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Gaines, Edmund P.: [Letter] 1838 Aug. 19, St. Louis [to] Joel R. Poinsett, Secretary of War, Washington D.C./ Edmund P. Gaines





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Hd. Qrs. Western DivisionSt. Louis, 19th.. August, 1838.
Sir __

If I am right in taking it for granted that there exists among the Indians, a deep-rooted spirit of hostility against the Government of the United States,__ I cannot be wrong in believing that a great meeting of "all the Chiefs and principal Braves of all the Nations "north of the Red River (excepting the Osages & Kansas)" will most probably be productive of combinations dangerous to the peace of our frontier. And, that the [unclear: surest ] possible means of preventing a hostile combination against the frontier will be to [unclear: attend ] the council, in the frank & friendly manner of a Father or Brother, approve any measures for social intercourse that may become the subject of discussion among them__ encourage them in whatever efforts they may see fit to make in the establishment of a union, embracing principles of civilization and Peace. But, in the event of thier insisting on a secret session; or upon the open discussion and adoption of an organized combination for purposes of War, I should feel it to be my duty solemnly to protest against such conduct__ admonish them to keep the peace, and at the same time take strong & immediate measures to assemble sufficient force to restain, or meet and beat them.




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It may be said, as it has been said by an officer of high rank that, my anticipations as to the danger off an attack upon the South-wesstern frontier in the year 1836, were not realized. I rejoice as cordially perhaps as that officer, or as any one can rejoice, that the apprehended attack was not then made. But I have the strongest reasons to believe, that the attack would have been made, but for three simple events which followed each other in quick succession, and produced a panic in the ranks of the Indians__ two of which events, only, occured on the part of the United States, the third, and perhaps the most decisive & important, was the act of the infant Republic of Texas __ they were as follows:__

1st __ my Requisitions, and the publication of my Requisitions, on the Governors of Louisiana , Alabama , Mississippi , Tennessee & Kentucky each for a Regiment of mounted gun-men, to assemble forthwith upon the Sabine__

2nd__ my movement with the 3rd & 6th U. S. Regiments from Fort Jesup to the Sabine __ with my messages to the Chiefs of all the White & Red belligerent, notifying them if they distturbed a single family, or spilt the blood of a single individual on our side of the unascertained Boundary




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line, or within the disputed Territory upon the waters of the Sabine or Red River__ the aggressor should answer for the outrage with his life.

3rd__ The extraaordinary Battle of Sam Tacinto, which eventuated in a spendid victory, achieved in part by men very recently citizens of the United States , whose persons & families had been menaced by several members of the unhallowed alliance by whom we were then, and have since been [unclear: threatened ] ; men whose only fault was to have found themselves settled in a section of country claimed by two great nations, and likely to be left by both unprotected and at the mercy of a savage, and a worse than savage foe; that extraordianary Battle did much to prevent the Indians war, which, in the early part of the spring of 1836, I reported as probable.

But for the three events above ennumerated, I have no doubt but that the Mexican forces with their Red Allies, amounting altogether to twenty thousand men, mostly mounted, would, by the latter end of May 1836, have laid waste the principal part of our rich and flourishing settlements on Red River (the best cotton growing region of America) with those fine sugar & cotton growing districts, from the mouth of the




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Sabine to the Red River & thence to the North-western border of the state of Arkansas; inclusively.

Although I do not think the prospect of such an attack at this time, is as great as it was then; yet I cannot but think, for the reasons [added: first] above stated, that it would be criminal in me to omit any means in my power, to be prepared for an Indian war upon a large scale. It may not take place. But, the prospect of such a war is so highly probable, as to urge the propriety of immediate & increased measures of preparation. We are upon sound military principles, bound to bring o our aid the following maxim__ we should rely, for the safety of the frontier, upon our immediate strength and resources, and not upon the supposed feebleness, or the supposed want of union of the hostile bands opposed to us.

