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1775. - 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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NOTES ON THE DISMAL SWAMP.1
From Suffolk to Pocoson Swamp2 is reckoned about 6 miles, and something better than 4, perhaps 5 miles, from Colo. Reddick’s Mill Run (where the road crosses it). The land within this distance, especially after passing Willis Reddick’s, is level and not bad. The banks down to this (Pocoson) swamp declines gradually, and the swamp appears to be near 75 yards over, but no water in it at present. Note.—Willis Reddick’s plantation seems to be a good one, ye land being level and stiff, so does Henry Reddicks, above.
From Mossey Swamp to a branch, and a large one it is, of Oropeak (not less than 80 yards over) is reckoned 4 miles; two miles short of which is a large plantation belonging to one Brindle,1 near to which (on the south side) passes the Carolina line.
From what observations we were capable of making it appeared as if the swamp had very little fall (I mean the waters out of the great swamp) into the heads of these rivers, which seems to be a demonstration that the swamp is much lower on the south and east sides, because it is well known that there is a pretty considerable fall on the west side through all the drains that make into Nansemond river and the western branch of Elizabeth, at the north end of the Dismal.1
Note. The Carolina line crosses the swamp in a west direction, and is 15 miles from the place where it enters to its coming out of the same near Brindle’s plantation.1 Flats and small craft load at North West Landing.
To the great bridge from North West landing is accounted 12 miles; the lands good, as they are on all this (east) side and highly esteemed, valued in general according to the proprietor’s own accounts from 20/ to £3. per acre, but we were told they were to be had for less. This great bridge is upon the south Branch of Elizabeth River and about 10 miles from Norfolk, and heads in the Dismal, as does likewise North West River, Paspetank, Little River and Pequemin.2
Note. From the River Bridge on Paspetank to the Great Bridge on South River the road runs nearly north, and from thence to Farley’s plantation it seems to be about west; from this again to Colonel Reddicks (or Suffolk) south west, and from thence to Pequemin bridge and Little River, south, as before mentioned.—The swamp bordering near to the road all the way round, in some places close adjoining and in others 2 and 3 miles distant.1
INSTRUCTIONS FOR MR. JAMES CLEVELAND.
10 January, 1775.
As I am resolved, if no unforeseen accident happens to prevent it, to have my people at work upon my lands on the Ohio, by the last day of March, no steps previous to this undertaking should be delayed, by which a disappointment must follow. I, therefore, knowing it will take some time to collect provisions, and tools to carry on this work, and that the transportation of them in the spring early over the Allegany Mountains may be attended with difficulty and uncertainty, do request and require you to go immediately over to Gilbert Simpson’s in the Redstone settlement, and there do, or attempt to do, the following things:—
First. Engage anywhere between one hundred and fifty and two hundred bushels of Indian corn, and to prevent disappointments, let it be actually lodged at Gilbert Simpson’s before the first day of March. Also engage upon the best terms you can to be delivered as aforesaid, about fifteen hundredweight of bacon; and desire Mr. Simpson by all means to have them securely lodged for you at his house by that time at furthest.
Second. Engage upon the best terms you can, such, and so many canoes, as are absolutely necessary to transport your provisions and tools down the river. And to avoid the expense of bags as much as possible, try if one of the canoes cannot be fitted up in such a manner as to carry your corn and bacon with the assistance of one or two only. Perhaps the canoes built for me last year may again be got. Speak to Major Crawford on this head.
Third. If Mr. Simpson has not already moved all the tools and necessaries which were carried out for me last spring, from Val. Crawford’s, let it be done as soon as you get out. Here with is a list of what he acknowledges he had left upon hand in September last, as also of what he carried out. Take an exact account of everything you find and have them secured at Mr. Simpson’s ready at your departure down the river. After which see what things you will want for your undertaking down the river, and then.
Fourth. Try if they are to be had out there, at what prices, and if you find the only difference to lie in the expense of the carriage out, endeavor to buy every thing you can want there, rather than run the hazard of sending them from hence in March, and have them lodged as above; for if you do not get every thing into his possession, you may more than probable depend upon promises, and be disappointed after your men are assembled and ready to start, which must occasion a delay, and of course a loss to me, not only of time, but in having men upon expence.
Fifth. It may not be amiss to engage potatoe seed, and such things, as will not only contribute to your better living, but will, in case corn should be found very scarce and difficult to be got make the less of it necessary; for I do expect that from the breaking up of the plantations last year, and the great number of people that will be going over this, that corn will be very scarce and exceeding dear. If you could get peach, or any other kind of fruit stones, or apple seeds, it would not be amiss to engage them to carry out with you.
Sixth. Inasmuch as both time and expences will be saved by engaging men in the Redstone settlement to go with you down the river, I would have you make diligent enquiry whether they are to be had, and upon what terms, and engage at least five upon the best terms you can, and have them bound in the articles given you. If you should meet with such people as you think will answer the purpose, in your own neighborhood or elsewhere, you might engage them, provided you can depend upon their going at the proper time and will transport themselves without any expence to me.
Seventh. If you can hire negro fellows, or choose to carry any of your own, upon the terms I mentioned to you, there will not in that case be occasion to hire so many white men as above (to wit, five). And as I am told that there are three of the servants which I sent out last spring still at Mr. Val. Crawford’s and his brother, Captain Crawford’s, ready to be employed in my service; you may direct them to stay where they are, and be ready again the 15th of March; or if Gilbert Simpson wants hands for my mill work, let them be employed (instead of hirelings) there, till the 15th of March aforesaid.
Eight. As the rest of the servants were sold, and the money by this time become due, I have desired Mr. Val. Crawford, if he has received it, to pay it to you; and if he has not, to let you have the purchaser’s bonds, which give to Mr. Simpson, and desire him to collect the money and apply it towards payment of the mill accounts. If you can get corn, or other provisions, tools, or other things of Val. Crawford, I would have you do it, as it will save me the payment of cash; but be sure to have the matter fixed in such a manner with him as to run no risque of a disappointment.
You may get corn and other things from Captain Crawford, in like manner; but that you may not depend too much upon these uncertain chances, I now furnish you with £60, Pennsylvania money, and whatever it falls short of the amount of your purchases I will supply when you go out again, that everybody may be paid for what you get of them.
As I must set off for the Assembly by the first of February, and shall want to see you before I go, I would have you endeavor [if] it can conveniently be done, to be down here by that time. I have nothing more to add at present than to wish you success in your journey, and am &c.
I earnestly recommend to you to follow after the people I have sent out as soon as you can do it with safety, as much depends upon making a proper beginning.
If you should not arrive at Gilbert Simpson’s till after William Stevens is gone with the people, provision, and tools, you will follow them by land and water, as you shall find it most convenient. I directed Stevens to leave his baggage horses there, in order that you might go by land if you chose it, as it would be the most expeditious way and you would want the horses on the land to draw in your logs, plow, and bring in your game.
If you should go by land, I shall have no objections to your buying and carrying two or three cows down with you, if they are to be had upon reasonable terms. If you should buy cows get a bull also, that the breed may be propagated. You will find a bell necessary for them, as also for the horses.
As you know the general plan and design of my seating these lands, I shall not hamper you with particular instructions, but leave you to be governed by circumstances. My first and indeed principal aim is, to save as much land as possible, in the shortest time and at the least expence. If this could be done in such a manner, and by such means, as to be serviceable hereafter, it would be so much the better; and for this reason it is, I shall leave you to act from circumstances.
It runs in my head, that if there is a good stream of water upon any of the tracts, and a convenient place out of the way of freshes, to build a mill, that this might be as good a method as any to save the land, provided an industrious millwright could be engaged, and there could be any certain prospect of getting iron work without much trouble or inconvenience.
When you see Stevens, call for the instructions I gave him, in order that you may see what is there required, and govern yourself thereby as nearly as circumstances will permit; for I do not mean to tie you down strictly to any certain rule, but to allow you to act in such a manner as shall appear most for my interest.
