George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Adam Stephen, 29 March 1756

From Adam Stephen

Fort-Cumberland [Md.] March 29th 1756


There is no remarkable Occurrence on this Quarter since my last,1 only the Murder of Ensign Gordon for the particulars of which, I refer you to Capt. Stewart.2

I regret him much, as he was a diligent Officer, Staunch, and firmly attach’d to the Virginia Interest, and had a particular Regard for You.

I have learn’d that you have been a long Journey, purely to pay your Compliments, and hear Some handsome things, which one is always to Expect from persons Conversant at the Courts of Princes, and especially from One who has resided So long at Paris the Metropolis of a polite Nation.3

The labour you have undergone ought to endear you more to the Gentlemen Concerned, and on Some of your Officers will have the proper Effect.

We were dilatory in beginning to push the Affair, but I hope Sir, as you have been so good as to embark in it, You will persevere, and leave no Stone unturned, but push the thing in the proper Channel—You may depend on my Concurrence, and what lies in my power to promote Your Interest and honour. I think the more our Form resembles that of the Regmts on the Establishmt The better pretensions we will have to be Establish’d.4 If modelled after this manner, we have a great many Officers to Spare, and Several we Can Spare, without hurting the Service. I can appeal to the orderly Book for my good intentions, but they have not avail’d So much as I good wish.

I have desired Mr Walker, to be ingenuous with You, if you ask him any Questions—In short, Sir, we have Severals who do little honour to the Regiment, and who seem to me to have enterd the Service out of mercenary rather than honble Views. If they can Comply with their Duty as far as to keep their Commission They have no Anxiety about the Desolation of the Frontiers, or Interest of their Country.

We stand in need of a purgation, and after you have reduced our numbers to men of spirit & honour—proper things may be Expected from Us; and we Can better answer the Expectations of Our Country. The Number of Officers, to our Number of Men, is a Burthen to the Country, for which Reason I beg you would insist upon a Regular Form. But what do I say? I am informed that a Certain Person, who declares openly that He has the greatest Influence over Governor Sharpe; will insist upon our being reduced to Independent Companies again, will have poor Livingstone Broke—because he insists upon doing his duty, and I suppose will bring about Several other great Changes worthy of the Gun Room. Unheard of Insolence!5

I shall look upon my Interest to be Inseperable from Yours, will Steer for the same Port, and as I dare Obey what Governor Sharpe, or any Commander dare Command—I will never Submit to any Regulations but what You approve;6 nor will I ever Serve in the provincialls below the Rank I bear, If the Duke of Cumberland were to C⟨ome⟩ in, besides a Braddock—I have the honour to be Sir, Your most Obt huble Servt

Adam Stephen

P.S. We have been much harassd by the Indians; which occasioned Several Parties always on the Scout.

You will find the men come on in Exersise and Bushfighting better than the Officers.


1The most recent letter from Lt. Col. Adam Stephen of the Virginia Regiment to GW that has been found is that written by Stephen from Fort Cumberland on 31 Jan. It is possible that Stephen was referring to his other letter to GW dated 29 Mar. or to an earlier letter that has been lost, perhaps one among those “enclosed letters” to Dinwiddie of 7 April.

2For Gov. Horatio Sharpe’s account of the murder of George Gordon at Conococheague, see his letter to Dinwiddie, 30 Mar. 1756, enclosed in William Withers to GW, 15 April 1756.

3Stephen was referring to GW’s recent visit to William Shirley in Boston. After Governor Shirley returned to London in 1749 in an attempt to bolster his political position in Massachusetts, he accepted the opportunity that the duke of Bedford gave him to become one of the peace commissioners in Paris. He remained in Paris from the late summer of 1750 until he was recalled to London in April 1752. He was then ordered to return to his post in Massachusetts.

4One of GW’s objects in going to Boston was to give Shirley the petition of the officers of the Virginia Regiment asking that they be put on the regular establishment of the British army. The petition has not been found. Adam Stephen, who was in charge of all the troops in and about Fort Cumberland, was second in command of the Virginia Regiment.

5The “Certain Person” was Capt. John Dagworthy of the Maryland forces whose influence might have been supposed to increase on account of the recent elevation of Maryland’s governor Horatio Sharpe to the command of the forces in the southern colonies. See Sharpe to Dinwiddie, 7 Mar. 1756, 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 , 1:350. James Livingston, also of the Maryland forces, was adjutant of the Virginia Regiment. Livingston served as fort major of Fort Cumberland from as early as Sept. 1755 until as late as 1760. Stephen’s reference to the “Gun Room” was probably left over from his earlier service in the British navy. See GW to Dinwiddie, 20 Mar. 1754, n.7. On a man-of-war, the gun room where junior officers had their mess was frequently the theater for these officers to exchange gossip and air their gripes.

6On 7 Mar. 1756 Sharpe received a letter from Gen. William Shirley dated 23 Feb., “with a Commission to command wt Forces shall be raised in these Southern Colonies for an Expedition to the westward” (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 , 1:351–52). In DLC:GW there is a copy in Stephen’s hand of the following letter from Sharpe:


As I have recied instructions, to take the Command of all the Forces, that are or shall be rais’d in these Colonies, for the protection of the Frontiers; This is to inform you thereof, and to desire that you will without Delay make me a particular Return of the Troops under your Command, Specyfying their Numbers, how Cloathed, armed and Accoutred. You are also to acquaint me, what Quantity of provisions, what Arms, Ammunition, Horses Waggons or other Stores, you have in Custody or the Care of

Horace Sharpe

To The Commanding Officer of the Virginia Forces at Fort Cumberland Dated Annapolis March 8th 1756”

There seems to be little doubt that Sharpe addressed the letter to Stephen at Fort Cumberland. Stephen probably enclosed this copy in one of his letters to GW.

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