. Albert Gallatin, respectively, as chairman and secretary. It soon became apparent that a reaction had commenced, and that the tide of opinion had, with a number of the leaders, begun to set against the adoption of violent measures. It was claimed for some of those who at this meeting developed a strong opposition to the plans of Bradford and other extremists, that their course was prompted by the same desire which had at first induced them to range themselves among the disaffected—-that of appearing to assume leadership for the purpose of restraining the lawless element and diverting its energies from the track leading to open violence and rebellion. There is but little reason to doubt, however, that their action at this time was in no small degree due to their then recent realization of the fact that the general government had resolved to put down lawlessness at whatever cost; that it would exert all its powers, if necessary, to enforce obedience, and that as against that power the cause of the insurrectionists was lost, hopeless.
Various extreme resolutions were introduced by Col. James Marshall, and supported by Bradford, the latter delivering a vehement and very intemperate speech, but, being opposed by Gallatin, Brackenridge, Judge Edgar and others, declarations of a conservative order were finally adopted, the closing resolutions stating, "That a committee, to consist of three members from each county, be appointed to meet any commissioners that have been, or may be, appointed by the government, and report the result of this conference to the standing committee." The standing committee (consisting of sixty persons) met, and appointed the committee to meet the commissioners of the United States and of the State of Pennsylvania, as provided by the final resolution. This committee of conference was composed of the following persons: Albert Gallatin, Edward Cook and James Lang for Fayette county; John Kirkpatrick, George Smith and John Powers, for Westmoreland county; Hugh H. Brackenridge, Thomas Moreton and John B.C. Lucas, for Allegheny county; David Bradford, James Marshall and James Edgar, for Washington county; Harmon Hus-
band,* for Bedford county, and William Sutherland, for Ohio county, Virginia.
During the last half of August and the early part of September, 1794, several meetings took place between the committee of conference, on the part of the insurgents, and the commissioners for the state and the United States. It soon became manifest that, (with the exception of Bradford and a few others of less prominence) the leaders had fully made up their minds to abandon the wreck of the insurrection, but the followers were apparently as violent and determined as ever, and so strong an influence did this exert, even on the leaders, that the latter dared not openly and fully, avow their sentiments and thus place themselves on record. The standing "committee of sixty," too, showed a disposition to temporize. Township and district elections were ordered held in the counties of Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette, Allegheny, and that part of Bedford lying west of the Allegheny mountains, in Pennsylvania, and in Ohio county, Virginia, and the people were required to vote yea or nay on the question: "Do you now engage to submit to the laws of the United States, and that you will not hereafter, directly or indirectly, oppose the execution of the acts for raising the revenue upon distilled spirits and stills? And do, you also undertake to support, as far as the laws require, the civil authority in affording the protection due to all officers and other citizens?" A majority of the legal voters failed to show themselves at the polls, however, and at last, about the middle of September, the United States commissioners, in reporting to the president the results of their mission, concluded by saying that although they firmly believed that a considerable majority of the inhabitants of the disaffected districts were disposed to submit to the execution of the laws, "at the same, time they (the commissioners) conceive it their duty explicitly to declare their opinion that such is the state of things that there is no probability that the act for raising a revenue on distilled spirits and stills can at present be enforced by the
*Harmon Husband was a prominent resident of that part of Bedford county now known as Somerset, and was elected county commissioner of Bedford in October, 1786. When Gen. Lee’s army passed westward, Harmon Husband, as well as Robert Philson, of Berlin, were arrested and sent under guard to Philadelphia as pronounced and prominent Insurrectionists. Husband died as a government prisoner, but Philson was ultimately released and became one of the most useful and active citizens of the new county of Somerset. He served one term in congress, and in other capacities. See civil lists of Somerset county, in this volume.
usual course of civil authority, and that some more competent force is necessary to cause the laws to be duly executed, and to insure to the officers and well-disposed citizens that protection which it is the duty of government to afford. The opinion is founded on the facts already stated (the accounts of the unsatisfactory result of the township and district elections), and it is confirmed by that which is entertained by many intelligent and influential persons, officers of justice and others, resident in the western counties, who have lately informed one of the commissioners that whatever assurances might be given it was, in their judgment, absolutely necessary that the civil authority should be aided by a military force in order to secure a due execution of the laws."
