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TO JOHN A. WASHINGTON. - 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 JOHN A. WASHINGTON.
Youghiogany, 28 June, 1755.1
Immediately upon our leaving the camp at George’s Creek, on the 14th instant, (from whence I wrote to you,) I was seized with violent fevers and pains in my head, which continued without intermission ’till the 23d following, when I was relieved, by the General’s absolutely ordering the physicians to give me Dr. James’s powders, (one of the most excellent medicines in the world,) for it gave me immediate ease, and removed my fevers and other complaints in four days’ time.2 My illness was too violent to suffer me to ride; therefore I was indebted to a covered wagon for some part of my transportation; but even in this, I could not continue far, for the jolting was so great, that I was left upon the road with a guard, and necessaries, to wait the arrival of Colonel Dunbar’s detachment, which was two days’ march behind us, the General giving me his word of honor, that I should be brought up, before he reached the French fort. This promise, and the doctor’s threats, that, if I persevered in my attempts to get on, in the condition I was, my life would be endangered, determined me to halt for the above detachment.
As the communication between this and Will’s Creek must soon be too dangerous for single persons to pass, it will render the intercourse of letters slow and precarious; therefore I shall attempt (and will go through if I have strength) to give you an account of our proceedings, of our situation, and of our prospects at present; which I desire you will communicate to Colonel Fairfax, and others, my correspondents, for I am too weak to write more than this letter. In the letter, which I wrote to you from George’s Creek, I acquainted you, that, unless the number of wagons was retrenched, and the carrying-horses increased, we never should be able to see Duquesne.1 This, in two days afterwards (which was about the time they got to the Little Meadows, with some of their foremost wagons, and strongest teams), they themselves were convinced of; for they found, that, besides the (almost) impossibility of getting the wagons along at all, they had often a rear of three or four miles in length; and that the soldiers guarding them were so dispersed, that, if we had been attacked either in front, center, or rear, the part so attacked must have been cut off, or totally routed, before they could be sustained by any other corps.
At the Little Meadows there was a second council1 called (for there had been one before), wherein it was again represented to the officers of the different corps, the urgency for horses, and how laudable a farther retrenchment of their baggage would be, that the spare ones might be turned over for public service. In order to encourage this, I gave up my best horse, (which I have never heard of since,) and took no more baggage than half my portmanteau would easily contain. It is said, however, that the numbers reduced by this second attempt were only from two hundred and ten or twelve, to two hundred, which had no perceivable effect.
The General, (before they met in council,) asked my private opinion concerning the expedition. I urged it, in the warmest terms I was able, to push forward, if we even did it with a small but chosen band, with such artillery and light stores as were absolutely necessary; leaving the heavy artillery, baggage, &c. with the rear division of the army, to follow by slow and easy marches, which they might do safely, while we were advanced in front. As one reason to support this opinion, I urged, that, if we could credit our intelligence, the French were weak at the Forks at present, but hourly expected reinforcements, which, to my certain knowledge, could not arrive with provisions, or any supplies, during the continuance of the drought which we were then experiencing as the Buffalo River (Rivière aux Bœufs), down which was their only communication to Venango, must be as dry as we now found the Great Crossing of the Youghiogany, which may be passed dry-shod.
This advice prevailed, and it was determined that the General, with one thousand two hundred chosen men and officers from all the different corps, under the following field officers, viz.; Sir Peter Halket, who acts as brigadier; Lieutenant-Colonel Gage, Lieutenant-Colonel Burton, and Major Sparke, with such a certain number of wagons as the train would absolutely require, should march as soon as things could be got in readiness for them, which was completed, and we on our march, by the 19th, leaving Colonel Dunbar and Major Chapman, with the residue of the two regiments, some Independent Companies, most of the women, and, in short, every thing not absolutely necessary behind, carrying our provisions and other necessaries upon horses.
We set out with less than thirty carriages (including those that transported the ammunition for the howitzers, twelve-pounders, and six-pounders, etc.), and all of them strongly horsed; which was a prospect that conveyed infinite delight to my mind, though I was excessively ill at the time. But this prospect was soon clouded, and my hopes brought very low indeed, when I found that instead of pushing on with vigor, without regarding a little rough road, they were halting to level every molehill, and to erect bridges over every brook, by which means we were four days getting twelve miles.