If you should find any of the white servants obstinate, and determined not to behave well, I hereby give you full power and authority to sell and dispose of them to the best advantage. I have given Stevens a description of each, that in case any should attempt to runaway, they may be advertised, and every pains taken to recover them that can be consistently.
Write to me by every opportunity, as it is very probable that not one letter in five will come to hand. Mention in all of them, therefore, what you want and how you go on.
After you have got a place inclosed, try and buy me all the buffalo calves you can get, and make them as gentle as possible. I would not stick at any reasonable price for them, especially the cow calves, but I should like at least two bull calves for fear of accidents, as I am very anxious to raise a breed of them.
Take the two servants from Major Crawford’s that he offered, if you find from their character that they will answer your purpose, and that they will be useful to you. If you get them, you may in my name, promise them a year of their time if they behave so as to deserve it.
TO JOHN WEST.
Mount Vernon, 13 January, 1775.
Your letter of the 8th, which is just handed to me, could not have given you more pain in writing, than it has given me in reading, because I never deny or even hesitate in granting any request, that is made to me, especially by persons I esteem, and in matters of moment, without feeling inexpressible uneasiness. I do not wonder at your solicitude on account of your only son. The nurturing and bringing him up in a proper course is, no doubt, an object of great concern to you, as well as importance to him; but two things are essentially necessary in the man to whom this charge is committed, a capacity of judging with propriety of measures proper to be taken in the government of a youth, and leisure sufficient to attend to the execution of these measures. That you are pleased to think favorably of me, in respect to the first, I shall take for granted, from the request you have made; but to show my incapacity of attending to the latter, with that good faith, which I think every man ought to use, who undertakes a trust of this interesting nature, I can solemnly declare to you, that, for a year or two past, there has been scarce a moment, that I could properly call my own. What with my own business, my present ward’s, my mother’s, which is wholly in my hands, Colonel Colvill’s, Mrs. Savage’s, Colonel Fairfax’s, Colonel Mercer’s, and the little assistance I have undertaken to give in the management of my brother Augustine’s concerns (for I have absolutely refused to qualify as an executor), together with the share I take in public affairs, I have been kept constantly engaged in writing letters, settling accounts, and negotiating one piece of business or another; by which means I have really been deprived of every kind of enjoyment, and had almost fully resolved to engage in no fresh matter, till I had entirely wound up the old.
Thus much, Sir, candor, indeed the principle of common honesty, obliged me to relate to you, as it is not my wish to deceive any person by promising what I do not think it in my power to perform with that punctuality and rectitude, which I conceive the nature of the trust would require. I do not, however, give a flat refusal to your request. I rather wish you to be fully informed of my situation, that you may think with me, or as I do, that, if it should please the Almighty to take you to himself as soon as you apprehend (but I hope without just cause), your son may be placed in better hands than mine. If you think otherwise, I will do the best I can, merely as a guardian.
You will act very prudently in having your will revised by some person skilled in the law, as a testator’s intentions are often defeated by different interpretations of statutes, which require the whole business of a man’s life to be perfectly conversant with them. I shall not, after what I have here said, add any thing more than my wishes, which are sincerely offered, for your recovery, and that you may live to see the accomplishment of your son’s education. With very great esteem, Sir, I am &c.1
TO JOHN CONNOLLY.
Mount Vernon, 25 February, 1775.
Your servant, on his return from Williamsburg, affords me occasion to answer your polite letter. I confess the state of affairs is sufficiently alarming; which our critical situation, with regard to the Indians does not diminish: but as you have wrote to Lord Dunmore, relative to the prisoners under your charge, there can be no doubt of his Lordship’s having now transmitted you the necessary directions on that subject. I have only to express my most ardent wishes that every measure, consistent with reason and sound policy, may be adopted to keep those people, at this time, in good humor; for another rupture would not only ruin the external, but internal parts of this government. If the journal of your proceedings in the Indian war is to be published, I shall have an opportunity of seeing what I have long coveted. With us here, things wear a disagreeable aspect; and the minds of men are exceedingly disturbed at the measures of the British government. The King’s Speech and Address of both Houses, prognosticate nothing favorable to us; but by some subsequent proceedings thereto, as well as by private letters from London, there is reason to believe the ministry would willingly change their ground, from a conviction the forcible measures will be inadequate to the end designed.) A little time must now unfold the mystery, as matters are drawing to a point. I am &c.1
TO JNO. WASHINGTON.
Mount Vernon 6th Mar 1775
Mr. Fitzhugh delivered me your favr of the 13th ulto. on Tuesday last—but as I received it on the Road, I could not answer it by him, & wish it was in my power to do it satisfactorily now— So far am I from having £200 to lend, that, involved as I am with one expence and another particularly on a very heavy charge of Seating my Lands over the Alligany Mountains in order to comply with the conditions of the Grant. I would gladly borrow that Sum myself for a few months, so exceeding difficult do I find it, under the present scarcity of cash to collect enough to answer this emergency & at the same time comply with my other engagements— This information you may rely on as a fact from Dr Sir &c.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR WILLIAM STEVENS.
6 March, 1775.
As Mr. James Cleveland, whom I have employed to take charge of my business upon the Ohio, is rendered unable at this time by sickness, to proceed out with my People, I must commit the care & management of them, & the business to you, till he can follow, or till you can hear further from me.
Proceed therefore, without any unnecessary loss of time, to Mr. Gilbert Simpson’s on Youghiogany, where I expect Provision’s are laid In, & where Majr. Crawford will have in readiness Tools, & Canoes ready to transport you down the River—do not delay one moment longer than you can help in that Settlement, but set out with all your necessaries by Water for the great Kanhawa—Your Provisions will go in Casks which are provided for the purpose; but the two Horses which are sent for the purpose of drawing in your Logs, fetching in your Provisions, & tending your Corn when they can be spared from other business, must be sent down by Land in the manner which shall appear most advisable to you at Simpson’s.—
The Land you are to go to, lays on the great Kanhawa on the lower or Right hand side as you go up it—the Tract begins abt two Miles from the Mouth of that River and runs up the same, binding therewith, for Seventeen Miles—you may begin your Improvements therefore in any part, but nearest the middle (for fear of getting of it) would be best if you can carry on your works to equal advantage to do wch you should examine the Bottoms well to see where you can clear most in the shortest time.
So soon as you have pitchd upon the Spot to begin your Improvements on, use every diligence in your power to get as much Land as possible ready for Corn, & continue planting, even with the rare ripe Corn, as long as you think it shall have time to come to perfection. You may, in the meanwhile, be putting up Houses for the convenience of yourselves to live in, but do not spend any time in fencing in the Field till it is too late to Plant, as the Corn can take no injury till some time after it is up which will be time enough to begin Fencing.
After the Season is too far advanced for Planting, and you have Inclosed the Field—you are then to go to such other kinds of Improvements as will go the furthest in saving the Land—that is, you are to build—to clear—to Fence—to drain—or do any thing else agreeable to the Act of Assembly which will be highest valued in proportion to the work, & the time spent thereon; & I have a notion that draining will be found among the most profitable things you can do—but as it is impossible for me to judge, at this distance, you must be governd by Circumstances, and your own judgment which I hope will be employed as much as possible for my Interest.
Consult Major Crawford about a Hunter & endeavr to secure a good one upon the best terms you can to attend you—this Hunter might, probably, be a proper Person to take the Horses down.—
I do not know that any of the white servants will attempt to run away from you, but to guard against it as much as possible keep a strict watch, & as soon as you have got to the Land draw your Canoes (without telling them the reason of it) quite up the Bank & cover them to prevent the sun from splitting them.
In the Keg with the Lead, there is a Canister of Peach-stone Kernals (near 2000) let them be planted in Drills as soon as you get to the Land, & fixed upon a Place for a Plantation,—also Plant Potatoes—Pease & every thing of that kind in their proper seasons, if you can get them to carry with you—and if you could get 1 Boor, & 2 Sow pigs to carry with you it would be a good thing.
As you will be under a necessity of depending upon hand Mill stones for meal (a pair of which are provided at Mr. Simpson’s) you should take care to be provided with peck to keep them in order,—also with a grind stone for your Tools.
