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TO GOVERNOR DINWIDDIE. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. I (1748-1757) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1889-1893). Vol. I (1748-1757).
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TO GOVERNOR DINWIDDIE.
From our Camp at the Great Meadows, 29 May, 1754.
In answering your Honor’s letter of ye 25th by Mr. Burney,1 I shall begin with assuring you, that nothing was farther from my intention than to recede, tho I then pressed, and still desire, that my services may be voluntary, rather than on the present pay. I am much concerned, that your Honour should seem to charge me with ingratitude for your generous, and my undeserved favours; for I assure you, Hon’ble Sir, nothing is a greater stranger to my breast, or a sin that my soul more abhors, than that black and detestable one, ingratitude, I retain a true sense of your kindnesses, and want nothing but opportunity to give testimony of my willingness to oblige, as far as my life or fortune will extend.
I could not object to the pay before I knew it. I dare say your Honour remembers, the first estimation allowed a lieutenant-colonel, 15 shillings, and a major 12s. 6d., which I then complained very much of, till your Honour assured me that we were to be furnished with proper necessary, and offered that as a reason why the pay was less than British.1 After this, when you were so kind [as] to prefer me to the command I now have, and at the same time acquainted me, that I was to have but 12s. 6d., this, with some other reasons, induced me to acquaint Colonel Fairfax with my intention of resigning, which he must well remember, as it happened at Bellhaven2 ; and [it] was there that he dissuaded me from it, and promised to represent the trifling pay to your Honour, who would endeavour (as I at the same time told him that the Speaker thought the officers’ pay too small) to have it enlarged.
As to the numbers that applied for commissions, and to whom we were preferred, I believe, had those gentlemen been as knowing of this country, and as sensible of the difficulties that would attend a campaign here as I then was, I conceive your Honour would not have been so troublesomely solicited as you were. Yet I do not offer this as a reason for quitting the service. For my own part I can answer, I have a constitution hardy enough to encounter and undergo the most severe trials, and, I flatter myself, resolution to face what any man durst, as shall be proved when it comes to the test, which I believe we are on the borders of.
There is nothing, Sir (I believe), more certain than that the officers on the Canada expedition had British pay allowed, whilst they were in the service.1 Lieutenant Waggener, Captain Trent, and several others, whom I have conversed with on the head, and who were engaged in it, affirm it for truth. Therefore, Honble. Sir, as this can’t be allowed, suffer me to serve as a volunteer, which, I assure you, will be the next reward to British pay; for, as my services, so far as I have knowledge, will equal those of the best officer, I make it a point of honor [not] to serve for less, and accept a medium. Nevertheless, I have communicated your Honor’s sentiments to them, and, as far as I could put on the hypocrite, set forth the advantages that may accrue, and advised them to accept the terms, as a refusal might reflect dishonor on their character, leaving it to the world to assign what reasons they please for their quitting the service. I am very sensible of the pernicious consequences that will attend their resigning, as they have by this gained some experience of the military art, have a tolerable knowledge of the country, being sent, most of them, out at different times with parties, and are now accustomed to the hardships and fatigues of living as we do, which, I believe, were it truly stated, would prevent your Honour from many troublesome solicitations from others for commissions. This last motive has and will induce me to do what I can to reconcile matters, tho I really believe there are some, that will not remain long without an alteration. They have promised to consider of it, and give your Honour an answer. I was not ignorant of the allowance which Colonel Fry1 has for his table; but being a dependent there myself, deprived me of the pleasure of inviting an officer, or friend, which to me would be more agreeable, than the nick-nacks I shall meet with there.
And here I cannot forbear answering one thing more in your Honour’s letter on this head, which, (too,) is more fully expressed in a paragraph of Colonel Fairfax’s to me, as follows;—“If, on the British establishment, officers are allowed more pay, the regimentals they are obliged annually to furnish, their necessary table and other incidents being considered, little or no savings will be their portion.”
I believe it is well known we have been at the expense of regimentals, and it is still better known, that regimentals, and every other necessary, that we were under an indispensable necessity of purchasing for this expedition, were not to be bought for less Virginia currency, than British officers could get for sterling money; which they ought to have been, to put upon a parity in this respect. Then Colonel Fairfax observes that their table and other incident charges prevent them from saving much. If they don’t save much they have the enjoyment of their pay, which we neither have in one sense nor the other. We are debarred the pleasure of good living; which, Sir, (I dare say with me you will concur,) to one who has always been used to it, must go somewhat hard to be confined to a little salt provision and water, and do duty, hard, laborious duty, that is almost inconsistent with that of a soldier, and yet the same reductions as if we were allowed luxuriously. My pay, according to the British establishment and common exchange, is near 22s per day; in the room of that ye Committee (for I can’t in ye least imagine your Honour had any hand in it) has provided 12s 6d, so long as ye service requires me, whereas one half of ye other is ascertained to British officers forever. Now if we should be fortunate enough to drive the French from Ohio, as far as your Honour would please to have them sent to, in any short time, our pay will not be sufficient to discharge our first expenses.
