George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Adam Stephen, 18 January 1756

From Adam Stephen

Fort Cumberland [Md.], January 18th 1756


In obedience to your Commands I reconnoitred to Ross’s mill on the South-Branch—from that to Fort Lewis, and found it may be made very easily a good Waggon Road. Waggons have been carried that way already. only four miles which may be Cut by a Single Company in a day.1 I also reconnoitred the ground on Pattieson’s Ck and found a ⟨mutilated⟩ Convenient place for a fortress, about a mile and a half above where Ashby has built. The ground comprehends part of ⟨mutilated⟩ plantation, and part of Tibolt’s; Mesrs Walkers & Rutherford Survey it tomorrow, and I will Send a platt per first opportunity;2 I am most impatient for orders in this particular, as factions have rose to a great height amongst us: You will See by the proceedings of a Certain Court inclosd which I am ashamed of, how much your Officers know what they are about, and how much they Can discern.3

Any Scoundrel who takes upon him to determine your Authority, or Sides so palpably agt the dignity of the Virginia Regiment, is not worthy to bear a Commission in it—A Regiment that has Obtained honour & Character and never was beholden to him, or any of the Court but the president; for the Name it enjoys. I shall take upon me to insist on your Examing into this Affair, & pushing this Gentleman as far as the Case will allow. He declares that he does not value his Commission; and from what I know of him we Need value his Service as little—for I will agree to be whipt if ever he adds any thing to our Credit—he came to me this Evening and desired me to put a Gentleman in arest because he Call’d him a Coward. If you think proper, This is a good handle to arest and bring him to a Tryal, ⟨mutilated⟩ without any further Resentment, makes me Suspect much, that the Assertion is well grounded, and I’m perswaded you would not like to be Supported by Such a person in the Day of Battle.

We have been alarmed twice in the night Since I came up, which occasioned my Sending out one party up the River—another towards Martins, which is returned and brought advice of Some Tracks. Capt. Waggener is marched for the South Branch, and all your other Orders are Complyd with, only the Relief of Lt Lomax which I beg you to Order from Winchester, as it would be a most fatiguing march for a party from Fort Cumberland.4

Drums & Drum-Cord is much wanted—half a dozen of Bed panns for the Hospital, without the DrumCord we Shall not have one to do duty in a few days—You cannot conceive the great inconvinience of paying the men in Such Large Bills—They do not get half the good of it.

Messieurs Hall & King go Recruiting, and as it is to a great distance, altho. they had orders to meet at the place of Rendezvous By the first of March, I promisd to Interceed with you for them, should they have Success & Stay to the 20th.

I’m Sorry the face of affairs is so unpromising—The Season far advanced, and we Strangers to the plan of Operations—with one third of a Regiment, and little hopes of great Success in Recruiting—This Sits heavy on an Active Spirit. Northamptonshire in Pennsylvania; The Indians had a Skirmish with a Company of 35 men on the first of January, wherein were killed Seven Indians & 22 Whites The Indians fled & the Christians burried the dead.5

There is ⟨mutilated⟩ Report here, that General Johnson has Resigned the Command. Shall we try and Whip these deserters, or Shall we keep them ’till further Orders?6 I have Sent Captains Woodward, Spotswood, Charles Lewis, Lt Hall, Eustace, King, Campbell, & Ensign Weedon to Recruit, with Strict Injunctions to be diligent and acquit themselves with honour in that important Service—The Party up the River is returnd—A serjeants Command Continues there to take Care of the Cattle which are as well off as can be Expected7—The Gentlemen are fond of Mr Wodrow for a sutler, and I wish every Commission were as well filld. I am with great Respect ⟨mutilated

Adam Stephen

ALS, DLC:GW. The words in angle brackets are taken from 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 , 1:167–70.