I have no reason to doubt, but that you will find every thing provided at Simpsons by the time you get out—if however it should turn out otherwise,—I hope Majr. Crawford will give you all the assistance he can in getting what is wanted as it will be a folly to go down without,—get 2 light fluke Plows.
Leave with Gilbert Simpson an exact list of every thing you carry down the River, though never so trifling, for Mr. Cleveland, that he may know what you have & see if any thing further is necessary for him to provide.—Endeavour to make the Servants and Negroes take care of their Cloathes & have them mended when wanted.
I give you a description of each Servant—if any of them should Run away, advertize a good reward to any one that will bring them to you, to me, or Majr. Crawford.
Take great care of your Tools, that none are lost, or left as you go along down—Take care also that you have full enough of them for your hands; if to spare, so much the better, as I shall probably send out more hands some time hence. Keep a list therefore of the quantity you have, & call them over frequently.—After you have built a House for yourselves, there might also be one built to lock yr Provisions, Tools &c., up in.
I cannot pretend to say with certainty, when I shall be with you; but hope it may happen in May—if not in May it shall be as soon after as I can make it convenient—nor can I judge with any certainty how long it will take you to save that Tract on the great Kanhawa, which you are to go first to, as it contains 10,990 acres; but the Buildings and other Improvements ought to be valued (at any rate) before you go to the next Tract or rather return to it, as it lyes on the Ohio, three or four miles above the Rapid, at the great Bent in the Ohio (which is 30 odd miles above the mouth of the great Kanhawa) this is the next 4395 acre tract I shall Improve, & Lyes in Bottetourt County, as the large one of 10,990 acres does in Fincastle County.
I give you Money to bear your Expences out, and hope, and beg that you will use as much frugality in Travelling as possible,—keep an exact Acct. of your Expences that you may be able to settle with me when we meet, or with Mr. Cleveland in my behalf.
I would have you, as it is as good a way as any, go by Mr. Cleveland’s House, & if he is well enough to give it, take his advise about your conduct, if he thinks he shall be able to follow you in any reasonable time, perhaps it may be necessary to leave the Horses at Gilbert Simpson’s for him & the Negro that is run away to come after you by Land, & to drive two or three Cows out, if to be had from the Red Stone settlement.
Sow the Turnep seed which you carry as soon as you can with safety—and endeavour to provide Water-Mellon seed—Cucumbers—& every kind of seed which will serve to make your Corn &cc hold out at the same time that it adds to your good Living.
Get three or 4 good strong padlocks at Leesburg & as many strong Lines for Fishing, as Fish will be a great help to you.
Get Paper at Leesburg, and write frequently to me how you go on, as Letters are very apt to miscarry.
I wish you well & that success may attend you, & am &c.1
TO JOHN AUGUSTINE WASHINGTON.
Richmond, 25 March, 1775.
Mr. Smith delivered me your letter of the 16th instant, but as one is generally in a hurry and bustle in such places, and at such times, as these, I have only time to acknowledge it, and add, that it would have given me pleasure to have met you here. I shall refer you to Mr. Smith for an account of our proceedings up to this day, and you cannot fail of learning the rest from the Squire, who delights in the minutiæ of a tale. I am in doubt whether we shall finish here this week; but as I shall delay little time on the road in returning, I shall hope to see you on your way up, or down, from Berkeley. I am much obliged to you for the holly-berries and cotton-seed. My love to my sister and the children.
I had like to have forgot to express my entire approbation of the laudable pursuit you are engaged in, of training an independent company. I have promised to review the independent company of Richmond some time this summer, they having made me a tender of the command of it. At the same time I could review yours, and shall very cheerfully accept the honor of commanding it, if occasion require it to be drawn out, as it is my full intention to devote my life and fortune in the cause we are engaged in, if needful.
I remain, dear Sir, your most affectionate brother.
TO LORD DUNMORE.
Mount Vernon, 3d April 1775.
At second hand, I learnt from Captain Floyd, that the Surveys made by Mr. Crawford under the Proclamation of 1754 (expressly agreeable to an order of Council of the 15th of December, 1769), and for which your Lordships Patents under the Seal of the Colony, hath actually been obtained, are now declared null and void.—The information appearing altogether incredible, I gave little attention to it, ’till I saw Mr. Wilper on friday last, who, in confirmation of the report, added, that all the patentees (whom he had seen) under that Proclamation, were exceedingly distressed and at a loss, to know what to think of it, or how to act in a case so uncommon, this therefore has caused me to give your Lordship the trouble of a Letter on the occasion, convinced as I am, of your inclination to hear, and disposition to redress, any just cause of complaint, which may be submitted to your decision.—In pursuit of this enquiry, my Lord, which becomes highly interesting to me, as well as others, to make, I shall beg leave to lay a short state of our case before your Lordship in order to shew (if the information be true), for I confess I look’d upon it at first as a move only of the Surveyors to filtch a little more money from us, the peculiar hardship of our situation if we are to encounter fresh difficulties in search of Lands which in my humble opinion has already involved us in expence and trouble, which ought to have been avoided.
I shall not presume, my Lord, to ask a patient hearing of the reasons which induced Mr. Dinwiddie to issue the Proclamation of 1754;—the proclamation itself is sufficiently declaratory of them and, being an act of public notoriety, the utility of which was well known at the time of its promulgation, and as universally acknowledged to be just; I shall say nothing thereon; nor shall I undertake to prove how well men; at very small daily pay, were entitled to this testimony of his Majesty’s bounty; the experience your Lordship has lately had of a warfare in that country affords a recent instance of the hardship and difficulty which the first troops had in exploring a trackless way over those great ridges of mountains between Fort Cumberland and Pittsburgh, and making roads for the armies which afterwards followed, and in which they joined. But I will take the liberty humbly to represent, that instead of having extraordinary difficulties thrown in our way, we were in my opinion entitled, as well from the spirit, as the express words of the Proclamation, above mentioned, to the Lands free of all costs and trouble, for the truth of which, I should have no scruple in appealing to your Lordship’s candor, if you would take the trouble of reading the Proclamation, wherein (after setting forth the necessity of raising Troops) are these words;— “For an encouragement to all who shall voluntarily enter into the said service. I do hereby notify and promise, by and with the advice and consent of his Majesty’s Council of this Colony, that over & above their pay 200,000 acres of His Majesty, the King of Great Britain’s Lands, on the east side of the River Ohio, within this Dominion (100,000 acres to be contiguous to the said Fort, and the other 100,000 acres, to be on or near the River Ohio) shall be laid off, & granted to such persons who by their voluntary engagement and good behavior in the said service; shall deserve the same; and I further promise that the said Lands shall be divided amongst them immediately after the performance of the said service,” &c.—Is it not to be inferred, my Lord, from the natural import of these words, that the Lands were to be laid off for, and divided amongst the grantees, without involving them in either trouble or expence? Nothing, in my humble opinion, is more self-evident. But they finding that the most valuable part of their Grant, (respecting the location) was actually preoccupied—that Emigrants were spreading fast over that country,—and that the same difficulties might arise in other quarters and contests ensue; application was made for liberty to make our own surveys, and a District assigned for it, at least 200 miles from any settlement—unexplored by any County-Surveyor, unknown in whose districts it lay, if it lay in any, as the jurisdiction of no county had extended within the number of miles above mentioned;—and but few men at that early day, hardy enough to undertake a work, in a wilderness where none but savages & wild beasts inhabited.—I say, under these circumstances, application was made for a special surveyor, and an order of Council obtained in the following words:—
“The Council also advised that Colo. Washington should apply to the President & Masters of the College requesting them to nominate & appoint a person properly qualified to survey the said Land with all possible expedition, signifying to them that their compliance herein will be agreeable to this Board.”