Upon receiving the commissioners’ report President Washington at once decided to use the military power, and to extinguish, in a summary manner, the last vestige of insurrection at whatever cost. In taking this course he had (as he afterward expressed himself to a committee from the districts in rebellion) two great objects in view: first, to show, not only to the inhabitants of the western country, but to the entire Union and to foreign nations, that a republican government could and would exert its physical power to enforce the execution of the laws where opposed, and also that American citizens were ready to make every sacrifice and encounter every difficulty and danger for the sake of supporting that fundamental principle of government and, second, to effect a full and complete restoration of order and submission to the laws in the insurrectionary district. In pursuance of this determination the president ordered the military forces (already assembled at their respective rendezvous) to march toward Western Pennsylvania without delay, and on the 25th of September he issued a proclamation, which, after a preamble setting forth that the measures taken by government to suppress the lawless combinations in the western counties had failed to have full effect; that "the moment is now come when the overtures of forgiveness, with no other condition than a submission to law, have been only partially accepted; when every form of conciliation not inconsistent with the well-being of government has been adopted without effect," proceeds:
"Now, therefore, I, George Washington. President of the United States, in obedience to
that high and irresistible duty consigned to me by the constitution, to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, deploring that the American name should be sullied by the outrages of citizens on their own government commiserating such as remain obstinate from delusion, but resolved, in perfect reliance, on that gracious Providence which so signally displays its goodness toward this country, to reduce the refractory to a due subordination to the law: Do hereby declare and make known that, with a satisfaction, that can be equaled only by the merits of the militia summoned into service from the States of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, I have received intelligence of their, patriotic alacrity in obeying the call of present, though painful yet commanding, necessity; that a force which, according to every reasonable expectation, is adequate to the exigency is already in motion to the scene of disaffection; that those who have confided or shall confide in the protection of government shall meet full succor under the standard and from the arms of the United States; that those who, having offended against the laws, have since entitled themselves to immunity, will be treated with the most liberal good faith, if they shall not have forfeited their claim by any subsequent conduct, and that instructions, are given accordingly." * * *
As before mentioned, the troops called out for the emergency aggregated about thirteen thousand men, in four divisions, one division from each of the States of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia, that from the Keystone State being five thousand strong. The Virginia and Maryland troops (commanded respectively by Gen. Daniel Morgan, of Virginia, and Brig.-Gen. Samuel Smith, of Baltimore) formed the left wing, which rendezvoused at Cumberland, Maryland. The right wing (which rendezvoused at Carlisle, Pennsylvania) was composed of the Pennsylvania troops commanded by Gov. Mifflin, and those of New Jersey, under Gov. Richard Howell of that state, while Gen. Henry Lee, governor of Virginia, the "Light-Horse Harry" of revolutionary fame, and father of Gen. Robert E, Lee, the able Confederate commander in the war of 1861— 5, was the commander-in-chief of the whole army.
Gen. Lee was directed by the president to "proceed as speedily as may be with the army under your command into the insurgent counties, to attack and as far as shall be in your power to subdue all persons whom you may find in arms in opposition to the laws. You will march your army in two columns, from the places where they are now assembled, by the most convenient routes, having regard to the nature of the roads, the convenience of supply, and the facility of cooperation and union, and bearing in mind that you ought to act, until the contrary shall be fully developed, on the general principle of having to contend with the whole force of the counties of Fayette, Westmoreland, Washington and Allegheny, and that part of Bedford which lies westward of the town of Bedford, and, that you are to put as little as possible to hazard. The approximation, therefore, of your columns is to be sought, and the subdivision of them so as to place the parts out of mutual supporting distance to be avoided as far as local circumstances will permit. Parkison’s Ferry appears to be a proper point toward which to direct the march of the columns for the purpose of ulterior measures. After further instructing Gen. Lee how to act when arrived within the insurgent country, the president continued: "It has been settled that the Governor of Pennsylvania will be second and the Governor of New Jersey third in command, and that the troops of the several states in line on the march and upon detachment are to be posted according to the rule which prevailed in the army during the late war, namely, in moving toward the seaboard the most southern troops will take the right, in moving toward the north the most northern troops will take the right." * * * Gen. Lee was also charged to give countenance and support to the civil officers in the execution of the law, in bringing offenders to justice, and enforcing penalties on delinquent distillers, and "the better to effect these purposes," Richard Peters, Esq., judge of the United States district court, and William Rawle, Esq., the attorney of the district, accompanied the army.