I would not have your Honour imagine from this, that I have said all these things to have the pay increased, but to justify myself, and shew your Honour that our complaints are not frivolous, but are founded upon strict reason. For my own part, it is a matter almost indifferent whether I serve for full pay, or as a generous volunteer. Indeed, did my circumstances correspond with my inclination, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter; for the motives that lead me here were pure and noble; I had no view of acquisition, but that of honour, by serving faithfully my king and country.
As your Honour has recommended Mr. Willis, you may depend I shall with pleasure do all that I can for him. But above all, Sir, you may depend, I shall take all possible means of procuring intelligence, and guarding against surprises; and be assured nothing but very unequal numbers shall engage me to submit or retreat. Now, Sir, as I have answered your Honour’s letter, I shall beg leave to acquaint you with what has happened since I wrote by Mr. Gist. I then acquainted you, that I had detached a party of seventy-five men to meet fifty of the French, who, we had intelligence, were upon their march towards us, to reconnoitre, and that about nine o’clock the same night, I received an express from the Half-King, who was encamped with several of his people, about six miles off, that he had seen the tracks of two Frenchmen crossing the road, and believed the whole body were lying not far off, as he had an account of that number passing Mr. Gist’s.
I set out with forty men before ten, and [it] was from that time till near sunrise before we reached the Indians’ camp, having marched in [a] small path, through a heavy rain, and night as dark as it is possible to conceive. We were frequently tumbling one over another, and often so lost, that fifteen or twenty minutes’ search would not find the path again.
When we came to the Half-King, I counselled with him, and got his assent to go hand-in-hand and strike the French. Accordingly, himself, Monacatoocha, and a few other Indians set out with us; and when we came to the place where the tracks were, the Half-King sent two Indians to follow their tracks, and discover their lodgement, which they did about half a mile from the road, in a very obscure place surrounded with rocks. I thereupon, in conjunction with the Half-King and Monacatoocha, formed a disposition to attack them on all sides, which we accordingly did, and, after an engagement of about fifteen minutes, we killed ten, wounded one, and took twenty-one prisoners. Amongst those that were killed was Monsieur Jumonville, the commander; principal officers taken is Monsieur Drouillon and Mons’r La Force, who your Honour has often heard me speak of as a bold enterprising man, and a person of great subtlety and cunning. With these are two cadets.1 These officers pretend they were coming on an embassy; but the absurdity of this pretext is too glaring, as your Honour will see by the Instructions and Summons enclosed. These instructions were to reconnoitre the country, roads, creeks, &c., to Potomack, which they were about to do. These enterprising men were purposely choose out to get intelligence, which they were to send back by some brisk despatches, with mention of the day that they were to serve the summons; which could be through no other view, than to get a sufficient reinforcement to fall upon us immediately after. This, with several other reasons, induced all the officers to believe firmly, that they were sent as spies, rather than any thing else, and has occasioned my sending them as prisoners, tho they expected, or at least had some faint hope, of being continued as ambassadors. They, finding where we were encamped, instead of coming up in a publick manner, sought out one of the most secret retirements, fitter for a deserter than an ambassador to encamp in, stayed there two or 3 days, sent spies to reconnoitre our camp, as we are told, tho they deny it. Their whole body moved back near 2 miles, sent off two runners to acquaint Contrecœur with our strength, and where we were encamped, &c. Now 36 men would almost have been a retinue for a princely ambassador, instead of a petit. Why did they, if their designs were open, stay so long within 5 miles of us, without delivering his ambassy, or acquainting me with it? His waiting could be with no other design, than to get [a] detachment to enforce the summons, as soon as it was given. They had no occasion to send out spies, for the name of ambassador is sacred among all nations; but it was by the track of these spies, that they were discovered, and we got intelligence of them. They would not have retired two miles back without delivering the summons, and sought a skulking-place (which, to do them justice, was done with great judgment), but for some special reason. Besides, the summons is so insolent, and savors so much of gascoigny, that if two men only had come openly to deliver it, it was too great indulgence to have sent them back.