In consequence of this order, & of Capt. Crawford’s qualification as a Surveyor, he was appointed to run out this 200,000 acres of Land; and having given Bond in the usual & accustomed form, to the College proceeded to the business, and making his returns to the Secretary’s office, Patents have been issued under your Lordships signature & the seal of the Colony, ever since the first of December 1773. Would it not be exceedingly hard then, my Lord, under these circumstances—at this late day—after we had proceeded in all respects agreeably to the orders of Government, and after many of us have been run to great & considerable expence, to declare that the Surveys are invalid? It appears in so uncommon a light to me, that I hardly know yet how to persuade myself into a belief of the reallity of it, nor should I have given your Lordship any trouble on the subject at this time, but for the importunity of others, and from a desire (as I shall leave home the first of May) of knowing if the account be true, what steps the grantees, under the afore-mentioned Proclamation, are further to take.
I beg your Lordships excuse for the length and freedom of this epistle. I am persuaded you possess too much candour yourself to be offended at it in others, in relating of facts, especially, as I profess myself to be, with the utmost respect, etc.1
Mount Vernon, 5 April, 1775.
My Letter of the 4th of December to Colo. Mercer (dispatched by the first opportunity that offered after the close of his Sales) would inform you of the total amount thereof; & that the contest between Miss Wroughton and Messrs. Dick & Hunter, respecting a preference of Mortgages, would, more than probable, be avoided.
I have now to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of the 29th of August, & to acquaint you, that the packet herewith sent to Colo Mercer, contains such papers & documents as are necessary to give the fullest information of the state of his affairs in this country; which, circumstances considered, have turned out infinitely beyond my expectation, or the expectation of every one who bestow’d any thought upon them. I shall not therefore, at this time, trouble you either with a recital or copies of those papers, but add, that I have directed the Attorney General (Mr. Randolph) who was retained as Counsel for Colo. Mercer & his mortgages to appeal from any decision which might even appear to give Messrs. Dicks and Hunter’s trust-Deed the preference, to Miss Wroughton’s Mortgage; for as to Mr. Gravat’s, it is entirely out of the question, no person disputing the validity of his mortgage. Mr. James Mercer, in a Letter which I received from him some time ago, proposed a matter, which if acceded to, might ultimately secure Miss Wroughton, and put an end to all controversy respecting the mortgage. I shall communicate the proposal in his own words, as follows;
“It appears to me to be yet of some consequence to Messrs. Dick & Hunter, if they are postpon’d to Miss Wroughton,—tho’ none to Miss Wroughton—in this way—if they are postpon’d, and the purchasers are not punctual, they will not receive their money but out of the last payments, by which Mr. Dick may be greatly affected; for in the mean time his Estate may be seized, & sold for half its value. As Miss Wroughton cannot want all her money at once, & will be sufficiently secured; I could wish she wou’d consent to let the Speaker’s Debt be paid, next, after she will receive £1,000.—Cou’d this be granted I shall not dispute her preference. My answer shews how much this Debt is—if she will consent, I will guarantee her Debt, or let her have a preference. Pray be so kind as to mention this to Mr. Montague.”
After considering this proposal, you will be so good Sir, as to let me know Miss Wroughton’s sentiments thereon, that I may communicate them to Mr. Mercer, & conform to them myself.
It gives me much pain to find two Gentln brothers, who individually stand high in the esteem of their countrymen, imbibing unfavorable impressions, and, to their joint Friends, mu[tu]ally arraigning the conduct of each other, when I am satisfied that both think themselves right, and that neither hath made proper allowance for the situation of the other. At Colo. Mercer’s request, I propounded the queries he transmitted, to his Brother, whose answers, in a letter to me, are forwarded to him; but these things only serve to irritate; for as I am thoroughly satisfied on the one hand, that Colo. Mercer has advanced nothing to you, or Mr. Gravat, but what was perfectly consistent with his Ideas of truth & justice:—so on the other, I am as well persuaded, that Mr. James Mercer hath not intentionally wronged him of a farthing; & yet appearances may be against him, for want of a thorough knowledge of his situation, & the motives which influenced his conduct.—That Colo. Mercer has been a considerable loser in the management of his Estate here, nobody will deny; but has not every gentleman in this country, whose other avocations, or whose inclinations would not permit them, to devote a large portion of their time & attention to the management of their own Estates, shared the same fate? Our Gazettes afford but too many melancholy proofs of it in the sales which are daily advertised; the nature of a Virginia Estate being such, that without close application, it never fails bringing the proprietors in Debt annually, as Negroes must be clothed & fed, taxes paid, &c, &c, whether anything is made or not:—but Colo. Mercer must, I think; have been well acquainted with two facts, namely, that his brother had neither leisure, nor a competent knowledge of plantation business, to become a fit person to undertake it,—and, that Steward’s (in this country at least) far removed from the inspection of a Superior, are scarce ever to be entrusted.—But all this is foreign from the main purpose of my letter and is an evil out of the power of poor Mercer or his friends to remedy, at this day; the uneasiness I feel at seeing two Brothers, accustomed to live in perfect amity, now bickering & accusing each other of hardships occasioned by the other, led me into this digression, for which I ask your pardon.
I hope this Letter will find you in a better state of health than your last describes, & with esteem & respect, &c.
Mount Vernon 5 April—1775.
I enclose you a copy of my last letter of the 4th of December, and an account of the proceedings of the Convention held at Richmond the 20th ulto. A great number of very good companies were raised in many counties in this Colony, before it was recommended to them by the Convention, & are now in excellent training1 ; the people being resolved, altho’ they wish for nothing, more ardently, than a happy & lasting reconciliation with the parent State, not to purchase it at the expence of their liberty, & the sacred compacts of Governments.—When you see my old friend Colo. Stewart, be pleased to present my warmest wishes to him, and assure him, that having received no answer to several letters I had written, I concluded that he must either be dead—removed out of the reach of my letters, or had forgot there was such a person in existence as myself. To the best of my recollection I have never received a line from him since his first leaving Jamaica or immediately upon his arrival in London from that Island; Since which I have, as above, wrote several times, without ever learning with certainty where he was fixed, or in what Line he walked. I am, &c.
Fairfax County, April 23, 1775.
Forty Dollars Reward. Ran away from the subscriber, on the 19th instant, at night, two servant men, viz. Thomas Spears, a joiner, born in Bristol, about 20 years of age, 5 feet 6 inches and a half high, slender made. He has light grey or blueish colored eyes, a little pock marked, and freckled, with sandy colored hair, cut short; his voice is coarse, and somewhat drawlling. He took with him a coat, waistcoat, and breeches, of light brown duffil, with black horn buttons, a light colored cloth waistcoat, old leather breeches, check and oznabrig shirts, a pair of new milled yarn stockings, a pair of old ribbed ditto, new oznabrig trowsers, and a felt hat, not much the worse for wear. William Webster, a brickmaker, born in Scotland, and talks pretty broad. He is about 5 feet 6 inches high, and well made, rather turned of 30, with light brown hair, and roundish face. He had an olive colored coat, pretty much worn, with black horn buttons, duffil waistcoat and breeches (same as Spears’s) oznabrig trousers, and check and oznabrig shirts. They went off in a small yawl, with turpentine sides and bottom, the inside painted with a mixture of tar and red lead. Masters of vessels are cautioned against receiving of them; and the above reward is offered to any person who will deliver them at my dwelling-house in this county, or twenty dollars for each from
TO GEORGE WILLIAM FAIRFAX, ENGLAND.
Philadelphia, 31 May, 1775.2
Before this letter will come to hand, you must undoubtedly have received an account of the engagement in the Massachusetts Bay, between the ministerial troops (for we do not, nor can we yet prevail upon ourselves to call them the King’s troops), and the provincials of that government. But as you may not have heard how that affair began, I enclose you the several affidavits, which were taken after the action.
General Gage acknowledges, that the detachment under Lieutenant-Colonel Smith was sent out to destroy private property; or, in other words, to destroy a magazine, which self-preservation obliged the inhabitants to establish. And he also confesses, in effect at least, that his men made a very precipitate retreat from Concord, notwithstanding the reinforcement under Lord Percy; the last of which may serve to convince Lord Sandwich, and others of the same sentiment, that the Americans will fight for their liberties and property, however pusillanimous in his Lordship’s eye they may appear in other respects.
