George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Robert Dinwiddie, 23 April 1756

From Robert Dinwiddie

Williamsburg Apr. 23d 1756


Your Letr of the 19th by Mr Rutherfurd came to my Hands Tuesday last, but Yours of the 16th by Express did not reach me till the day after.1 I am heartily sorry for the Death of Capt. Mercer, & the other poor Men that were killed with him, it appears to me that the Enemy drew them out after them, pretending to fly, in order to destroy them from their lurking Places; but it surprizes me that we do not hear of any of the Enemy being killed; probably as usual they secret their Dead.

It gives me much Concern to think of Your Situation & seeing2 our Numbers are so few, & that the Militia are so backward in rising on so necessary an Occasion & in so imminent Danger & Necessity. I am endeavouring with the Assembly to hasten the Bill for draughting the Militia to augment our Forces to 2000; & I expect this Day or To-morrow it will pass both Houses, & I shall very soon give my Assent to it3—Your Proposal in regard to them is entirely agreeable to my Proposal to the House,4 excepting two more Field Officers, which I did not mention, but I shall agree thereto, tho’ shall not appoint any more Officers till I see or hear from You—I have not the least Objection to Yr Brother’s being a Lieut.5

The Cherokees propose sending us 600 Men if we will build a Fort in the Upper Cherokee Country, which is agreed on & Majr Lewis is appointed to oversee the building of it, & I shall send 60 Men with him6—I have had great Trouble with the Cherokees that are here to perswade them to go to Fort Cumberland, at last they have consented, there will be about 60 of them; & Lieut. Baker7 here got fourteen of the Nottaways who are now here & will march To-morrow.8 I wish I cou’d augment Your Forces imediately so as to scower the Woods of those mishievous Miscreants; however keep up Your Spirits & in Time I hope we shall be able to vanquish them.

The Men draughted from the Militia will be under the same Regulation as those now under Yr Command.9 Letters from England leave us still in Uncertainty as to Peace or War—Two Genls ⟨a⟩re appointed for America Lord Louden & Genl Abercrombie, & it’s thot they will bring over two Battalions, but whether for this Place or NYork remains uncertain,10 it’s further said H. Majesty intends to send blank Commissions for the Americans, if so, I doubt not You will be taken care of.

Pray examine Yr Pay Master in regard to the Stopages for the People’s Cloathing; for I cannot have my Supplies settled without Your Assistance. I am excessively hurried with many different Affairs that I cannot write any more but that I am with Respect. Sir Your most humble Servt

Robt Dinwiddie

P:S: If the Militia are order’d to meet & do not appear, they shd be fined agreeable to the Act of Assembly.

LS, DLC:GW; LB, ViHi: Dinwiddie Papers.

1Dinwiddie apparently had not yet received GW’s letter of 18 April disclaiming responsibility for the reported misbehavior of the officers at Fort Cumberland, nor does he take note of GW’s protest in any of his subsequent letters to GW. Dinwiddie may have mistook the day when he wrote that ranger lieutenant Thomas Rutherford gave him GW’s letter of 19 April (Monday) on 20 April (Tuesday), but Charles Carter’s letter of 22 April to GW seems to establish that Rutherford arrived in Williamsburg from Winchester no later than 21 April. Thomas Rutherford was the brother of Robert Rutherford, the assistant commissary in Winchester.

2This word appears to be “sorry” in the letter-book copy.

3The bill went up to the council on 24 April, came back down with the council’s approval on 27 April, and was signed by Dinwiddie on 1 May 1756. The act is printed in 7 Hening description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends 9–20.

4See GW to Dinwiddie, 16 April 1756, and enclosures.

5See ibid., note 9.

6Dinwiddie sent during the winter two members of the colonial council, Peter Randolph and William Byrd III, to the Cherokee to secure their aid in fighting the French and the Indian allies of the French. See Dinwiddie to Randolph and Byrd, 23 Dec. 1755, in Brock, Dinwiddie Papers description begins R. Alonzo Brock, ed. The Official Records of Robert Dinwiddie, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Virginia, 1751–1758. 2 vols. Richmond, 1883–84. description ends , 2:303–5. When the two commissioners reported (in a letter dated 17 Mar. 1756) that “the Cherokees & Catawbas . . . are ready to assist us with their Warriors if they can have a Fort built for their Women & Children” (Dinwiddie to Arthur Dobbs, 13 April 1756, ViHi: Dinwiddie Papers), Dinwiddie turned over the commissioners’ letter and the other related papers to the House of Burgesses. Two days later, on 14 April, the House resolved that a fort should be built in the Cherokee country. Dinwiddie and the burgesses subsequently agreed that the home government and the colonial government should share the cost and that Maj. Andrew Lewis of the Virginia Regiment should supervise the building of the fort. On 24 April Dinwiddie sent Lewis detailed instructions for enlisting sixty men and for the fort’s construction. He also enclosed a message to the Cherokee about the fort, dated 23 April 1756. For the building of the fort and Lewis’s return to Virginia, see Dinwiddie to GW, 20 Aug. 1756, n.1, and GW to Adam Stephen, 6 Sept. 1756, n.4.

7Named a lieutenant in Robert McKenzie’s company when GW organized the new Virginia Regiment in September 1755, James Baker (1737–1758), of Isle of Wight County, frequently served as an officer with friendly Indians, whom he took “kind Care of” (William Fairfax to GW, 31 Mar. 1757). In June 1757 he was with a scouting party of Cherokee who scalped a number of French soldiers and lost their own headman, the Swallow Warrior, in a skirmish at Turtle Creek in Pennsylvania. GW blocked a later move from Williamsburg to give the company command vacated by Capt. Joshua Lewis to Baker rather than to a more senior lieutenant. In September 1758 Baker was killed in the fighting near Fort Duquesne. The word “here” after Baker’s name appears as “has” in the letter-book copy.

8On 28 April 1756 Dinwiddie wrote Gov. William Shirley of Massachusetts: “There were sixty Cherokees here who I have prevail’d on to join our Forces & to march to Winchester. They left this Monday last [26 April], with 16 of the Nottaway Inds., which is all I can do at prest & shall be glad if it meets with Yr approbation” (ViHi: Dinwiddie Papers). He wrote GW on 29 April confirming that the Cherokee left Williamsburg on 26 April and stating that he has sent word to Andrew Lewis in Augusta County urging him “to hasten them to Winchester.” On 18 May 1756 GW wrote Adam Stephen that “there come up thirteen of the Nottaway Indians” to Fort Cumberland. The party of Cherokee did not go to Winchester.

10John Campbell, fourth earl of Loudoun (1705–1782), was named governor of Virginia on 17 Feb. 1756 and commander in chief of the British forces in America on 20 Mar. 1756. His fellow Scot, James Abercromby (1706–1781), became his second in command. Abercromby arrived in Albany, N.Y., in June, and Loudoun landed in New York on 23 July. A year and one-half later, in early 1758, Loudoun was recalled and replaced by Jeffrey Amherst (1717–1797). Abercromby was recalled in the fall of 1758 after the disastrous attack on Fort Ticonderoga.

Index Entries