Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO GOVERNOR DINWIDDIE. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. I (1748-1757)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
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).
About Liberty Fund:
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
TO GOVERNOR DINWIDDIE.
Winchester, 7 April, 1756.
I arrived here yesterday, and think it advisable to despatch an express (notwithstanding I hear two or three are already sent down) to inform you of the unhappy situation of affairs on this quarter. The enemy have returned in greater numbers, committed several murders not far from Winchester, and even are so daring as to attack our forts in open day, as your Honor may see by the enclosed letters and papers. Many of the inhabitants are in a miserable situation by their losses, and so apprehensive of danger, that, I believe, unless a stop is put to the depredations of the Indians, the Blue Ridge will soon become our frontier.
I find it impossible to continue on to Fort Cumberland, until a body of men can be raised, in order to do which I have advised with Lord Fairfax, and other officers of the militia, who have ordered each captain to call a private muster, and to read the exhortation enclosed (for orders are no longer regarded in this county), in hopes that this expedient may meet with the wished-for success. If it should, I shall, with such men as are ordered from Fort Cumberland to join these, scour the woods and suspected places, in all the mountains, valleys, &c. on this part of our frontiers; and doubt not but I shall fall in with the Indians and their more cruel associates! I hope the present emergency of affairs, assisted by such good news as the Assembly may by this time have received from England, and the Commissioners, will determine them to take vigorous measures for their own and country’s safety, and no longer depend on an uncertain way of raising men for their own protection. However absurd it may appear, it is nevertheless certain, that five hundred Indians have it more in their power to annoy the inhabitants, than ten times their number of regulars. For besides the advantageous way they have of fighting in the woods, their cunning and craft are not to be equalled, neither their activity and indefatigable sufferings. They prowl about like wolves, and, like them, do their mischief by stealth. They depend upon their dexterity in hunting and upon the cattle of the inhabitants for provisions. For which reason, I own, I do not think it unworthy the notice of the legislature to compel the inhabitants (if a general war is likely to ensue, and things to continue in this unhappy situation for any time), to live in townships, working at each other’s farms by turns, and to drive their cattle into the thickly settled parts of the country. Were this done, they could not be cut off by small parties, and large ones could not subsist without provisions.1
It seemed to be the sentiment of the House of Burgesses when I was down, that a chain of forts should be erected upon our frontiers, for the defence of the people. This expedient, in my opinion, without an inconceivable number of men, will never answer their expectations.2
I doubt not but your Honor has had a particular account of Major Lewis’s unsuccessful attempt to get to the Shawanese Town. It was an expedition, from which, on account of the length of the march down, I always had little expectation of, and often expressed my uneasy apprehensions on that head. But since they are returned, with the Indians that accompanied them, I think it would be a very happy step to prevail upon the latter to proceed as far as Fort Cumberland. It is in their power to be of infinite use to us; and without Indians, we shall never be able to cope with those cruel foes to our country.1
I would therefore beg leave to recommend in a very earnest manner, that your Honor would send an express to them immediately for this desirable end. I should have done it myself, but was uncertain whether it might prove agreeable or not. I also hope your Honour will order Major Lewis to secure his guides, as I understand he attributes all his misfortunes to their misconduct. Such offences as those should meet with adequate punishment, else we may ever be misled by designing villains. I am your Honor’s, &c.
Since writing the above, Mr. Pearis, who commanded a party as per enclosed list, is returned, who relates, that, upon the North River, he fell in with a small body of Indians which he engaged, and, after a dispute of half an hour, put them to flight. Monsieur Douville, commander of the party, was killed and scalped, and his instructions found about him, which I enclose. We had one man killed, and two wounded. Mr. Pearis sends the scalp by Jenkins; and I hope, although it is not an Indian’s, they will meet with an adequate reward at least, as the monsieur’s is of much more consequence. The whole party jointly claim the reward, no person pretending solely to assume the merit.1
Your Honor may in some measure penetrate into the daring designs of the French by their instructions, where orders are given to burn, if possible, our magazine at Conococheague, a place that is in the midst of a thickly settled country.
