After James McFarlane’s funeral on July 18, radical leaders like David Bradford emerged. A group he headed robbed the U.S. mail as it left Pittsburgh to find several letters condemning them. In response, he called for an assembly meeting on August 1 at Braddock's Field, about 8 miles east of Pittsburgh. About 7,000 people attended, primarily consisting of the poor and landless. Some radicals wanted to attack Pittsburgh directly, with there also being discussions of declaring independence from the United States and joining with Spain or Great Britain. Ultimately, what came of Pittsburgh was just the burning of Major Kirkpatrick’s barns. President Washington was confronted with armed insurrection all across Appalachia, but with the most intense activity in western Pennsylvania. While he wanted to maintain governmental authority, he did not want to alienate the public, thus he went to his cabinet for advice. Except for Edmund Randolph, the entire cabinet recommended using force, especially Alexander Hamilton. He thus did both. Aiming to set an example for all of Appalachia, he raised up a militia army and sent a number of commissioners to meet with the Western Pennsylvania rebels. Privately, however, Washington doubted that the commissioners would be able to accomplish much and believed that a military expedition was needed. A Supreme Court Justice was required, under the Militia Act of 1792, to certify this state of rebellion, which was done by Justice James Wilson on August 4.
Three days later, Washington regretfully announced that a militia would be called out to suppress the most intense rebellion and indirectly suppress the rest. On September 25, Washington issued a proclamation summoning the militias of Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, and Virginia. There were a few problems with that, though. Few men volunteered, so a draft was used to fill out the militia. Draft evasion was widespread in Appalachian states, even in areas east of the Mountains (including Philadelphia which was hurt by a lack of direct trade and shipping route to the Atlantic). Several counties in eastern Virginia saw armed resistance and there were anti-draft riots in western Maryland and many parts of New York. Second, George Washington had underestimated how widespread the Whiskey Rebellion was outside of western Pennsylvania, which naturally led to even fewer people accepting the draft. Third, the state government of Pennsylvania itself had other plans in store which required all the resources it could get. On September 30, Washington left the capital at Philadelphia to review the progress of the military expedition. He initially traveled to Reading. After that, he moved on to Womelsdorf, then Harrisburg, Bedford, and Fort Cumberland (in Maryland). It was in his travels when he realized he had underestimated how far the Whiskey Rebellion had reached. He feared that the rebellion may soon turn into civil war and break the fragile Union apart for good.
Unfortunately for Pennsylvania's government based out of Lancaster, it discovered there was so much discontent on both sides of the Appalachians that there would not be enough manpower to successfully carry out the plan to invade the Federation of Delaware Bay. The intended goal was to make Philadelphia have direct trade access to the sea again but doing so during the undeclared Whiskey War was later deemed too risky. At the time the federal army had reached western Pennsylvania, they had absorbed how widespread the rebellion was and how difficult it would be to put down. Then, the unthinkable happened. One of the rebels of western Pennsylvania shot and killed president George Washington in the heat of combat in October 1794. In his place came John Adams, who was sworn in at Philadelphia the next day. He was no friend of the Whiskey Rebellion, given his stronger stance on military action against the rebels, and even wanting to increase the tax. This only served to anger the opponents of the Whiskey Tax. Those who were simply political opponents soon took up arms. Resentment became aggression. By the end of the month, almost everywhere in Appalachia was in a full-scale rebellion. President Adams called upon residents in coastal areas to enlist in the Federal Army, especially those in New England. But even they weren’t fully content with the situation since no Delaware Bay meant lost shipping revenues for coastal regions. In Adam’s birthplace of New England, fewer enrolled than anticipated.
John Adams began encouraging European powers, most notably the British, to supply weapons and funds for the Federal Army. Many states considered this an overreach of federal authority. Protests and riots occurred across the Union as the British and New England continued to provide supplies. All in all, there were some 2,000 deaths that were linked to the undeclared Whiskey War, most of which were civilians. Come the 1796 presidential election, the popularity of incumbent president Adams was mixed, with the mercantile urban areas favoring Adams and the Federalist party while the agrarian rural Appalachians favored Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republican Party. At first, it looked like Jefferson would win but Adams ultimately won in the Electoral College by just five votes. For many states, this was the last straw. Two states hit hardest by the Whiskey War, Kentucky and Virginia, announced they would not tolerate Adams overextending his power any longer and that the only remedy was to leave the Union. John Breckinridge of Kentucky and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia made declarations for their states in February and March 1797 respectively. Without a connection to the rest of the country and nothing legally preventing secession, North Carolina and newly-admitted Tennessee would soon exit that May. Pennsylvania then joined in that summer, using it as an excuse to invade and annex the Federation of Delaware Bay. The United States had only six states remaining.