The robbery of the mail leading to the gathering at Braddock's Field


The Causes of that so called Whiskey Insurrection of 1794

By C. M. Ewing (1930)

On July 26, the United States mail was intercepted near Greensburg by order of Bradford, this being the overt act of his career. The mail was taken to Canonsburg and opened by the seven men who signed the following order which was sent to each militia company:

"Sir, _____________ Canonsburg, 28th July, 1794.

Having suspicions that the Pittsburgh post would carry with him the sentiments of some of the people in the country, respecting our present alarming situation; and the letters by the post not being in our possession, by which certain secrets are discovered, hostile to our interests, it is therefore now come to that crisis, that every citizen must express his sentiments, not by his words but by his actions. You are then called upon, as citizens of the western country, to render your personal service, with as many volunteers as you can raise, to rendezvous at your usual place of meeting on Wednesday next; and from thence you will march to the usual place of rendezvous, at Braddock's field, on the Monongahela, on Friday, the first day of August next; to be there at two o'clock in the afternoon, with arms and accouterments in good order. If any volunteers should want arms and ammunition, bring them forward, and they shall be supplied as well as possible. Here, sir, is an expedition proposed, in which you ,will have an opportunity of displaying your military talents, and of rendering service to your country. Four days provision will be wanted; let the men be thus supplied.''

We are, &c.

J.          Canon,

B.         Parkinson,

D.        Bradford,

A.        Fulton,

T.         Speers,

J.          Locyhry,

J.          Marshall.

Strong remonstrance's setting forth the dangerous tendency of such a movement so alarmed Bradford that he issued the following countermand. This ridiculous composition certainly presents the man in his true color.

 "Dear Sir - Upon receiving some late intelligence from our runners, we have been informed that the ammunition we were about to seize was destined for Gen. Scott, who is just going out against the Indians. We, therefore, have concluded not to touch it; I give you this early notice, that your brave men of war need not turn out till further notice.''


Yours, &C.

David Bradford

When news of the countermand became known, the people of Washington and the surrounding country broke out into a furious rage. A meeting was called at the court house, where Senator James Ross talked earnestly for two hours in an effort to dissuade them. James Marshall, now thoroughly alarmed and wishing to retract, also spoke-against the movement. However, Bradford, on seeing the violence of the mob, by which he was always swayed, was more inflammatory then he had ever been before, and even went so far as to deny that he had issued the countermand.

 The officers of Washington and Allegheny counties generally obeyed the original order, while others neglected to issue the call; but, upon finding that their men had heard of the order and were responding, thought it prudent to go with them. Few went from Fayette and the eastern part of Westmoreland. As the various units moved to their place of rendezvous, they carried every one with them, willing or unwilling. The number that assembled on Braddock's field during the lst and 2nd of August is variously estimated at from five to seven thousand.

 There having been much talk about the destruction of Pittsburgh, the citizens of that town became greatly alarmed, and a meeting of the inhabitants was called to determine what was to be done. After much discussion it was decided to appoint a committee to meet with the insurgents at Braddock's Field as friends. The committee, accompanied by a large number of other citizens, went with some fear but were received in n friendly manner. In short, the Braddock Field affair terminated with the agreement that the people of Pittsburgh would within eight days banish all characters who were obnoxious to those gathered; and further, that the "army" would march to and through Pittsburgh, have a few sorts of drinking liquor, and then depart across the Monongahela. This procedure was followed out in an orderly manner. Finley reports that about half the, so called, invaders were actually present with the intent of keeping the few trouble makers under control. The greatest expense of the whole affair seemed to have fallen upon Mr. Brackenridge, for he tells us that it cost him four barrels of good whiskey. After crossing the Monongahela a few of the men applied the torch to Kirkpatrick's barn on Coal Hill (near Mount Washington), causing its complete destruction.

 With the election over, and the nation assured another four-years of sound management under the presidency of Washington, and also a Democrat-Republican majority in Congress, Jefferson, much to the regret of his beloved Chief, handed in his resignation, to become effective the last day of December 1793. While the President had praised Hamilton's ability in having raised the public credit, he recognized the importance of Jefferson in the cabinet as the force necessary "to keep things from going too far."

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