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Index of first names

Brigadier General Ephraim Douglas

 

 

 

 

Ephraim Douglass was the son of Adam Douglass, a Scot, and was born in Carlisle, in 1750. At the age of 18 he went to Fort Pitt, where he worked for a few years as a carpenter. He afterward engaged in the Indian trade at Pittsburg and Kittanning in partnership with Devereux Smith and Richard Butler.

 

The Indian Peacemaker

The residents of the frontier, in the opening of 1783, were happy in the expectation of peace, when they were startled and distressed by a series of Indian depredations. Several small parties of savages, in the latter part of March and the first week of April, invaded Westmoreland and Washington counties, struck severe blows and escaped quickly into the wilderness.

Four Indians appeared at a clearing in the valley of Brush creek, killed James Davis and his son in a field, took two other men captive and tried to break into the cabin, which was defended by a woman and an old man. One of the Indians tried to pry open the door with his gun, which he thrust in between the door and its frame. The man and the woman within seized the gun barrel and broke it loose from its stock, whereupon the Indians went away.

In Washington county a man was killed within a mile of the new county seat on Chartiers creek, and a dozen persons were captured. Two of the prisoners, Mrs. Walker and a boy, regained their liberty, but the others were carried to the Shawnee towns on the headwaters of the Big Miami river.

Some of the frontiersmen suspected that these raids were made by bands that had been out hunting all winter, and did not know of the peace made between Great Britain and the United States, or of the orders issued by the British commanders. Fear was felt that the Indians might keep up the war without British support, and appeals were sent to Philadelphia for peace treaties with the savage tribes. On April 4 the Pennsylvania Council asked Congress to take some action to pacify the Indians, and on April 29 the request was repeated, with the statement that 40 persons had been killed and captured, since spring opened, on the Pennsylvania frontiers.

Two days later Congress voted to send a messenger into the Indian country to inform the tribes that the King of Great Britain had been compelled to make peace with the United States; that the British had agreed to evacuate the forts at Detroit and Niagara, leaving the Indians to take care of themselves, and that the United States desired peace with the Indians, but were prepared for vigorous action if the tribes should prefer war. To execute this hard and dangerous mission the Secretary at War, Major General Benjamin Lincoln, chose Major Ephraim Douglass, of Pittsburg.

In 1776 Douglass was appointed by Congress quartermaster of the Eighth Pennsylvania regiment. He was captured by the British at Bound Brook, N. J., on April 13, 1777, and for more than two years was a prisoner in New York. After his exchange, much broken in health, he was made the assistant commissary for the department of Fort Pitt. In the autumn of 1781 he was sent on a dangerous mission alone into the Indian country of Southern Ohio, and did not return until May, 1782. Major Douglass was a tall man, of great strength. His fearlessness, energy and persistence, added to his knowledge of the Indian country, recommended him to the Secretary at War.

Douglass was accompanied on his journey by Captain George McCully, who had been associated with him in the Indian trade and had served with distinction in the Revolution, and by a wilderness guide. These three men, well mounted and carrying a white flag, left Fort Pitt on June 7, 1783, and rode to the Sandusky river, where they arrived on June 16. They went to the principal tower of the Delawares, where they were received with cordiality by Captain Pipe, the chief sachem. With him, for one reason and another, the messengers were compelled to remain for two weeks. The Indians were extremely punctilious in all matters of negotiations, either for peace or war, clinging to ancient forms with much solemn ceremony. While Captain Pipe declared himself to be strongly in favor of peace, he declined to enter into a council on the subject until after Major Douglass had treated with the Wyandots and the Shawnees. This was because the Wyandots and the Shawnees had taken up the hatchet first and had forced the Delawares into the war.

