George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Robert Orme, 2 March 1755

From Robert Orme

[Williamsburg, 2 March 1755]

A Copy Of Captn Robt Orme’s first Letter toG.Washington

The General1 having been informd that you exprest some desire to make the Campaigne, but that you declind it upon some disagreeableness that you thought might arise from the Regulation of Command,2 has orderd me to acquaint you that he will be very glad of your Company in his Family, by which all inconveniences of that kind will be obviated.3

I shall think myself very happy to form an acquaintance with a person so universally esteem’d4 and shall use every oppertunity of assuring you how much I am Sir Your most Obedt Servant &[ca.]

Robt Orme aid de Camp

LB (original), DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW; ALS, DLC:GW. The letter-book copies and the ALS differ only in a few minor variations of spelling and punctuation.

Capt. Robert Orme (d. 1790) of the Coldstream Guards was principal aide-de-camp to Maj. Gen. Edward Braddock, the recently appointed commander in chief of the king’s forces in North America. Selected as aide by Braddock sometime during the fall of 1754, Orme took leave from his regiment and sailed from England with the general in late December. They landed at Hampton, Va., on 20 Feb. 1755. Three days later they went to Williamsburg to confer with Dinwiddie about plans for driving the French from the Ohio Valley and to await the arrival from Ireland of the 44th and 48th regiments of foot. Orme began his military career as an ensign in the 35th Regiment of Foot. He transferred to the Coldstream Guards in 1745 when Braddock was one of the regiment’s senior officers and was promoted to lieutenant in 1751. There is no record of his obtaining a Coldstream captaincy. It is probable that he was brevetted a captain by Braddock upon becoming the general’s aide. Handsome, intelligent, and charming when occasion demanded, Orme was generally acknowledged to have great influence over Braddock, with whom he was always a favorite. Some officers, especially senior ones, resented his ascendancy, regarding him as an overbearingly ambitious and arrogant upstart, while many others were strongly attracted to him. “I have a very great Love for my Friend Orme,” Braddock’s secretary William Shirley, Jr., wrote in a confidential letter during the campaign, “and think it uncommonly fortunate for our Leader that he is under the Influence of so honest and capable a Man, but I wish for the Sake of the Publick he had some more Experience of Business, particularly in America” (Shirley to Robert H. Morris, 23 May 1755, Pa. Arch., Col. Rec. description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 6:404–6).

1Edward Braddock (c.1695–1755) spent much of his long military career before coming to America on the parade field or in garrison. Son of an undistinguished major general, he entered his father’s regiment, the Coldstream Guards, as an ensign in 1710 and advanced slowly over the next 35 years to lieutenant colonel. In the War of Austrian Succession he had little opportunity to distinguish himself, but his career soon took a dramatic turn upward. In early 1753 he left the Coldstream Guards, where his way to further promotion was blocked, to take the colonelcy of the 14th Regiment of Foot stationed at Gibraltar. In April 1754 he became a major general and in September was called from Gibraltar to assume the North American command. Although lacking in battle experience, he was a good disciplinarian and a skilled administrator, and he was universally esteemed a brave and honest officer.

2The king’s order of 12 Nov. 1754 for settling questions of rank and command between regular and provincial officers apparently reached Virginia with Braddock’s quartermaster, Sir John St. Clair, on 9 Jan. 1755. Although somewhat confused in wording, it clearly confirmed most of the apprehensions about rank that had plagued GW during the past year. Under no circumstances could he as a Virginia colonel, even if he should regain that position with full powers, be on an absolutely equal footing with any regular colonel, lieutenant colonel, or major. General and field officers commissioned by colonial officials, the king declared, “shall have no rank with” the general and field officers bearing his commission, and all regular captains, lieutenants, and ensigns “are . . . to command and take Post of . . . Provincial Officers of like Rank” when serving with them on detachments, court martials, and other assignments. No particular mention was made of the relationship of provincial general and field officers to regular company officers, apparently because it was presumed that the senior colonial officers would “only have the Inspection, & Direction, of their Provincial Corps” (“Sketch of Regulations & Orders,” Nov. 1754 in Pargellis, Military Affairs in North America description begins Stanley Pargellis, ed. Military Affairs in North America, 1748–1765: Selected Documents from the Cumberland Papers in Windsor Castle. 1936. Reprint. Hamden, Conn., 1969. description ends , 36). A printed copy of the king’s order on rank, endorsed by GW, is in DLC:GW, but it is not known when or how GW obtained it.

3For the advantages that GW could expect from serving Braddock as one of his aides-de-camp, see GW to John Augustine Washington, 14 May 1755.

4GW and Orme came to like and admire one another during the campaign. See especially Orme to GW, 10 Nov. 1755.

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