George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Fairfax, 7 June 1755

To William Fairfax

[Fort Cumberland, Md., 7 June 1755]

To the Honble Willm Fairfax Esqr.Belvoir
Honble Sir

I arrivd with my charge safe in Camp the 30th of last Month, after waiting a Day and piece in Winchester expecting the Cavalry to Escort me up; in which I was being Disappointed, and I was obligd to make use of a small Guard of the Militia of Frederick.1 Cty.

The General, by frequent breaches of Contracts, has lost all degree of Patience; and for want of that consideration temper, & moderation which shoud be used by a Man of Sense upon these occasion’s, will, I fear, represent us home in a light we little deserve; for instead of blameing the Individuals as he ought, he charges all his Disappointments to a publick Supineness; and looks upon the Country, I believe, as void of both Honour and Honesty;2 we have frequent dispu⟨tes⟩ on this head, which are maintaind with warmth on both sides especially on his, who is incapable of Arguing witht; or giving up any point he asserts, let it be ever so incompatable with Reason or commonsense.3 There is a Line of Communication to be opend from Pensylvania to the French Fort De Quisne Duquisne, along wch we are to receive, after a little time, all our Convoys of Provisions &ca;4 and to give all manner of encouragement to a People who ought rather to be chastisd for their insensibility of their own to danger, and disobedienceregard of their Sovereigns expectation. They it seems are to be the Chosen favored people, because they have furnishd what their absolute Interest alone indueced them to do, that is 150 Waggons, and an Equivalent number of horses.5

Majr Chapman with a Detachment of 500 Men & the Quarter Master General, Marchd two or three Days ago before I arrivederasure⟩ here, to prepare open the Roads and lay a deposit of Provisions in a small Fort which they are to Erect at the Little meadows.

To morrow Sir Peter Halkett with the first Brigade is to begin their March; and on Monday the General with the 2d will follows.6

Our Hospital is fill’d with the Sick, and the number’s increase daily, with the bloody Flux, which has not yet provd Mortal to many.7 General Innis has accepted of a Commission to be Governour of Fort Cumberland Fort, where he is to reside, and will Shortly receive another to be hang man, or something of that kind & for which he is equally qualified.8 By a Letter recd from Governor Morris of Pennsylvania we have advice that a Party of three hundd Men passd Oswego on their way to Fort Duquisne, and that another, and larger Detachment was expected to pass that place every moment. By the Publick accts from Pensylvania we are assur’d that 900 Men hasve certainly passd Oswego, to reinfor[c]e the French on Ohio, so that from theseerasure9 accts, we have reason to beleive that we shall have more to do than go up the Hills to and come down again.10

We are impatient to hear what the power’s at home are doing; whether Peace or war is like to be the event issue of all these Preparations. I am Honble Sir Yr most Obedt Servt

Go: W——n

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

1For a discussion of GW’s difficulties in obtaining a guard at Winchester, see GW to John Augustine Washington, 28 May 1755, n.1.

2Richard Peters of Pennsylvania, who conferred with Braddock at Fort Cumberland in late May, reported to the Pennsylvania Council on 2 June 1755 that “the General was perpetually complaining of a Failure of every Body with whom the Government of Virginia had contracted for Provisions, Forage, Waggonage and Horses, and said, that unless the Province of Pennsylvania would hearken to his Applications to them . . . , the army could not stir this Summer, and he would complain to the King of the Remissness of the contiguous Provinces” (Pa. Arch., Col. Rec. description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 6:395–97). Braddock wrote Sir Thomas Robinson on 5 June 1755: “It would be endless, Sir, to particularize the numberless Instances of the want of publick and private Faith, and of the most absolute Disregard of all Truth, which I have met with in the carrying on of his Majesty’s Service on this Continent” (P.R.O., C.O. 5/46, ff. 21–24). On 8 June 1755 he complained to the adjutant general in London, Robert Napier, of “the Difficulties and Disappointments I have met with from the want of Honesty and Inclination to forward the Service in all Orders of people in these Colonies” (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).

3GW in later years described Braddock as “a man, whose good & bad qualities were intimately blended. He was brave even to a fault and in regular Service would have done honor to his profession. His attachments were warm—his enmities were strong and having no disguise about him, both appeared in full force. He was generous & disinterested—but plain and blunt in his manner even to rudeness” (GW Biographical Memorandum, c.1786, ViMtvL, photostat). See also GW to John Augustine Washington, 6 May 1755, GW to Robert Orme, 28 July 1755, and Robert Orme to GW, 25 Aug. 1755.

