George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Robert Dinwiddie, 4 May 1754

From Robert Dinwiddie

[Williamsburg] May 4th 1754


This Day I recd Yr Advices by Mr Ward, which give me great Concern to experience that my Fears of the French geting Possessn before us of the Fork of Monongehela were too prognistic1—The March of our Forces has been delay’d by unfortunate Circumstances. The Independt Compa. from So. Car. arriv’d two Day ago, is compleat 100 Men besides Officers, & will reembark for Alexa. next Week, thence proceed immediately to join Colo. Fry & You. The two Independt Compas. from N. York, may be expected in abt ten Days—The No. Car. Men, under the Command of Colo. Innes are immagind to be on their March & will probably be at the Rendezvous abt the 15th Inst.2—I have laid Yr Letters before the Council, & We approv’d of the Caution You have taken in halting at red Stone Creek, ’till You have assembled a sufficient Body to secure YrSelves & Cannon &ca & then to proceed to Monongehela—I have wrote to Colo. Fry directing him also to proceed to red Stone Creek, which being not far from the Place call’d the Fork of the Roads, where the Half King proposes to meet a select Body of our friendly Inds. You will have frequent Occasions of seeing each other, & agree in Council what is fittest to be done in the present Emergency3—I hope Capt. McKay who Commands the Independt Compa. will soon be with You—And as he appears to be an Officer of some Experience & Importance, You will with Colo. Fry & Colo. Innes so well agree, as not to let some Punctillio’s abt Command render the Service You are all engag’d in, perplex’d or obstructed. The ill Conduct of Capt. Trent & his Lt Fraser, in leavg the Fort withot Leave meets with just resentmt here; I have order’d Colo. Fry to try them by a Court Martial, wn I hope they will meet with such Punishmt as this unaccountable Action deserves.4 I am with respect &ca

LB, ViHi: Dinwiddie Papers.

1GW had written to Dinwiddie on 25 April 1754 announcing Edward Ward’s surrender of the entrenchments at the Forks to the French. After his meeting with GW at Wills Creek, Ward set out for Williamsburg, using GW’s horse, saddle, and bridle (Account with the Colony of Virginia, Oct. 1754). On 4 May Ward “accompanied by an Indian, and an Intrepreter, appeared in the Council Chamber, and produced the Original Summons he Received in the Absence of his Captain and Lieutenant; and a Speech from the half King at the Fort on Ohio to his Honour, desiring to know where we were, what was our Strenghth, and the Time they might Expect our Forces to join them.” At this meeting of the council Dinwiddie read the “Advices” from GW that Ward had brought with him: GW’s letter of 25 April to the governor and the resolution adopted by his council of war that he and his forces should move to Redstone Creek and build fortifications there (Exec. Journals of Virginia Council description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia. 6 vols. Richmond, 1925–66. description ends , 5:468–69). See also GW to James Hamilton, 24 April 1754, nn.2, 3.

2See Dinwiddie to GW, 15 Mar. 1754, n.6. In response to Dinwiddie’s plea for military aid after GW’s return to Williamsburg from his mission to the French commandant, the colony of North Carolina raised some 400 men to be used in the proposed expedition to the Forks of the Ohio. Neither Col. James Innes (d. 1759) nor any of his North Carolina troops reached GW before the campaign came to its unhappy conclusion at Fort Necessity on 3 July.

3Dinwiddie’s instructions to Col. Joshua Fry to expedite his march are in ViHi: Dinwiddie Papers. He was, he wrote Fry, “surpriz’d on receivg Yr Let’r dated at Alexa the 30th of Apr. last, wn I perswaded myself You must be near Wills’s Creek. It is a great Misfortune that the active French outdo Us by their timely Vigilance & Applicatn.” Fry had written that he was delayed “by the want of Carriages” (Exec. Journals of Virginia Council description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia. 6 vols. Richmond, 1925–66. description ends , 5:468).

4John Fraser (Frazier), variously identified by his contemporaries as English, Scottish, and German, was a blacksmith and gunsmith who operated a trading post at Venango from the early 1740s until the French forced him to give it up in 1753. When GW carried Dinwiddie’s message to the French at Fort Le Boeuf in the late fall of 1753, he found Fraser back in business on Turtle Creek. See Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 1:130. After Dinwiddie authorized William Trent to raise 100 men and appoint 2 officers (Dinwiddie to GW, Jan. 1754, nn.2, 4), Trent made John Fraser his lieutenant and Edward Ward his ensign. Dinwiddie’s wrath stemmed from the fact that neither Trent nor Fraser was on hand to aid Ward in resisting the French when they arrived at the Forks of the Ohio. See GW to James Hamilton, 24 April 1754. After his arrival in Williamsburg, Ward stated in a deposition that 4 days before the French descended on his fort he saw a letter written by Indian trader John Davison warning of the French approach. Ward hurriedly sent off a copy of the letter to Trent, then at Wills Creek, and went himself to inform Fraser who was at Turtle Creek about 10 miles from the Forks. Fraser agreed that the French were likely to attack “but said what can we do in the affair,” complaining that he had a “shilling to loose for a Penny he should gain by his Commission at that time, And that he had Business which ⟨he⟩ could not settle under Six Days with his Partner” (P.R.O., C.O. 5/1328, ff. 101–2). In his letter to Fry, Dinwiddie wrote: “I am advis’d that Capt. Trent, and his Lieut., Fraser have been long absent from their duty . . . Which Conduct & Behaviour I require & expect You will enquire into at a Court Martial, & give Sentence accordingly” (4 May 1754, ViHi: Dinwiddie Papers).

Index Entries