At this camp I was left by the Doctor’s advice, and the General’s absolute orders, as I have already mentioned, without which I should not have been prevailed upon to remain behind; as I then imagined, and now believe, I shall find it no easy matter to join my own corps again, which is twenty-five miles advanced before us. Notwithstanding, I had the General’s word of honor, pledged in the most solemn manner, that I should be brought up before he arrived at Fort Duquesne. They have had frequent alarms, and several men have been scalped; but this is done with no other design than to retard the march, and to harass the men, who, if they are to be turned out every time a small party attacks the guards at night (for I am certain they have not sufficient force to make a serious assault), their ends will be accomplished by the gaining of time.
I have been now six days with Colonel Dunbar’s corps, who are in a miserable condition for want of horses, not having enough for their wagons; so that the only method he has of proceeding, is to march with as many wagons as those will draw, and then halt till the remainder are brought up with the same horses, which requires two days more; and shortly, I believe, he will not be able to stir at all. But there has been vile management in regard to horses, and while I am mentioning this, I must not forget to desire that you will acquaint Colonel George Fairfax, that I have made the most diligent enquiry after his man and horses, but can hear nothing of either, at least nothing that can be credited.
I was told that the fellow was taken ill upon the road, while he was with Sir John St. Clair’s detachment. The certainty of this I cannot answer for, but believe there is nothing more certain than that he is not with any part of the army; and unless the horses stray, and make home themselves, I believe there is a thousand to one, against his ever seeing them again: for I gave up a horse only one day, and never could see or hear of him afterwards.
My strength wont admit me to say more, though I have not said half what I intended concerning our affairs here. Business I shall not think of, but depend solely upon your management of all my affairs, not doubting but that they will be well conducted.
You may thank my friends for the letters I have received from them, which, tell them, has not been one from any mortal since I left Fairfax, except yourself and Mr. Dalton. It is a specimen of their regard and kindness which I should endeavor to acknowledge and thank them for, was I able and suffered to write. All your letters to me I would have sent to Mr. Cocks, of Winchester, or to Governor Innes, at Fort Cumberland, that I may have the better chance of their coming safe to hand. Make my compliments to all who think me worthy of their enquiries.
July 2d.—A serious inconvenience attended me in my sickness, and that was the losing the use of my servant; for poor John Alton was taken about the same time that I was, and with nearly the same disorder, and was confined as long; so that we did not see each other for several days. He is also tolerably well recovered.
We are advanced almost as far as the Great Meadows, and I shall set out to-morrow morning for my own corps, with an escort of one hundred men, which is to guard some provisions up, so that my fears and doubts on that head are now removed.
I had a letter yesterday from Orme, who writes me word, that they have passed the Youghiogany for the last time; that they have sent out parties to scour the country thereabouts, and have reason to believe the French are greatly alarmed at their approach.
[1 ]From the 17th of June to the 8th of July Washington was separated from the army.
[2 ]Robert James was a schoolfellow of Samuel Johnson and author of a Medicinal Dictionary in three folio volumes. “ ‘I never thought well of Dr. James’s compounded medicines,” was Johnson’s opinion. These “famous” fever powders were sold by Newbury, Goldsmith’s publisher.
[1 ]In the letter here referred to he says:—“The difficulties arising in our march, from having such a number of wagons, will, I fear, prove an insurmountable obstacle, unless some scheme can be fallen upon to retrench the wagons, and increase the number of bat-horses, which is what I recommended at first, and which I believe is now found to be the best means of transporting our provisions and stores to the Ohio.”
[1 ]On the 11th the army was at Spendelow Camp; on the 13th it marched to Martin’s plantation, five miles from Spendelow camp. On the 15th it passed the Allegany mountain, and encamped about three miles to the west of the Savage river; reaching Little Meadows on the 16th (the second brigade did not get there till the 18th). Orme places the first council of war at Spendelow. The anonymous journal printed by Sargent, places the determination to discard horses at Little Meadows on 15th.