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TO COLONEL BOUQUET. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. II (1758-1775) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1889). Vol. II (1758-1775).
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TO COLONEL BOUQUET.
Camp atFort Cumberland, 2 August, 1758.
Those matters we talked of relative to the Roads, has since our parting been the object of my closest attention; and so far am I from altering my opinion, that the more time and attention I give thereto, the more I am confirmed in it; the validity of the reasons for taking the old road appear in a stronger point of view. To enumerate the whole of these reasons would be tedious—and to you who are become so much master of that subject, unnecessary; therefore I will only briefly mention a few which I conceive so obvious in themselves, as must to any unbiassed mind effectually remove what is objected to General Braddock’s Road, and urged in favor of a road to be opened from Rays Town.—
Several years ago the Virginians and Pennsylvanians commenced a trade with the Indians settled on the Ohio, and to remove the many inconveniences a bad road subjected them to, they, after reiterated efforts to discover where a good one might be made were found ineffectual, employed several of the most intelligent Indians, who in the course of many years’ hunting acquired a perfect knowledge of these mountains to attempt it. But these Indians after having taken the greatest pains to gain the rewards then offered for this discovery declared the track leading from Wills-Creek was infinitely preferable to any that could be made at any other place. Time and experience so clearly demonstrated this truth, that the Pennsylvania traders commonly carried their goods thither by Will’s Creek. Therefore the Ohio Company in 1753, at a considerable expense opened a road thither. In 1754 the troops I then had the honor to command, greatly repaired it as far as Gist’s Plantation; and in 1755 it was widened, and completed by General Braddock within 6 miles of Fort Duquesne. Consequently, a road that has been so long opened, so well repaired,—and so often, must be much firmer, and better than a new one, allowing the ground to be originally, equally as good.
But supposing it was practicable to make a road from Rays Town quite as good as General Braddock’s, I ask if we have time to do it?—Certainly not. Surmounting the vast difficulties to be encountered, in making it over such monstrous mountains, covered with woods and rocks, would require so much time as to blast our otherwise well grounded hopes of striking the long wished for, and important stroke this season; and deferring it, to another year, would, I am morally certain be productive of the most destructive consequences to the Southern, and middle colonies; for they have to make a noble push towards ending those calamities under which they so long have groaned; granted supplies, beyond their abilities—these funds will, in a few months be exhausted, the troops of course disbanded,—their inability and discouragement from so great a disappointment, will prevent their attempting a similar effort against another season; and experience evinces that expence and numbers, must be encreased in proportion to our delays.
The Southern Indians have from our bad success and inactivity, long looked upon us in a despicable light, have already committed hostilities on our frontiers, and only wait the result of this campaign to unmask themselves; which would be such an acquisition to the enemy as might terminate in our destruction.
The favorable accounts some give, of the forage on the Rays Town road being so much better than the other, are certainly exaggerated greatly, as every unprejudiced person who is acquainted with both, agrees that the only difference between the mountains here and there is, that those are more inaccessible. And it is well known that in both, the rich valleys between the mountains abound with good food, and those that are stony and brushy are destitute. Col. Byrd and the Engineer who accompanied him confirm this truth. And surely the meadows on this road, would greatly overbalance the advantage of having grass to the foot of the ridge (on this side the mountain) on the Rays Town Road; and all agree that a more barren road is no where to be found than Rays Town to the inhabitants, which is likewise to be considered with the badness of the road.
And the principal objection made to General Braddock’s Road is that of the waters to pass. But these very rarely swell so much as to obstruct the passage. The Yaughyaughgane which is the most rapid and soonest filled, I, with a body of troops, have crossed after 30 odd days almost constant rain. In fine, any difficulties that may arise therefrom are so trivial, that they are really not worth mentioning. The Monongahela, the largest of all these rivers, may, if necessary, be easily avoided (as Mr. Frazer, the principal guide,) informed me, by passing a defile, which I cannot conceive to be so bad as commonly represented; but even that he tells me may be shunned.
It is said again, that there are many defiles on this road—I grant there are some, but know of none that cannot be traversed if found necessary; and I should be glad to know if a road can be had over these mountains not subject to this inconvenience—unless they kept the heights always,—and that is impracticable.
The shortness of the road from Rays Town to Fort Duquesne by Loyal hanny,1 is used as an argument in disfavor of this road; and bears some thing in it unaccountable to me, for I must beg leave to ask here, if it requires more time, or is it more difficult and expensive, to go 145 miles in a good road already made to our hands, or to cut a road 100 miles in length, great part of which over almost inaccessible mountains,—and,—to say, or think, we can do nothing more this fall than to fortify some post on the other side of the mountains, and prepare against another campaign—I must pray Heaven, most fervently, to avert! till we find it impracticable at least to prosecute with prudence the enterprise in hand. We have yet time enough to transport Provisions to last the siege, and to support the Troops that may Winter there, as I shall endeavor hereafter to shew,—at any rate it never can be an argument for opening the other road at this time, because supposing we are not able to do more than construct a Post on t’other side the mountains—that Post undoubtedly should be on a road that has the easiest, and nearest communication with the settlements, where supplies are to be drawn from; for to say nothing of the great advantage of water carriage this way, which certainly is immense, (as you will find by Doctr. Ross’s estimation that you shewed me) or of the infinite odds in the goodness of the Roads, which is very evident to all who have travelled both,—either from the inhabitants to the advanced posts, or from the advanced posts to Fort Duquesne,—I say, to put these reasons aside, (altho’ they ought to have their due weight,) yet this way, as being so much nearer the settlements has much advantage.—That it is nearer Winchester in Virginia, and Fort Frederick, in Maryland, by many miles, are incontestable facts: and I here shew the difference of the two roads to Carlyle; by giving you the distance of the different stages; some of which I have from information only, but believe them to be just:—
By this computation there appears to be a difference of 19 miles only. Were all the supplies obliged to come from Carlyle, it is well known that the goodness of this road is a sufficient compensation for the shortness of the other, as the wrecked and broken waggons there clearly demonstrate.
