George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Robert Dinwiddie, 8 May 1756

From Robert Dinwiddie

Williamsburg May 8th 1756


Your Letter of the 3d I recd Yesterday, & observe its Contents. I have recd the Indian Scalp & I doubt not but many more were killed in that small Skermish.

I am glad the Indians are gone over the Mountains,1 but I cannot think they were so numerous as represented, unless they have prevailed on the Twightwees to join with them; I am of Opinion if You cou’d send a Message to them by some trusty Indian, to let them know our Intentions against the French, & the Number of Warriors sent by their Father the King, to exterpate the French, & to protect their Lands, they wou’d continue steady in our Interest, for they will never forget the Insults & Murders committed against them by the French in the Year 1752.2

We must not be too secure, for probably the Indians are gone to the Fort with their Plunder & may return reinforced, or more probable are ordered to the Northwd where the greatest Push is intended against them, but we must be on our Guard.3

I have by this Express wrote to Fredericksburg to stop the rest of the Militia from marching to Winchester; And the Draughts from the different Counties to compleat Your Regiment, I have ordered to be marched to Fredericksburg by the Majors of each County, where I expect they will be the End of this Month; I therefore desire You to send some of the best & most sedate of Your Officers to Fredericksburg by the last of this Month to receive them from the different Majors to be march’d to You.4

A Chain of Forts are proposed, & an Association of Gentlemen5 will march from the North to the South, with Your Advice to propose the proper Places to erect these Forts.6

I have given Orders to be particularly careful in making the Draughts from each County, by choosing the best of their Young Men. As to the Plan of Operations, what can I concert when our neighbouring Colonies are asleep & afford us no Assistance? no Great Guns or Ingineers to attack their Fort which I much desired to be on the Offensive,7 but as we are now situated we can only remain on the Defensive to protect our Frontiers, unless we shou’d be assisted by Lord Loudon, for which Purpose Colo. Ludwell goes to New York with a Representation of our present Affairs, & to desire his Assistance,8 which, if agreed to, I fear will come too late for this Year—So that on the whole I must depend on Your conducting the Forces in the most eligible manner for the protection of the People on our Frontiers; by perswading the Inhabitants to return to their Plantations, & directing by proper Signals their retiring to the Forts contiguous to them on any Emergency. When the Draughts arrive with You, You will then be able to dispose of Your Forces in a more regular Manner, by each Captain’s having the Command of his own Company, at such Places, as You, by a Council of War may order, & their Pay may then be properly sent to them.

I cou’d not prevail with the Assembly to put the Articles of War in Force, but as it is now, by their Act, You may conduct them pretty well; & I think the Act provides against Cowardice or Corresponding with the Enemy; & as to other Neglects, You may venture to take it upon Yourself by inflicting Corporal Punishment for quiting their Post, or Sleeping on their Post.9 The Assembly was Prorogued last Friday, so Nothing more can be expected at present. I hope e’er this You have Militia sufficient till the Draughts join You, having stop’d any more marching to Winchester. I suppose this will be delivered You at Fort Cumberland, where I doubt not You will find Affairs in a much better Condition than were represented here.

Cloths for the Men I cannot supply, as no Ships are arrived; I think the Men lately enlisted, if not Clothed, shou’d have no Stopage made, if that will please them till clothed; You shou’d have wrote to the Treasurer on that head as You know I do not meddle with their Money.

The Commissary must be with You before this, he carried some Money with him & I spoke to the Treasurer to send him more—I am sensible You must have much Fatigue, but hope soon Affairs will be more regular than it possibly cou’d be under the late great Surprize & unexpected Invasion.

I send You a Death Warrant for shooting Sergeant Lewis, which I doubt not You will order to be executed, by having as many of the Forces present as You can, that he may be a public Example to deter others from such like Offences; You are to fill up the Blank to the Day You may think most proper, declaring the Crime for which he suffers.10

I paid Jenkins to the Time You was order’d a Military Chest,11 & You are to continue to pay him as it’s a necessary Service, & I shall support You therein.

Pray God protect & direct You in every Thing for the Service of the King & Country And I remain with Esteem & Regard Sir Your most humble Servant

Robt Dinwiddie

Enclos’d You have the Act of Assembly.12 If more of the Militia are with You, than You have occasion for, order them back.

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

1The letter-book copy identifies the mountains as the Alleghenys.

