Harrison to Secretary of War
ViNCENNES 14th April, 1812
The persons for whom Commissions were forwarded as officers of the company of Rangers assigned to this territory were duly notified of their appointments. — Capt. [Parmenius] Beckes has accepted, but all the subalterns have declined. [Walter Wilson, Thomas Scott, John Batthis] I beg leave to recommend Joseph Brown as 1st Lieut and Samuel Little as Ensign. I have not yet selected a proper person to recommend for 2nd Lieut. [They were appointed May 5] From the general aspect of Indian affairs I thought it proper to direct Capt. Beckes to complete his company as soon as possible and to call the whole of them into service. The 30 as signed to this county are enlisted. The remaining 30 were directed to be recruited in another part of the Territory and will be up in a few days under Messrs. Little and Brown, who will serve as Sergeants until their commissions can be sent on.
It is with great regret that I inform you Sir that the hopes which I had entertained of our being able to avoid a war with the Indians are entirely dissipated. — The Prophet and his Brother were either altogether insincere in the professions which they made in February or they had been induced to adopt other politics in consequence of the probability of War between the United States and Great Britain. Messrs [John] Shaw and [William] Wells have I presume informed you of the Grounds which they have for believing that they are again organizing a force for hostile purposes and I have now to communicate a most distressing and unequivocal proof of the existence of this disposition. On Saturday evening last a Mrs. Hutsons family consisting of his wife four small children and a hired man residing in the Illinois Territoiy about 35 miles above this place, was most cruelly murdered. The house was set on fire with the bodies of the woman and children in it and the young man whose body was most shockingly mangled left in the yard. There were only three Indians in the party.
A detachment of Rangers are in pursuit of them but there is little probability of their being overtaken. I shall endeavour to asscertain the tribe to which these scoundrels belong but I have no hopes of their being delivered up. One of the most mischievous and successful of the Prophets schemes is that of destroying the influence of the Chiefs amongst the Pottowattimies and Kickapoos particularly. The young men are under no kind of control, each man does as he pleases, and we have in my opinion no alternative but War. The propriety of its being undertaken immediately and prosecuted with vigor is an opinion which pervades I believe the whole Western Country. In Kentucky and in this Territory I know that it does. The circumstance of some of the tribes being friendly and others not so will occasion great embarrassment, I hope to receive instructions upon this subject and the course that is to be pursued as early as possible. I shall proceed to put the frontiers in the best possible state of defence but no defensive measures can possibly be effectual against Indians. I observe that the President is authorized to call out any number of Militia but I suppose that ordinary Militia is meant. For such expeditions as an Indian War calls for (un less it is intended to take possession of any particular point or to occupy the county by a chain of posts) mounted men are absolutely necessary, of these I am authorized to say that as many as may be wanted could be procured in Kentucky and Tennessee in three weeks notice.
I shall execute your wishes with regard to the removal of Wells as soon as possible. At present he is engaged in effecting a meeting of the Indians at Mississine way under the auspices of the Turtle and the Five Medals. As these two chiefs are particularly friendly to Wells and are certainly and unequivocally on our side it would I imagine be bad policy to remove him at this moment.
I have the honor to be Sir With great respect you Most Obt. Servt.
William Henry Harrison
P. S. The captain of the Rangers or some other person there should be authorized to discharge men of that corps who are unfit for the service. It requires the best men and for the price that is given the best can be got. In spite of the vigilance of the officers some of a contrary description will be enlisted.