I have ordered the party there to be made as strong as time and our present circumstances will afford, for fear they should attempt to execute the orders of Dumas.2 I have also ordered up an officer and twenty recruits to assist Joseph Edwards, and the people on those waters.1 The people of this town are under dreadful apprehensions of an attack, and all the roads between this and Fort Cumberland are much infested. As I apprehend you will be obliged to draft men, I hope care will be taken that none shall be chosen but active, resolute men,—men, who are practised to arms, and are marksmen.
I also hope that a good many more will be taken than what are requisite to complete our numbers to what the Assembly design to establish; as many of those we have got are really in a manner unfit for duty; and were received more through necessity than choice; and will very badly bear a re-examination. Another thing I would beg leave to recommend; and that is, that such men as are drafted, should be only taken for a time,2 by which means we shall get better men, and which will in all probability stay with us.
[1 ]To the Speaker he wrote in a similar strain: “If the fears of the people do not magnify numbers, those of the enemy are not inconsiderable. They have made many ineffectual attempts upon several of our forts, destroyed cattle, burned plantations, and this in defiance of our smaller parties, while they dexterously avoid the larger. Our detachments, by what I can learn, have sought them diligently, but the cunning and vigilance of Indians in the woods are no more to be conceived, than they are to be equalled by our people. Indians are only match for Indians; and without these, we shall ever fight upon unequal terms. I hope the Assembly since they see the difficulty of getting men by enlistment, will no longer depend upon that uncertain way of raising them, but make each of the lower Counties furnish its full proportion.” The recruiting officers had been out all winter, and had secured only 600 men.
[2 ]In the March session the Assembly had voted to erect a chain of forts, “to begin at Harry Enochs, on Great-Cape-Capon, in the county of Hampshire, and to extend to the South-Fork of Mayo-River, in the county of Halifax, to consist of such a number, and at such distance from each other, as shall be thought necessary and directed by the governor, or commander in chief of this colony.”—Hening’s Statutes, vii., 18.
[1 ]Major Lewis’s party suffered greatly on this expedition. The rivers were so much swollen by the rains and melting snow, that they were unable to reach the Shawanese Town; and after being six weeks in the woods, having lost several canoes with provisions and ammunition, they were reduced nearly to a state of starvation, and obliged to kill their horses for food. A full account of this expedition is given by L. C. Draper in Virginia Historical Register, 1852; also in Waddell, Annals of Augusta County, 81.
[1 ]In August, 1755, the Assembly offered a reward of £10 for every scalp of a male Indian above the age of twelve years.—Hening’s Statutes, vi., 551, 565. In April, 1757, the reward was increased to £15, and a further sum of £30 for each scalp taken within the next two years. vii., 122, 123. The increase was probably due to the higher reward of £50 for each scalp offered by Maryland.—Acts of Maryland Assembly, September, 1756.
[2 ]Dumas had succeeded Contrecœur in the command of Fort Duquesne. The following is a translation of the orders found on Douville, which, at least, give a favorable indication of the commandant’s humanity.
“Fort Duquesne, 23 March, 1756.
“The Sieur Douville, at the head of a detachment of fifty savages, is ordered to go and observe the motions of the enemy in the neighbourhood of Fort Cumberland. He will endeavour to harass their convoys, and burn their magazines at Conococheague, should this be practicable. He must use every effort to take prisoners, who may confirm what we already know of the enemy’s designs. The Sieur Douville will employ all his talents, and all his credit, to prevent the savages from committing any cruelties upon those, who may fall into their hands. Honor and humanity ought, in this respect, to serve as our guide.
Dumas.”This is doubtless the same officer, who commanded the French and Indians at Braddock’s defeat, after the death of M. de Beaujeu.
[1 ]Great Cacapehon. Fort Edwards lay between Winchester and Romney.
[2 ]“I think it not amiss, that they should serve only eighteen or twenty months, and then be discharged. Twenty months will embrace two full campaigns, which will, I apprehend, bring matters to a crisis one way or another.”—To the Speaker.