1Ross’s mill on the South Branch of the Potomac was, it seems, not far beyond where the Potomac branched, east of Patterson Creek. In responding to Stephen’s letter on 1 Feb., GW urged Stephen to go ahead and cut a road by Ross’s mill, and the next day he wrote Dinwiddie that such a road would permit “the more easy transportation of Stores &c. from Winchester to Fort Cumberland.” But see also GW’s Council of War, 10 July 1756, in which GW and his officers recommended that communications between “Enocks’s” fort on the Cacapon River and Ashby’s fort on Patterson Creek, be improved by clearing “a road leading to the South-Branch above Suttons plantation, passing near to Ross’s mill.” Fort Lewis may be Ashby’s fort where Capt. Charles Lewis was in command briefly in late December and early January while John Ashby was away from the fort.

2On 9 Jan. GW ordered Stephen to look for a site for a fort on Patterson Creek, on his way from Winchester to Fort Cumberland. If the place he chose to have surveyed was 1½ miles upstream (i.e., south) of Ashby’s fort, it was 5 or 6 miles from the Potomac River.

3Stephen appointed a court of inquiry at Fort Cumberland to look “into the Conduct of Lieut. William Stark of the Virginia Regiment.” Capt. Thomas Waggener presided, and the members of the court were captains William Bronaugh, Joshua Lewis, Robert Spotswood, John Fenton Mercer, and Henry Woodward. The court met on 16 Jan. at the fort and heard the testimony of Capt. Charles Lewis and of lieutenants John Williams, Roe, and John Campbell. Williams testified “that He heard Lieut. Stark say that He would not turn out his Guard to any Field Officer of the Virginia Regiment unless it was Order’d by Capt. Dagworthy who he looked upon to be Comanding Officer,” and Campbell affirmed that he had heard Stark say that “he would not make his Guard rest their Arms to Colo. Washington or Colo. Stephen while Capt. Dagworthy was Commanding Officer.” Testifying in his own defense, Stark conceded “that he would not rest his Arms to Colo. Washington or any Field Officer of the Virginia Regt unless he was at that Time Commanding Officer.” In the end the court delivered its opinion that Lieutenant Stark has “only Acted conformable to the Commanding Officers Orders.” Written below GW’s copy of the court’s proceedings, in Adam Stephen’s hand, is the following notation: “Proceedings of a Certain Court of Enquiry—The members of which have render’d themselves obnoxious not only to Censure but a general Court Marshal—having tryd the Prisr upon no Article of War and Consequently could not determine whether guilty or not.” (Presumably Stephen was using “obnoxious” in the old sense of “liable.”) Stephen also included a copy of a set of instructions for “the Officer of the Fort Guard” dated 3 Nov. 1755, signed by John Dagworthy and copied by Sgt. Thomas Carter. Across the bottom of the sheet Stephen wrote: “A Copy of the Orders by which the Court pretended to determine, and According to which Their Opinion is most Erroneous.” The two specific orders from Dagworthy to which the court must have referred were: “Your Guard is to turn out With Rested Armes to the Commanding Officer as he Passes and once per Day Stand by their Arms to A Colo.” and “your Centries are to Rest to A Commanding Officer Or their Field Officer of their one Redgment as often as they Pass and shouldered to Other Officers.”

4On 2 Feb. GW sent Ens. John Dean up from Alexandria with the recruits there to relieve John Edward Lomax at Watkins’s ferry on the Potomac across from Conococheague. At the same time he ordered Lt. John Blagg to go from Alexandria to take command of the troop of light horse and the other soldiers at Winchester. But if Stewart was still in town Blagg was to go on to Watkins’s ferry and relieve Dean, and Dean would then join his company at Fort Cumberland.

5The action referred to here, in which much of the town of Gnadenhutten in Northampton County, Pa., was burned, was described in the Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia) on 8 Jan. and again on 15 Jan.

6GW instructed Stephen on 1 Feb. to continue to whip deserters “stoutly” because the authority for holding general court-martials under Virginia’s new mutiny act, which provided for the death penalty, still needed clarification. See note 5 in GW to Dinwiddie, 5 Dec. 1755.

7See Stephen’s reference earlier in this letter to the parties sent “up the River” and “towards Martins.”

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