With Gen. Henry Knox, secretary of war, and Gen. Alexander Hamilton, secretary of the treasury, President Washington left Philadelphia on October 1, and proceeded by way of Harrisburg to the headquarters of the right wing at Carlisle, where the troops were reviewed. From that place, on the 11th, he went to Chambersburg, and thence, by way of Hagerstown and Williamsport on the Potomac,
to Fort Cumberland, where he arrived on the 14th, and where he reviewed the Maryland and Virginia troops, composing the left wing; after which he proceeded to Bedford, Pennsylvania (which was then Gen. Lee’s headquarters), reaching the latter place on the 19th, and remaining there two or three days, then returning east, and arriving at Philadelphia on the 28th.
There was no delay in the movement of the army. The right wing marched from Carlisle on October 22, and proceeded by way of Bedford, across that county and Somerset, and along the road skirting the northeastern part of Fayette, to what is now Mount Pleasant, in Westmoreland, at which place the advance brigade arrived and encamped on the 29th. The left wing of Lee’s army moved from Fort Cumberland on October 22, and took the route marched over by Gen. Braddock thirty-nine years before, to the Great Meadows, and from there to Uniontown, at which place Gen. Lee arrived on the last day of October, and the main body of the left wing came up and encamped there the same evening.
In the meantime the utmost consternation prevailed among the insurgents, especially those who had been most conspicuous in perpetrating acts of lawlessness and violence. Therefore, a meeting of the committee of sixty (otherwise termed the committee of safety) was called and held at Parkison’s Ferry on October 2, when, William Findley, of Westmoreland, and David Redick, of Washington county, were appointed a committee to wait on the president of the United States, and to assure him that submission and order could be restored without the aid of military force. They met the president at Carlisle on the day before his departure for Chambersburg, and during an interview said "that the great body of the people who had no concern in the disorders, but remained quietly at home and attended to their business, had become convinced that the violence used would ruin the country; that they had formed themselves into associations to suppress disorder, and to promote submission to the laws." In replying the president said, substantially, that as the army was already on its way to the western counties of Pennsylvania, he deemed it best not to countermand the orders to advance, yet he assured the delegates that no violence would be used, and that all that was desired was to have the inhabitants of the disaffected region come back to their allegiance.
The insurgents were still shaking with fear, however, and a second effort was made to influence the president and effect a recall of the troops. To this end William Findley, David Redick, Ephraim Douglass and Thomas Morton were, at a meeting held at Parkison’s Ferry October 24th, appointed a committee to carry certain resolutions and renewed assurances of submission to the president. But when ready to set out on their mission they learned that the president had already left Bedford on his return to the seat of government at Philadelphia, and that the army was nearing the center of the disturbed district, and thereupon they decided to await the arrival of the forces, and to report the action of the meeting of October 24th to Gen. Lee, as the president’s representative. They did wait upon Gen. Lee on the 31st of October, at Uniontown. He received them with great politeness, and the following morning handed them his reply, which was as follows:
GENTLEMEN: The resolutions entered into at the late meeting of the people at Parkison’s Ferry, with the various papers declaratory of the determination of the numerous subscribers to maintain the civil authority, manifest strongly a change of sentiment in the inhabitants of this district. To what cause may truly be ascribed this favorable turn in the public mind it is my province to determine. Yourselves, in the conversation last evening, imputed it to the universal panic which the approach of the army of the United States had excited in the lower orders of the people. If this be the ground of the late change-- and my respect for your opinions will not permit me to doubt it—-the moment the cause is removed the reign of violence and anarchy will return.
