Secretary of War Disputes Indian War Claims of Levi J. Knight

Engagements with Native Americans fought in South Georgia in the year 1842, were a topic of Governor George W. Crawford’s address of November 7, 1843 to the Georgia General Assembly.  The Governor referenced reports  submitted by Levi J. Knight and others  documenting Indian movements and attacks.  Knight was captain of militia companies that fought engagements in Lowndes County during the Indian Wars 1836-1842 (see Levi J. Knight Reports Indian Fight of July 13, 1836;   Final Report of General Julius C. Alford on Actions at the Little River and at Grand Bay, August, 1836)

George W. Crawford, Governor of Georgia 1843-1847. In politics, Crawford was a Whig, as was Levi J. Knight of Lowndes County (now Berrien). Crawford was the only Whig elected to the Governors office in Georgia. Appointed Secretary of War in the Cabinet of President Zachary Taylor and served from March 8, 1849, to July 23, 1850; presided over the State secession convention in 1861; died on his estate, “Bel Air,” near Augusta, Ga., July 27, 1872; interment in Summerville Cemetery.

George W. Crawford, Governor of Georgia 1843-1847. In politics, Crawford was a Whig, as was Levi J. Knight of Lowndes County (now Berrien). Crawford was the only Whig elected to the Governors office in Georgia. Crawford was appointed Secretary of War in the Cabinet of President Zachary Taylor and served from March 8, 1849, to July 23, 1850; presided over the State secession convention in 1861; died on his estate, “Bel Air,” near Augusta, Ga., July 27, 1872; interment in Summerville Cemetery.

In the spring of 1842 Levi J. Knight’s company of men was among those activated to pursue Indians fleeing from Florida and to defend against Indian attacks. After these actions, Governor Crawford was engaged in a dispute with U. S. Secretary of War James Madison Porter over  whether Federal funds were owed to the State of Georgia for expenses incurred when militia companies were called out in Lowndes County.

In his address, Governor Crawford cites Document 200. This document was a report prepared for the U.S. House of Representatives, April 22, 1842 and titled “Depredations by Indians and United States troops in Georgia.” The report included all correspondence between the Governor of Georgia and the War Department from March 4, 1841 and April 20, 1842 “in relation to Indian depredations in Georgia; and the complaints made and evidence submitted of depredations on the citizens of Georgia and their property, by the United States troops;”

The question was whether Governor Crawford’s predecessor, Governor Charles McDonald, was warranted in calling out the militia. McDonald and Crawford maintained that the federal government had failed in its responsibility to provide protection and security to Georgia citizens.  The people of Wiregrass Georgia certainly felt exposed, but federal officers believed there was little real threat from Indians in Georgia.  Bad relations between the federal troops and local citizens complicated the issue.  At the heart of matters was the shooting of D.S. Cone, son of Captain William Cone by federal troops; Cone was investigating the theft of livestock by the federal troops. Furthermore, federal authorities disparaged reports by Levi J. Knight that Indians were responsible for the attack and murder of a Mrs. Oglesby in Ware County on February 28, 1842.

The War Department contended the activation of militia companies was unnecessary and disallowed payment to Georgia.

Exerpt from Governor Crawford’s address to the Georgia Assembly, November 7, 1843, Milledgeville, GA:

In execution of the act of 27th December last, “to provide for the pay, forage, subsistence and transportation, of the troops ordered out by His Excellency the Governor, and by Generals Knight and Hilliard, for the protection of the southern frontier of this State, against intrusions of the Seminole Indians, ” Col. James Rogers of this place [Milledgeville], was appointed paymaster, who proceeded to examine and report to this Department all such claims as were presented under said act, together with the evidence in support of the same.

