George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Robert Orme, 25 August 1755

From Robert Orme

Augt the 25th 1755

My dear George

Your Letter1 gave me infinite Pleasure as every Mark of your Friendship & Remembrance ever will do for believe me I shall ever however seperated cultivat⟨e⟩ as close an Intercourse as our Distance will permit. I thought you very long before you writ and feard some Accident which your ill State of Health at parting from us seem to confirm. The Part of your Letter mentioning the Reflections upon the General gives me much Uneasyness tho. I feel a Contempt for the Detracters which alleviates in some Degree my Concern I know the ignorant and rascally CD. is one promoter through resentment and malevolence and the thick head Baronet another intending to build his Character upon the Ruins of one much more amiable than his can be.2 For my Part I judge it a Duty to vindicate the Memory of a Man whom I greatly and deservedly esteemd and I think every Man whom he regarded should be his Advocate keeping litterally to Facts which ⟨must always⟩ improve the goodness of his Disposition.3 I am convinced the Affection he bore you as well as your Integrity and good Nature will make you assidu⟨ous⟩ in removing those abominable Prejudices the generality of People have imbibed and publish. It is very hard the Bluntness and openness of a Mans Temper should be called Brutality and that he who would hear Opinions more freely than any Man should be accused of Obstinacy and Peremptoriness.4 In short in a thousand Particulars I find such Lies and Opposites that I will say no more.

Pray write to me in Philadelphia and direct at the Governors and to me in London in Hollis Street5 sending me from time to time the American News and commanding my Service in England which will ever give me the greatest Happyness.

Coll Burton and Morris desire their Compliments & I am My dear George Yr most affectionate Friend

Robt Orme

ALS, DLC:GW. The ink in the letter is very faded, but the tentative readings of the words in angle brackets are the same as in Hamilton, Letters to Washington description begins Stanislaus Murray Hamilton, ed. Letters to Washington and Accompanying Papers. 5 vols. Boston and New York, 1898–1902. description ends , 1:83–84.

2“CD.” was probably Col. Thomas Dunbar, with whom Orme had argued bitterly during the campaign, and the “thick head Baronet” must have been Sir John St. Clair, who had strongly opposed many of Braddock’s decisions before and during the battle. Dr. Alexander Hamilton of Annapolis, writing to a brother in Scotland this month, asserted that Orme, Burton, and Morris had comprised “a Secrete Cabal or Junto, who kept their Schemes entirely to themselves, not permitting the older and more experienced officers to have the least insights into their Measures & Consultations . . . . It was said (with what truth I cannot say) That as the General made himself absolutely sure of taking the Fort, There was a Scheme laid by the Junto, that a new Regiment should be formed there [from the provincials], of which Regiment Burton was to have been appointed Collonel, Orm Leut Col. & Morris Major in prejudice of the older Officers, particularly Sir John St. Clair, who had as yet no particular Command” (Alexander Hamilton to Gavin Hamilton, Aug. 1755, in Breslaw, “A Dismal Tragedy,” description begins Elaine G. Breslaw, [ed]. “A Dismal Tragedy: Drs. Alexander and John Hamilton Comment on Braddock’s Defeat.” Maryland Historical Magazine 75 (1980): 118–44. description ends 131–40). Governor Sharpe heard a similar story at Fort Cumberland about this time. See Horatio Sharpe to William and John Sharpe, 11 Aug. 1755, in Browne, Sharpe Correspondence description begins William Hand Browne, ed. Correspondence of Governor Horatio Sharpe. 3 vols. Archives of Maryland, vols. 6, 9, and 14. Baltimore, 1888–95. description ends , 1:267–70. See also “Anonymous Letter,” 25 July 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 , 112–24.

3Orme had taken pains to protect Braddock’s reputation in the several letters about the expedition that he had written at Fort Cumberland on 18 July, and in recent weeks an extract from one of them had appeared anonymously in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston newspapers. The defeat, Orme said, resulted, not from any neglect by Braddock, but from a precipitant retreat of Gage’s vanguard, “which caused such Confusion, and struck so great a Panick among our Men, that afterwards no military Expedient could be made use of that had any Effect upon them: The Men were so extreamly deaf to the Exhortations of the General, and the Officers, that they fired away, in the most irregular Manner, all their Ammunition, and then run off” (Pennsylvania Gazette [Philadelphia], 31 July 1755). Not everyone accepted Orme’s version of the events. In an anonymous advertisement that appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 4 Sept. 1755, Gage denied that the vanguard had been at fault, and Daniel Dulany of Maryland in a private letter of 6 Dec. 1755 questioned Orme’s motives: “He did all he could to excuse the General, which, indeed, was necessary to vindicate himself. Everyone knew there was a fault somewhere, and his business was to impute it where the end might be answered, and the least contradiction given” (Dulany, “Military and Political Affairs,” description begins Daniel Dulany. “Military and Political Affairs in the Middle Colonies in 1755.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 3 (1879): 11–31. description ends 11–31). Such criticisms, however, did not deter Orme from vigorously and articulately pushing his defense of Braddock in both America and England. See Orme to GW, 10 Nov. 1755 and 2 Mar. 1756.

4Braddock, in Dr. Hamilton’s opinion, “was austere and Supercilious, rough spoken and in Short nothing Engaging appeared in his Conversation. He showed a distant behaviour and Reserve, even towards the Governors of our Colonys, as if they had been infinitely his Inferiors; Shutting himself up like a Bashaw from the Conversation of his own officers, Suffering none of them to hold discourse with him, more than what was just absolutely necessary, At open variance with some and not in Speaking terms with others; For which behaviour I never could learn any other reason but his o[wn] haughty and Imperious Temper . . . he was only barely civil from the teeth outwards to Major George Washington” (Alexander Hamilton to Gavin Hamilton, Aug. 1755, in Breslaw, “A Dismal Tragedy,” description begins Elaine G. Breslaw, [ed]. “A Dismal Tragedy: Drs. Alexander and John Hamilton Comment on Braddock’s Defeat.” Maryland Historical Magazine 75 (1980): 118–44. description ends 131–40). For GW’s views of Braddock, see particularly GW to John Augustine Washington, 6 May 1755, and to William Fairfax, 7 June 1755, n.3.

5Holles Street leads into Cavendish Square, which in the mid-eighteenth century was the center of a fashionable new section on the north side of London. Lined with fine residences, this short street had only two commercial establishments at this time: the Queen’s Head Tavern and a trunkmaker’s shop.

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