George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Robert Stewart, 27 September 1757

From Robert Stewart

Fort Loudoun Sep. 27th 1757


Yesterday afternoon an unexpected occurrence brought in part a very extraordinary Scheme of Villainy to Light1—The Girl kept by the Quartermasr had some difference with Bonnel a soldier that waited on Hamilton, Bonnel reported that Hamilton in Compy with Jones (late Serjt) went off wt. an intention not to return;2 upon which I order’d a Court of enquiry & Inclose you a Copy of it’s Proceedings3 from which & various hints I receiv’d in different Channels concluded it possible to make further Discoveries by getting Hamilton’s House and those of his intimates Search’d, the preparative steps thereto I conducted wt. the utmost secrecy & after a number of Warrants were Sign’d by Justice Speake the only Constable in Town (Thos Wood) refus’d to act nor was one in Town would serve his Country in that Office till Mr Woodrow very generously accepted & with indefaticable assiduity executed it, he accompanied by several Officers spent the whole night in searching many of the Houses in Town & some in its Neighbourhood and several things belonging to the Regiment were found;4 those in whose possession the things were found was this day brought before the Justices Swearingin, Linsey & Speake who Bound them over to the next Court as they were at a loss how to act for want of the Laws relative thereto Inclos’d is a Copy of their proceedgs.5 Lieut. Buckner and the Adjutant went off last night to Kay’s Ferry where it’s said some things are conceald but are not yet returnd.6

As theres no Quarter Masr and the Stores in the greatest Confusion I judg’d it expedient to postpone their removal till your further orders.

Twenty Cherrokee Warriours and a Squaw arriv’d here this Evening I heard of their coming last Sunday and desir’d Mr Gist to acquaint his Father by Express of it which he says he did but no accots from the Father[.] The few Indians that were here before went out to meet the 20 just arriv’d, they had some Conversation together, none of them would come into Town but Encampd on a rising near it. Burras says that they told him Capn Gist stays away designedly and thinks the Cherrokees not good.7

Lieut. Campbell brought back Walker—he saw another four Deserters amongst the R. Americans in Lancaster but the Commanding Officer there refus’d to deliver him up.8 I am With the highest Esteem & Respect Dear Sir Your most Assured & Very Obedient humble Servt

Robert Stewart


1GW must have left Fort Loudoun to go to William Fairfax’s funeral before any of this came to light on 26 September. He wrote Mary Ball Washington from Mount Vernon on 30 Sept. that he was returning that afternoon to Winchester.

2Quartermaster John Hamilton had got permission from GW before the middle of September to go to Alexandria to see to some regimental stores there. See John Kirkpatrick to GW, 17 Sept., and GW to Dinwiddie, 5 Oct. 1757. The most complete account of Hamilton’s movements is in GW to John Stanwix, 8 Oct. 1757. A John Jones was a sergeant in William Cocks’s ranger company before it was disbanded in 1756. It was perhaps he who accompanied Hamilton to Alexandria. However, since GW in his letter of 5 Oct. 1757 to Robert Dinwiddie calls Hamilton’s accomplice “a man of the Regiment,” Jones may be the Sgt. Thomas Jones who was on Stewart’s size roll for 1 Aug. 1757. An Alexander Bonnell is described in Robert Stewart’s size roll of 28 Aug. 1757 as an Irish laborer, 30 years old, 5′ 1¾″ tall, pale, with a large nose and black hair (DLC:GW).

3The copy of proceedings of the court of inquiry has not been found.

4The list of the items (DLC:GW) found in the possession of various people was dated 27 Sept. 1757 at Winchester and was signed by Alexander Wodrow, now a merchant at Winchester: “In consequence of a power given me last night by Mr Thomas Speake, one of His Majestys’ Justices of the Peace for this county—To search all suspected places and persons, for Goods supposed to be felloniously stolen from the public; belonging to them, or to His Majesty King George.

“I hereby make the following Return of what I found, to the best of my knowledge, belonging to this colony, or to His Majesty. vizt

“At Thomas Woods—2 canteens and 1 bayonet.

