George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Fairfax, 5 September 1754

From William Fairfax

Williamsburg, 5. Sept. 1754


Capt. Stobo by the trust and care of Delaware George had a letter conveyed to the Governor, in which advice was by no means to let Mon. le Force return which is considered & accordingly ordered[.]1 The news of your engagement & rout at the Meadows did not give the public more affecting concern than the unhappy conclusion of our present meeting.2 Instead of augmenting our forces, the Governor perhaps will have some difficulty to get means for the pay and maintenance of the remaining few, you now have. There have been solicitors waiting in hopes of getting commissions, of which number Dr Stuart is foremost in the Governor’s list,3 but all are likely to be disappointed. We have some intimation that the King has ordered all the Officers of the late American Regiment now on half pay4 to repair thither & do duty. We had a bill for mutiny & desertion before us; but it being for no longer than one year, we amended it for two years or so long as the expedition required. It was disagreed to so that all our efforts to promote the public service have miscarried[.]5 Mr Carlyle has had harsh reflections cast on him by warm Calumniators which are great discouragements. In short our prospect is gloomy. The expectation of our ship of war in which Govr Dobbs comes to consult & advise with ours about the operations of the Ohio adventure,6 may bring us His Maj’ys further instructions & some aid, which admits a little hope our affairs may have a better aspect. I shall be glad when I can write on a more pleasing subject. In the mean time I wish you may be able to enjoy the fruits of that philosophic mind you have already begun to practice. If your winter Quarters should be at Alexandria, We may pass some of your leisure hours together at Bellevoir. Pray make my compliments to all enquiring friends, & continue to believe that I am, Dear Sir, Your assured friend & affec. servt

W. Fairfax

Sprague transcript, DLC:GW.

1After the capitulation at Fort Necessity on 3 July, Capt. Robert Stobo (1717–1770) and Capt. Jacob Van Braam went as hostages with the French to Fort Duquesne; the French hoped the hostages could be exchanged for La Force and the other French prisoners taken by GW when Jumonville was killed on 29 May. See GW’s first letter of 29 May 1754 to Robert Dinwiddie. After reaching Fort Duquesne and before the middle of August, Stobo drew a detailed map of the fort and on successive days composed a letter to the commander at Wills Creek, Col. James Innes. Each letter included information about the garrison at the fort and a plan for taking it, as well as details about Indians in the area. The first letter, with the map, Stobo gave for secret delivery at Wills Creek to Monocatoocha’s brother-in-law Moses the Song, and the second he entrusted for the same purpose to Delaware George, another Indian. In the first letter he wrote: “La Force is greatly wanted here, no scouting now, he certainly must have been an extraordinairy man amongst them—hes so much regreted and wished for”; in the second letter he confirmed that La Force was “greatly missed here” (quoted in Alberts, Stobo description begins Robert C. Alberts. The Most Extraordinary Adventures of Major Robert Stobo. Boston, 1965. description ends , 102–3, 105). On or before 16 Aug. 1754 Delaware George delivered his letter to the Indian trader George Croghan at his post at Aughwick, and on 28 Aug. Moses brought Croghan the earlier letter as well as the map. Croghan opened each letter and had copies of both made. As a result word of their contents got around to the point that Contrecoeur began to suspect that Stobo and Van Braam were smuggling information out of Fort Duquesne to the English. When in September at Dinwiddie’s direction Innes sent an offer to exchange Stobo and Van Braam for “your officer and your two cadets” taken in a skirmish with Jumonville in May 1754, Contrecoeur instead dispatched the two Virginia officers to Montreal. Stobo remained a prisoner at Montreal and Quebec for nearly 5 years, finally making his escape to Louisbourg in May 1759. The next year Amherst gave him a captain’s commission in the 15th Regiment of Foot, where Stobo served until his death in 1770. Stobo, like Dinwiddie, was from a mercantile family in Glasgow, and he attended the university there. After coming to Virginia in the 1740s he became a merchant of sorts in Petersburg. Dinwiddie gave him the second captain’s commission in the Virginia Regiment as it was being formed in Mar. 1754. He arrived with his company at GW’s camp on 9 June in good time for the engagement at Great Meadows. For Van Braam’s subsequent career, see GW to Dinwiddie, 20 Mar. 1754, n.5, and “The Capitulation of Fort Necessity,” 3 July 1754, Document III, n.2.

2After an intense debate the burgesses passed a supply bill of £20,000 but added a rider to pay Peyton Randolph £2,500 for his services. The council rejected the bill because of the rider, and on 5 Sept. Dinwiddie prorogued the assembly until 17 Oct. (JHB, 1752–1755, 1756–1758 description begins H. R. McIlwaine and John Pendleton Kennedy, eds. Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia. 13 vols. Richmond, 1905–15. description ends , 204–5).

3No record of a commission for a Dr. Stuart has been found. A commission as fourth ensign, effective 24 July 1754, was issued to Walter Steuart, who by 1758 was a captain in the Virginia Regiment and in 1760 became a lieutenant in the Royal Welsh Volunteers, but there is no indication that he was a doctor. A John Stewart was a surgeon in the Virginia Regiment in 1762 when it was disbanded.

4In 1740 an American regiment with an authorized strength of 3,000 men was raised to participate in the siege of the Spanish Caribbean fortress of Cartagena. Many of the surviving officers retired on half pay following that campaign.

5The bill was ordered on 29 Aug., passed and sent to the council on 2 Sept., and died when the burgesses rejected some of the council’s proposed amendments and the assembly was suddenly prorogued by Dinwiddie on 5 Sept. (JHB, 1752–1755, 1756–1758 description begins H. R. McIlwaine and John Pendleton Kennedy, eds. Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia. 13 vols. Richmond, 1905–15. description ends , 58, 197, 201, 204–5). For references to the problem of devising legislation for governing military conduct in the Virginia Regiment, see GW to Dinwiddie, 20 Aug. 1754, n.3.

6Arthur Dobbs (1689–1765) of Ireland sailed for America in the Garland in July 1754 to take up his new appointment as governor of North Carolina. He did not arrive in Virginia until 7 Oct. after a crossing that was delayed by a storm off the Virginia Capes. Dobbs brought news of 2,000 arms en route and the first half of an advance of £20,000 specie, to be repaid to the royal treasury from Virginia’s export tax on tobacco.

Index Entries