George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Carlyle, 14 May 1755

To John Carlyle

[Fort Cumberland, Md., 14 May 1755]

To Majr Jno. Carlyleprest at Williamsburgh1

I Overtook the General at Frederick Town in Maryld and proceeded with him by way of Winchester to this place; which gave him a good oppertunity to see the absurdity of the Rout, and of Damning it very heartily. Colo. Dunbars Regiment was also oblig’d to re cross over at Connogogee and come down within 6 Miles of Winchester to take the new Road up, which gave me infinite satisfaction to Wills Ck wch from the absurdity of it was laughable enough.2

We are to Halt here till forage can be brought from Philidelphia, which I suppose will introduce the Month of June upon us;3 and then we are to proceed upon our tremendous undertaking of transporting the heavy Artillery over the Mountains, which I believe will compose the greatest difficulty in of the Campaigne;4 for as to any apprehensions of the Enemy I think they need only are more to be provided against, but not than regarded, as I fancy the French will be obligd to draw their force from the Ohio to repel the Attacks in the North, under the command of Governour Shirley &ca, who will make three different attempts imediately.5

I coud wish to hear what the Assembly and other’s have done, and are doing, together with ⟨erasuresuch other occurances ⟨erasure6 as may have happend since my departure.7

I am in very great want of Boots, and have desird my Bror Jno. to purchase a pair and send them to you, who I hope will contrive them to me, by the first oppertunity.8 I have wrote to my old corrispondant Mrs Carlyle9 & must beg my Compliments to my good Friend Dalton, &ca. I am Dr Sir Yr most Hble Servt

Go: Washington

N.B. This Letter was never Sent.10

LB (original), DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW.

1John Carlyle went to Williamsburg about 1 May 1755 to settle his commissary accounts with the assembly’s military expenditure committee. He apparently intended also to resign his commission as commissary, being unwell, but did not do so. See GW to John Carlyle, 7 June 1755.

2Braddock may indeed have seen the absurdity of the Maryland route as compared to the Virginia one (see GW to William Fairfax, 5 May 1755), but he focused much of his displeasure on the road between Winchester and Fort Cumberland. Writing to Robert Napier from the fort on 8 June 1755, he complained that “from Winchester to this place which is Seventy Miles is almost uninhabited, but by a parcel of Banditti who call themselves Indian Traders, and no Road passable but what we were oblig’d to make ourselves with infinite Labour.” The road, in fact, was little more than a rough track crossing numerous ridges and streams, and it was not until 1 May that Braddock’s engineers finished making sufficient improvements to enable heavy wagons and artillery to use the road. Far from concluding that the Virginia route was preferable to others, Braddock was convinced that a route through Pennsylvania would have been best. “I have order’d,” he wrote Napier, “a Road of Communication to be cut from Philadelphia to the Crossing of the Yanghyanghain [Youghiogheny River], which is the Road we ought to have taken, being nearer, and thro’ an inhabited and well cultivated Country, and a Road as good as from Harwich to London, to some Miles beyond where they are now opening the new Road [west of Shippensburg, Pa.]” (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 , 84–85, 92). See GW to William Fairfax, 7 June 1755, n.4.

3Disappointed by Virginia and Maryland in the supplying of forage as in the furnishing of wagons and horses, Braddock again looked to Pennsylvania for help. On 10 May 1755 Capt. Matthew Leslie, assistant deputy quartermaster general, was sent into that colony to buy oats for the army. A few days later Gov. Robert Hunter Morris advanced Leslie money to make purchases in Lancaster and the other Pennsylvania back counties. Morris also arranged with Benjamin Franklin and several other members of the Pennsylvania Assembly to collect forage in Philadelphia and its surrounding area. He reported to Braddock from Philadelphia on 12 June “that Mr. Leslie has sent from the Back Counties . . . forty-five Waggons loaded with Oats or other Forage, and that the Persons employed by me have at last dispatched fifty-two Waggons from this Town, each carrying fifty Bushels of Grain, one-half Oats the other Indian Corn” (Pa. Arch., Col. Rec. description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 6:415–16). By that time Braddock’s army was marching west from Fort Cumberland.

4“What was looked on at home as easy is our most difficult point to surmount, I mean the passage of this vast tract of Mountains,” wrote Sir John St. Clair to Napier from Little Meadows on 13 June 1755. “Had we a Country we coud subsist in after we get over them, the thing wou’d be easy” (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 , 93–95). The march to Fort Duquesne, nearly everyone in the army agreed, would be slow and arduous, but once Braddock’s artillery and troops were there, it was believed, the outgunned and outmanned French would be forced to surrender with little or no bloodshed—an assumption that GW was soon to question. See GW to William Fairfax and John Carlyle, 7 June 1755.

5The attacks on Niagara, Crown Point, and Nova Scotia, which had been approved in April at the Alexandria conference, did little to divert French attention from Braddock’s expedition. Of the three northern forces only the Nova Scotia one led by Lt. Col. Robert Monckton moved against its objective during the spring. The Crown Point expedition under Col. William Johnson did not engage the enemy until late summer, and William Shirley’s troops got no closer to Niagara than Oswego in 1755. See also GW to John Augustine Washington, 14 May 1755, n.3.

6The word erased under “such” may be “any,” and the one under “as” may be “that” (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed. The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745–1799. 39 vols. Washington, D.C., 1931–44. description ends , 1 : 122).

7For the actions of the Virginia Assembly this spring, see William Fairfax to GW, 28 June 1755. The South Carolina Assembly reconvened 28 April 1755 and voted £6,000 as its only contribution to the expedition. The Pennsylvania Assembly, which met on 10 May and again on 13 June, became involved in a dispute with its governor and appropriated no further military funds. The Maryland Assembly appropriated nothing further when it belatedly met on 23 June.

10See GW to Augustine Washington, 14 May 1755, n.7, for a discussion of GW’s failure to send this and the other letters that he wrote on this date.

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