Whatever, therefore, may be the sentiments of the people respecting the present competency of the civil authority to enforce the laws, I feel myself obligated by the trust reposed in me by the president of the United States to hold the army in this country until daily practice shall convince all that the sovereignty of the constitution and laws are unalterably established. In executing this resolution I do not only consult the dignity and interests of the United States, which will always command my decided respect and preferential attention, but I also promote the good of this particular district.
I shall, therefore, as soon as the troops are refreshed, proceed to some central and convenient station, where I shall patiently wait until the competency of the civil authority is experimentally and unequivocally proved. No individual can be more solicitous than I am for this happy event, and you may assure the
good people whom you represent that every aid will be cheerfully contributed by me to hasten the delightful epoch.
On the part of all good citizens, I confidently expect the most active and faithful cooperation, which, in my judgment, cannot be more effectually given than by circulating in the most public manner the truth among the people, and by inducing the various clubs which have so successfully poisoned the minds of the inhabitants to continue their usual meetings for the pious purpose of contradicting, with their customary formalities, their past pernicious doctrines. A conduct so candid should partially atone for the injuries which in a great degree may be attributed to their instrumentality, and must have a propitious influence in administering a radical cure to the existing disorders.
On my part, and on the part of the patriotic army I have the honor to command, assure your fellow-citizens that we come to protect and not to destroy, and that our respect for our common government, and respect to our own honor, are ample pledges for the propriety of our demeanor. Quiet, therefore, the apprehensions of all on this score, and recommend universally to the people to prepare for the use of the army whatever they can spare from their farms necessary to its subsistence, for which they shall be paid in cash at the present market price; discourage exaction of every sort, not only because it would testify a disposition very unfriendly, but because it would probably produce very disagreeable scenes. It is my duty to take care that the troops are comfortably subsisted, and I cannot but obey it with the highest pleasure, because I intimately know their worth and excellence.
I have the honor to be, gentlemen,
Your most obedient servant,
With due consideration,
This reply to the committee was soon afterward printed and circulated extensively in all parts of the disaffected district, and although rather sarcastic in tone, it doubtless produced much good in assisting to allay the apprehensions of many of the inhabitants.
After staying a few days at Uniontown and Mount Pleasant respectively, the two columns of the army moved on, in obedience to the orders of the commander-in-chief, to the vicinity of the Monongahela and Youghiogheny rivers, in Westmoreland county, and went into camp at a point between Parkison’s and Budd’s Ferries. From his headquarters, "near Parkison’s Ferry," on the 8th of November Gen. Lee issued an address, or proclamation, to the inhabitants, the tone of which was a little vainglorious, or after the manner of a conquering chieftain addressing the people of a subjugated province. "You see," he said, "encamped in the bosom of your district a numerous and well-appointed army, formed of citizens of every description from this and the neighboring States of New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia, whom the violated laws of our common country have called from their homes to vindicate and restore their authority. The scene before your eyes ought to be an instructive one; it ought to teach many useful truths, which should, for your own happiness, make a deep and lasting impression on your minds. Those who have been perverted from their duty may now perceive the dangerous tendency of the doctrines by which they have been misled, and how unworthy of their confidence are the men by whom, for personal and sinister purposes, they have been brought step by step to the precipice from which they have no escape but in the moderation and benignity of that very government which they have vilified, insulted and opposed. The friends of order may also perceive in the perils and evils that have for some time surrounded them how unwise and even culpable is that carelessness and apathy with which they have permitted the gradual approaches of disorder and anarchy." * * For several days the entire army remained in the neighborhood of Parkison’s Ferry, after which the main body moved toward Pittsburgh, and on the 15th of November a detachment was marched from the camp near Parkison’s to the town of Washington, accompanied by Secretary Hamilton and Judge Peters, and taking with them a large number of prisoners captured at daybreak on Thursday morning, November 13,* in the eastern part of Washington county. Indeed, all the prisoners taken by the army, excepting three, were taken in that county and Allegheny, under Gen. Lee’s special orders
