French and Indian War

George Washington to Governor Robert Dinwiddie, April 22, 1756

extracted from

The Writings of George Washington, Volume II, by Jared Sparks
(Boston: Charles Tappan, 1846), pages 143-145

To Governor Dinwiddie
Winchester, 22 April, 1756


This encloses several letters, and the minutes of a council of war, which was held upon the receipt of them. Your Honor may see to what unhappy straits the distressed inhabitants and myself are reduced. I am too little acquainted, Sir, with pathetic language to attempt a description of the people's distresses, though I have a generous soul, sensible of wrongs, and swelling for redress. But what can I do? I see their situation, know their danger, and participate their sufferings, without having it in my power to give them further relief, than uncertain promises. In short, I see inevitable destruction in so clear a light, that, unless vigorous measures are taken by the Assembly, and speedy assistance sent from below, the poor inhabitants that are now in forts, must unavoidably fall, while the remainder are flying before the barbarous foe. In fine, the melancholy situation of the people, the little prospect of assistance, the gross and scandalous abuses cast upon the officers in general, which is reflecting upon me in particular, for suffering misconduct of such extraordinary kinds, and the distant prospect, if any, of gaining honor and reputation in the service, - cause me to lament the hour, that gave me a commission, and would induce me, at any other time than this of imminent danger, to resign, without one hesitating moment, a command, from which I never expect to reap either honor or benefit; but, on the contrary, have almost an absolute certainty of incurring displeasure below, while the murder of helpless families may be laid to my account here!

The supplicating tears of the women, and moving petitions of the men, melt me into such deadly sorrow, that I solemnly declare, if I know my own mind, I could offer myself a willing sacrifice to the butchering enemy, provided that would contribute to the people's ease.

Lord Fairfax has ordered men from the adjacent counties, but when they will come, or in what numbers, I cannot pretend to determine. If I may judge from the success we have met with here, I have but little hope, as three days' incessant endeavours have produced but twenty men.

I have too often urged my opinion for vigorous measures, and shall only add, that, besides the accounts you will receive in the letters, we are told from all parts, that the woods appear to be alive with Indians, who feast upon the fat of the land. As we have not more than a barrel or two of powder at this place, the rest being at Fort Cumberland, I could wish that some might be sent up. I have written to Alexandria and Fredericksburg, desiring that two barrels may be sent from each place, but whether there is any at either, I know not. I have sent orders to Captain Harrison to be diligent on the waters where he is posted, and to use his utmost endeavours to protect the people; and, if possible, to surprise the enemy at their sleeping-places. Ashby's letter is a very extraordinary one. The design of the Indians was only, in my opinion, to intimidate him into a surrender. For which reason I have written him word, that if they do attack him, he must defend that place to the last extremity, and when bereft of hope, lay a train to blow up the fort, and retire by night to Fort Cumberland.

A small fort, which we have at the mouth of Patterson's Creek, containing an officer and thirty men guarding stores, were attacked smartly by the French and Indians; they were as warmly received, upon which they retired. Our men at present are dispersed in small bodies, guarding the people and public stores.

I am you Honor's, &c.

French and Indian War Documents

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