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hamilton to wilkinson - Alexander Hamilton, The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 7 
The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (Federal Edition) (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). In 12 vols. Vol. 7.
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hamilton to wilkinson
October 31, 1799.
Sir:—The copious explanations which have been had between us in conversation, on the subjects of your several communications of the 6th of September, 12th, 15th, 19th and 27th instant, will abridge the observations naturally connected with the plan which has been adopted as the result, and which forms the object of the present instruction.
This plan, as you know, has the same basis with that which has been presented by you. As far as there may be variances in the application of principles, collateral considerations have chiefly influenced.
It is contained in the inclosed paper, A. The letters between the Secretary of War and myself, of which B, C, D, and E are copies, exhibit the views which have reciprocally governed. In the execution of this plan, many details arise which I do not enter into, because they will most properly be left with you. Neither would I be understood to require a literal execution. The great outline is, under existing circumstances, to be adhered to; but you are at liberty to deviate in details which do not contravene the leading objects.
I will only remark, that it is deemed material that no greater force than the plan contemplates shall be assigned to the posts below the confluence of the Ohio with the Mississippi; and that the reserve force shall not be stationed more westward or southward than the vicinity of the rapids of the Ohio.
That vicinity, as passing the obstacles of the navigation above and facilitating a communication with the posts below, presents itself to consideration.
A question arises, whether the north or the south side of the Ohio should be preferred. In favor of the latter is the important consideration that by the contract for the ensuing year the ration is at least two cents and eight mills cheaper there than on the north side. On the other hand, it is possible that the troops there may be exposed to vexations, and in danger of seduction from the acts of disaffected persons, which might not attend them in the opposite territory; but these inconveniences do not appear likely to be so great as to countervail so considerable a difference in the price of the ration, though they might be allowed to prevail against a small difference. Unless, therefore, there should be some important alteration in this particular, I recommend to you the south side for the station of your reserve force.
It will be my endeavor to engage the administration to organize in Tennessee, Kentucky, the North-and South-western territories, two regiments of infantry, a battalion of riflemen, and a regiment of dragoons, under the act which provides for an eventual army. This, if effected, may afford a powerful auxiliary for defensive or offensive measures, as future exigencies may dictate.
The recruiting for the corps of which your command is to be composed, demands and has my particular attention. You are apprised that the business is going on under Major Bardley in North Carolina and Virginia, under Major Cass in the State of Delaware, and under Major Buel in the State of Vermont. In addition to this, I have proposed to the Secretary at War to send to the Westward bounty money and clothing for re-enlisting and recruiting to the extent of a full regiment.
There are small detachments of recruits for the infantry of the permanent establishment at Norfolk in Virginia, Fredericktown in Maryland, and at West Point in the State of New York, which, as soon as practicable, will reinforce the army under your command; and exertions, efficacious as I trust, will be made to complete the force allotted to you, and to have it on the ground early in the next temperate season.
The new organization of the officers of the four regiments, which you have suggested, has been transmitted to the Secretary at War, with an expression of my opinion in its favor. If you hear nothing to the contrary from that officer previous to your departure for the Mississippi, you will consider the plan as ratified and you will give it effect within your command. If, however, in the execution you find small deviations expedient, you will make them, reporting to me the instances and the motives.
The inspectors of division and brigades, recommended by you, are appointed. The affair of judge-advocate has not yet been definitely acted upon.
The propriety of strongly fortifying Loftus’ Heights, being on all sides admitted, so far as the force which can be allowed for this object will permit, it remains to say something concerning the kind of fortification.
Professing no skill as an engineer, and, as a consequence of the improvidence of our national policy in time past, possessing no competent aid in others, I shall attempt nothing more than to offer hints. Indeed, a critical view of the local situation in all its bearings, not merely a representation on paper of the part which looks toward the river, ought to guide and regulate the plan which is to be definitely adopted. This, therefore, must be left to you, with the help of the best lights you have or can procure.
But I will observe, that it appears to me advisable to occupy the summit of the height with a fort or redoubt, in nature of a citadel, adapted to a garrison of four hundred men, and capable, as far as possible, of resisting, by its construction, a coup de main, and of obliging an enemy, not in a condition to make considerable sacrifices of men, to attack it in form.
This redoubt, with a battery towards the river, at the point F, in the plan you have as furnished, is as much as can be immediately undertaken. In process of time, if the relative situation of territorial boundary remains as it now is, it will probably be necessary to extend from this citadel, in different directions, outworks, which, in conjunction with the citadel, will require a thousand men for their defence. This operation may be a successive one.
The idea of resisting a siege presupposes a work of solid materials, as well as of regular design. You have stated that brick is of easy fabrication in the vicinity; wood, of an elastic quality, it is presumed, may also be procured with facility. A revêtement of brick, with an interior of wood and earth mingled, will form a strong fortress, at a moderate expense. Your estimate of the expense of a water battery, barracks, and magazine, presents a total of $16,024; and you compute that a similar sum will suffice for a work such as you contemplate.
I have informed the Secretary at War that you would be authorized by me to incur an expense not exceeding this sum for the purpose in question, unless he should signify his negative to you before your departure. But while this sum is given to you as a limit, it is believed that the object may be accomplished for less, and it is not doubted that you will exert yourself to have it done as cheaply as possible.
In this place, an answer to your inquiry as to the proper employment of the soldiery, very fitly occurs. Doubtless, utility and usage both unite to recommend the employment of the soldiery in the construction of works as far as may be practicable. Not to do it must tend to an augmentation of expense which the finances of no country can bear; besides that it is to forego a powerful instrument already prepared for accomplishing the object.
