French and Indian War

George Washington to Governor Robert Dinwiddie, April 7, 1756

extracted from

The Writings of George Washington, Volume II, by Jared Sparks
(Boston: Charles Tappan, 1846), pages 133-137.

To Governor Dinwiddie
Winchester, 7 April, 1756.


I arrived here yesterday, and think it advisable to despatch an express (notwithstanding I hear two or three are already sent down) to inform you of the unhappy situation of affairs in this quarter. The enemy have returned in greater numbers, committed several murders not far from Winchester, and even are so daring as to attack our forts in open day, as you may see by the enclosed letters and papers. Many of the inhabitants are in a miserable situation by their losses, and so apprehensive of danger, that, I believe, unless a stop is put to the depredations of the Indians, the Blue Ridge will soon become our frontier.

I find it impossible to continue on to Fort Cumberland, until a body of men can be raised. I have advised with Lord Fairfax, and other officers of the militia, who have ordered each captain to call a private muster, and to read the exhortation enclosed (for orders are no longer regarded in this county), in hopes that this expedient may meet with the desired success. If it should, I shall, with such men as are ordered from Fort Cumberland to join these, scour the woods and suspected places, in all the mountains and valleys, on this part of our frontiers; and doubt not but I shall fall in with the Indians and their more cruel associates. I hope the present emergency of affairs, assisted by such good news as the Assembly may by this time have received from England, and from the Commissioners, will determine them to take vigorous measures for their own and country's safety, and no longer depend on an uncertain way of raising men for their own protection. However absurd it may appear, it is nevertheless certain, that five hundred Indians have it more in their power to annoy the inhabitants, than ten times their number of regulars. Besides the advantageous way they have of fighting in the woods, their cunning and craft, their ability and patient sufferings, are not to be equalled. They prowl about like wolves, and, like them, do their mischief by stealth. They depend upon their dexterity in hunting and upon the cattle of the inhabitants for provisions. For these reasons, I own, I do not think it unworthy of the notice of the legislature to compel the inhabitants (if a general war is likely to ensue, and things are to continue in this unhappy situation for any time,) to live in townships, working at each other's farms by turns, and to drive their cattle into the thickly settled parts of the country. Were this done, they could not be cut off by small parties, and large ones could not subsist without provisions.

It seemed to be the sentiment of the House of Burgesses when I was down, that a chain of forts should be erected upon our frontiers, for the defence of the people. This expedient, in my opinion, without an inconceivable number of men, will never answer their expectations.

I doubt not but your Honor has had a particular account of Major Lewis's unsuccessful attempt to get to the Shawanese Town. It was an expedition, from which, on account of the length of the march, I always had little hope, and often expressed my uneasy apprehensions on that head. But since they aer returned, with the Indians that accompanied them, I think it would be a very happy step to prevail upon the latter to proceed as far as Fort Cumberland. It is in their power to be of infinite use to us; and without Indians, we shall never be able to cope with those cruel foes to our country.

I would therefore beg leave to recommend in a very earnest manner, that your Honor would send an express to them immediately for this desirable end. I should have done it myself, but was uncertain whether it might prove agreeable or not. I also hope you will order Major Lewis to secure his guides, as I understand he attributes all his misfortunes to their misconduct. Such offences should meet with adequate punishment, or else we may ever be misled by designing villains. I am your Honor's, &c.

P. S. Since writing the above, Mr. Paris, who commanded a party, is returned. He relates, that, upon the North River, he fell in with a small body of Indians whom he engaged, and, after a contest of half an hour, put them to flight. Monsieur Donville, commander of the party, was killed and scalped, and his instructions found about him, which I enclose. We had one man killed, and two wounded. Mr. Paris sent the scalp by Jenkins; and I hope, although it is not an Indian's, they will meet with an adequate reward. The whole party jointly claim the reward, no person pretending solely to assume the merit.

Your Honor may in some measure penetrate into the daring designs of the French by their instructions, in which orders are given to burn, if possible, our magazine at Conococheague, a place that is in the midst of a thickly settled country.

I have ordered the party there to be made as strong as time and our present circumstances will permit, lest they should attempt to execute the instructions of Dumas. I have also ordered up an officer and twenty recruits to assist Joseph Edwards, and the people on those waters. The inhabitants of this town are under dreadful apprehensions of an attack, and all the roads between this and Fort Cumberland are much infested. As I apprehend you will be obliged to draft men, I hope care will be taken, that none shall be chosen but active, resolute men, who are practised in the use of arms, and are marksmen.

French and Indian War Documents

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