I shall next give you my Reasons against dividing the Army in the manner you propose, and after that endeavor to shew how the grass on the other Road can be made proper use of.
First then, by dividing our Army we divide our strength, and by pursuing quite distinct routes put it entirely out of the power of each division to succor the other, as the proposed new Road, has no communication with the old.
Secondly, to march in this manner will be attended with many inconveniences. As, first, if we depart from our advanced posts at the same time, and make no deposits by the way; those troops who go from Rays Town, as they will be light, having carrying horses only, will arrive at Fort Duquesne long before the others; and must, if the enemy are strong there, be expos’d possibly to many insults in their intrenchments from the cannon of the enemy, which they may draw out upon them at their pleasure: if they are not strong enough to do this to that Division, we have but little to apprehend from them, go which way, or how we will. Thirdly, if that division that escorts the convoy is permitted to march first, we risk our all in a manner, and are ruined if any accident happened to the artillery, to the stores, &c. And lastly, if we advance on both roads by deposites, we must double our number of troops over the mountains, and distress ourselves by victualling of them in these deposites: besides losing the proposed advantage, that of stealing a march. For we cannot suppose the French, who have their Scouts constantly out, can be so difficult in point of intelligence, as to be unacquainted with our motions when we are advancing by slow degrees towards them.
Now, Sir, the advantage I would propose to make of the forage along the other path is, to support all the carrying horses that can possibly be collected, and sent that way after we are fortunate enough to lie before Fort Duquesne. Here not only the carrying horses that were to be used out as such, but officers’ horses, and even the waggon horses also, may be employed in this service, if saddles or packs are provided in the meantime at Rays Town for them to return with.
Great advantages may be derived from such a measure, because as the food of the old road would be entirely eaten up going, and the horses get weak, it would be impossible that the waggons could return for another convoy: tho’ the horses might nevertheless be in a condition to come down light, along a road abounding with food, and be able to carry up another convoy, giving them two or three days rest at the most convenient feeding places. By this means the waggon horses would be eased of the fatigue of bringing down even the empty waggons, which is something along a Road stripped of the food. In the condition the horses by this time may be supposed to be, they will, I conceive, carry near or quite as much weight on their back as they could draw in a waggon.
From what has been said relative to the two roads, it appears, I think very clearly, that the old one is infinitely better than the other can be made; and, that there is no room to hesitate a moment which to take, when we consider the advanced Season, and little time left to execute our plan in. I shall therefore in the last place offer (as desired,) my sentiments on advancing by deposites; the first of which I should have been for getting at the Little Meadows, would time have permitted; but, as the case now stands, I suppose at the Great Crossing, or Great Meadows our first must be formed. The Great Crossing I esteem the most advantageous post on several accounts, especially that of water, and security of the passage; but then it does not abound in food as the Great Meadows, nor has not so much level land about it fit for culture.
To this latter place a body of 1500 men may march with 300 waggons or carrying horses (which would be much better,) equivalent. Allowing each waggon to carry 800 lbs of flour, and 400 of Salt meat, you carry 40 days’ provisions of the former, and 20 of the latter for 6000 men; besides your live Cattle, any number of which might, but ought not to be carried for these two reasons: first, they would destroy your pasturage—and next your men being employed at work, you would have none to attend or guard them. Your next convoy, which I suppose to consist of 500 provision waggons and all the Army, will, at the above rate, carry 66 days’ provisions of flour, and 33 of salt flesh, besides 6 days which the men may carry on their backs; as it is supposed the 1500 are to do also, so that you have at the Meadows according to this calculation, 113 days’ Flour, and 56 salt meat, deducting the daily consumption. Now, to accomplish this, I allow 26 days; to wit: to the Great Meadows 8, to unload and return 6; then I allow the army 12 days more to prepare and arrive in; by which I apprehend our works may be finished, and the whole ready to proceed.
Our next deposite probably will be at Salt Lick, about 35 miles from the Meadows. To this place I conceive it necessary to send 2500 men to construct some post; taking 6 days’ provisions only, which are sufficient to serve them till the convoy comes up; against which time I suppose an Intrenched camp, or some other kind of defensible work, may be effected. And from hence I conceive it highly expedient to detach 3000 or 4000 of the best troops to invest the place, and prevent if possible an ingagement in the woods, which of all things ought to be avoided. The Artillery and stores may be up from Salt Lick in four days, and from that time I will allow 18 days more for the carrying horses to perform a trip to Rays Town for provisions; passing along the old path by Loyal hanny. In this time they may do it; as the horses will go down light; but what quantity of provisions they can bring up, I cannot say, that depending upon the number of horses fitted out with saddles, &c.
From this state of the matter (which is really a candid one) and from my calculations, in which large allowances are made for the quantity of provisions, as well as for the time of transporting them; it appears, that from the time the front division begins its march from hence, till the whole army gets before Fort Duquesne, is 34 days, at which time there will be 87 days’ provisions on hand, allowing for the consumption on the march; and that 18 days added to this make 52 in all; which is required for our operations, and these ought to be finished if possible by the middle of October.
I have offered nothing, but what to me appears beyond a probability. I have nothing to fear but for the general service, and no hopes but the advantages it will derive from the success of our operations; therefore cannot be supposed to have any private interest or sinister views, by any freedom my regard for the benefit of the service on this occasion has induced me to use. I am, &c.
[1 ]Fort Ligonier was afterwards built on this spot.