Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO GOVERNOR DINWIDDIE. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. I (1748-1757)
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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.
Winchester, 11 October, 1755.
As I think it my indispensable duty to inform you particularly of my proceedings, and to give the most plain and authentic account, from time to time, of our situation, I must acquaint your Honor that, immediately after giving the necessary orders at Fredericksburg, and despatching expresses to hurry the recruits from Alexandria, I rid post to this place, passing by Lord Fairfax’s, who was not at home, but here, where I arrived yesterday about noon, and found every thing in the greatest hurry and confusion, by the back inhabitants, flocking in, and those of the town removing out, which I have prevented as far as it was in my power. I was desirous of proceeding immediately, at the head of some militia, to put a stop to the ravages of the enemy, believing their numbers to be few; but was told by Colonel Martin, who had attempted to raise the militia for the same purpose, that it was impossible to get above twenty or twenty-five men, they having absolutely refused to stir, choosing, as they say, to die with their wives and families.
Finding this expedient likely to prove abortive, I sent off expresses to hurry the recruits from below, and the militia from Fairfax, Prince William, &c., which Lord Fairfax had ordered out, and I also hired spies to go out and see, to discover the numbers of the enemy, and to encourage the rangers, who, we were told, are blocked up by the Indians in small fortresses. But, if I may offer my opinion, I believe they are more encompassed by fear than by the enemy. I have also impressed wagons and sent them to Conococheague for flour, musket-shots, and flints, powder, and trifling quantity of paper, bought at extravgant prices, for cartridges. I expect from below six or eight smiths who are now at work, repairing the firearms that are here, which are all that we have to depend on. A man was hired, the 24th of last month, to do the whole, but neglected, and was just moving off in wagons, to Pennsylvania. I impressed his wagons, and compelled him by force to assist in this work. In all things I meet with the greatest opposition. No orders are obeyed, but what a party of soldiers, or my own drawn sword, enforces; without this a single horse, for the most, urgent occasion cannot be had, to such a pitch has the insolence of these people arrived, by having every point hitherto submitted to them. However, I have given up none, where his Majesty’s service requires the contrary, and where my proceedings are justified by my instructions; nor will [I do] it, unless they execute what they threaten, i. e. “to blow out my brains.”
I have invited the poor distressed people, (who were drove from their habitations,) to lodge their familys in some place of security, and to join our partys in scouring the woods, where the enemy lie, and believe some will cheerfully assist. I also have [taken], and shall continue to take, every previous step to forward the march of the recruits, &c, so soon as they arrive here, and your Honor may depend, that nothing that is in my power to do shall be wanting for the good of the service. I would again hint the necessity of putting the militia under a better regulation, had I not mentioned it twice before, and a third time may seem impertinent; but I must once more beg leave to declare, (for here I am more immediately concerned,) that, unless the Assembly will enact a law to enforce the military law in all its parts,1 that I must, with great regret, decline the honour that has been so generously intended me, and for this only reason I do it—the foreknowledge I have of failing in every point, that might justly be expected from a person invested with full power to exert this authority. I see the growing insolence of the soldiers, the indolence and inactivity of the officers, who are all sensible how confined their punishments are, in regard to what they ought to be. In fine, I can plainly see, that under our present establishment, we shall become a nuisance, an insupportable charge to our country, and never answer any one expectation of the Assembly. And here I must assume the freedom to express some surprise, that we alone should be so tenacious of our liberty, as not to invest a power, where interest and politicks so unanswerably demand it, and from whence so much good must consequently ensue. Do we not see, that every nation under the sun find their account therein, and without it, no order, no regularity can be observed? Why then should it be expected from us, (who are all young and inexperienced,) to govern and keep up a proper spirit of discipline without laws, when the best and most experienced can scarcely do it with [them]? Then if we consult our interest, I am sure it is loudly called for; for I can confidently assert, that money expended in recruiting, cloathing, arming, maintaining, and subsisting soldiers, who have deserted, has cost the country an immense sum, which might have been prevented, were we under restraints, that would terrify the soldiers from such practices. One thing more on this head I will recommend, and then quit the subject; i. e., to have the inhabitants liable to certain heavy fines, or corporal punishments, for entertaining of deserters, and a reward for taking them up. If this was done, it would be next to an impossibility for a soldier to escape; but, on the contrary as things now stand, they are not only seduced to run away, but are also harboured and assisted with every necessary means to do it.
Sunday noon.—Last night arrived an express, just spent with fatigue and fear, reporting that a party of Indians were seen about twelve miles off, at the plantation of one Isaac Julian, and that the inhabitants were flying in the most promiscuous manner from their dwellings. I immediately ordered the town guards to be strengthened; Perkins’s lieutenant to be in readiness with his companies; some recruits, who had only arrived about half an hour before, to be armed; and sent two men, well acquainted with the roads, to go up that road, and lay in wait, to see if they could discover the number and motion of the Indians, that we might have timely notice of their approach. This morning, before we could parade the men, to march upon the last alarm, arrived a second express, ten times more terrified than the former, with information, that the Indians had got within four miles of the town, and were killing and destroying all before them, for that he himself had heard constant firing, and shrieks of the unhappy murdered! Upon this, I immediately collected what force I could, which consisted of twenty-two men, recruited for the rangers, and nineteen of the militia, and marched directly to the place, where these horrid murders were said to be committed. When we came there, whom should we find occasioning all this disturbance, but three drunken soldiers of the light-horse, carousing, firing their pistols, and uttering the most unheard-of imprecations! These we took, and marched prisoners to town, where we met the men I sent out last night, and learned that the party of Indians, discovered by Isaac Julian, proved to be a mulatto and negro, seen hunting of cattle by his child, who alarmed the father, and the father the neighborhood. These circumstances are related only to show what a panic prevails among the people; how much they are alarmed at the most usual and customary cries; and yet how impossible it is to get them to act in any respect for their common safety. As an instance of this—Colonel Fairfax, who arrived in town when we were upon a scout, immediately sent to a noble captain, not far off, to repair with his company forthwith to Winchester. With coolness and moderation this great captain answered, that his wife, family, and corn were all at stake; so were his soldiers; therefore it was impossible for him to come. Such is the example of the officers; such the behaviour of the men; and upon such circumstances depends the safety of our country!