A coppy of his report is laid before you. The evidence on which it was based is to be found on the files of this Department.  Some of the officers are discontented with the allowances made them and the men under their command by the paymaster. I refer you to copies of letters received from Captains [William B.] North and [Matthew M.] Deas on this subject, which will put you fully in possession of the objections urged against the conclusions of the paymaster, and by a comparison of which, with the testimony on file, you will be enabled to arrive at justice in your decision as to further allowances. It will be remarked that the proof consists, generally, of the affidavits of the men who performed the service.
     I call your particular attention to the letter from the paymaster, relative to Captain North’s roll,  and recommend that every dollar to which the men of his company are entitled, be allowed, but that measures be adopted to remedy such abuses as are disclosed on the part of that officer.
     A warrant has been drawn for the sum of $2,000. for the payment of these troops, which exceeds the amount of claims reported. This sum will cover every small amount of additional claims which may be proven and the pay and expenses of the paymaster who will account for any balance. I regret that the illness of this officer has hitherto prevented the execution of the duties assigned him. I addressed a letter to the President of the U. States, on the subject of the payment of the above troops, and also invited the attention of the Georgia delegation in Congress to it.  Unexpectedly to me, the President referred the matter to the then Secretary of War, an officer with whom I could not communicate with regard to it, after the evidence of his insincerity as exposed in my message to the last General Assembly.  After I was informed by the Adjutant General of the army, that the rights of the State were to be controlled by so unworthy and influence, I deemed it due to the people, whom I represented, to have no further intercourse respecting them, with any officer subject to be biased by his prejudices.  I cannot forbear, however, calling your attention to a passage in his letter of the 27th February last, to a portion of the Georgia delegation, a copy of which is herewith communicated, in which to justify his conduct in opposing the right of Georgia to pay, he remarks that,

“there was no outrage committed by any Indians in the State of Georgia, during the year 1842, and there was no probable or plausible ground to apprehend any.  Its southern border was guarded by ten military posts and by an unceasing vigilance which afforded the most effectual protection.”

These assertions are made notwithstanding the Document 200, to which he refers in the sentence immediately preceding this, being a communication made by himself, to the committee on Military affairs, contains a letter from Major Gen. Knight, giving information of an Indian murder, committed on Tom’s creek, in the county of Ware, in the month of February, of that year.

It is true, that in one of the Documents is contained a letter from an officer of the army, which is intended to create a doubt whether the murder was committed by Indians. But the evidence adduced is inconclusive on that point.  I lay before you, an extract from a letter from Captain Clyatt, of the 26th Sept, 1842, which proves that in August of that year, the Indians had passed into Georgia, and there had an engagement with a company of Georgians and Floridians.  Should there bean error in Captain Clyatt’s geography, which seems impossible, as he examined the lines, the Indians had certainly passed the ten military posts, and there was at least “plausible” ground to apprehend Indian outrages.

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1 Comment

  1. Melody McAuliffe said,

    February 25, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    Hello,

    I am enjoying your blog very much. Such interesting history! My family was from the Atkinson co./ Berrien co. area. My maternal Great grandfather was BB Gray (with the notorious brother-in-law, Benjamin W. Furlong). My fraternal grandmother was Ruby Rouse Giddens, born in Alapaha in 1910. I was wondering if you could direct me to sources on her mother’s family. Their name was Fletcher. Her mother, Sarah, died in childbirth and her father, J.J. Rouse left my grandmother and her brother Paul in their grandparent Fletcher’s care. I did not see them as one of the families listed on your blog. Any information or sources you could lead me to finding out about them would be greatly appreciated. The major genealogy sites have not been helpful. I suspect a lot of records have been lost or destroyed.

    Thank you so much and keep the interesting posts coming!

    Sincerely, Melody Giddens McAuliffe

    On Sat, Feb 25, 2017 at 12:52 AM, Ray City History Blog wrote:

    > raycityhistory posted: “Engagements with Native Americans fought in South > Georgia in the year 1842, were a topic of Governor George W. Crawford’s > address of November 7, 1843 to the Georgia General Assembly. The Governor > referenced reports submitted by Levi J. Knight and others” >


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