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, 9 November, 1756.
In mine from Halifax I promised your Honor a particular detail of my remarks and observations upon the situation of our frontiers, when I arrived at this place. Although I was pretty explicit in my former, I cannot avoid recapitulating part of the subject now, as my duty, and its importance for redress are strong motives.
From Fort Trial on Smith’s River, I returned to Fort William on the Catawba, where I met Colonel Buchanan with about thirty men, (chiefly officers,) to conduct me up Jackson’s River, along the range of forts. With this small company of irregulars, with whom order, regularity, circumspection, and vigilance were matters of derision and contempt, we set out, and, by the protection of Providence, reached Augusta Court-House in seven days, without meeting the enemy; otherwise we must have fallen a sacrifice, through the indiscretion of these whooping, hallooing gentlemen soldiers!
This jaunt afforded me an opportunity of seeing the bad regulation of the militia, the disorderly proceedings of the garrisons, and the unhappy circumstances of the inhabitants.
First, of the militia. The difficulty of collecting them on any emergency whatever, I have often spoken of as grievous; and I appeal to sad experience, both in this and other counties, how great a disadvantage it is; the enemy having every opportunity to plunder, kill, and escape, before they can afford any assistance. And not to mention the expensiveness of their service in general, I can instance several cases, where a captain, lieutenant, and, I may add, an ensign, with two or three sergeants, and six or eight men, will go upon duty at a time. The proportion of expense in this case is so unjust and obvious, your Honor wants not to be proved.
Then these men, when raised, are to be continued only one month on duty, half of which time is lost in their marching out and home, (especially those from the adjacent counties,) who must be on duty some time before they reach their stations; by which means double sets of men are in pay at the same time, and for the same service. Again, the waste of provision they make is unaccountable; no method or order in being served or purchasing at the best rates, but quite the reverse. Allowance for each man, as other soldiers do, they look upon as the highest indignity, and would sooner starve, than carry a few days’ provision on their backs for conveniency. But upon their march, when breakfast is wanted, knock down the first beef, &c, they meet with, and, after regaling themselves, march on until dinner, when they take the same method, and so for supper likewise, to the great oppression of the people. Or, if they chance to impress cattle for provision, the valuation is left to ignorant and indifferent neighbours, who have suffered by those practices, and, despairing of their pay, exact high prices, and thus the public is imposed on at all events. I might add, I believe, that, for the want of proper laws to govern the militia by (for I cannot ascribe it to any other cause), they are obstinate, self-willed, perverse, of little or no service to the people, and very burthensome to the country. Every mean individual has his own crude notions of things, and must undertake to direct. If his advice is neglected, he thinks himself slighted, abused, and injured; and, to redress his wrongs, will depart for his home. These, Sir, are literally matters of fact, partly from persons of undoubted veracity, but chiefly from my own observations.
Secondly, concerning the garrisons. I found them very weak for want of men; but more so by indolence and irregularity. None I saw in a posture of defence, and few that might not be surprised with the greatest ease. An instance of this appeared at Dickinson’s Fort, where the Indians ran down, caught several children playing under the walls, and had got to the gate before they were discovered. Was not Voss’s Fort surprised, and a good many souls lost, in the same manner? They keep no guard, but just when the enemy is about; and are under fearful apprehensions of them; nor ever stir out of the forts, from the time they reach them, till relieved on their month being expired; at which time they march off, be the event what it will. So that the neighborhood may be ravaged by the enemy, and they not the wiser. Of the ammunition they are as careless as of the provisions, firing it away frequently at targets for wagers. On our journey, as we approached one of their forts, we heard a quick fire for several minutes, and concluded for certain that they were attacked; so we marched in the best manner to their relief; but when we came up, we found they were diverting at marks. These men afford no assistance to the unhappy settlers, who are drove from their plantations, either in securing their harvests, or gathering in their corn. Lieutenant Bullet, commanding at Fort Cumberland, sent to Major Lewis of Albemarle, who commanded a party of sixty militia at Miller’s, about fifteen miles above him, where were also thirty men of Augusta, for some men to join his small parties to gather the corn. Major Lewis refused assistance, and would not divide his men. I wrote to him, but got no answer. Mr. Bullet has done what he could with his few men, not quite thirty. Of the many forts, which I passed by, I saw but one or two that had their captains present, they being absent chiefly on their own business, and had given leave to several of the men to do the same. Yet these persons, I will venture to say, will charge the country their full month’s pay.1