Monday morning, 12th.—The men I hired to bring intelligence from the Branch returned last night, with letters from Captain Ashby, and the other parties there; by which I learn, that the Indians are gone off; scouts having been dispersed upon those waters for several days, without discovering tracks or other signs of the enemy.
I am also informed, that it is believed their numbers amounted to about one hundred and fifty; that seventy of our men are killed and missing, and that several houses and plantations are destroyed, but not so great havoc made as was represented at first. The rangers, and a small company of militia, ordered there by Lord Fairfax, I am given to understand, intend to march down on Monday next, who will be immediately followed by all the inhabitants of those parts, that had gathered together under their protection. I have, therefore, sent peremptory orders to the contrary; but what obedience will be paid to them a little time will reveal. I have ordered those men, that were recruited for the rangers, to join their respective companies. And there is also a party of militia marched with them under the command of Captain Harden. Captain Waggener is this instant arrived with thirty recruits, which he marched from Bellhaven in less than three days,—a great march indeed! Major Lewis and his recruits from Fredericksburg I expect in to-morrow, when, with these and twenty-two of Captain Bell’s now here, I shall proceed by quick marches to Fort Cumberland, in order to strengthen that garrison. Besides these, I think it absolutely necessary, that there should be two or three companies (exclusively) of rangers, to guard the Potomac waters, until such time as our regiment is completed. And, indeed, these rangers and volunteer companies in Augusta, with some of their militia, should be properly disposed of on these frontiers, for fear of an attack from that quarter. This though, is submitted to your Honor’s judgment, and waits your orders for execution, if thought expedient. Captain Waggener informs me, that it was with difficulty he passed the Ridge for crowds of people, who were flying as if every moment was death. He endeavoured, but in vain, to stop them; they firmly believing that Winchester was in flames. I shall send expresses down the several roads in hopes of bringing back the inhabitants, who are really frightened out of their senses. I despatched an express immediately upon my arrival at this place, with a copy of the enclosed to Andrew Montour, who I heard was at a place called Long Island,1 with three hundred Indians, to see if he could engage him and them to join us. The letter savours a little of flattery, &c, &c, but this, I hope, is justifiable on such occasions. I also wrote to Gist, acquainting him with the favor you intended him, and desired he would repair home, in order to raise his companies of scouts.2
I shall defer writing to the Speaker and Committee upon any other head than that of commissary, still hoping to be down by the time mentioned in my last, (provided no new disturbances happen,) having some points to settle, that I am uneasy and urgent about. I have been obliged to do duty very foreign to my own; but that I shall never hesitate about, when the good of the service requires it.
In a journey from Fort Cumberland to Fort Dinwiddie, which I made purposely to see the situation of our frontiers, how the rangers were posted, and how troops might be disposed of for the defence of the country, I purchased six hundred and fifty beeves, to be delivered at Fort Cumberland by the 1st of November, at ten shillings per hundred weight, except a few that I was obliged to give eleven shillings for; and have my own bonds now out for the performance of covenants, this being the commissary’s business, who, I am sorry to say, has hitherto been of no use, but of disservice to me, in neglecting my orders, and leaving this place without flour, and Fredericksburg without any provisions for the recruits, although he had timely notice given. I must beg, that, if Mr. Dick will not act, some other person may be appointed that will; for, if things remain in this uncertain situation, the season will pass without having provision made for the winter, or summer’s campaign. Whoever acts as commissary should be sent up immediately about salting the provisions, &c. It will be difficult, I believe, to provide a quantity of pork. I enquired as I rode thro’ Hampshire, Augusta, &c, and could not hear of much for sale.
Most of the new appointed officers have been extremely deficient in their duties by not repairing to their rendezvouses, according to appointment. Captn. McKenzie, Lieut. King and Ensigns Miller and Dean, who were ordered to send their recruits to Alexandria by the first of October, were not arrived when Captn. Waggener left that place, nor have we heard any thing of Captn. Harrison, whose recruits should have been at Fredericksburg by the same time; and Captn. Bell only sent his here on Saturday last. If these practices are allowed of, we may as well quit altogether, for no duty can ever be carried on if there is not ye greatest punctuality observed, one thing always depending so immediately upon another.
I have appointed Captain George Mercer (whose seniority entitled him to it) my aid-de-camp; and Mr. Kirkpatrick of Alexandria, my secretary, a young man bred to business, of good character, well recommended, and a person of whose abilities I had not the least doubt.
I hope your Honor will be kind enough to despatch Colonel Stephen, with orders to repair hither immediately, and excuse the prolixity of this. I was willing to give a circumstantial account of our situation, that you may be the better enabled to judge what orders are necessary to give. I am, &c.
Winchester, October 13, 1755.
Major Lewis is just arrived, and on Thursday I shall begin my march to Fort Cumberland, allowing the recruits one day to refresh themselves.
[1 ]In the October session a mutiny bill was framed. Hening, vi., 559.
[1 ]Also spoken of as Great Island. It lay in Holston River. Montour was there with Monacatoocha to meet the Delawares.
[2 ]The Governor had commissioned Gist as captain of a company of scouts.