I do not overlook the obstacle from the climate, which you mention in reference to our Southern frontier. But for a great part of the year, I must hope that this obstacle is not formidable. If the heats of July and August, and the sultry damps of September, should drive us during that period to another resource; yet the residue of the year, it is hoped, will permit the labor of the troops to be employed with advantage. I am well informed that on the sea-board of South Carolina and Georgia, the season from November to April, inclusively, is deemed unexceptionable for the employment of troops in laborious operations. In the three months which have been mentioned, it may be requisite to hire the labor of negroes, but even then there may be things to which that of whites can, without injury, be applied.
In general the idea must be to construct the works by the labor of the soldiery. The resort to a different aid must be by way of exception, to be used as little as possible; circumstances may be permitted to decide in each case whether to continue any works with the aid of blacks, during the hot season, or to suspend them till the return of a season favorable to the exertion.
You will find in my letter to the Secretary, doubts as to the permanent maintenance of Fort Stoddard. That part of the plan which conforms to the disposition you have made, calls for your careful revision. You will ascertain the practicability of a safe and easy interior communication, without more expense to prepare it than the advantage may be worth. There is an intrinsically strong objection to the keeping of a post to which the access must be through a foreign territory.
The importance of securing and commanding the confluence of the rivers Tennessee and Cumberland with the Ohio, and of the latter with the Mississippi, has been duly felt by you. The selection of a spot the most eligible for a strong fort, with a view to this object and the kind of work which it will be proper to establish, are worthy of your early and careful attention. You must, however, bear in mind that it is to be successively effected by the labor of the troops. A garrison of five hundred men may be the standard of the dimensions. You will report to me the result of your investigations on this subject.
In a permanent arrangement for the galleys, watermen ought to be engaged for the mass of the crew.
Perhaps some soldiers may be employed as auxiliaries without inconvenience, and with saving. A provision by law is requisite for the first purpose. You will order the galleys to such situation as you judge best. You are informed that the artillery you have requested for Fort Adams, with correspondent ammunition and stores, have been ordered, and are to embark with you for the Mississippi. It will be my endeavor that such other artillery as may be necessary in conformity with the general plan shall be forwarded as soon as possible. As to the artillery and stores now at the several Western posts, it is your province to have them disposed of as you deem most advisable.
I have desired E. Stevens, Esq., to procure the mathematical instruments which you have requested. A regular military academy appears to me indispensable, and will command, in reference to the ensuing session of Congress, my best exertions for its establishment. This meets your suggestion as to mathematical teachers.
The general orders issued by you, which you have submitted to my perusal, have been considered. They appear to me proper. But as I intend to prepare, in the course of the winter, a code of regulations which will embrace their objects, I forbear to give any formal sanction to them at this time. They will remain in force by your authority.
Your convention with the Spanish governor respecting deserters, considered as a temporary arrangement, appears to me a measure of convenient operation. Yet it is beyond my powers to give it an authoritative sanction, and I have concluded not to ask one of the government, from the opinion that it is best it should retain the shape of a mere military arrangement between the local commanders. In this respect I do not hesitate to advise that it may continue to be executed.
I understand that arrangements have been made which will satisfy a portion of the arrears of pay which you state to be due to the troops in the Western quarter. The subject shall not cease to occupy my anxious attention. It is impossible to feel more strongly than I do the extreme impolicy of permitting large arrears to accumulate. The affair of boats to be provided and kept ready for the transportation of troops, upon an emergency, will be matter of future instruction. Should the Spanish governor or commander object to the conveyance of your artillery and stores to their destination, you will make a formal and peremptory requisition of free passage on the basis of treaty, and persevere in it till there shall be an unequivocal refusal, when you will send back the vessel with those articles to Savannah and Georgia, addressed to the commanding officer of the artillery of the United States at that place.
Your own permanent station will of course be with your reserve force; and it is expected that you will lose no time in repairing to it as early as may be, after the coming winter.
In the meantime, it is necessary for you to concentrate all the upper posts, under the superintendence of the officer next in seniority, and to assign to him such a position as will facilitate a communication with me for the transmission of returns and information; taking care to let him understand that he is no more than your organ—an idea to which I shall be scrupulously attentive on my part.
The policy of our government toward Spain continues as heretofore, pacific and conciliatory. You will of course give the same character to your proceedings, as far as may depend upon you.
By a communication from the Secretary at War, some time since received, it is indicated that the management of Indian affairs is exclusively reserved to the superintendents and their agents; the military officers to be auxiliary, but only so as to imply no control of military operations. It will be expedient, nevertheless, that all issues to Indians at military posts should appear, in returns from them, not confounded with the issues for the military, but distinct. You will, as far as may depend upon you, give effect to this system with a spirit of accommodation. Emergencies really extraordinary must always be exceptions to a general plan. These must be left to the discretion of a military commander, at his peril.
I conform in an especial manner to the views of the administration, and to the deep impressions of my own mind, derived from a full consideration of the comparative resources and necessities of our country, when I recommend to you in every arrangement a careful regard to economy. Without it, our government cannot maintain the institutions or pursue the measures which are essential to its security and welfare. Without it, the condition of its military force can neither be respectable nor satisfactory. The interest of the army, as a corps, concurs with that of the public at large to enforce the practice of economy as a primary duty. I entertain a full confidence that your conduct will always evince a due sense of its importance, and that it will not cease to be your study, in this and every other matter, to deserve the confidence and estimation of the government.
In regard to the citizens of the Western country, as far as your agency may be concerned, you will do everything to foster good-will and attachment toward the Government of the United States. A firm and cordial union is certainly the vital interest of every part of our country.