From the best accounts I have been able to collect of that affair, indeed from every one, I believe the fact, stripped of all coloring, to be plainly this, that, if the retreat had not been as precipitate as it was, and God knows it could not well have been more so, the ministerial troops must have surrendered, or been totally cut off. For they had not arrived in Charlestown (under cover of their ships) half an hour, before a powerful body of men from Marblehead and Salem was at their heels, and must, if they had happened to be up one hour sooner, inevitably have intercepted their retreat to Charlestown. Unhappy it is, though, to reflect, that a brother’s sword has been sheathed in a brother’s breast, and that the once happy and peaceful plains of America are either to be drenched with blood or inhabited by slaves. Sad alternative! But can a virtuous man hesitate in his choice?
I am with sincere regard, and affectionate compliments to Mrs. Fairfax, dear Sir, your &c.1
ACCEPTANCE OF APPOINTMENT.
On the 15 June, 1775, Congress having resolved “That a general be appointed to command all the continental forces raised or to be raised for the defence of American liberty,” proceeded to a choice, and the ballots being taken, George Washington, esq., was unanimously elected.
On the day following the president informed Mr. Washington that Congress had unanimously made choice of him to be general and commander-in-chief of the American forces and requested he would accept that employment, to which Mr. W., standing in his place, answered:
Though I am truly sensible of the high honor done me in this appointment, yet I feel great distress from a consciousness that my abilities and military experience may not be equal to the extensive and important trust. However, as the Congress desire it, I will enter upon the momentous duty and exert every power I possess in the service and for support of the glorious cause. I beg they will accept my most cordial thanks for this distinguished testimony of their approbation. But lest some unlucky event should happen unfavourable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room, that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.
As to pay, Sir, I beg leave to assure the Congress, that as no pecuniary consideration could have tempted me to accept this arduous employment at the expense of my domestic ease and happiness, I do not wish to make any profit from it. I will keep an exact account of my expenses. Those I doubt not they will discharge, and that is all I desire.1
COMMISSION AS COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF.*
The delegates of the United Colonies of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New-York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Castle, Kent & Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
To George Washington Esquire.
We reposing especial trust and confidence in your patriotism, conduct and fidelityDoby these presents constitute and appoint you to be General and Commander in Chief of the Army of the United Colonies and of all the forces raised or to be raised by them and of all others who shall voluntary offer their service and join the said army for the defence of American Liberty and for repelling every hostile invasion thereof.Andyou are hereby vested with full power and authority to act as you shall think for the good and welfare of the service.
And we do hereby strictly charge and require all officers and soldiers under your command to be obedient to your orders & diligent in the exercise of their several duties.
And we do also enjoin and require you to be careful in executing the great trust reposed in you, by causing strict discipline and order to be observed in the army and that the soldiers are duly exercised and provided with all convenient necessaries.
And you are to regulate your conduct in every respect by the rules and discipline of war (as herewith given you) and punctually to observe and follow such orders and directions from time to time as you shall receive from this or a future Congress of the said United Colonies or a committee of Congress for that purpose appointed.
This Commissionto continue in force until revoked by this or a future Congress.
Dated,PhiladelphiaJune 19th 1775.
TO MRS. MARTHA WASHINGTON.
Philadelphia, 18 June, 1775.
I am now set down to write to you on a subject, which fills me with inexpressible concern, and this concern is greatly aggravated and increased, when I reflect upon the uneasiness I know it will give you. It has been determined in Congress, that the whole army raised for the defence of the American cause shall be put under my care, and that it is necessary for me to proceed immediately to Boston to take upon me the command of it.
You may believe me, my dear Patsy, when I assure you, in the most solemn manner, that, so far from seeking this appointment, I have used every endeavor in my power to avoid it, not only from my unwillingness to part with you and the family, but from a consciousness of its being a trust too great for my capacity, and that I should enjoy more real happiness in one month with you at home, than I have the most distant prospect of finding abroad, if my stay were to be seven times seven years. But as it has been a kind of destiny, that has thrown me upon this service, I shall hope that my undertaking it is designed to answer some good purpose. You might, and I suppose did perceive, from the tenor of my letters, that I was apprehensive I could not avoid this appointment, as I did not pretend to intimate when I should return. That was the case. It was utterly out of my power to refuse this appointment, without exposing my character to such censures, as would have reflected dishonor upon myself, and given pain to my friends. This, I am sure, could not, and ought not, to be pleasing to you, and must have lessened me considerably in my own esteem. I shall rely, therefore, confidently on that Providence, which has heretofore preserved and been bountiful to me, not doubting but that I shall return safe to you in the fall. I shall feel no pain from the toil or the danger of the campaign; my unhappiness will flow from the uneasiness I know you will feel from being left alone. I therefore beg, that you will summon your whole fortitude, and pass your time as agreeably as possible. Nothing will give me so much sincere satisfaction as to hear this, and to hear it from your own pen. My earnest and ardent desire is, that you would pursue any plan that is most likely to produce content, and a tolerable degree of tranquillity; as it must add greatly to my uneasy feelings to hear, that you are dissatisfied or complaining at what I really could not avoid.
As life is always uncertain, and common prudence dictates to every man the necessity of settling his temporal concerns, while it is in his power, and while the mind is calm and undisturbed, I have, since I came to this place (for I had not time to do it before I left home) got Colonel Pendleton1 to draft a will for me, by the directions I gave him, which will I now enclose. The provision made for you in case of my death will, I hope, be agreeable.
I shall add nothing more, as I have several letters to write, but to desire that you will remember me to your friends, and to assure you that I am, with the most unfeigned regard, my dear Patsy, your affectionate, &c.
TO JOHN PARKE CUSTIS.
Philadelphia, 19 June, 1775.
I have been called upon by the unanimous voice of the colonies to take the command of the continental army. It is an honor I neither sought after, or was by any means fond of accepting, from a consciousness of my own inexperience and inability to discharge the duties of so important a trust. However, as the partiality of the Congress has placed me in this distinguished point of view, I can make them no other return but what will flow from close attention and upright intention—for the rest I can say nothing. My great concern upon this occasion is, the thought of leaving your mother under the uneasiness which I fear this affair will throw her into; I therefore hope, expect, and indeed have no doubt, of your using every means in your power to keep up her spirits, by doing everything in your power to promote her quiet. I have, I must confess, very uneasy feelings on her account, but as it has been a kind of unavoidable necessity which has led me into this appointment, I shall more readily hope that success will attend it and crown our meetings with happiness.
At any time, I hope it is unnecessary for me to say, that I am always pleased with yours and Nelly’s abidance at Mount Vernon; much less upon this occasion, when I think it absolutely necessary for the peace and satisfaction of your mother; a consideration which I have no doubt will have due weight with you both, and require no arguments to enforce.
As the public gazettes will convey every article of intelligence that I could communicate in this letter, I shall not repeat them, but with love to Nelly, and sincere regard for yourself, I remain, &c.
P. S.—Since writing the foregoing, I have received your letter of the fifteenth instant. I am obliged to you for the intelligence therein contained, and am glad you directed about the tobacco, for I had really forgot it. You must now take upon yourself the entire management of your own estate, it will no longer be in my power to assist you, nor is there any occasion for it, as you have never discovered a disposition to put it to a bad use.
The Congress, for I am at liberty to say as much, are about to strike two millions of dollars as a continental currency, for the support of the war, as Great Britain seems determined to enforce us into—and there will be at least fifteen thousand raised as a continental army. As I am exceedingly hurried; I can add no more at present than that I am, &c.
TO COLONEL BASSETT.
Philadelphia, 19 June, 1775.
