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French and Indian War

George Washington to John Robinson, Speaker of the Virginia House of Burgesses, December 19, 1756

extracted from

The Writings of George Washington, Volume II, by Jared Sparks
(Boston: Charles Tappan, 1846), pages 214-216


To John Robinson, Speaker of the House of Burgesses.
Winchester, 19 December, 1756.

Sir,

You are no stranger, I presume, to the late resolutions of the Governor and Council, the consequence of which I meditate with great concern. We are ordered to reinforce Fort Cumberland with one hundred men, and, to enable me to carry that number thither, all the stockade forts on the Branch are to be evacuated, and in course all the settlements abandoned, except what lie under the immediate protection of Captain Waggener’s fort, the only place exempted in their resolve. Surely his Honor and the Council are not fully acquainted with the situation and circumstances of the unhappy frontiers, thus to expose so valuable a tract as the Branch, in order to support a fortification, in itself of very little importance to the inhabitants or the colony. The former order of Council would have endangered not only the loss of Fort Loudoun, the stores, and Winchester, but a general removal of the settlers of this vale, even to the Blue Ridge. This last has the same object in view, namely, Fort Cumberland, and to maintain it, the best lands in Virginia are laid open to the mercy of a cruel and inhuman enemy.

These people have long struggled with the dangers of savage incursions, daily soliciting defence, and willing to keep their ground. To encourage them, all my little help has been administered, and they seemed satisfied with my intentions, resolving to continue while any probability of support remained. The disposition I had made of our small regiment gave general satisfaction to the settlements, and content began to appear everywhere. The necessary measures for provisions and stores were satisfactorily concerted, and every regulation established for the season. But the late order reverses, confuses, and incommodes every thing; to say nothing of the extraordinary expense of carriage, disappointments, losses, and alterations, which must fall heavy on the country. Whence it arises, or why, I am truly ignorant; but my strongest representations of matters relative to the peace of the frontiers are disregarded, as idle and frivolous; my propositions and measures, as partial and selfish; and all my sincerest endeavours for the service of my country are perverted to the worst purposes. My orders are dark, doubtful, and uncertain; to-day approved, to-morrow condemned. Left to act and proceed at hazard, accountable for the consequences, and blamed without the benefit of defence, if you can think my situation capable of exciting the smallest degree of envy, or affording the least satisfaction, the truth is yet hidden from you, and you entertain notions very different from the reality of the case. However, I am determined to bear up under all these embarrassments some time longer, in hope of a better regulation on the arrival of Lord Loudoun, to whom I look for the future fate of Virginia.

His Lordship, I think, has received impressions tending to my prejudice, by false representations of facts, if I may judge from a paragraph of one of his letters to the Governor, on which is founded the resolve to support Fort Cumberland at all events. The severity of the season, and nakedness of the soldiers, are matters of much compassion, and give rise to infinite complaints. Nor is it possible to obviate them, unless the clothing come in immediately. You would be surprised how the poor creatures live, much more how they can do duty. Had we but blankets, they might be appeased for a little time. As we have not, I fear many will desert.

I advised you formerly of our necessity for cash, and I now earnestly request it soon. I think of sending down by the 10th of next month, or sooner if agreeable. Please to inform me upon what I may depend, as our men are impatient, and with some reason, when without both money and clothes. I need not urge the advantage of small bills. We shall have occasion for at least six thousand pounds to clear us to the 1st of January. The commissary wants above half that sum to furnish his stock of provisions. The remainder will be exhausted in paying the troops. We ought always to have money in hand, as we are often reduced to many inconveniences by waiting for it, not the mention the expense and trouble.

I am, dear Sir, your most obliged and affectionate humble servant.


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