French and Indian War

George Washington to Governor Robert Dinwiddie, May 3, 1756

extracted from

The Writings of George Washington, Volume II, by Jared Sparks
(Boston: Charles Tappan, 1846), pages 157-160

To Governor Dinwiddie.
Winchester, 3 May, 1756.


I have sent down an Indian scalp, which was taken at the place where Captain Mercer had his engagement. He was found thrust under some rocks, with stones piled up against them. They believe more were killed, from the quantity of blood found on the ground, and from other discoveries of their attempts to make more graves. But a hard shower of rain prevented their making a farther search.

We have reason to believe, that the Indians have returned to Fort Duquesne, as some scouts from Fort Cumberland saw their tracks that way; and many corroborating accounts affirm, that the roads over the Allegany Mountains are as much beaten, as they were last year by General Braddock's army. From these and other circumstances we may judge their numbers to have been considerable. Whether they are gone for the season, or only to bring in a larger party, I am at a loss to determine.

For this reason, and on account of the scarcity of provisions on this side of Fort Cumberland, I must beg leave humbly to offer it to your Honor's superior judgment, if it would not be advisable to stop all the militia, that are ordered from the ten counties, save about five or six hundred from the adjacent ones. These will serve to cover our frontiers in this quarter, (which is the only part that ever will or can be much exposed,) until the regiment is completed by drafts, and until they can erect fortresses. Drafts, if they are judiciously chosen, will be of infinitely more service, and much less expensive to the country, and they can be immediately sent to their posts.

I am convinced, that, if your Honor has a mind to stop any part of the militia, you will have full time, not-withstanding they are ordered to rendezvous at this place on the 10th instant. I never yet knew any to appear within ten days of the time they were expected; and I am also apprehensive, that having so many of the militia out will be the means of retarding the drafts, which, above all things, I wish to see completed.

Though I have often troubled you on this head, I must again beg leave to desire your particular instructions and information, as, being in a state of uncertainty, without knowing the plan of operations, or what scheme to go upon, I am much embarrassed, and left to guess at every thing. Orders, that are essential one day, appear the next as necessary to be countermanded; so that I really cannot tell how to act for the good of the service, or the satisfaction of any individual. Were the regiment complete, and things put on a proper footing, the whole would go on smoothly and regularly, which is now rendered impossible. So much am I kept in the dark, that I do not know whether to prepare for the offensive or defensive; yet, what might be absolutely necessary in the one, would be quite useless in the other.

Great inconveniences arise from our being so dispersed though the country. The men cannot be regularly paid or supplied. If every company had its proper post assigned, their pay might be sent to them, and necessaries always provided in due season. We could also have the same advantages were we collected into one place. But there are now so many detachments out, that one officer may command men of every company of the regiment, and when necessaries are sent, he may be removed from his command, and those things cannot be stopped out of their pay. By this method the country loses money, the men are badly supplied, and always discontented.

I find the act of Assembly against mutiny and desertion quite insufficient, except in those two particular crimes. No court-martial can be held, by virtue of this act, for trying any officer or soldier charged with cowardice, holding correspondence with the enemy, quitting or sleeping upon his post, nay, many other crimes, which are provided against in the articles of war. I think, at this time, it would be for the good of the service to make an act to enforce the articles of war in general, except two or three particular ones, such as impressing wagons, and the like. They are in force in our mother country, where they are thought best calculated for keeping soldiers under discipline; and none of them would prove burthensome, or inconvenient, either to the public or any individual.

About one hundred and fifty of the Fairfax militia are now in town. Three hundred are expected from Prince Williams. With the soldiers and militia now here, I intend to go out and scour the woods hereabouts for three or four days until the others arrive.

Clothes for the men are very much wanted. We have none in store, and some men, who have been enlisted these two months, and to whom we could give nothing but a blanket, shoes, and shirt, are justly dissatisfied at having two pence per day stopped from their wages. Provision here is scarce, and the commissary much wanted to lay in more. I have been, and still am, obliged to do this duty, as well as most others, which I would take upon me, rather than let any thing in my power be wanted for the good of the country.

I enclose your Honor the sentence of a general court-martial, which was held here upon a sergeant for running away with his party. They have, I think, very justly adjudged him to suffer death, which sentence I hope you will approve, as there never was a fitter object to make an example of, this being the second time he has been guilty of the same crime. I am your Honor's, &c.

French and Indian War Documents

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