The sense of the Half-King on this subject is, that they have bad hearts, and that this is a mere pretence; they never designed to have come to us but in a hostile manner, and if we were so foolish as let them go again, he never would assist us in taking another of them. Besides, loosing La Force, I really think, would lead more to our disservice, than 50 other men, as he is a person whose active spirit leads him into all parleys, and brought him acquainted with all parts, add to this a perfect use of the Indian tongue, and ye influence with the Indians. He ingeniously enough confessed, that, as soon as he saw the commission and instructions, that he believed,1 and then said he expected some such tendency, tho he pretends to say he does not believe the commander had any other but a good design. In this engagement we had only one man killed and two or three wounded, among which was Lieutenant Waggener slightly,—a most miraculous escape, as our right wing was much exposed to their fire and received it all.2 The Half-King received your Honour’s speech very kind, but desired me to inform you, that he could not leave his people at this time, thinking them in great danger. He is now gone to the Crossing for their families, to bring to our camp; and desired I would send some men and horses to assist them up, which I have accordingly done; sent 30 men and upwards of twenty horses. He says, if your Honour has any thing to say, you may communicate by me, &c., and that, if you have a present for them, it may be kept to another occasion, after sending up some things for their immediate use. He has declared to [me he would] send these Frenchmen’s scalps, with a hatchet, to all the nations of Indians in union with them, and did that very day give a hatchet, and a large belt of wampum, to a Delaware man to carry to Shingiss. He promised me to send down the river for all the Mingoes and Shawanese to our camp, where I expect him to-morrow with thirty or forty men, with their wives and children. To confirm what he has said here, he has sent your Honor a string of wampum.
As these runners went off to the fort on Sunday last,1 I shall expect every hour to be attacked, and by unequal numbers, which I must withstand if there are five to one; or else I fear the consequence will be, that we shall lose the Indians, if we suffer ourselves to be drove back. I despatched an express immediately to Colonel Fry with this intelligence, desiring him to send reinforcements with all imaginable despatch.2
Your Honor may depend I will not be surprised, let them come at what hour they will; and this is as much as I can promise. But my best endeavours shall not be wanting to deserve more. I doubt not, but if you hear I am beaten, but you will, at the same [time,] hear that we have done our duty, in fighting as long [as] there was a possibility of hope.
I have sent Lieutenant West, accompanied with Mr. Splitdorph and a guard of 20 men, to conduct the prisoners in, and I believe the officers have acquainted him what answer to return your Honour. Monsieur La Force and Monsieur Drouillon beg to be recommended to your Honour’s notice, and I have promised they will meet with all the favour due to imprisoned officers. I have show’d all the respect I could to them here, and have given some necessary cloathing, by which I have disfurnished myself; for, having brought no more than two or three shirts from Will’s Creek, that we might be light, I was ill provided to furnish them. I am, &c.
P. S. I have neither seen nor heard any particular account of the Twigtwees since I came on these waters. We have already begun a palisadoed fort, and hope to have it up to-morrow. I must beg leave to acquaint your Honour, that Captain Vanbraam and Ensign Peyrouny has behaved extremely well since they came out, and I hope will meet with your Honour’s favor.
[1 ]Thomas Burney was a blacksmith by trade, and had lived some years among the Twightwees. Dinwiddie, in November, 1754, speaks of having engaged him “to work at his trade and be ready to go messages,” but could not “say much to his character.”
[1 ]The militia law of 1748 allowed officers and soldiers certain pay in tobacco, a colonel receiving 50, a major 40, and a private 15 pounds of tobacco a day. This proved such an awkward system that when the troubles with the French began, pay in money was allowed, as follows: Colonel, 15s.; Lieutenant-Colonel, 12s., 6d.; Major, 10s.; Captain, 8s.; Lieutenants, 4s.; Ensigns, 3s.; Surgeons, 4s.; Private, 8d. and a pistole on enlisting.
[2 ]Now Alexandria.
[1 ]This Canada expedition was the one projected by Governor Shirley, and approved by the British government, in 1746, during the previous war between England and France. The memorable capture of Louisburg the year preceding, effected mainly by colonial troops from Massachusetts, had raised to a high pitch the martial spirit of the people; and large numbers were easily enlisted for this new expedition in the northern and middle provinces. They were disbanded the next year, without having accomplished any thing, but were all paid at the same rate as the troops on the King’s establishment.—Belknap’s History of New Hampshire, vol. ii., p. 235.
[1 ]Colonel Fry died at Will’s Creek two days after this letter was written, and the command of the expedition devolved of course on Washington, as second in rank. Reinforcements were forwarded, so that the whole number of troops under his immediate command amounted to somewhat more than three hundred.
[1 ]The two cadets were Jean Baptiste Berger and Joachim Parent. An account of their treatment while prisoners is contained in Penn. Archives, second series, vi., 320, 321. See also Dinwiddie Papers, ii., 227.
[1 ]That is, he believed there was some hostile intention. La Force appears not to have seen the instructions, which were in possession of M. Jumonville. Whether he knew their import before his capture is doubtful. The original Summons and Instructions are printed among the Pièces Justificatives affixed to the Mémoire of the French government.—Sparks.
[2 ]Washington and his soldiers were on the right, and the Indians on the left.—Sparks.
[1 ]The two French runners mentioned above, who had been sent to Fort Duquesne by Jumonville before the attack.
[2 ]His letter to Col. Fry is printed in Sparks, Writings of Washington, ii., p. 26.