If we could bring to the frontier five to ten thousand men, and there employ them in the construction of works, such as I have proposed; or such as any officer who has witnessed for twenty three days__ or even for one day, the effect of the enemy's fire upon works of defence [defense][added: may propose] __ the frontier might thus be greatly strengthened, in the course of four or five months, A similar force




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[added: 2] employed in the summer and autumn of the two ensuing years, should peace be preserved __ (and the presence of such a force, for two or three years, might lay the foundations of a lasting peace), would enable us to complete every work which I have recommended within the limits of my division__ RailRoads and Forts__ whilst we should more effectually hold the Indians in check, than if the whole force was employed in the [unclear: inglorious ] occupation of drinking, gambling and smoking Men of indusrty & sobriety, command the respect & administration, not only of the virtuous & wise, but even of the unlettered savage__ and when the drum beats to Arms, the vigorous mechanic, the habitual laborer, will perform much better service in Battle than the effeminate idler, ot the rotary of intemperance. Besides let us construct the proposed works__ let us exhibit to the savage of the Far West the astonishing fact that we can, with the aid of steam power on Railroads, march an army of Twenty thousand men, three hundred miles in twenty four hours, this awful exhibition of moral & physical power, will, I am conviced, do more towards subduing the savage spirit of the Indians, than every other means of civilization, hitherto




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attempted. They are the best light troops in the world. We should cultivate their friendship, and employ them as such. We need not be afraid of rendering them more formidable as Enemies, by the knowledge they may happen to acquire of our notions of the art of war. The truth is, we can never equal them as light troops, until we send our boys of 5 or 6 years of age into the woods, and ponds and rivers, and oblige them to stay there until they are thirty years of age. We have boarded ourselves with French and English Books, uselessly ponderous company & Regimental Books, and indulged in sedentary habits, until we find ourselves, or at least, many, if not most of our officers but [unclear: illy ] qualified to cope with a savage foe. They, on the contrary enjoy the frequent and almost daily benefit of action, accompanied with the practical stratagy of actual war. Let a dozen or a hundred Indian boys get in pursuit of a herd of Buffalo__ or the Bear, or any other of the ferocious beasts of the forest__ let them continue for a week or a month, of for six months in a drive of this kind, in which hunger with the cheering and [unclear: chivalric ] excitement of this war of the




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chase; __ a war requiring the same description of prowess, and attended with the same, or nearly the same privations of food & rest, and the same labors, exposures & perils, which usually attend war against a civilized army. man habituated from infancy, to that ripe middle age, at which the mind and body have each attained to the highest state of maturity & vigor, will sustain himself in his own favorite haunts against greatly superior numbers of European or American Regulars, ignorant of the topography of the country & ignorant of the habit of living by the chase.

I repeat Sir, that we mmust cultivate the friendship of these savages, be just to them, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit & heal the sick, and do unto them as we would that our strong civillized neighbors should do unto us. Otherwise we must annihilate them. This we cannot do without forgetting what is due to our interests, and our own self-respect;__ and without being guilty of a violation of natural law, and natural equity & justice, that might tend to our own annihilation: For, we must expect, in the course of time, to have meted to us that measure of national Justice which we deliberately extend to the nations of Redmen near us __ making all proper allowance for their savage character contrasted with our civilization.




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I shall in the ensuing week repair to the council house of the Cherokees of Arkansas for the purposes above intimated should I not, in the interim, receive satisfactory assurance that the objects of the intended great meeting are well ascertained to be altogether friendly towards the United States.

I have the honor to be your most obtst. [obedient servant]
signed Edmund P. Gaines Major General U.S. Army Commanding
[added:
To the Hon. [Honorable] Joel R. Poinsett Secretary of War City of Washington, D.C.
A true copy T.C. Reid A.D. Camp]



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[added: (copy)

Hd. Qrs. [Head Quarters] Western Division St. Louis , 19th Aug. 1838. Extract from Maj. Gen. [Major General]Gaines' letter to the Secretary of War.
Indian Affairs
]



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