Chapter XII
The Alliance With the Delawares


The plan of General McIntosh for the protection of the frontier was to attack Detroit. In this he was encouraged by the opinions of many officers and members of Congress. The difficulty and hazard of such an undertaking was not appreciated in the East. It involved a march of more than 300 miles through a wilderness inhabited by savages, most of whom were hostile to the American cause. It must carry an army far from its base of supplies, and that base, at Fort Pitt, a precarious one. It was against an enemy having greater resources and a superior line of communication, by water, through Lakes Erie and Ontario. It was a project which Hand had meditated and which other commanders after McIntosh essayed; but all were doomed to disappointment(1)

The two regiments - of regulars, the Eighth Pennsylvania and the Thirteenth Virginia, were to be augmented by the militia from Westmoreland, and the three Virginia counties of Yohogania, Monongalia and Ohio, and there was hope of adding to these a force of Delaware warriors.

The Delawares, living on the Tuscarawas and the Muskingum, were the only Indians who had maintained neutrality between the Americans and the British. This was the tribe which had made the treaty with William Penn, under the elm at Shackamaxon, and its traditions attached it

to the white man's council which sat at Philadelphia. Moreover, its head sachem, White Eyes, the greatest chieftain ever produced by this remarkable Indian nation, was peculiarly devoted to the American cause. He revealed a spirit of intelligent sympathy with the struggle for liberty, and even hoped that a Delaware Indian state might form a fourteenth star in the American Union.

Preparations were made to enter into a formal treaty of alliance with this Indian tribe. In June, 1778, Congress ordered the treaty to be held at Fort Pitt on July 23, and requested Virginia to name two commissioners and Pennsylvania one. Virginia chose General Andrew Lewis, the victor of Point Pleasant, and his brother, Thomas Lewis, a civilian; Pennsylvania neglected to appoint. It being found impossible for the continental troops to reach Pittsburg at the time first set, the treaty was postponed until September.

When Colonel Brodhead and his Westmoreland regulars marched into Fort Pitt, on September 10, 1778, they found the wigwams of the Delaware chiefs and warriors pitched near the shore of the Allegheny river, a short distance above the fort. Two days later, the conference between white men and red was begun in one of the buildings within the walls of Fort Pitt.

This was probably the most remarkable treaty ever made on behalf of the United States. Its proceedings are worthy of preservation as matters of curiosity and as illustrating one of the strange developments of the revolutionary struggle. They are handed down to us in the manuscript letter book of Colonel George Morgan, Indian agent at Fort Pitt.(2) By this treaty the United States entered into an offensive and defensive alliance with a tribe of savages, recognizing that tribe as an independent nation, guaranteeing its integrity and territory. Each party bound itself to assist the other against its enemies. The treaty laid the groundwork for the establishment of a system of judiciary

in the Delaware nation and contained a provision for the admission of an Indian state into the American Union. The commissioners who made the treaty must have known that such a state was an impossibility, yet they deliberately provided for it in a solemn treaty, taking care, however, to subject the scheme to the approval of Congress. It was a "gold brick," presented by the white men to their red brethren.

It was a courageous act for the Delaware chiefs to form this alliance with the Americans. All other Indian tribes of the West were in league with the British, and for months had been coaxing and threatening the Delawares to draw them into the general combination. By daring to form an open union with the United States, White Eyes exposed his people to absolute destruction by the British and their red allies. He fully realized his danger, yet he had the courage to do what he believed to be the right thing. He fell a martyr to his convictions.

The Americans had sent messengers to the Shawnees, inviting them to come with the Delawares to the treaty, but that warlike tribe did not respond. The deputies of the Delawares were White Eyes, the chief sachem; Killbuck, a famous medicine man and war chief, and Pipe, the chief warrior of the Wolf clan. These three red men appeared at the council in holiday regalia, painted, feathered and beaded. Captain Pipe was especially celebrated for the gaudiness of his attire. The scene in the assembly room must have been picturesque. The councils were attended by General McIntosh and his colonels and staff officers, in new uniforms, and the Indian deputies were supported by a band of warriors in bright paint and gay blankets. The interpreter was Job Chilloway, a Delaware from the Susquehanna, who had lived many years among the white people.(3) Soldiers in hunting shirts patrolled before the barrack doors or stood in groups on the parade ground, watching the coming and going of the bedizened Indians.

On the Saturday forenoon when the conference began, General Lewis offered the friendship of the United States and presented to the Indians a belt of white wampum, emblematic of peace. He praised the Delawares because they alone, of the many Indian tribes, had been faithful to their treaties; and in token of this fidelity he presented a broad belt of white wampum, having worked into it, in black, the figures of a white man and an Indian, connected by a black line, denoting a road or path. He then proposed a formal alliance, giving another white belt, showing a white man and an Indian clasping hands.

General Lewis stated the intention of sending an army against Detroit, and asked the permission of the Delawares for a passage through their territory. The Delawares claimed control over the country bounded on the east by the Allegheny and Ohio rivers, and on the west by the Hocking and Sandusky. Lewis expressed a desire that the western expedition might be so conducted as to cover and protect the Delaware towns in the Muskingum valley.

Chief White Eyes gave thanks for the offer of friendship and alliance. It was to form such an alliance that he and his comrades had come into council. He promised a prompt consultation and an answer in the afternoon. At this conference all the talking for the Indians was done by White Eyes. The speeches of this chief, on all occasions, were notable for their directness, force and clearness. He did not indulge in that metaphorical verbiage and tiresome prolixity by which Indian oratory is characterized. He had mingled much with white men, had studied their ways and imitated their style of speech.

