George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Robert Dinwiddie, 25 April 1754

To Robert Dinwiddie

25th April 1754 Wills Creek [Md.]

Honble Sir,

Captain Trents Ensign Mr Ward this Day arrived from the Forks of Monongehele,1 and brings the disagreeable account that the Fort on the Seventeenth Instant was surrender’d at the summons of Captain Contrecour to a Body of French consisting of upwards of one Thousand Men, who came from Vena[n]go with Eighteen pieces of Cannon, Sixty Battoes, and three Hundred Canoes: they gave him liberty to bring off all his men and working Tools, which he accordingly did the same Day.

Immediately upon this Information I called a Council of War to advise on proper measures to be taken in this Exigence; a Copy of whose resolves, with the proceedings I herewith inclose by the Bearer, who I have continued Express to your Honour for more minute Intelligence.2

Mr Ward has the Summons with him, and a speech from the Half King which I also inclose with the Wampum:3 He is accompanied by one of the Indians that is mentioned therein, who were sent to see where we were, what was our strength, and to know the time to expect us out; the other Young man I have prevailed upon to return to the Half King with the following Speech.4

“Sachems Warriours of the Six united Nations; Shanoahs and Delawares, our Friends and Brethren:

“I received by the Bucks Brother5 your speech, who came to us with the two young men five sleeps after leaveing you; We return you thanks from Hearts glowing with Affection for your steadfast adherence to us, for your kind speech, and for your wise Councils, and directions to the Bucks Brother.

[“]The Young man will inform you where he met a small part or our army advancing towards you, Clearing the Roads for a great Number of our Warriours that are immediately to follow with our Great Guns, our Ammunition, and our Provisions.

[“]I could not delay to let you know our Hearts and therefore have sent back one of the Young Men with this speech to acquaint you with them; while I have sent the other according to your desire to the Governour of Virginea with the Bucks Brother to deliver your speech and Wampum, And to be an Eye witness of the preparations we are makeing, to come in haste to support you, whose Interest is as dear to us as our Lives. We resent the usage of the treacherous French, and our Conduct henceforth will plainly shew to you how much we have it at Heart.

[“]I cannot be easye without seeing you, before our Forces meet at the Fork of the Roads,6 and therefore have the greatest inclination that you and Esscruniata7 or one of you meet me on the Road as soon as possible to assist us in Council. To Assure you of the good will we bare you; and to confirm the truth of what has been said, I herewith present you this string of Wampum that you may thereby remember how much I am Your Brother and Friend

[“]Go: Washington

[“]To The Half King
Esscruneata & the Belt of Wampum[”]9

I hope my proceedings in these affairs will be Satisfactory to Your Honour, as I have to the Utmost of my knowledge consulted the Interest of the Expedition and good of my Country: whose Rights, while they are asserted in so just a Cause I will defend to the last remains of Life. Hitherto the difficulty I have met with in Marching has been greater than I expect to encounter on Ohio where probably I may be surround’d by the Enemy; and this occasion’d by those who had they acted as becometh every good Subject, would have exerted their Utmost abilitys to forward our just designs Out of Twenty four Waggons that were impress’d at Winchester, we got but Ten after waiting a week, and some of those so illy provided with Teams that we could not travel with them without the Soldiers assisting them up the Hills. when it was known they had better Teams at home. I doubt not but in some points I may have strained the Law, but I hope as my sole motive was to Expedite the March, I shall be supported in it should my authority be Questioned which at present I dont Apprehend will, unless some busy body intermeddles.10

Your Honour will see by the resolves in Council that I am destin’d to Monongehele with all the diligent dispatch in My power. We will endeavour to make the Road sufficiently good for the heaviest Artillery to pass and when we Arrive at Red Stone Creek Fortifie ourselves as strongly as the short time will allow off. I doubt not but to maintain a possession there till we are Reinforced (If it seasonably Arrives) unless the waters rising admit their Cannon to be convey’d up in Canoes and then I flatter myself we shall not be so wanting for Intelligence but to get timely notice of it and make a good Retreat.

I hope your Honour will see the absolute Necessity there is for haveing as soon as our Forces are collected a Number of Cannon (some of heavy Mettle) with Mortors Granadoes &c. to attack the French, and put us on an equal footing with them.

Perhaps it may also be thought adviseable to Invite the Cherokees, Cawtabas, and Chicasaws to March to our Assistance (as we are informed that Six Hundred Chippoways & Ottaways are Marching down Sciodo Creek to join the French that are coming up Ohio). In that case I would beg leave to recommend their being Orderd to this Place first that a peace may be concluded between them and the Six Nations for I am informed by several hands that as there is no good harmony subsisting betwixt them that by comeing first to Ohio it may create great discords and turn much to our disadvantage.