I am now Imbarked on a tempestuous ocean, from whence perhaps no friendly harbor is to be found. I have been called upon by the unanimous voice of the Colonies to the command of the Continental Army. It is an honor I by no means aspired to. It is an honor I wished to avoid, as well from an unwillingness to quit the peaceful enjoyment of my Family, as from a thorough conviction of my own Incapacity & want of experience in the conduct of so momentous a concern; but the partiallity of the Congress, added to some political motives, left me without a choice. May God grant, therefore, that my acceptance of it, may be attended with some good to the common cause, & without injury (from want of knowledge) to my own reputation. I can answer but for three things: a firm belief of the justice of our cause, close attention in the prosecution of it, and the strictest Integrity. If these cannot supply the place of ability & Experience, the cause will suffer, & more than probable my character along with it, as reputation derives its principal support from success; but it will be remembered, I hope, that no desire or insinuation of mine placed me in this situation. I shall not be deprived, therefore, of a comfort in the worst event, if I retain a consciousness of having acted to the best of my judgment.
I am at liberty to tell you that the Congress, in committee (which will I dare say be agreed to when reported), have consented to a Continental Currency, and have ordered two million of dollars to be struck for payment of the Troops and other expenses arising from our defence, as also that 15,000 men are voted as a Continental army, which will I dare-say be augmented, as more Troops are imbarked & Imbarking for America than was expected at the time of passing that vote. As to other articles of Intelligence I must refer you to the Gazette, as the Printers pick up every thing that is stirring in that way. The other Officers in the higher departments are not yet fixed, therefore I cannot give you their names. I set out to-morrow for Boston, where I shall always be glad to hear from you. My best wishes attend Mrs. Bassett, Mrs. Dandridge, & all our relations & friends. In great haste, as I have many letters to write, and other business to do. I remain with the sincerest regards, Dear Sir, &c.
P.S. I must entreat you and Mrs. Bassett if possible to visit at Mt. Vernon, as also my wife’s other friends. I could wish you to take her down, as I have no expectation of returning till winter & feel great uneasiness at her lonesome situation. I have sent my Chariot & Horses back.
TO THE CAPTAINS OF SEVERAL INDEPENDENT COMPANIES IN VIRGINIA.
Philadelphia, 20 June, 1775.
I am now about to bid adieu to the companies under your respective commands, at least for a while. I have launched into a wide and extensive field, too boundless for my abilities, and far, very far, beyond my experience. I am called, by the unanimous voice of the Colonies, to the command of the Continental army; an honor I did not aspire to; an honor I was solicitous to avoid, upon a full conviction of my inadequacy to the importance of the service. The partiality of the Congress, however, assisted by a political motive, rendered my reasons unavailing, and I shall to-morrow set out for the camp near Boston.
I have only to beg of you, therefore, before I go, (especially as you did me the honor to put your companies under my direction, and know not how soon you may be called upon in Virginia for an exertion of your military skill,) by no means to relax in the discipline of your respective companies.1
I have the honor to be, &c.
TO JOHN AUGUSTINE WASHINGTON.
Philadelphia, 20 June, 1775.
I am now to bid adieu to you, and to every kind of domestic ease, for a while. I am embarked on a wide ocean, boundless in its prospect, and in which, perhaps, no safe harbor is to be found. I have been called upon by the unanimous voice of the Colonies to take the command of the Continental army; an honor I neither sought after, nor desired, as I am thoroughly convinced, that it requires greater abilities and much more experience, than I am master of, to conduct a business so extensive in its nature, and arduous in the execution. But the partiality of the Congress, joined to a political motive, really left me without a choice; and I am now commissioned a General and Commander-in-chief of all the forces now raised, or to be raised, for the defence of the United Colonies. That I may discharge the trust to the satisfaction of my employers, is my first wish; that I shall aim to do it, there remains as little doubt of. How far I may succeed, is another point; but this I am sure of, that, in the worst event, I shall have the consolation of knowing, if I act to the best of my judgment, that the blame ought to lodge upon the appointers, not the appointed, as it was by no means a thing of my own seeking, or proceeding from any hint of my friends.
I am at liberty to inform you, that the Congress, in a committee, (which will I dare say be agreed to when reported,) have consented to a Continental currency, have ordered two millions of dollars to be struck for payment of the troops, &c., and have voted fifteen thousand men as a Continental army, which number will be augmented, as the strength of the British troops will be greater than was expected at the time of passing that vote. General Ward, General Lee, General Schuyler, and General Putnam are appointed Major-Generals under me. The Brigadier-Generals are not yet appointed. Major Gates [is made] Adjutant-General.1 I expect to set out tomorrow for Boston, and hope to be joined there in a little time by ten companies of riflemen from this province, Maryland, and Virginia. For other articles of intelligence, I shall refer you to the papers, as the printers are diligent in collecting every thing that is stirring.
I shall hope that my friends will visit and endeavor to keep up the spirits of my wife, as much as they can, as my departure will, I know, be a cutting stroke upon her; and on this account alone I have many very disagreeable sensations. I hope you and my sister, (although the distance is great,) will find as much leisure this summer as to spend a little time at Mount Vernon.
My sincere regards attend you both, and the little ones, and I am your most affectionate brother.
TO THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS.
New York 24th  June 1775.1
The Rain on Friday afternoon and Saturday the advice of several Gentlemen of the Jerseys and this city, by no means to cross Hudson’s River at the lower Ferry and some other occurrences too trivial to mention (which happened on the Road) prevented my arrival at this place until the afternoon of this day. In the morning, after giving General Schuyler such orders, as, from the result of my Inquiry into matters here, appear necessary, I shall set out on my Journey to the Camp at Boston and shall proceed with all the dispatch in my Power. Powder is so essential an Article that I cannot help again repeating the necessity of a supply. The Camp at Boston from the best accounts I can get from thence, is but very poorly supplied. At this place they have scarce any. how they are provided in General Wooster’s Camp I have not been able yet to learn.1
Governor Tryon is arrived and General Schuyler directed to advise you of the line of conduct he moves in. I fear it will not be very favourable to the American cause. I have only to add that I am with the greatest respect and regard.
TO THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS.
New York Sunday 24  June 1775 5 o’Clock P M
Upon my Arrival here this Afternoon I was inform’d that an Express was in town from the provincial Camp in Massachusets Bay, and having seen among other papers in his possession a Letter directed to you as president of Congress I have taken the Liberty to open it.
I was induced to take that Liberty by several Gentlemen of New York who were anxious to know the particulars of the Affair of the 17th Inst and agreeable to the Orders of many members of the Congress who judged it necessary that I should avail myself of the best Information in the Course of my Journey.
You will find Sir by that Letter a great want of Powder in the provincial army; which I sincerely hope the Congress will supply as speedily & as effectually as in their Power.
One thousand pounds in Wt were sent to the Camp at Cambridge three days ago from this City; which has left this Place almost destitute of that necessary article; there being at this Time from the best Information not more than four Bbs of powder in the City of N York.
I propose to sett off for the provincial Camp to morrow and will use all possible Dispatch to join the Forces there.
Please to make my Compliments to the Gentlemen the Congress.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL PHILIP SCHUYLER.
New York, 25 June, 1775.
You are to take upon you the command of all the troops destined for the New York department, and see that the orders of the Continental Congress are carried into execution, with as much precision and exactness as possible. For your better government therein, you are herewith furnished with a copy of the instructions given to me by that honorable body. Such parts thereof as are within the line of your duty, you will please to pay particular attention to. Delay no time in occupying the several posts, recommended by the Provincial Congress of this colony, and putting them in a fit posture to answer the end designed; neither delay any time in securing the stores, which are, or ought to have been, removed from this city by order of the Continental Congress.
Keep a watchful eye upon Governor Tryon, and, if you find him attempting, directly or indirectly, any measures inimical to the common cause, use every means in your power to frustrate his designs.1 It is not in my power, at this time, to point out the mode by which this end is to be accomplished; but if forcible measures are judged necessary, (respecting the person of the Governor,) I should have no difficulty in ordering of them, if the Continental Congress was not sitting; but as this is the case, [and] the seizing of governors quite a new thing, and of exceeding great importance, I must refer you to that body for direction, if the Governor should make any move towards increasing the strength of the Tory party, or in arming them against the cause we are embarked in. In like manner, watch the movements of the Indian Agent, (Colonel Guy Johnson,) and prevent, as far as you can, the effect of his influence to our prejudice with the Indians.1 Obtain the best information you can of the temper and disposition of those people, and also of the Canadians, that a proper line may be marked out to conciliate their good opinion, or facilitate any future operation.
