George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Fairfax, 10 July 1756

From William Fairfax

Belvoir. 10th July 1756

Dear Sir

I receiv’d Yrs of the 22d ulto by Jenkins enclosing two Plans1 of the intended Fort You are erecting at Winchester but the Bastions of the different Plans appearing to vary in the Dimensions You have not distinguisht which is the One made Use of; however as I apprehend your Scale is feet I think either of Them well design’d and notwithstanding Colo. I—’s2 invidious Calling it a Citadel, will be as small as can be formed to receive and entertain a suitable Garrison for that Part of the Country and expected to sustain the lesser Fortresses on the Frontiers. You having represented that on that Side of the Fort markt O there is an Hill at about 100 Yards Distance which forms and overlooks a Second Valley so as to cover an Enemys Approach where also the most likely to begin an Attack I think it advisable to build a Redoubt on that Hill as soon as the greater Work begins to be defensible, And as the Practice of Sallying out is to interrupt and destroy the first breaking of Ground and near Approaches of the Enemy whilst Entrenching and raising of Batteries I have markt the Sally-Port on the said Curtain. In the Passage thrô the Wall which should be kept clear during War or apprehended Invasion there should be two strong Doors especially the outermost well studded with large Nails, substantial Locks and Barrs; for the further Security thereof against the Enemys Shot and Fire, a Blind like a Ravelin necessary to conceal the Sally Port.3 It is many Years since I was in one but if I mistake not, they are so guarded. I am wel aware the Planning and principal Direction being the Duty and Employment of an Engineer, must Occasion You much Thought and Fatigue, for which your Friends of the Martial Comittee should be put in Mind to prepare One another to give an adequate Recompence.

If Bryan Fx is not pticularly designd to be stationd under Some One of the Captains on the Frontiers, He Seems desirous if You approvd, to be employd under the Officer entrusted with your Commands over the Workmen at Fort Washington,4 which may give Bryan an Introduction and Small Taste of Fortification. As perhaps You may want the Plans sent Me thô You did not mention it, Bryan has drawn two Copys herewith enclosd.5 I am persuaded You dont imagine I would recommend Bryan to any Favor He had not some Claim to by his respectful Behaviour.

Captn Minor & Capt. Hamilton have repeatedly of late writ representing their own and Companys Uneasiness at being very long detaind on Duty in So much that Many have deserted. I have answerd them, that probably the Drafts from the lower Countys Militia will soon be compleated and enable You to admit their Return, before which We can’t make our Drafts or think of punishing the Deserters.6 I shall be very glad when your Regiment is mannd according to the Sea Phrase. Genl Abercrombie and Many &c. are arrivd and proceeded for Albany. Lord Loudon dayly expected. The D. of Richlieu wth 15,000 Men are landed in Minorca. A Ship passing by from Genoa heard the Discharge of several Guns and after sayling a few Leagues met Adml Byng with 15. Ships of the Line to whom the Captain told what He had heard—It is supposd We had abt 8 Ships of War before at Port Mahon to assist the Garrison under Genl Blakeny the Governor.7 I hope our next Advices from thence will give Us the great and welcome News of the French Squadron and Land men being well drubb’d; wch also reminds Me that Adml Hawke has met a French Squadron off Cape Finisterre, taken 3 sixty & seventy Gun Ships, drove 3. more ashore and blockaded those that escapd. It’s imagind these Fr. Ships were outward bound for Cape Breton & Quebeck, which being so prevented must distress their Affairs and Views.8

If we can prevent the Enemy from annoying our People whilst Harvesting, I imagine the Invaders will soon be calld for, as the Operations will be chiefly carried on at Crown Point & Lake Ontario.

I doubt not your maintaining a free and friendly Correspondence with the Gentn of the Martial Committee.

Wishing You, Officers and Soldiers of your Regiment good Health and a Completion of your laudable Desires, in which G. Fx his belovd Dame9 &c. joyn I remain dear Sr Yr affecte & obedt Servt

W: Fairfax

P.S. For pticulars from Us & Mt Vernon referr to Bryan Fx.


1The letter has not been found. For the plans, see note 3.

2He was referring to James Innes, governor of Fort Cumberland.

3In DLC:GW and docketed by GW as “Rough Plans of Fort Loudoun near Winchester and Fort Cumberland als Innes Wills Creek” are (1) several ground plans and elevations for the fort at Winchester and (2) a single drawing entitled: “Plan of Fort Innes, at Mount Pleasant on Will’s Creek” (1756). GW keyed the various drawings for the construction of Fort Loudoun at Winchester to tables of descriptions, dimensions, and instructions that he provided. One of the tables is headed: “The Plat on the other side is the Ground Work of the Fort.” An item in the table makes it clear that a copy of this plat was one of the two plans that GW sent to Fairfax: “N.B. The Gate of the Fort Fronts the main Street in Winchester, & is distant abt 150 or 200 Yards from the Town, and abt 40 Feet higher with a gradual assent all the way on the Sides O & P are deep Valleys which comes up to the Points of the Bastns at 2R & [ ] especially on the side O from ⟨where⟩ on a hill at abt 100 yds distance which forms a second valley, and cover for the Enemy to approach under, we have the greatest reason to fear an attack.” There is also here a second copy of this table almost identical to the first and an almost identical plat. Someone has added to this first copy of the plat a drawing of a sally port, labeled as such, with the drawing of another structure in front of it. This last may be “a Blind like a Ravelin” to which Fairfax refers here. If so, this second copy may be the one that Bryan Fairfax made and that William Fairfax enclosed in this letter. See note 4. The other of the “two Plans,” a copy of which GW sent to Fairfax and to which Fairfax refers here, may be the one with two figures, one a drawing of its layout and the other its elevation. It has tables labeled “Figure first” and “Figure Second.” There are two other sheets with two drawings of Fort Loudoun which are very similar but are without the sets of tables. Despite GW’s docket, two other drawings with several pages of tables (in rough form) are clearly not of Fort Loudoun or of Fort Cumberland. For the probability that they were intended for the forts to be built along the frontier, see GW to Thomas Waggener, 21 July 1756, n.1.

4Fairfax seems to be referring here to the new fort at Winchester, later to be called Fort Loudoun.

5For the possibility that Bryan Fairfax’s copies are to be found in DLC:GW, see note 3. It should be noted that the faded script makes any analysis of the handwriting inconclusive.

6For the militia draft in Fairfax County on 30 Aug., see William Fairfax to GW, 3 Sept. 1756.

7Fairfax may have read this generally accurate account of developments at Minorca in the Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg), no copies of which for this period have survived. The duc de Richelieu landed with his forces on the island of Minorca in mid-April and laid siege to the forces of Lt. Gov. William Blakeney holed up in St. Philip’s castle at Port Mahon. Before mid-May Adm. John Byng sailed from Gibraltar with a fleet to relieve Blakeney. His ships on 20 May entered an engagement with the French fleet commanded by the marquis de La Galissonière. On 24 May, after having suffered heavy damage, Byng chose to abandon any attempt to come to the aid of the garrison at St. Philip’s castle, a decision which was to cost him his life before a firing squad. After news of the French invasion reached London, the British government on 18 May declared war on France.

8Sir Edward Hawke, who succeeded to Byng’s command in the Mediterranean, commanded a squadron of British ships operating in the Atlantic off the coast at Brest during the spring of 1756.

9George William Fairfax’s wife was Sarah (Sally) Cary Fairfax (c.1730–1811).

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