“At Mr [Benjamin] Grubbs—a regimental-coat, 2 Jackets, a knapsac, a Hat, Haversack, and pair of black garters, with buckles.

“At Lewis Casslemans—3 canteens, 1 Bayonet, one wrest for a saw, one chissel, a cartridge-box, a gun-lock, a pair of Breeches, 2 Hangers, 1 axe, 1 Hand-cuff, and a bundle; which Castleman says was left at his House by an Indian, at the time some were imprisoned in this town.

“At young Mr Castlemans—2 canteens, and a pair of breeches.

“At Wm Windsors—1 canteen, 1 coat, 2 pair of Breeches, 1 Jacket, 1 pair of white ammunition stockings, 2 empty knapsacs, a full knapsac, & 2 Indian Blankets.

“At Michael Lavenders—1 firelock, 1 Bayonet, 1 cartridge-box, and 1 pair of old Breeches.

“At the widow Robinson’s—1 pair of new Shoes, 1 pair of white ammunition stockings, 1 pair of Breeches (with garters) 1 knapsack, 1 comb.

“At Philip Babbs’—1 firelock, 2 canteens, 1 old coat, 1 knapsac, and one pair of old breeches.

“At Heffingstons [probably Philip Helphingston], a dutch man, 1 Bayonet.

“At John Lumly’s, the dutch cooper—4 bayonets, and 2 knapsac’s.

“At Francis Collins’s—2 Bayonets, 1 cartridge-box, and 1 canteen.

“At Wm Greens—1 bayonet.

“At the widow Fitzpatrick’s—1 musket, barrel marked (Virginia, 1750)—1 narrow axe, 1 canteen, 1 pair of new shoes, 1 broken cutlass, given Ensign Fell to carry to Town.”

5According to GW the suspects were first brought before Thomas Speake who was subsequently joined by the two other justices, Thomas Swearingen and John Lindsay (see GW to Dinwiddie, 9 Oct. 1757). The “Inclos’d” copy of the proceedings of the justices may have been a document signed by Thomas Speake on 27 Sept. (DLC:GW), listing most of the same people in possession of the same items that Alexander Wodrow listed (see note 4). Speake did not list the items “at young Mr Castlemans,” or “at Heffingstons,” or “at Wm Greens” as Wodrow did. He also made the following entry with regard to Mrs. Robinson: “In the hands of the widow Robinson, sundry Things which she made appear how she came by them—and she is therefore discharged.” The Speake document is headed: “Whereas a certain Search-warrant, issued the 26th day of this inst. for sundry regimental Goods which were suspected to have been purchased from the Soldiers And those Goods being found in the hands of the following (named) persons—To wit.”

For another description of what happened with Stewart and the justices, see memorandum from Gabriel Jones, 6 Oct. 1757.

6This was probably Keyes’s (Key’s) ferry which crossed the Shenandoah River to the land of Gersham Keyes (d. 1766) on the west bank four or five miles from present-day Charles Town, W.Va. It has not been determined what if anything Lt. Mordecai Buckner and Sgt. William Hughes found at Keyes’s (or Vestal’s) ferry.

7For GW’s dissatisfaction that Indian superintendent Edmond Atkin took his deputy superintendent Christopher Gist and the Indian interpreter Richard Smith with him when he left Winchester after 13 Aug., see GW to Dinwiddie, 5 Oct. 1757. Nathaniel Gist had been a lieutenant in the Virginia Regiment since December 1755, and his brother Thomas Gist served as a volunteer in Robert Stewart’s company before becoming an ensign in the regiment early in 1758. This particular party of Cherokee shortly went up to the South Branch (see GW to Dinwiddie, 5 Oct. 1757). Thomas Burris (Burrus, Bhurras) was a veteran of the Fort Necessity campaign and may at this time have been acting as a courier. For a full identification of Burris, see Adam Stephen to GW, 25 Sept. 1755, n.2.

8See John Stanwix to GW, 19 Sept. 1757. Nathaniel Walker was a 19–year-old farm boy from Accomack County on the Eastern Shore. He had been drafted in the summer.

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