The posts on Lake Champlain, &c., you will please to have properly supplied with provisions and ammunition; and this I am persuaded you will aim at doing on the best terms, to prevent our good cause from sinking under a heavy load of expense. You will be pleased, also, to make regular returns to me once a month, and to the Continental Congress, and oftener as occurrences may require, of the forces under your command, of your provisions, stores, &c., and give me the earliest advices of every piece of intelligence, which you shall judge of importance to be speedily known. Your own good sense must govern in all matters not particularly pointed out, as I do not wish to circumscribe you within narrow limits. I am Sir, &c.2
ANSWER TO AN ADDRESS OF THE NEW YORK PROVINCIAL CONGRESS.1
New York, 26 June, 1775.
At the same time that with you I deplore the unhappy necessity of such an appointment, as that with which I am now honored, I cannot but feel sentiments of the highest gratitude for this affecting instance of distinction and regard.
May your warmest wishes be realized in the success of America, at this important and interesting period; and be assured, that every exertion of my worthy colleagues and myself will be equally extended to the reëstablishment of peace and harmony between the mother country and these colonies, as to the fatal but necessary operations of war. When we assumed the soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen; and we shall most sincerely rejoice with you in that happy hour, when the establishment of American liberty, on the most firm and solid foundations, shall enable us to return to our private stations in the bosom of a free, peaceful, and happy country. I am, &c.
end of vol. ii.
[1 ]The commercial possibilities of the great Dismal Swamp in Norfolk County, Virginia, and in North Carolina, had early attracted the attention of Virginians. In 1728 William Byrd noted that Norfolk had “a pretty deal of lumber from the borderers on the Dismal, who make bold with the king’s land thereabouts, without the least ceremony. They not only maintain their stocks upon it, but get boards, shingles, and other lumber out of it in great abundance. . . . It would require a great sum of money to drain it, but the public treasure could not be better bestowed, than to preserve the lives of his majesty’s liege people, and at the same time render so great a tract of swamp very profitable, besides the advantage of making a channel to transport by water carriage goods from Albemarle Sound into Nansemond and Elizabeth rivers, in Virginia.”—History of the Dividing Line, 10, 26. In January, 1764, a company was chartered by the Legislature of Virginia, for the purpose of draining and rendering fit for cultivation the swamp, and Washington was interested. Little appears to have been done before the Revolution. For the subsequent history see Washington to Hugh Williamson, 3 March, 1784, post.
[2 ]Pocoson is a word applied to any reclaimed marsh.—Webster. Bartlett defines it as “low wooded grounds or swamps in eastern Maryland and Virginia, mostly dry in summer and covered with water in winter.”—Dictionary of Americanisms.
[1 ]Byrd speaks of a Mr. Brinkley, who “dwells a little to the southward of the line.” 25.
[1 ]Lyell noted, when in this region, that “strange to say, instead of being lower than the level of the surrounding country, it [the swamp] is actually higher than nearly all the firm and dry land which encompasses it, and to make the anomaly complete, in spite of its semi-fluid character, it is higher in the interior than towards the margin. The only exceptions to both these statements are found on the western side, where, for the distance of about twelve or fifteen miles, the streams flow from slightly elevated but higher land, and supply all its abundant and overflowing water. Towards the north, the east, and the south, the waters flow from the swamp to different rivers, which give abundant evidence, by the rate of their descent, that the Great Dismal is higher than the surrounding firm ground.”—Travels in North America, I., 114, 115.
[1 ]“By the most exact survey they [the surveyors] found the breadth of the Dismal in this place to be completely fifteen miles.”—Byrd, 30.
[2 ]“The swamp is the source of no less than five several rivers which discharge themselves southward into Albemarle Sound, and of two that run northerly into Virginia. . . . The rivers that head in it from Virginia are the south branch of Nansemond, and the west branch of Elizabeth; and those from Carolina are Northwest river, North river, Pasquotank, Little river and Pequimons.”—Byrd, History of the Dividing Line, 26. I have retained in the text the spelling that Washington gave of these rivers and swamps, which differs much from Byrd’s. Thus Byrd speaks of Coropeak, which is the Oropeak of Washington; Cypress and not Cyprus; Mossy instead of Mossey.
[1 ]“In the event of your ever visiting America I am in hopes you will not think a little time ill spent in a small tour to Virginia. We have few things here striking to European travellers (except our abundant woods); but little variety, a welcome reception among a few friends, and the open and prevalent hospitality of the country in general, might perhaps prove agreeable for a while, and I must be permitted to add, that I shall think myself very happy in seeing you at Mt. Vernon where you might depend upon finding the most cordial entertainment. The Indians at a time when we thought ourselves fixed in the utmost tranquillity have, in open violation of the treaty, recommenced hostilities, and (by a sudden irruption) thrown the frontiers of almost all the colonies into terrible consternation. They have lately met with some pretty rugged treatment, and it is hoped they will sue for terms again in a very little while.”—To Richard Washington, 27 September, 1763.
[1 ]Without date, but probably later than March 6. See page 459 post.
[1 ]On 2 February, 1775, the citizens of Fairfax County met, George Washington presiding, and voted to enroll their militia, and to pay a tax of three shillings per poll to defray the expense of equipment.
[1 ]From “A Narrative of the Transactions, Imprisonment, and sufferings of John Connolly, an American Loyalist and Lieut. Col. in his Majesty’s Service,” printed in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, xii. and xiii. Force’s Fourth Series, ii., 121, 122.
[1 ]17 March, 1775. “The Independent Company of Richmond County present their most respectful compliments to Colo. Washington, and beg leave to inform him that they have unanimously chosen him their commander, should they be obliged to have recourse to arms to defend their King and country. They flatter themselves from their assiduity they shall be able to make a tolerable appearance some time in the summer, and should look on themselves as highly honored if the Colonel would be pleased to review them when most convenient to him. In the meantime they would be glad to be favoured with any instructions he should thind proper to give.”
[1 ]On March 21st Dunmore had issued a proclamation against the claims of some “disorderly persons” to lands in Virginia under pretence of a purchase from the Indians; but the occasion of Washington’s letter was a report that the surveyor who had made the surveys had not properly qualified, a matter that Lord Dunmore was examining. In October, Lord Dunmore and others, forming the Wabash Company, purchased an extensive tract of territory from the Indians of the Piankeshaw nation, but the revolution followed and the claims were never allowed.
[1 ]Sparks, Writings of Washington, ii., 506.
[2 ]From the Virginia Gazette, 4 May, 1775.
[1 ]“I have as yet heard nothing from the speaker fixing the time of our setting out; indeed from some disturbances in the city by the slaves, I doubt whether he will go. I purpose, however, to set off at all events Wednesday morning, the 3d., and shall be glad to meet you at upper Marlbrough, Thursday night.”—Edmund Pendleton to Washington, 21 April, 1775.
[2 ]Washington was now attending the second Continental Congress, which assembled in Philadelphia on the 10th of May.
elected commander-in-chief of the continental army.
[1 ]“As soon as he could get himself in readiness he set out for Boston to take upon him the command of the army before that town.” (MS. note of Charles Thomson prefixed to vol. i. of Washington’s Letters in the Records of the Continental Congress.) Thomson’s memorandum was made from a copy of the acceptance in the MS. of Edmund Pendleton. Continental Congress, No. 152, vol. i., p. 1.
[* ]Note.—The Commission and instructions were drawn up by the same committee of Congress, consisting of Richard Henry Lee, Edward Rutledge and John Adams, and appointed 16 June, 1775. The instructions are as follows:—
[1 ]Colonel Edmund Pendleton, at this time a delegate from Virginia to the Continental Congress.