*On Thursday, the 13th of November," said Findley, "there were about forty persons brought to Parkison’s house, by order of Gen. White (of New Jersey). He directed to put the damned rascals in the cellar, to tie them back to back, to make a fire for the guard but to put the prisoners back to the farther end of the cellar, and to give them neither victuals nor drink. The cellar was wet and muddy, and the night cold; the cellar extended the whole length under a large new log house, which was neither floored nor the openings between the logs daubed. They were kept there until Saturday morning, and then marched to the town of Washington. On the march one of the prisoners, who was subject to convulsions, fell into a fit, but when some of the troops told Gen. White of his situation, he ordered them to tie the damned rascal to a horse’s tail and drag him along with them, for he had only feigned having the fits. Some of his fellow-prisoners, however, who had a horse, dismounted and let the poor man ride. He had another fit before he reached Washington. This march was about twelve miles. The poor man who had the fits had been in the American service during almost the whole of the war with Great Britain." Findley related many other instances of barbarous treatment inflicted on the prisoners by the soldiery, but as his sympathies were with the insurgents, it is fair to presume that many if not all his statements were more or less exaggerated.
issued for that purpose to Gen. Irvine and other officers in command of cavalry.
At Uniontown, on the 1st of November; Gen. Lee had announced his purpose "to hold the army in this country until daily practice shall convince all that the sovereignty of the constitution and laws is unalterably established." It appears that a few days after marching his forces northward from Uniontown he became convinced that such a time was near at hand, and at once began to make arrangements for the return of the army. The notification* of the reopening of the inspection offices was made on the 10th, and they were accordingly reopened some ten days later without opposition. On the 17th, from his headquarters at Pittsburgh, Gen. Lee issued an order for the retirement of the army as follows:
The complete fulfillment of every object dependent on the efforts of the army makes it the duty of the commander-in-chief to take measures for the immediate return of his faithful fellow-soldiers to their respective homes, in execution of which no delay will be permitted but that which results from the consultation of their comfort.
On Tuesday morning, at the hour of eight, the Pennsylvania Cavalry will be ready to accompany his Excellency Governor Mifflin, whose official duties renders his presence necessary at the seat of government.
On the next day the first division of the right column, consisting of the artillery and Proctor’s brigade, under the orders of Maj.-Gen. Irvine, will commence their march to Bedford, on the route commonly called the Old Pennsylvania road.
The following day at the same hour the New Jersey Line will move under the command of his Excellency Governor Howell, who will be pleased to pursue from Bedford such routes as he may find convenient.
On the subsequent day at the same hour the residue of the Pennsylvania Line now on this ground will march under the command of Brig.-Gen. Chambers,
*The announcement by Inspector (Gen.) John Neville was as follows:
"Notice is hereby given that on Thursday, the 20th Instant, an office of inspection will be opened at Pittsburgh for the county of Allegheny, at the town of Washington for the county of Washington, at Greensburg for the county of Westmoreland, and at Union Town for the county of Fayette. All distillers are required forthwith to enter their stills at the office of the county in which they respectively reside, and to do further what the laws prescribe concerning the same, of which they may receive more particular information from the officer of inspection with whom entry is made.
Inspector of the Revenue, District of Pennsylvania, Fourth Survey.
"Nov. 10, 1794."
On the 27th of November following, the Inspector announced that he was "directed to notify all persons In the counties of Allegheny, Fayette and Bedford against whom suits have been commenced in the court of the United States for neglecting to enter their stills that upon their coming forward immediately to the collectors of each county and paying one year’s arrearages upon the capacity of the still and the costs of suit, a bill of which will be furnished, the actions will be discontinued."— Pennsylvania Archives.
taking the route heretofore mentioned, and making the same stages as shall have been made by the leading division. Maj.-Gen. Frelinghuysen, with the Elite Corps of the right column, will follow the next day and pursue the same route.