In the afternoon there was no meeting, for another delegation of Indians arrived in camp, with firing of guns and beating of tom-toms, and the ceremonies of their reception occupied the time. They were led by Wingenund, the Delaware wise man, and by Nimwha, chief of a small band of Shawnees who lived with the Delawares at Coshocton.

It was on a fair Sunday that the conference was resumed. White Eyes announced the readiness of the Indians to accept the alliance. "We have taken fast hold of the chain of friendship," he said, "and are determined never to part the hold, though we should lose our lives." The commissioners then announcing that they would write out and submit the words of the treaty, White Eyes said: `Brothers, we are become one people. The enemy Indians, as soon as they hear it, will strike us. We desire that our brethren would build some place for our old men, women and children to remain in safety whilst our warriors go with you.,,

On Monday the articles of confederation between a civilized and a savage nation were interpreted and explained to the Indians. There was a heavy rainstorm on Tuesday, which prevented a meeting, but on Wednesday White Eyes accepted the treaty on behalf of the Delawares and the Maquegea branch of the Shawnees.

It was a momentous event in the life of this Indian chief and he delivered an affecting address, a brief outline of which has been preserved for us. "We now inform you," he said, "that as many of our warriors as can possibly be spared will join you and go with you." Thus he pronounced his own death warrant. "We are at a loss to express our thoughts, but we hope soon to convince you by our actions of the sincerity of our hearts. We desire you not to think any of our people will have any objection to your marching through our country; on the contrary, they will rejoice to see you"

He requested that Colonel John Gibson be appointed Indian agent, saying: "He has always acted an honest part by us, and we are convinced he will make our common good his chief study, and not think only how he may get rich." It appears that some of the Indian agents had the same weakness then as now.(4)

"When we were last in Philadelphia," White Eyes concluded, `bur wise brethren in Congress may remember, we desired them to send a schoolmaster to our towns to instruct our children. As we think it will be for our mutual interest, we request it may be complied with."

The petitions of this wise Indian concerning Gibson and the schoolmaster were both neglected by the continental government.

On the following day, Thursday, September 17, 1778, the articles of confederation were signed in triplicate, one copy for Congress, one for the Delawares and one for General McIntosh. There were six articles, to the following effect: First, all offenses were to be mutually forgiven; second, a perpetual peace and friendship was pledged, each party to assist the other in any just war; third, the Delawares gave permission for the passage through their country of an American army, agreed to sell corn, meat and horses to that army, and to furnish guides and a body of warriors, while the United States bound themselves to erect and garrison, within the Delaware country, a fort for the protection of the old men, women and children; fourth, each party agreed to punish offenses committed by citizens of the other only by trial by judges or jurors of both parties, according to a system thereafter to be arranged; fifth, the United States pledged the establishment of a fair trade under the control of an honest agent.

The sixth article was the most remarkable. It guaranteed the integrity of the Delaware territory, so long as the nation should keep the peace with the United States, and concluded with the following provision, apparently drawn rather hastily:

"And it is further agreed on between the contracting parties that, should it, in future, be found conducive to the mutual interest of both parties, to invite a other tribe who have been friendly to the interest of the United States to join the present confederation and to form a state, whereof the Delaware nation shall be the head, and have a representative in Congress; provided nothing contained in this article be considered as conclusive until it meets with the approbation of Congress."

This is certainly as strange a proposition as ever was made to a savage nation. Of course, it never went any farther than the piece of parchment on which it was written. It was probably never intended to go any farther.

The treaty was signed by the several deputies, Andrew and Thomas Lewis, White Eyes, the Pipe and John Kill-buck, the Indians making their marks. The following signatures were attached as those of witnesses: Lachlan McIntosh, Brigadier General, Commander of the Western Department; Daniel Brodhead, Colonel of the Eighth Pennsylvania Regiment; W. Crawford, Colonel; John Campbell, John Stephenson, John Gibson, Colonel of the Thirteenth Virginia Regiment; Arthur Graham, Brigade Major; Lachlan McIntosh, Jr., Brigade Major; Benjamin Mills, Joseph L. Finley, Captain of the Eighth Pennsylvania Regiment, and John Finley, Captain of the Eighth Pennsylvania Regiment.

On the succeeding day presents were given to the Delawares on behalf of Congress and the Indians then departed for Coshocton, to make preparations for joining the expedition against Detroit.

1 Hand expressed the opinion that 3,000 men, with light artillery, would be necessary for the capture of Detroit. See Ft. Pitt, p. 229.

2 In the possession of the Pittsburg Carnegie Library.

3 Morgan to the Delawares, August 12, 1778, MS. In Pittsburg Carnegie Library.

4 This request of White Eyes was, of course, a reflection on Colonel Morgan, then Indian agent. Morgan was In Philadelphia at the time of the treaty and when he learned Its terms he denounced it as Improper and villainous. See Taylor's History of Ohio, Cincinnati, 1854, p. 291. Killbuck, who succeeded White Eyes as chief sachem of the Delawares, sent word to Morgan that he had not agreed with White Eyes In asking for the appointment of Gibson.

SOURCE:  Page(s) 73-79: Old Westmoreland, A History of Western Pennsylvania During the Revolution by Edgar W. Hassler, J.R. Weldon & Co, Pittsburgh, 1900

Contributed by Nathan Zipfel for use by the Westmoreland County Genealogy Project (

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