Patrick Henry’s Instructions

Patrick Henry’s Instructions to George Rodgers Clark

(Shortened for inclusion on this site)

Sir, Dec. 12, 1778

You are to retain the Command of the troops now at the several posts in the county of Illinois and on the Wabash, which fall within the limits of the County now erected and called Illinois County, which troops marched out with, and have been embodied by you-You are also to take the Command of five other companies, raised under the act of Assembly which I send herewith, and which if completed, as I hope they will be speedily, will have orders to join you without loss of time, and are likewise to be under your command; With your whole force you are to protect the Inhabitants of the County, & as occasions may serve, annoy the enemy.

It is thought that the Indian Nations may be overawed and inclined to peace with us, by the Adoption of proper measures with you. Or if that cannot be effected, that such of them as send out parties towards our Frontiers on this side of the Ohio, may be chastised by detachments from your quarter. For this purpose it will behove you to watch their motions, and to consider, that one great advantage expected from your situation is to prevent the Indians from warring on this side of the  Ohio.

In order more effectually to prevent this, you are to establish such posts in different parts of the Country as you judge best for your troops to occupy.

I consider your further success as depending upon the goodwill and friendship of the Frenchmen and Indians who inhabit your part of the Commonwealth. With their concurrence great things may be accomplished. But their animosity will spoil the fair prospect which your past success have opened. You will therefore spare no pains to conciliate the affections of the French and Indians. Let them see and feel the advantages of being fellow citizens and freemen.

Guard most carefully against every infringement of their property, particularly with respect to land, as our enemies have alarmed them as to that. Strict, and even severe, discipline with your soldiers may be essential, to preserve from injury those whom they were sent to protect and conciliate….

For our peace & Safety are not secure while the Enemy are so near as Detroit….

I must observe to you, that your Situation is critical. Far detached from the body of your Country, placed among French, Spaniards & Indian nations, Strangers to our people anxiously watching your Actions & Behaviour, & ready to receive Impressions favorable, or not so, of our Commonwealth & – its Government, which Impression will make & will produce lasting Good or ill Effects to your Country…. For at the Distance of your County, I cannot be consulted. General Discretionary powers therefore are given to you to act for the best in all Cases where these Instructions are Silent, & the Law has made no provision…

Prudence requires that provisions be laid in to subsist the Troops you have & those to be expected to arrive with you. Colonel Bowman has contracted to deliver 35,000 lb Bear Bacon at Kentucky, But Bread must be had at Illinois…

There is a Cargo of Goods at a Spanish post near you belonging either to the Continent or this State. Rather than let your Troops be naked, you are to take a Supply for them out of these goods.  But this is not to be done but in Case of absolute necessity. Let an exact Account be Kept of what is used & let me receive it.

In your Negotiations or Treaties with the Indians, you will be assisted by Mr. Todd.  Let the treatys be confined to the Subject of amity & peace with our people, & not to touch the Subject of Lands. You may accept of any Services they offer, for expelling the English from Detroit & elsewhere. In case you find presents to the Savages necessary, make them sparingly as possible, letting them know our stock of Goods is small at present, but by means of our Trade with the French & other nations we expect plenty of Goods before it is long.

Lieutenant Colonel Montgomery will convey to you ten thousand pounds for payment of the Troops & for other Matters requiring money; In the Distribution of money you will be careful to keep exact accounts from time to time & take Security where it is proper.

I am yr. hble. Serv.
P. Henry