4At the insistence of Braddock and Sir John St. Clair, the Pennsylvania government was having a new road cut from Shippensburg west through Raystown to Turkey Foot on the Youghiogheny River, near which it was to join the Braddock Road. “No General,” St. Clair explained to Gov. Robert Hunter Morris on 14 Feb. 1755, “will advance with an Army without having a Communication open to the Provinces in his Rear, both for the Security of his Retreat and to facilitate the Transport of Provisions, the supplying of which we must greatly Depend on your Province.” On 24 April 1755 Braddock warned Governor Morris that “it is . . . of such Importance to have a free Communication with your Province to facilitate the march of any Assistance or Convoys I may require from thence, that I dont see how I can with Safety move from Fort Cumberland till that Work is finished or in great Forwardness” (Pa. Arch., Col. Rec. description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 6:300–301, 377–78). Construction, however, did not begin until 6 May. After a month of work the road was still less than half finished. The 150–man working party had only recently completed the difficult crossing of Sideling Hill and was now near the Juniata River about 15 miles east of Raystown. By the middle of July when news of Braddock’s defeat halted work on the road, the party, then about 200 strong, was laboring on the steep slopes of the Allegheny Mountains about 20 miles west of Raystown.

5The agreement that Braddock made with Benjamin Franklin at Frederick, Md., on 22 or 23 April 1755 called for Pennsylvania to provide 150 wagons with horses and drivers at 15s. each per day and 1,500 packhorses at 2s. each per day with saddles or 1s. 6d. without saddles. The economic benefit to be derived from these terms was great, a fact that Franklin took pains to stress in his advertisement of 26 April addressed to the inhabitants of Lancaster, York, and Cumberland counties: “You have now an Opportunity of receiving and dividing among you a very considerable Sum; for if the Service of this Expedition should continue (as it’s more than probable it will) for 120 Days, the Hire of these Waggons and Horses will amount to upwards of Thirty thousand Pounds, which will be paid you in Silver and Gold of the King’s Money” (Labaree and Willcox, Franklin Papers description begins William B. Willcox et al., eds. The Papers of Benjamin Franklin. 40 vols. to date. New Haven, 1959—. description ends , 6:20–22). Braddock, who had consistently condemned Pennsylvania’s Quaker-dominated assembly in harsh terms for its refusal to approve vigorous military steps for colonial defense, found it increasingly desirable, nevertheless, to establish a close relationship with the Pennsylvanians. Pennsylvania’s geographical location and its many productive farms made the colony his best source of provisions. Furthermore, Braddock was convinced that the Pennsylvanians were “exact in their Dealings, and much more industrious than the others,” especially the Virginians and Marylanders (Braddock to Robert Napier, 8 June 1755, 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 , 84–92).

6The main body of the army marched from Fort Cumberland in three divisions between this day and Tuesday, 10 June. See GW Memorandum, 30 May–11 June 1755, nn.7, 11, 13.

7“Bloody Flux” was a term for dysentery. Of the 2,293 rank and file reported present at Fort Cumberland on 8 June 1755, 203 were sick, of whom 77 were in hospitals. All soldiers who were too ill to march were to be sent to the fort’s general hospital before the army’s departure. See also GW to John Augustine Washington, 7 June 1755, n.5.

8Col. James Innes, campmaster general at Wills Creek since the previous fall, was appointed governor of Fort Cumberland by General Braddock on 2 June 1755. His new duties included commanding the garrison of about 50 men that was to remain at the fort after the army marched for Fort Duquesne, superintending the commissaries during Braddock’s absence, and dispatching convoys to the army. “Instructions were given to him,” says Robert Orme, “and money was left with him for contingent expences, lest the service should for want of it meet with any checks” (“Captain Orme’s Journal,” in Sargent, Braddock’s Expedition description begins Winthrop Sargent, ed. The History of an Expedition against Fort Du Quesne, in 1755; under Major-General Edward Braddock, Generalissimo of H.B.M. Forces in America. Philadelphia, 1856. description ends , 326). Innes’s title as general was connected with the position, briefly held in 1754, of commander in chief of the Ohio expedition and not with any change in commissioned rank. See Dinwiddie to GW, 4 June 1754. Innes retained the rank of colonel at Fort Cumberland and was usually referred to as colonel. For hints of GW’s developing antagonism toward Innes, see William Fitzhugh to GW, 4 Nov. 1754, and GW to William Fitzhugh, 15 Nov. 1754.

9The erased word may be “the.”

10Between 23 April and 28 May 1755 the French commandant at Montreal dispatched 766 French and Canadians and 170 Indians to the Ohio country in a series of small parties, but low water on creeks and rivers delayed their arrival at Fort Duquesne. See GW to John Augustine Washington, 28 June–2 July 1755, n.11. Gov. Robert Hunter Morris forwarded further intelligence about these reinforcements to Braddock on 16 June. The general apparently continued to discount all such reports in the belief that the threat posed by Shirley’s, Johnson’s, and Monckton’s forces to the north would prevent the French from sending many troops south.

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