George Washington's command of the American militia during the Whiskey

George Washington’s command of the American militia during the Whiskey

Did you know that George Washington command of the American militia during the Whiskey Rebellion was the only time in history where an acting American President has personally led military forces in the field

After several thousand armed rebels gathered at Braddock’s Field during the last week in July 1794, President GEORGE WASHINGTON met on August 2nd with his Cabinet and the governor of Pennsylvania, Thomas Mifflin, to consider the situation. The President issued a proclamation on August 7th calling on the rebels” to disperse and retire peaceably to their respective abodes.” The proclamation also invoked the Militia Act of 1792, which, after Federal court approval, allowed the President to use State militiamen to put down internal rebellions and “cause the laws to be duly executed.”[5] The same day, Secretary of War Henry Knox sent a letter to the governors of Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia requesting a total of 12,950 militiamen to put down the rebellion.

In a last bid to avoid a conflict, President GEORGE WASHINGTON sent Attorney General William Bradford, Senator James Ross of Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice Jasper Yeates to meet with rebel leaders. In late August and early September, the three Federal commissioners held talks with a 15-member committee appointed by a rebel assembly representing the four frontier counties of Pennsylvania and Ohio County in Virginia.The rebel committee included Hugh Henry Brackenridge, David Bradford, Albert Gallatin, and other prominent community leaders. Unable to find a peaceful solution to the spreading rebellion, the Federal commissioners returned to Philadelphia on September 24, 1794, where they reported that it was “absolutely necessary that the civil authority should be aided by a military force in order to secure a due execution of the laws.”
In the mean time, almost 13,000 militiamen had gathered at Carlisle, Penn-sylvania, and prepared to march west to end the rebellion. On September 19, 1794, George Washington became the only sitting U.S. President to personally lead troops in the field when he led the militia on a nearly month-long march west over the Allegheny Mountains to the town of Bedford.

On September 25th, the President issued a proclamation declaring that he would not allow “a small portion of the United States [to] dictate to the whole union,” and called on all persons “not to abet, aid, or comfort the Insurgents.” After leading the troops to Bedford, Washington returned to Philadelphia in late October and placed General Henry “Lighthorse” Lee, a Revolutionary War hero and governor of Virginia, in command. Washington left a letter with Lee with instructions to combat those “who may be found in arms in opposition to the National will and authority” and “to aid and support the civil Magistrate in bringing offenders to justice.” Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton also remained with General Lee and the troops.