Brig.-Gen. Smith, with the Maryland Line, will move to Uniontown, agreeably to orders heretofore communicated to him, and from thence to proceed on Braddock’s road to Fort Cumberland, where he will adopt the most convenient measures in his power for the return of his troops to their respective counties.
Brig.-Gen. Matthews will move on Wednesday next to Morgan Town, from thence to Winchester by way of Frankfort. From Winchester the troops will be marched to their respective brigades under the commanding officers from each brigade.
As soon as the public service will permit afterward, the Elite Corps of the left column, under Gen. Darke, will follow on the route prescribed for Brig. Matthews, and be disbanded as they reach their respective brigades.
The corps destined for the winter defense will move without delay to Bentley’s Farm, on the west side of the Monongahela, near Perry’s Ferry, where they will receive orders from Maj.-Gen. Morgan.
The Virginia Cavalry will take the route by Morgan Town, from thence to Winchester by Romney’s; the commandant will receive particular instructions as to their time and manner of march.
The right column will receive their pay (still due) at Bedford, the Maryland Line at Fort Cumberland, and the Virginia Line at Winchester. * * *
Gen. Lee remained in Western Pennsylvania for a considerable time after the departure of the main body of his army, and on the 29th of November, under the titles, of "Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Major-General therein, and Commander-in-Chief of the Militia Army in the Service of the United States," and in pursuance of authority delegated to him by President Washington, he issued a "proclamation of pardon," the benefits of which were to be enjoyed by all persons residing within the district lately in insurrection, excepting those "charged with the commission of offenses against the United States and now actually in custody or held by recognizance to appear and answer for all such offenses at any judicial court or courts, excepting also all persons avoiding fair trial by abandonment of their homes, and excepting, moreover, the following persons, the atrocity of whose conduct renders it proper to mark them by name, for the purpose of subjecting them with all possible certainty to the regular course of judicial proceedings, and whom all officers, civil and military, are required to endeavor to apprehend and bring to
justice, to wit: Benjamin Parkison, Arthur Gardner, John Holcroft, Daniel Hamilton, Thomas Lapsley, William Miller, Edward Cook, Edward Wright, Richard Holcroft, David Bradford, John Mitchell, Alexander Fulton, Thomas Spiers, William Bradford, George Parker, William Hanna, Edward Magner, Jr., Thomas Hughes, David Lock, Ebenezer Gallagher, Peter Lyle, John Shields, William Hay, William McIlhenny, Thomas Patton, Stephenson Jack and Andrew Highlands, of the State of Pennsylvania; William Sutherland, Robert Stephenson, William McKinley, JohnMoore and John McCormick of Ohio county, Virginia."
Gen. Morgan’s forces* continued in their winter cantonments at Bentley’s Farm (with small detachments stationed at Pittsburgh and Washington) until the following spring, when, order being fully restored and established, the last of the troops marched eastward across the Alleghenies, and the western counties were left in full possession and exercise of their former rights and powers. In August of the year 1795, general pardons to those who had been implicated in the insurrection, and who had not subsequently been indicted or convicted, were proclaimed by President Washington and Gov. Mifflin, in fulfillment of the agreement made the previous year at Pittsburgh by the United States and Pennsylvania commissioners. And thus ended the famous whisky insurrection in Western Pennsylvania, which at one time threatened the very existence of the infant republic.
*Morgan’s command during the winter was composed in part of troops who had come from the East under Gen. Lee, and partly of men enlisted in the western counties, as advised n the proclamation of the commander-in-chief of November 8th, and authorized to the number of two thousand five hundred by an act of the assembly of the 29th of the same month. Of those thus enlisted Findley has said, that among them were men reported to have been among the most troublesome of the insurgents; "that many of them, for some time at first, demanded free quarters and such things as they stood in need of without pay, and that some of the officers committed indictable offenses; but when the persons against whom the offenses were committed commenced prosecutions they settled the disputes amicably and behaved well for the future. And when the people took courage to refuse to submit to impositions, the soldiers ceased to demand free quarters, or to be otherwise troublesome."
SOURCE: History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, pp. 98-113.
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