French and Indian War

George Washington to Governor Robert Dinwiddie, April 24, 1756

extracted from

The Writings of George Washington, Volume II, by Jared Sparks
(Boston: Charles Tappan, 1846), pages 146-148

To Governor Dinwiddie
Winchester, 24 April, 1756


Not an hour, nay scarcely a minute, passes, that does not produce fresh alarms and melancholy accounts. Nor is it possible to give the people the necessary assistance for their defence, on account of the small number of men we have, or that are likely to be here for some time. The inhabitants are removing daily, and in a short time will leave this country as desolate as Hampshire, where scarce a family lives.

Three families were murdered the night before last, at the distance of less than twelve miles from this place; and every day we have accounts of such cruelties and barbarities, as are shocking to human nature. It is not possible to conceive the situation and danger of this miserable country. Such numbers of French and Indians are all around, that no road is safe; and here we know not the hour when we may be attacked.

As it is not in my power to give you a full account of every thing, I have sent Captain Peachey to wait upon you, who can be more ample and satisfactory in every point, that requires your notice. I have written for the militia of Fairfax, Prince William, and Culpeper, and expect them here in a very few days. But how they are to be supplied with ammunition and provisions, I am quite at a loss to know. The distance of Fort Cumberland from us, where these supplies are, renders them useless, in a manner, and puts us to the greatest straits; and as the inhabitants are leaving their farms, it will be impossible for the militia to subsist without a supply of provisions, which are now very scarce, and will be more so. I should therefore be glad if you Honor would send up arms, ammunition, and provisions, and give immediate orders for the Irish beef at Alexandria, which cannot be had without your consent.

You spoke of sending some Indians to our assistance, in which no time should be lost, nor any means omitted to engage all the Catawbas and Cherokees, that can possibly be gathered, and immediately to despatch them hither. Unless we have Indians to oppose Indians, we may expect but small success. And I should think it no bad scheme, while the Indians remain here in such numbers, to have a detachment sent out with some friendly Indians to make an attempt upon the hostile towns, though this should be executed with all imaginable secrecy.

I hear the Assembly is for augmenting the forces in pay to fifteen hundred only, which are far too few to defend the frontiers against so numerous an enemy. But I have often written you my sentiments upon this and other subjects, and shall not now enlarge. I have also written to the Speaker by Captain Peachey, who will, I imagine, communicate to you what demands your immediate regard.

I wish your Honor would inform me, whether the militia expected here must be supplied out of the public stock of provisions laid up for the soldiers, or are to supply themselves. The want of due direction in matters of this nature causes great inconvenience. Give me leave to urge your speedy care in sending men and ammunition to our assistance, else the consequence may prove very fatal in a little time.

I have been just now told, that numbers about the neighbourhood hold councils and cabals for very dishonorable purposes, and unworthy the thoughts of a British subject. Despairing of assistance and protection from below (as they foolishly conjecture), they talk of capitulating and agreeing upon terms with the French and Indians, rather than lose their lives and fortunes through obstinacy. My force, at present, is very weak, and unable to take the necessary measures, as to those suspected persons; but, as soon as the militia arrive, be assured I will do my utmost to detect and secure such pests of society, if my information is not groundless, which I should be pleased to find so.

I enclose a copy of a council of war lately held here, and copies of some letters received since my last to you; one of which, for Colonel Martin, has been just sent to me from Fort Hopewell, on the South Branch. They have had an engagement there, with the French and Indians, the particulars of which you will see by the enclosed. Captain Waggener, with a party of his men, joined them the next day, and went in pursuit of the enemy, but could not come up with them. The waters were so high, that although Captain Waggener heard them engaged, he could send them no assistance. From these and other circumstances, you may form but a faint idea of the wretched situation of this country, nor can it be adequately conceived.

My extreme hurry, confusion, and anxiety must plead an excuse for incorrectness. I am your Honor's, &c.

French and Indian War Documents

West Virginia Archives and History