As I had oppertunitys to the Governour’s of Maryland and Pensylvania I wrote to both acquainting them with these advices, and inclosed the Summons and Indian speech, which I hope your Honour will not think me too forward in doing: I consider’d that the Assembly of Maryland was to sit in five days time, and the Pensylvania Assembly now Sitting and that by giveing them timely notice something might be done which would turn to the advantage of this Expedition which now requires all the Force we can Muster.

By the best information I can get I much doubt whether any of the Indians will be in to treat in May.11 I am with all due respect and regard Your Honours most Obt & Very Humle Servt

Go: Washington

Query Whether the Indian Women and Children if they settle amongst us are to be maintained at our Expence or not, they will Expect it.

Copy, P.R.O., C.O. 5/14, ff. 191–92; copy, P.R.O., C.O. 5/1328, ff. 97–98; copy, P.R.O., House of Lords. The copy from which the text is taken was enclosed in Robert Dinwiddie to the earl of Holderness, 10 May 1754; the second copy was enclosed in Dinwiddie to the Board of Trade, 10 May 1754; the third copy is endorsed “In the Letter to the Board of Trade to Sir Thomas Robinson dated July 3. 1754.” An abbreviated version of the letter appeared in GW’s 1754 diary (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 1:181). For background to this document, see GW’s letters to James Hamilton and to Horatio Sharpe, 24 April 1754.

1Ens. Edward Ward had arrived at Wills Creek several days before 25 April, probably on 22 April. GW may have begun his letter to Dinwiddie around this time but was not able to find an express to send to Williamsburg until 25 April.

2GW’s diary entry for 23 April gives a description of Ward’s surrender of the fort at the Forks, followed by an account of the proceedings of the council of war: “It was thought a Thing impracticable to march towards the Fort without sufficient Strength; however, being strongly invited by the Indians, and particularly by the Speeches of the Half-King, the President gave his Opinion, that it would be proper to advance as far as Red-Stone-Creek, on Monaungahela, about Thirty-seven Miles on this Side of the Fort, and there to raise a Fortification, clearing a Road broad enough to pass with all our Artillery and our Baggage, and there to wait for fresh Orders. The Opinion aforesaid was resolved upon, for the following Reasons: 1st, That the Mouth of Red-Stone is the first convenient Place on the River Monaungahela, 2d, That Stores are already built at the Place for the Provisions of the Company, wherein our Ammunition may be laid up; our great Guns may be also sent by Water whenever we should think it convenient to attack the Fort. 3d, We may easily (having all these Conveniences) preserve our People from the ill Consequences of Inaction, and encourage the Indians our Allies, to remain in our Interest” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 1:178–80).

4At this point the following paragraphs are inserted in the version of this letter appearing in GW’s diary:

“We find the great Advantage there is in Water-Carriage, wherefore, I would remind you to provide a Number of Boats for that Purpose.

“This Day, arrived the Men belonging to Captain Trent, who by your Orders had been inlisted as Militia-Troops; the Officers having imprudently promised them Two Shillings per Day, they now refuse to serve for less Pay; Wart shall receive your Orders on that Head” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 1:182).

5There is an asterisk after “Brother,” and he is identified as “Mr Ward.” The Buck was the Indian name for George Croghan, who was, in fact, Edward Ward’s half brother.

6The forks of the road was probably the point near Washington Springs (Half-King’s Rocks) where the Catawba Path and Nemacolin’s Path crossed. Braddock’s Road later passed the site.

7Scruniyatha was another name for Scarouady or Monacatoocha.

8Conotocarious (Caunotaucarius) was the Indian name of GW’s great-grandfather John Washington, signifying “town taker” or “devourer of villages.” The same name was given to GW by the Half-King. This speech is a reply to the Half-King’s speech to GW. See GW to James Hamilton, 24 April 1754, n.3.

9The Belt of Wampum or Tohashwughtonionty was a Seneca chief.

10The question of authority to impress boats, wagons, and draft animals had troubled GW since his arrival at Winchester to find that few supplies had been collected for the expedition. “An Act for making Provision against Invasions and Insurrections” provided clearly defined procedures for impressing articles necessary to transport men and supplies. During emergencies, wagons, draft animals, and other supplies could be impressed after proper appraisal and certification “by two good and lawful men upon oath,” but the law specified that impressment could be authorized only by the county lieutenant or another officer in the militia, and GW held no office in the Frederick militia. See 6 Hening description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends 112–18.

11Dinwiddie had proposed a council with the Ohio tribes, southern Indians, and the Six Nations which was scheduled to convene at Winchester on 20 May. GW’s apprehensions were well founded since few of the expected representatives of the tribes arrived at Winchester for the council (Dinwiddie to Sir Thomas Robinson, 18 June 1754, P.R.O., C.O., 5/14, ff. 397–400).

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