The chief of the Wyandots along the Sandusky river was Dunquat, the celebrated Half-King, and he was away at Detroit, but his wife thought that he would soon come home, and persuaded Douglass to wait for him. Captain Pipe was kind enough to send a runner to the Shawnee towns on the Big Miami, asking their chiefs to come to Sandusky to meet the American agent. In five days this runner returned with the news that the Shawnees had just been called to Detroit, to attend a great Indian council with the British commander there.

Pipe now advised Douglass to go to Detroit and meet all the Indian chiefs in the British presence. Dunquat did not return at the time his wife expected him, and Pipe said that even the Half-King could not make peace with the Americans without the authority of the Wyandot great council, which had its seat in Canada, near Detroit. Douglass, therefore, decided to go to the British fort, and on the last day of June he and McCully set forth, in company with Captain Pipe and two other Delawares. The time spent by Douglass at Sandusky had not been wasted. He had talked much with Pipe and other chiefs, and had influenced them to a friendly feeling toward the American states. He had likewise made a good impression among the old men and women in the Wyandot towns.

On the second day of their journey Douglass and his companions were met by Captain Matthew Elliott and three cther persons, sent by Lieutenant Colonel DePeyster, the commander at Detroit, to conduct the Americans to the British post. This Elliott was one of the tories who had fled from Pittsburg in the spring of 1778, and he and Douglass had formerly been acquainted. Elliott carried a letter from DePeyster, inviting Douglass to attend the Indian council at Detroit.

Douglass arrived at the British post on July 4 and had a very civil reception. DePeyster lodged him well and treated him kindly. Douglass soon learned, however, that the British commander would not permit him to hold a conference with the Indian chiefs.

DePeyster pleaded that he had no authority from his government to permit such a conference. He objected, moreover, to some of the language in Douglass's letter of instruction. It would never do to allow the Indians to be told that the King of England had been compelled to make peace. Such a statement might lead the tribes to feel a dangerous contempt for the British power. Neither was DePeyster willing that Douglass should tell the Indians that the British had agreed to evacuate Detroit. He had no knowledge that such an agreement had been made. He advised Douglass to go down to Niagara and state the terms of his mission to Brigadier General Allan Maclean, who had greater authority in such affairs.

DePeyster did give material assistance to the object of Douglass's journey, by persuading the Indians to peace. On July 6 the great council was held in Fort Detroit. It was attended by the chiefs of ii tribes,, representing nearly all the Indians from the Scioto river to Lake Superior. To them DePeyster made a long talk, conveying the essential part of Douglass's message. He told the chiefs of the peace between Great Britain and the United States, and that he could no longer give them help in their war against the Americans. He announced that the Americans desired peace with the Indian tribes, and had sent Major Douglass to invite them to a treaty, and he advised all the Indians to cease their warfare against the United States.

This address had a good effect on the assembled savages, and although they could hold no council with the American envoy, they surrounded his lodging and saluted him with pronounced expressions of friendship. On the day after the council Douglass and McCully left Detroit and traveled overland, through Ontario, toward Niagara. At that British post, which they reached in four days, General Maclean raised the same objections as those offered by Lieutenant Colonel DePeyster. He would not permit Major Douglass to speak directly to the Iroquois chiefs, but on his own account and through Colonel Butler, the Indian superintendent, he informed the chiefs of the desires of the United States for peace with all the tribes.

While at Fort Niagara, Douglass had a long private conversation with Joseph Brant, the celebrated war chief of the Mohawks, and did what he could to persuade Brant of the kindly intentions of the Americans toward the Indians.

General Maclean urged Douglass to go to Quebec and confer with the governor general of Canada, but the major felt that he had fulfilled, as far as possible, the duties of his mission, and desired to return to the states. General Maclean sent him by boat to Oswego, whence Douglass journeyed, by way of Albany, to Princeton, N. J., where the federal government was then located, and made his report to General Lincoln.

This mission of Douglass effected complete peace on the frontiers. To his efforts were due the cessation of the Indian War of the Revolution on the borders of New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

 

 

 

 

 

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