2French-led Indians from the region of the Michilimakinac attacked the Twightwee at Pickawillany in June 1752, killing and reportedly eating their chief.

3Gen. William Shirley, who was soon to be replaced by Gen. James Abercromby until Loudoun’s arrival, had fixed in December 1755 as one objective in 1756 an attack on Fort Frontenac and other forts that secured the French hold on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, but he was receiving very little support for such a campaign from the American colonies. In a letter to Henry Fox on 10 May 1756 Dinwiddie reported that the Indians had withdrawn, “whether to reinforce & retn or order’d up the Ohio to the defence of Niagara & Crown Point, I know not” (ViHi: Dinwiddie Papers).

4Dinwiddie’s instructions to each county lieutenant to send his “Draught of Men” to Fredericksburg are dated 5 May 1756 (ibid.); his instructions of 8 May halting the militia have not been found. The act of the assembly for drafting the militia (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) stipulated that “within twenty days after the passing of this act [on 1 May 1756], the county lieutenant . . . in every county, . . . except . . . Hampshire, is . . . required, to . . . hold a council of war, of the field officers and captains of the militia, . . . at which . . . the several captains of the militia . . . shall deliver in lists . . . of all the single men in their respective muster-rolls . . .; which council of war shall enter the names of all the able-bodied single men upon a list, and shall immediately appoint a certain day, within ten days after the day on which they first met . . . for the said able-bodied single men . . . to meet at the court-house.” The county lieutenant and the field officers and captains of the militia were to meet at the courthouse as well in order to receive all those who would voluntarily enlist. They then were to hold a drawing to obligate a sufficient number of the single men on the list “immediately to enter his majesty’s service” so that the total number of recruits would be one-twentieth of the number of militiamen in the county. A draftee would be excused from serving, however, if he found another man to take his place or if he paid a fine of £10 at once. Dinwiddie later reported that nearly all of the recruits were volunteers and that it was because a man drafted could pay £10 and not serve that there were fewer than 400 recruits rather than the 1,500 hoped for. See Orders, 2 June 1756, n.2, Dinwiddie to GW, 27 May 1756, and GW to Dinwiddie, 25 June 1756 (first letter). The act also provided that “the soldiers so drafted” would be taken into the Virginia Regiment, could not be forced to serve after 1 Dec. 1756, and should not be “marched out of this colony.” For the passage of the defense act that included these provisions for drafting of the militia, see Dinwiddie to GW, 15 April 1756, n.2, John Robinson to GW, 17 April 1756, and GW to Dinwiddie, 3 May 1756, n.2.

5Between “Gentlemen” and “will” the letter-book copy has the following words: “are determin’d to be at Fredericksburg by the 25th in their Way to you these Gentlemen.”

6The act for raising £25,000 for defense passed in the recent session of the legislature included provisions for building the forts, but apparently it was Dinwiddie’s own decision to have the Association under Peyton Randolph help GW choose the sites for the forts. Dinwiddie’s letter of 12 June suggests that the “Gentlemen” did not, in fact, perform this role. The legislature specified that £2,000 should be allocated for building the forts.

7Dinwiddie wrote Henry Fox on 24 May 1756: “We can only be on the defensive havg no Cannon fit to attack Ft DuQuesne 4 twelve P[ounde]rs that were sent here from the Bd of Ordnance I propos’d keepg here for that purpose, but in compliance with Gl Shirley’s repeated Orders I was oblig’d to send ’em to NYork” (ViHi: Dinwiddie Papers). See also Dinwiddie to Shirley, 13 Mar. 1756 (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 , 2:369–70), in which he said he had given orders for the cannon to be sent.

8Dinwiddie’s letter welcoming Loudoun and describing Virginia’s plight is dated 24 May 1756. Philip Ludwell (1716–1767), who took to New York Dinwiddie’s letter and an address drawn up by the council for Loudoun, had been a member of the council since 1751. Dinwiddie called him “a worthy, good Man . . . posses’d of a large Estate here” (ViHi: Dinwiddie Papers).

9For GW’s expression of dissatisfaction with the act of the assembly regulating military discipline, see his letter to Dinwiddie, 3 May 1756.

10The unexecuted warrant is printed as an enclosure to this letter.

11GW received authorization for his military chest, or allowance, in November 1755. See Memorandum . . ., 8–11 Nov. 1755.

12See note 4.

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