Thirdly, the wretched and unhappy situation of the inhabitants needs few words, after a slight reflection on the preceding circumstances, which must certainly draw after them very melancholy consequences without speedy redress. They are truly sensible of their misery; they feel their insecurity from militia preservation, who are slow in coming to their assistance, indifferent about their preservation, unwilling to continue, and regardless of every thing but their own ease. In short, they are so affected with approaching ruin, that the whole back country is in a general motion towards the southern colonies; and I expect that scarce a family will inhabit Frederick, Hampshire, or Augusta, in a little time. They petitioned me in the most earnest manner for companies of the regiment. But alas! it is not in my power to assist them with any, except I leave this dangerous quarter more exposed than they are. I promised, at their particular request, to address your Honor and the Assembly in their behalf, and that a regular force may be established in lieu of the militia and ranging companies, which are of much less service, and infinitely more cost to the country. Were this done, the whole would be under one direction, and any misbehaviour could never pass with impunity. Whereas the others are soldiers at will, and in fact will go and come when and where they please, without regarding the orders or directions of any. And, indeed, the manner in which some of the ranging captains have obtained their commissions, if I am rightly informed, is by imposture and artifice. They produce a list, I am told, to your Honor, of sundry persons, who are willing to serve under them. One part, it is said, are of fictitious names; another, the names of persons who never saw the list; and the remainder are persons drawn into it by fallacious promises, that cannot be complied with without detriment to the service. But were it otherwise, surely any person, who considers the pay of the soldiers and that of the militia, will find a considerable difference, tho’ both under the best regulations.
As defensive measures are evidently insufficient for the security and safety of the country, I hope no arguments are requisite to convince of the necessity of altering them to a vigorous offensive war, in order to remove the cause.1 But, should the Assembly still indulge that favorite scheme of protecting the inhabitants by forts along the frontiers, in which many of them too put their dependence, and as the building of these forts has been encouraged and confirmed by an act of the Assembly, I take the liberty to present your Honor with a plan of the number of forts, and strength necessary to each, reaching entirely across our frontiers from north to south. This plan is calculated upon the most moderate and easy terms for sparing the country’s expense, and, I believe, with tolerable propriety to answer the wished-for design of protecting the settlers. Besides, most of the forts are already built by the country-people or soldiers, and require but little improvement, save one or two, as Dickinson’s and Cox’s. Your Honor will see Fort Cumberland excluded in this list.
The advantage of having the militia in Augusta, &c, under one command, I have already hinted at; and I think Major Lewis should have your Honor’s orders to take that duty in hand, with directions and orders to secure those important passes of Dickinson’s and Voss’s, by building a fort in the neighbourhood of Dickinson’s, or by other means. And were it practicable to get the people to assemble in little towns contiguous to these forts, it would contribute much to their mutual peace and safety, during the continuance of the Indian war.1 The Augusta people complain greatly for want of money.
The other day eleven Indians of the Catawba tribe came here, and we undoubtedly might have had more of them, had the proper means been used to send trusty guides to invite and conduct them to us; but this is neglected. One Matthew Tool makes his boast of stopping them until he shall be handsomely rewarded for bringing them; and Major Lewis can inform your Honor of one Bemer, who uses every method to hinder the Cherokees from coming to our assistance. Complaint should be made to Governor Littleton of these persons. Indian goods are much wanted to reward the Catawbas, and encourage them to engage in our service. In what manner are they to be paid for scalps? Are our soldiers entitled to the reward like indifferent people? It is a tedious and expensive way to defer payment until proved and sent to your Honor.
Your Honor and the Assembly should determine these points and many others very essential, vizt., a proper method of paying rewards for taking up deserters, the present being very discouraging, in delaying payment until Courts of Claims, &c.; means to replace the drafts, that must be discharged in December; ascertaining the pay of workmen employed on all public works, or empowering the commanding officer to agree on the cheapest terms with them; how the servants enlisted for the Virginia regiment are to be paid for. We have already recruited fifty odd and are daily dunned for payment by the masters. A report prevails, to my great surprise, tho’ disbelief, that your Honor had told some persons, who applied to you for satisfaction for their servants, that I had no orders to enlist any. This false rumor occasions very strange reflections, and must make me appear in a very unjust light to the world. I have, therefore, desisted from recruiting until your Honor directs me in what manner those already obtained are to be satisfied; and I beg your Honor will give me immediate advice on the affair, as the people are impatient, and threaten us with prosecutions from all quarters.
