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Silas Dinsmoor, Part 2

By Donald E. Clare, Jr., Rabbit Hash Historical Society

Originally published: February 8, 2007 in the Boone County Recorder

Silas Dinsmoor was a man of principle and integrity. He was a patriot, a dedicated public servant, and a fair and honest peacekeeper. The fact that he maintained such a long and successful relationship with the Cherokees and Choctaws speaks volumes for the respect, trust, and confidence the Indians placed in him. He was also highly esteemed in this regard by the U.S. Government and U.S. Military.

In light of these traits, it seems that Silas must have been provoked beyond belief by something Captain Francis Johnston did or said to him while he stopped and visited the Army's road-building camp along the Natchez Trace in the summer of 1802. Silas had been appointed agent for the Choctaw Nation in the Mississippi Territory by President Thomas Jefferson and was reporting for duty. Whatever the dispute, it culminated in a duel. Not many details survive, probably because of the fact that the code duello was an illegal act in the U.S. and something totally out-of-character for Silas. It was nothing he would write home about! As a matter of fact, it was touch-and-go for a short period if he would even survive and ever get back home. Word was actually sent back to Washington that Silas may not recover from his wounds. But Captain Robert Purdy attended to him and successfully nursed him back to health. By September he was passing through and visiting his old Cherokee agency and friends, and arrived in Choctaw territory further down the Trace in October, 1802.

In July of 1804 sitting Vice President Aaron Burr killed Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton in a duel in New Jersey. Subsequent charges of murder in New York as well as New Jersey against Burr and his self imposed exile from the New England area essentially ended his aspiring political career and adversely affected his inordinate and desperate desire for power, resulting in the famous Burr Conspiracy to gain control of the Texas Territory as well as all or part of the newly acquired Louisiana Territory, with himself the ruling monarch. In order to carry out his grandiose and ill-conceived plan, he enlisted the help of the scoundrel army general, General James Wilkinson, who was no stranger to traitorous dealings.

The main venue for this famous conspiracy plot was right in Silas's own back yard, and he had brushes with both of the major players. When things started to look bad for the conspirators, Wilkinson decided to save his own skin and personally report Burr's entire scheme to President Jefferson, feigning the role of loyal patriot who won Burr's trust by acting as a comrade in the plot. He then met with Silas and offered him $5,000 cash to capture Burr and turn him in to authorities. Silas certainly could have used the cash, but he declined the job. Wilkinson must have had Silas completely fooled into believing he was an honorable patriot and willing to risk his reputation for the safety and defense of his country. In a letter his brother John, dated “27th May 1807”, Silas writes, “His honour & love of country are, with him, paramount to everything. He would not exchange them for the empire of the west, purchased with treason & infamy.”

On March 1st, 1807, the governor of the Mississippi Territory ordered Silas to escort Burr to his trial in Washington, but Silas remained with the Choctaws in Mississippi and someone else escorted Burr. In September of 1807, however, Silas did have to head to Richmond, Virginia, to testify in Burr's trial, to tell all he knew about the plans and plots, and Wilkinson's $5,000 offer to capture Burr.

…to be continued…

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silas_dinsmoor_part_2.txt · Last modified: 2020/11/03 18:42 by