George Washington to Governor Robert Dinwiddie, December 19, 1756
The Writings of George Washington, Volume II, by Jared Sparks
(Boston: Charles Tappan, 1846), pages 209-214
To Governor Dinwiddie.
Fort Loudoun, 19 December, 1756.
Your letter of the 10th came to hand the 15th; in consequence of which I despatched orders immediately to all the garrisons on the Branch to evacuate their forts, repair to Pearsall’s, where they would meet the flour from this place, and escort it to Fort Cumberland. I fear the provisions purchased for the support of these forts, and now lying in bulk, will be wasted and destroyed, notwithstanding I have given directions to the assistant commissary on the Branch, and to Waggener’s company, to use their utmost diligence in collecting the whole, and securing them where his company is posted. An escort, with all the flour we have been able to procure (amounting to an insufficient quantity for want of water), will set out from this place on Tuesday next. I expect to depart sooner myself, leaving directions with Captain Mercer, whom I have appointed to command here, and I shall repair as expeditiously as possible to Fort Cumberland.
I am a little at a loss to understand the meaning of your orders, and the opinion of the Council, when I am directed to evacuate all the stockade forts, and at the same time to march only one hundred men to Fort Cumberland, and to continue the like number here to garrison Fort Loudoun. If the stockade forts are all abandoned, there will be more men than are required for these two purposes, and the communication between them, of near eighty miles, will be left without a settler, unguarded and exposed. But I mean nothing more by this intimation, than to ascertain your intentions, to which I would willingly pay strict obedience.
A return of the stores at this place is enclosed. I should have sent it before, but waited to add a return of those at Fort Cumberland. None has yet come down.
If Captain McNeil goes to the Cherokee nation, it would be well for him to conduct the Catawbas home. But when I recommended an officer’s going with them, it was with a view of engaging a body of their men to come to our assistance in the spring, and to march with their warriors, not choosing to trust altogether to their unmeaning promises and capricious humors. But you will be pleased to direct as you see proper in this affair. I have hitherto advanced very little money to the masters of servants, because I waited your directions. I received forty-one last night from Captain McNeil, who desires leave to continue recruiting. I do not consent to it, until I know whether it is agreeable to you, and whether I may send out as many other officers as can be spared for the same service.
I should have been exceedingly glad, if your Honor and the Council had directed in what manner Fort Cumberland is to be strengthened; that is, whether it is to be made cannon-proof or not; and that you would fix the sum beyond which we shall not go, for I must look to you for the expense. I have read that paragraph in Lord Loudoun’s letter, which you were pleased to send me, over and over again, but am unable to comprehend its meaning. What scheme it was, that I was carrying into execution without waiting advice, I am at a loss to know, unless it was building the chain of forts along our frontiers, which I not only undertook conformably to an act of Assembly, and by your own orders, but, with respect to the places, in pursuance of a council of war. If, under these circumstances, my conduct is responsible for the fate of Fort Cumberland, it must be confessed, that I stand upon a tottering foundation indeed. I cannot charge my memory with either proposing, or intending, to draw the forts nearer Winchester. The garrison of Fort Cumberland, it is true, I did wish to have removed to Cox’s, which is nearer Winchester by twenty-five miles; but not farther from the enemy, if a road were opened from thence to the Little Meadows, which place is about twenty miles distant, and the same from Fort Cumberland, and more in the warriors’ path. However, I see with much regret, that Lord Loudoun seems to have prejudged by proceedings, without being thoroughly informed of the springs and motives, that actuated my conduct. How far I have mistaken the means to recommend my services, I know not, but I am certain of this, that no man ever intended better, or studied the interest of his country with more zeal, than I have done; and nothing gives me greater uneasiness and concern, than that his Lordship should have imbibed prejudices so unfavorable to my character, as to excite his belief that I was capable of doing any thing, “that will have a bad effect as to the Dominion, and no good appearance at home.”
As I had your permission to do down when his Lordship shall favor us with a visit, I desired Colonel Carlyle to inform me when he should pass through Alexandria, and I will set out accordingly. I hope nothing has intervened to alter this indulgence. It is a favor I should not have thought of asking, had I believed the service would suffer in my absence, but I am convinced it will not. And I cannot help saying, I believe we are the only troops on this continent, that are kept summer and winter to the severest duty, without the least respite or indulgence.
The delay of the soldiers’ clothes occasions unaccountable murmurs and complaints, and I am very much afraid we shall have few men left, if they arrive not in a week or two. You would be astonished to see the naked condition of the poor wretches. How they possibly can subsist, much less work, in such severe weather, is not easy to conceive. Had we but blankets to give them, or any thing to defend them from the cold, they might perhaps be easy.
I have formerly hinted to you our necessity for a speedy supply of cash, and have advised with the Speaker likewise, that he may not be unprepared. I purpose to send down by the 10th of next month.
I cannot furnish a return of our strength as yet, because our scattered disposition hinders a regular discharge of the adjutant’s duty. I am, &c.
French and Indian War Documents