Your Honor has herewith a copy of the council of war, held in behalf of Fort Cumberland, in which the arguments are justly and fully laid down, both with regard to Virginia in particular, and in general, as to the three colonies whose mutual interest highly concerns, and should be by them equitably supported. On the back of the copy are my sentiments on the matter candidly offered your Honor, and to your Honor I leave the determination of this important affair, with the officers of the council. I have frequently wrote your Honor, desiring you would appoint a commissary in lieu of Mr. Walker, who has declined acting, and been absent for many months; but as I never had your Honor’s answer, I have in consequence of your first and since repeated instructions made choice of a person, who I believe will do that duty with every necessary diligence and care; and hope your Honor will approve my proceeding. The £100 paid Colo. Stephen of the Ranger’s money (by Colonel Fairfax) have already been accounted for to the Committee. I have since received from Colo. Fairfax £68.13.9 on the country’s credit, and to be settled with my other accompts.
As touching a chaplain, if the government will grant a subsistence, we can readily get a person of merit to accept of the place, without giving the commissary any trouble on that point, as it is highly necessary we should be reformed from those crimes and enormities we are so universally accused of.1
Your Honor has had advice of two spies, that were taken at Fort Cumberland; one of whom they quickly hung up as his just reward, being a deserter; the other was sent to Governor Sharpe, to give information of the infernal practices followed by some of the priests of that province, in holding correspondence with our enemy.2 I am, &c.
N. B. I am just setting out for Fort Cumberland.
[1 ]“Their diligence and resolution in pursuing the enemy are exemplified in Capt. Hunt of Lunenburgh, who was persuaded by Capt. McNeill, on seeing a poor man inhumanly massacred on the road close by where I came, to go in search of the savages. They followed the tracks, and came to a run, thro’ which they had just passed, it being muddy and the stones yet wet. The number of the enemy was supposed to be about 20, by all the signs that appeared. Here the captain stopped, and finding he came fast up with them, thought proper to desist his pursuit, and after some consultation with his men, contrary to the advice and entreaties of Capt. McNeill, &c., &c., did retreat, as appears by the dispositions of Capt. McNeill and Colo. Buchanan on this occasion. Nor is this the only instance. Some militia of this county under Capt. Riddle, upon a late alarm, refused to proceed, on coming to fires from which the Indians had just fled—all owing to want of due command and obedience.”—To Robinson, 9 Nov., 1756.
[1 ]“The certainty of advantage by an offensive scheme of action, is beyond any doubt much preferable to our defensive measures, and requires no arguments with you, Sir, I presume for proof. Our scattered force avails little to stop the secret incursions of the savages, so separated and dispersed into weak parties; and can only perhaps put them to flight, or ’fright them to another part of the country, which answers not the end proposed. Whereas, had we strength enough to invade their lands, and assault their towns, we should then restrain them from coming abroad, and leave their families exposed. We should then remove the principal cause, and have stronger probability of success. We should then be free from the many alarms, mischiefs and murders that now attend us. We should then inspirit up the hearts of our few Indian friends, and gain more esteem with them. In short could Pennsylvania and Maryland be induced to join us in an expedition of this nature, and to petition his Excellency Lord Loudoun for a small train of artillery, with some engineers, we should then be able in all human probability to subdue the terror of Fort Duquesne, retrieve our character with the Indians, and restore peace to our unhappy frontiers. I wish sincerely the three colonies could be brought to act in conjunction, as our frontiers are so contiguous, and our mutual interest so closely connected.”—To Robinson, 9 Nov., 1756.
[1 ]“And indeed the most probable method to render this plan efficacious, would be to induce the inhabitants to assemble in townships, contiguous to these forts, as many of them seem agreeable to the proposal, and would be more encouraged by the sanction of the Assembly. Then they could cultivate their lands, preserve their stocks, and contribute to their mutual security. Thus did the New Englanders settle when infested as we are now, and answers well in either case, offensive and defensive.”—To Robinson, 9 Nov., 1756.
[1 ]In reply to a request for the appointment of a chaplain to the regiment, Governor Dinwiddie had written to him:—“I have recommended to the commissary to get a chaplain, but he cannot prevail with any person to accept of it. I shall again press it to him.”
[2 ]One of these priests was William Johnston or Johnson, who had lived among the French and their allies for two years. Govr. Sharpe suspected that he had been engaged in the attacks on the frontier settlements, and had surrendered to the English when found on a reconnoiter to discover the expediency of attacking Fort Cumberland.—Penn. Colonial Records, vii., 341.