George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Adam Stephen, 23 December 1755

From Adam Stephen

Fort Cumberland [Md.] Decr 23d 1755

Dr Sir

Such a Spirit of Revenge and Indignation prevaild here, upon hearing you were insulted at the Fairfax Election, that we all were ready and violent to run and tear Your Enemies to pieces.1 As I imagine my self interested in all that Concerns you, I cannot forbear telling you that it would have been far better to have acquainted me with your Intention of Standing Candidate for Frederick,2 my acquaintance there is very general, and I would have touchd on the tender part, So gently that with a Weeks Notice, I am perfectly Sure you would have gone Unanimously, in the mean time I think your Poll was not despicable, as the people were a Stranger ⟨to⟩ your purpose, Untill the Election began.

It is certain there was no declaration of War Octr 10th tho’ this is Second hand News to You. The Blood & Burnings of the Back inhabitants has Effectually rous’d the Pennsylvanians.

The Commissioners for disposing of the £60,000 and transacting Military affairs, Sit every day sunday not excepted, to Expedite measures for their defence. I was mistaken in my last when I mentioned general Shirley at Lake George, it was at Albany.3

A proposal is on the Carpet, but kept very Secret, that The Jersey & Pennsylvania Troops join ours, and make an Attempt on the Ohio very Early in the Spring.

No accounts from Genl Johnson latly, the Boston people complain of his Inactivity; as he on the Spot was not the best Judge of what might be done.

By the last Accounts, it was reported in London that the French G[overnmen]t had made New Overtures of an Accommodation, promising to Relinquish all their Incroachments on the Ohio & Elsewhere, but that our Ministry insisted further that the Marine of both Nations remain on their present footing, without any Augmentation, and that the French should deliver into their Custody, a Certain Number of their Capital Ships as a Security, for their performance of Conventions: But it Seems the French Ambassador to this pleaded non Sum Informatus.4

They divide the French Neutrals in the most convenient manner they Can among the Townships to the northward.5

I am well pleasd with the Notion of Hostages—to Judge of their Behaviour from their perfidious Conduct with respect to the Neutral Islands; we have all the Reason in the World to believe we would be Cut to pieces when we went to take possession of F. Du Quesne or then perhaps be oblig’d to Return with our fingers in our Cheeks for This they Could easily blame the Indians!

Mr Polson has got a Commission in one of the Regiments6 My Brother lies Sick at New-York and is uncertain whether he is provided for, or Not, It would be a great addition to former favours to keep Mr Polson’s Commission Vacant, untill I hear further from him.7

Mr Calder has bought Ensign Dagworthy’s Commission at £200 St. and Dagworthy has bought Lt Morgans at £300 St.8 10 Officers were sent over for the Regiments from home.

It is certain Gel Shirley has orders to Raise two New Regiments. I should be glad to know if any Troops &ca were expected in Virginia from England, and the Authority. I am with due Respects, Sir, Your most obt huble Servt

Adam Stephen

I wish you the Complimts of the Season!

Last night Mr Campbell Returnd from Recruiting on the Branch—without the least Success,9 and informs me ten of Ashbys men went off Bodily, and told him of it before. As I have reason to believe it is a Scheme to go home & keep the Holly-days—I have sent Majr Livingston to Examine into the affair[.] Capt. Ashby asked Leave for a good many of them; and for himself, when I was there.


1In GW’s papers in the Library of Congress there is a copy of the poll sheet for the burgess election in Fairfax County on 11 Dec. 1755. It is written in his hand, which may mean that GW served in the election as the clerk or writer for his friend George William Fairfax. In any case, GW listed the names of 232 men who voted for John West, 222 for Fairfax, and 220 for William Ellzey. A clue to the insult to GW that Stephen refers to may be found in Parson Weems’s Life of Washington. He tells a tale of GW’s being knocked down with a club at the polls by a supporter of William Ellzey, the losing candidate.

2GW himself may not have known that his friends in Frederick County were going to present his name to the voters at Winchester on 10 Dec. GW kept a copy of the Frederick County poll sheet (c.10 Dec., DLC:GW) in his papers with the names of the 40 men who voted for him and the names of the 271 men who voted for Hugh West and 270 who voted for Thomas Swearingen.

3Gen. William Shirley was in New York City on 12–13 Dec. for a council of war with other military officers and the governors of New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. He returned to Boston on 30 Jan. 1756, and GW visited him there in March.

4Early in 1756 the French government in fact sent a sizable body of troops to reinforce the army in Canada and placed the marquis de Montcalm in command.

5The council in Nova Scotia voted in late July 1755 to deport the French Acadians, and the dispersal of the Acadians to other British colonies as far south as Georgia began in October. By this date the shiploads of Acadians had arrived in Pennsylvania and Maryland as well as Virginia, but Stephen was probably referring to report from Boston where a committee of the Massachusetts legislature was in the process of distributing these French Catholics among the various towns of the province.

6It was the 44th Regiment of Foot. See GW’s Orders, 18 Sept. 1755, n.7.

7This is probably Alexander Stephen (d. 1768), who was a brother of Adam Stephen and whose name appears as an ensign on GW’s Memorandum of 17 Sept. 1755. Alexander Stephen apparently refused or quickly resigned this ensign’s commission, possibly on grounds of poor health, but beginning in the summer of 1756 he seems to have served for 6 months as an ensign in Governor Shirley’s regiment, and he later accepted a king’s commission dated 27 Nov. 1756 as ensign in the Royal American Regiment, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant. A long obituary in the 19 May 1768 Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia) reported: “On the eighth Instant died in Frederick County, Virginia, Captain Alexander Stephen, late an Officer of his Majesty’s Royal American Regiment. He was a Gentleman of Integrity and Bravery. In General Braddock’s Engagement he rescued the Colours of the 44th Regiment from the Enemy, after the Fall of Mr. Halket, and received two Wounds in the Action. He distinguished himself at the Reduction of Louisbourg, and Quebec; and under the Command of General Murray, on the Heights of Abraham, the famous 28th of April, in which Engagement he received a dangerous Wound, of which he never perfectly recovered.”

8James Calder, a young volunteer with the Maryland forces during the Braddock campaign, was made ensign in the 44th Regiment of Foot of the regular British army. He later went to the Royal Americans as a lieutenant with a commission dated 6 May 1757. In 1757 his recruiting practices in Maryland landed him in difficulties with the authorities. Ely Dagworthy, a younger half brother of Capt. John Dagworthy of the Maryland forces, was commissioned a lieutenant in the 44th Regiment of Foot on 15 Nov. 1755 in the place of Thomas Morgan, who had held the commission since 29 Nov. 1745. Ely Dagworthy continued in the regiment at this rank through 1771.

9Stephen is referring to Lt. John Campbell of Capt. David Bell’s company.

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