[1 ]The reply of the Independent Company of Alexandria to this letter is an evidence of the warm attachment of his friends, at the same time that it is remarkable for the sentiments it expresses, even at so late a day, in regard to a conciliation with great Britain.
[1 ]General Ward had already been appointed, by the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts, commander of all the forces raised by that colony, and was now in Cambridge at the head of the army. Generals Lee and Schuyler were in Philadelphia, and accompanied the Commander-in-chief to New York. Lee continued with him to head-quarters. Putnam was in Cambridge, commanding the Connecticut troops. Gates was at his seat in Berkeley County, Virginia, but speedily joined the army.
[1 ]Washington’s commission was signed on the 19th. On the following day “the three battalions of Philadelphia and the liberties, together with the artillery company, a troop of light horse, several companies of light infantry, rangers and riflemen, in the whole about two thousand, marched out to the commons, and having joined in brigade, were reviewed by General Washington. . . . They went through the manual exercise, firings and manoeuvres with great dexterity and exactness.” Rivington’s Gazetteer, June 29th. “Philadelphia, June 23. This morning at seven o’clock it is said, general Washington will set out for Massachusetts Bay, in order to take command of the American Army, attended by Major Mifflin, one of his aid de camps, and general Lee, who is appointed third in command.” Virginia Gazette, 6 July. “June 24. Yesterday morning General Washington and General Lee set off for Philadelphia to take command of the American army at Massachusetts Bay. They were accompanied a few miles from town by the troop of light horse, and by all the officers of the city militia on horseback. They parted with our celebrated commanders, expressing the most ardent wishes for their success over the enemies of our liberty and country.” Rivington’s Gazetteer, June 29th. On the 24th, General Schuyler wrote to the New York Congress from New Brunswick. “General Washington, with his retinue, is now here, and proposes to be at Newark by nine to-morrow morning. The situation of the men-of-war at New York (we are informed) is such as may make it necessary that some precaution should be taken in crossing Hudson’s river, and he would take it as a favor if some gentlemen of your body would meet him to-morrow at Newark, as the advice you may there give him will determine whether he will continue his proposed route or not.” On the day before (June 23d) the New York Congress had requested Col. Lasher, whom Jones describes as a German shoemaker, “to send one of his field officers to meet General Washington, and to know when he will be in this city,” and “to make such orders as to have his battalion ready to receive Gen. Washington when he shall arrive.” On the receipt of General Schuyler’s letter the Congress ordered Thomas Smith, John Sloss Hobart, Gouverneur Morris, and Richard Montgomery “to go immediately to Newark, and recommend to general Washington the place which they shall think most prudent for him to cross at.” Some precaution was necessary as the province was still intensely loyal, the Provincial Congress, where the revolutionary spirit might be supposed to have centered, was then discussing a plan of accommodation with Great Britain, and on this very day information was received that the royal governor, Tryon, had arrived at the Hook, and might land at one o’clock. How to pay the due respect to both the general and the governor was a question that could be determined only by a proper amount of “trimming,” but little creditable to the Congress. “Colonel Lasher was called in, and requested to send one company of the militia to Paulus Hook to meet the generals; that he have another company at the side of the ferry for the same purpose; that he have the residue of his battalion ready to receive the general or governor Tryon, which ever shall first arrive, and to wait on both as well as circumstances will allow.” (Provincial Congress, June 25th.) Fortunately for the Congress circumstances were favorable to this double arrangement, as Washington landed a sufficient time before Tryon to permit an escort for both. “Last Sunday about two o’clock, the generals Washington, Lee and Schuyler arrived here. They crossed the North River at Hoback [Hoboken] and landed at Col. Lispenard’s [in the vicinity of Laight and near Greenwich Street]. There were eight or ten companies under arms, all in uniforms, who marched out to Lispenards. The procession began from there thus, the companies first, Congress next, two of Continental Congress next, general officers next, and a company of horse from Philadelphia, who came with the general brought up the rear. There were an innumerable company of people, men, women and children present.” Gilbert Livingston to Dr. Peter Tappan, 29 July, 1775. The Virginia Gazette, 13 July, copying from a northern gazette, said “The generals landed at the seat of Colonel Lispenard about 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon, [i. e. the 25th], from whence they were conducted by nine companies of foot in their uniforms, and a greater number of the principal inhabitants of this city than ever appeared here on any occasion before.” Judge Thomas Jones, a staunch loyalist records a description of this event. “After 12 o’clock the same day Washington, Lee, and Schuyler, three of the first rebel generals appointed by Congress to the commaud of their army, the two first on their way to Boston, the latter for Albany to command the expedition then preparing against Canada, arrived from Philadelphia, and were entertained at the house of Leonard Lispenard, Esq., about two miles out of town. Upon this occasion the volunteer companies raised for the express purpose of rebellion, the members of the Provincial Congress, those of the city committee, the parsons of the dissenting meeting-houses, with all the leaders and partisans of faction and rebellion (including Peter R. Livingston, Esq., and Thomas Smith, John Smith and Joshua Hett Smith, the brother-in-law and brothers of William Smith, Esq.,) waited upon the beach to receive them upon their landing from the Jersey shore, and conducted them up to Lispenard’s, amidst the repeated shouts and huzzas of the seditious and rebellious multitude, where they dined, and towards evening were escorted to town, attended and conducted in the same tumultuous and ridiculous manmer.” New York during the Revolutionary War, i., 55. Governor Tryon landed in the evening (eight or nine o’clock) and it is very probable, as Jones says, much the same collection of people greeted him with the loudest acclamations and accompanied him to the house of Mr. Hugh Wallace. “Gaine, in his New York Gazette and Mercury, does not allude to either of the arrivals referred to; Rivington, in his Gazetteer of the 28th June, gives an account of Tryon’s reception.” New York City during the Revolution, 83, n.
[1 ]General Wooster commanded the forces, which had been raised by Connecticut, and which were stationed on the shores of Long Island Sound, to protect the southern borders of that colony. On the 15th of June, a rumor having been spread, that a regiment of British troops was soon to be landed in the city of New York from Ireland, the Provincial Congress invited General Wooster to march within five miles of the city for its defence, and while there to be under the command of the Continental Congress, or that of New York. This request being approved by the government of Connecticut, General Wooster marched eighteen hundred men to the neighbourhood of the city, on the 28th of June, where he remained several weeks.—MS. Journal of the New York Provincial Congress.
[1 ]Tryon had been governor of New York since August, 1771, and recently absent for several months in England. He was known to be extremely hostile to the movements in the colonies; and, possessing much talent and address, it was feared his influence would have a pernicious effect on the inhabitants of New York, who already manifested a lukewarmness and hesitancy by no means encouraging to the ardent champions of liberty. Hence the necessity of keeping an eye on his motions, and guarding against any schemes he might adopt to promote his aims. The mayor, aldermen, and commonalty of the city congratulated him in a public address, to which he replied; but there was no intercourse between him and the Provincial Congress.—Almon’s Remembrancer, vol. i., p. 180.
[1 ]Guy Johnson resided at Guy Park, near the Mohawk River, at that time on the frontiers of New York, and had excited a good deal of uneasiness among the people, by the part he had taken with the Indians, and by the influence he was known to have over them. A correspondence of a pointed nature had already passed between him and the New York Provincial Congress.—Journals of the Congress for 1775.—Also, Sparks’s Life of Gouverneur Morris, vol. i., p. 41.
[2 ]After Washington had left Philadelphia a change in the sentiments of Congress respecting Canada occurred, and Schuyler was ordered to repair at once to Ticonderoga and Crown Point, to examine into the condition of these posts and obtain intelligence of the disposition of the Canadians and the Indians of Canada; to destroy all British boats on the lakes, and if practicable and not disagreeable to the Canadians, to occupy St. Johns and Montreal. The cause of this change was the letter from the Albany Committee, printed in Force, American Archives, Fourth Series, ii., 1048.
[1 ]On the 26th the draught of an address to General Washington was read in Congress, and Mr. Morris and Mr. Low waited upon the general to know when he would receive it. The reply was at half past two that afternoon, at which hour the following address was presented: