F.W. Armstrong to Lewis Cass — March 20 1833
Washington City D.C. March 20th 1833
To the Hon. Lewis Cass
Secretary of War
Sir: The duty of superintendent for the removal of the Indians west of the Mississippi, assigned me by you, in addition to my duties as Agent for the Choctaws west, makes it proper for me to lay fully before you the precise services performed by me in the removal of the emigrating Choctaws in 1832; together with other facts, connected with the performances of that duty, which are calculated to sustain me in the justice of my claim for the additional pay of superintendent.
It is within your recollection, that, last spring, when you called me to engage in this business, I stated some objections that I had to taking upon myself, this additional duty; which were in substance these: - The emigration had been conducted, from some cause, at great expense; for me, therefore, to engage in it, would most likely incur the displeasure of those who had previously managed the business, and with whom I was on terms of friendship. Besides, being the Regular Agent, I considered the strict performance of the duties, incumbent on the superintendent, calculated to render the Indians dissatisfied with me, which might be the means of my losing that influence among them, so important, to an agent. These objections you overruled, - adding that I would be entitled to additional pay. My Family were then in this City – my wish was to go with them directly to my agency; - but on account of receiving the office of superintendent, I have not been able even yet to get them settled. I left this place on the 26th July, with my Family, for the Agency. I reached Knoxville, East Tenn. on my route, when an order overtook me, requiring me to perform an additional duty; - which was to be present at the payment of the Annuity, to be paid to the Choctaws East of the River; by their Agent Col. Ward, & which, it was expected, would take place early in September. The compliance with this order compelled me to abandon the ideas of getting my Family farther west, until after the Indians were removed to their new country. From Knoxville, I passed directly by Stage route, to the Mississippi – Line, on the eastern boundary of the Choctaw Nation, which place I reached about the middle of September and on the day that the annuity was to be paid. Here I remained but two days; thence I returned to the Agency, where I aided the Superintendent for the East side of the River, in making every preparation for the removal of the Indians: being authorized, as you recollect, to act together in any manner that might facilitate their movement. From the agency I took horses, and went directly to Little Rock, passing through the Choctaws & Chickasaws to Memphis, and at that place, made arrangements for the reception of the Emigrants. Thro’ the Mississippi Swamp, I directed my course towards Little Rock, which I reached on the 2nd Oct. I made every arrangement necessary for the reception of the Indians at Rock-Roe, the main landing on the west side of the Mississippi. Only a few days were consumed in this duty. By the same route, I then returned to within about twenty miles of the agency, where I met the Superintendent East (William Armstrong) on the march with about 2700 Indians. I remained but one day with him, after which I returned to Memphis in order to engage Boats to meet a party of 2500 Indians at Vixburg, a distance, from that place, of 350 miles, who were to be there by the first of November. On the 29th of October, I left Memphis and reached Vixburg on the morning of the 31st, where I found 600 Indians conducted by Capt. Cross. The cholera was then among them: - about fifty cases per day. On the following day, we departed with a detachment of Indians in two Steam-Boats for the mouth of the White River. From this time, we had to combat with the most trying circumstances that this devastating scourge could produce. In five days, we reached White River. Here we exchanged loads with other Public Boats, when it became necessary again to descend the river. In company with Lieut. Montgomery I returned; after having made the necessary arrangements for the arrival of four steam-boats at Vixburg, that were to take on board a party of 1800 Indians who were to ascend the river to the same point, and thence to Rock-Roe our main landing. With this detachment I continued, until we crossed the river at Little Rock. Here I divided it into 3 parties which were conducted by Lieuts. Limonton, Montgomery, & Van Horn. I next proceeded to overtake the detachment of the One Thousand, on their march to Fort Smith, under the conduct of Capt. Page. At the Dardanelle Rock on the Arkansas River I came up with him, when we were actively engaged for two days, in getting across; the river being out of its banks. I left him on the west side and went directly to the agency for the purpose preparing to make the issues as Choctaw – Agent of the Articles due the Indians Under the Treaty.
By a reference to these statements, it will be seen, that I was about twenty one days on board various boats, at a time when the cholera was most destructive: - as Superintendent, it became necessary for me to encounter fatigues and difficulties, not attached to any one individual in the performance of specific duties assigned him by me.
It is proper that I should lay before you, some of the responsibilities, which have been incurred by me in the performance of these duties, entirely different from those of the other agents. In September last, upwards of 49,000 dollars were placed to my credit in the Nashville Bank for the payment of relinquished lands to the Indians. On their arrival west, they were entitled to the money. In October I was apprized of this deposit. I applied for the right to send one of the disbanding officers, at the risk of the Government, to Nashville, to bring the funds to the Agency West, in order to meet promptly the expectations of the Indians, and to carry out the Treaty in good faith, by making the payment immediately on their arrival at their new home. This was denied me: I was informed, however, that if I thought proper to send some one at my risks, the expenses of the person would be paid. It is not even, every honest man that I would trust with this amount of money, to be brought, in notes in the month of December, from Nashville, passing thro’ the well known Mississippi Swamp, (in the whole distance of about 550 miles,) thro’ what I call a rough country, - the houses scarce and accommodations bad – with but few bridges or ferries. My situation as Superintendent, compelled me to be with the Indians emigrating – I was therefore obliged to wait until we got all the Indians across the Mississippi to Rock-Roe; from which place on the 21st November, I sent my brother William Armstrong to Nashville to bring, as early as practicable, the funds to me. He performed this duty by land, and reached my agency on the 27th day of December, at the precise time when the money was properly due the Indians. By this arrangement, we paid everything due under the Treaty and to the satisfaction of the Choctaws. Every man acquainted with the diseases be of that country during the months of September & October, must know the risk which I ran, engaged in the manner stated.
I have now gone into my movement in detail, connected with the last emigration: - I must, however, be permitted to call your attention to one fact unconnected with the emigration – viz: that of my having taken from Nashville in the Winter of 1831, the sum of 50,000 dollars in notes to Capt. Brown & Lieut. Stephenson. Thirty five thousand I handed to the former at Little Rock, and the remaining 15,000 dolls. I handed to the latter gentleman at Fort Towson; having had these sums with me at my own risk, when in fact I had nothing to do with the business, but merely to accommodate the Department. In the course of the 5 months that I was absent, I examined too, a route for a road to be opened from Fort Smith to Fort Towson by the Troops. This was done during the month of February & thro’ a wilderness country: - not a single settlement of any kind for the distance of 150 miles. This road has been opened and is now a most important one.
In the performance of all these duties, I had with me my own horses and a faithful servant (for which I need nothing); for without him I should have been obliged to employ a white man to aid me in getting thro’ such a country. It is proper, however, here to remark, that you allowed me my bare expenses, but nothing more for the risk nor my own personal services, altho’ the duty was not connected with my agency, but certainly extra.
There is one other primary circumstance, which, it is proper for me to take into consideration,: - I have been prevented as yet from settling with my family at the agency-; consequently I have to incur additional expenses, growing out of the circumstance. Even now looking forward to next falls emigration, it is evident that I cannot locate my family until after the Choctaw removal is completed. I am obliged, therefore, to lose, the benefit of making two crops for the support of my family; with every other expense attendant as before stated upon this unsettled situation.
I have the honour to be
with high regard
your Ob. Servant