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French and Indian War

George Washington to Governor Robert Dinwiddie, August 4, 1756

extracted from

The Writings of George Washington, Volume II, by Jared Sparks
(Boston: Charles Tappan, 1846), pages 166-170


To Governor Dinwiddie.
Winchester, 4 August, 1756.

Sir,

Giving the necessary orders and directions, about the chain of forts to be built on the frontiers, has kept me so closely employed, that I could not write fully to you until this time. But I have got that trouble now pretty well off my hands, as I have despatched orders, plans, and tools to all the officers appointed to that duty.

By the enclosed proceedings of a council held at Fort Cumberland, you will see our determination, and where it is necessary to erect the forts. Although we have not kept strictly to the act of Assembly, I hope it will be overlooked, as I am sensible that this will be the best chain that can possibly be erected for the defence of the people, and that the Assembly aimed at that, but, being unacquainted with the situation of the country, had fallen into an error.

I make no doubt, that you have ere this heard of the defeat of Lieutenant Rutherford of the Rangers, escorting an express to me at Fort Cumberrland, and of the dastardly behaviour of the militia, who ran off without one half of them having discharged their pieces, although they were apprised of the ambuscade by one of the flanking parties, before the Indians fired upon them; and ran back to Ashby’s Fort, contrary to orders, persuasions, and threats. They are all ordered in, as soon as the people have secured their harvest. Those of King George and Caroline counties are already here. The rest I expect shortly. Through the passive behaviour of their officers they are very refractory.

There is an act of Parliament to allow all servants to enlist, and the owners to be paid a reasonable allowance for them. If we had this privilege, we could soon complete the regiment; and I doubt not but his Majesty would order them to be paid for, if we enlisted them, as soon as for the regulars; nay, should he not, the ten pounds’ fine through the country would go a considerable way towards it. And this we may depend upon, if we have not this liberty granted us, the servants will all run off to the regular officers, who are recruiting around us; and that would be to weaken our colony much, when it could receive no immediate benefit from it. For my part, I see no other expedient.

You perceive plainly what effect the act of Assembly, in regard to the drafts, has had, and how little our strength has been augmented by that scheme, and in three or four months we shall not be the better for them. They are then to be discharged.

I could wish we were clear of Fort Cumberland. It takes a great part of our small force to garrison it, and I see no service that it renders to our colony; for since the Indians have driven the inhabitants so low down, they do not hesitate to follow them as far as Conococheague and this place. There have been several families murdered within two miles of the mouth of Conococheague, on the Maryland side, this week; and Fort Cumberland is now so much out of the way, that the forces there seldom hear of those things within a month after they are done.

Our men want many necessaries, until the arrival of their regimentals, which cannot be had without sending to Philadelphia; and the great loss, which we shall suffer by sending our paper money for them, has prevented my purchasing them, until the men are almost naked.

I could by no means bring the Quakers to any terms. They chose rather to be whipped to death than to bear arms, or lend us any assistance whatever upon the fort, or any thing for self-defence. Some of their friends have been security for their appearance, when they shall be called for; and I have released them from the guard-house until I receive further orders from you, which they have agreed to apply for.

I have supplied the Nottoway Indians with some necessaries, and allowed them to take their arms with them; but they have received no pay, and they say they were promised a bit per day. Captain Tom has promised to go to the Tuscaroras with a speech and wampum, which I have given him. He says they have a hundred fighting-men to spare. They would be a great assistance to us, if they could be engaged to come.

I observe your proposal to Lord Loudoun of carrying on an expedition against the Ohio. I have always thought it the best and only method to put a stop to the incursions of the enemy, as they would then be obliged to stay at home to defend their own possessions. But we are quite unprepared for such an undertaking. If it is fixed upon, now is the time for buying up provisions, and laying them in at the most convenient places. The Pennsylvania butchers are buying quantities of beef here, which should be put a stop to, if we are to march towards the Ohio. If we are still to remain on the defensive, and garrison the chain of forts, provisions must be laid in at each of them; and I much fear, if we march from the frontiers, all the inhabitants will quit their plantations. Your sentiments and orders on this head will be very agreeable to me, and shall be punctually complied with. I am, &c.


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