George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John St. Clair, 12 April 1758

To John St. Clair

Fort Loudoun 12th of April 1758


Your favour of the 7th from Philadelphia I had the pleasure to receive this Evening.1 It gave the Officers here present and myself, a very sensible pleasure to find your Sentiments corrispond with ours on the measures taken with the Cherokee Indians. and we are not less pleasd to find you determind to Interest yourself for the well ordering of these Important matters; on the good regulation of which so much depends.

Great pains has already been taken to encourage the Indian Scouts to preserve their Prisoners. some Officers and Volunteers in the Regiment have gone out to War with these Parties for this salutary end; but the hard Frosts, and exceeding deep Snows upon the Aligany Mountains, has forc’d most of them back again.2

I have desird Mr Gist deputy Agent of Indian Affairs to transmit you an exact return of the Number of Indians that have Marchd from this to War. what now remain here. and such as he has undoubted reason to expect; together with a Succinct Account of Indian Affairs in general that you may thereby be enabled to judge of our Situation, & to enform General Forbes of it.3

As yet I have receivd no Orders from Mr Blair on the head you mention; nor have we receivd any advice of the arrival of our two Companies from Carolina.4 A return of our Strength for February, and how the Troops are Posted, you will find inclosd: the returns from the Out Posts for March are not yet come to hand, but I believe little alteration has happen’d since the last.5 Those Men returnd upon Command are small Parties detachd among the Country People to encourage them to Plant and improve their Farms; without this precaution the whole Country woud have been depopulated.6 I shall communicate your desires on the Score of Forrage and Waggons to the Inhabitants of this Neighbourhood; but at the same time I woud not advise you to put much dependance on them. the cold backward Spring has causd a great scarcity of Provender (Hay especially). and the Country don’t abound much in Waggons.

We are highly pleasd at the prospect of seeing Sir John7 once more among us: The Officers have desird me to testifie this, and very heartily join with me in offering their best good wishes to you. I have the pleasure to subscribe myself Yr most Obedt & most Hble Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, Scottish Record Office; LB, DLC:GW. This is the first of a series of letters to John St. Clair in GW’s hand preserved in the Scottish Record Office. Because receivers’ copies of letters written by GW in this period are rare, it may be useful for anyone interested to compare the texts of the first five of these letters printed here and the texts of the same letters in GW’s recopied letter book (as printed in Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed. The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745–1799. 39 vols. Washington, D.C., 1931–44. description ends , 2:174–76, 188–89, 189–90, 191–92, and 201–2) in order to get some sense of the nature and extent of the changes GW made in his (missing) original letter books before having them recopied. For a description of how GW corrected and then had recopied the letter books he kept during the French and Indian War, see Preface—The Letter Book for the Braddock Campaign, 2 March–14 August 1755, in Papers, Colonial Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series. 10 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1983–95. description ends , I:xviii—xx, 236–40. Even more useful than these letters to St. Clair for getting at how the letters that GW wrote and sent are related to the copies of these letters in his letter books are nearly two dozen of GW’s letters to Bouquet that have survived from July and August 1758. Not only do we have the ALS and recopied letter-book copies of these letters to Bouquet, but the original letter-book copies in GW’s hand have also survived. For a discussion of the original letter book, see GW to St. Clair, 14 June 1758, source note; for a discussion of the three versions of GW’s letters to Bouquet, see GW to Bouquet, 3 July 1758 (first letter), source note.

John St. Clair (Sinclair, d. 1767), a lieutenant colonel in the Royal American Regiment (60th), as deputy quartermaster general was chief commissary for Braddock’s expedition in 1755 and in 1758 served in the same capacity for Forbes’s campaign in Pennsylvania.

1St. Clair’s letter of 7 April has not been found, but he wrote Gen. John Forbes on that date: “Capt. Bullet complains loudly of their being no Necessaries to equip the Indians (which are daily coming in) for war.... The principal things wanted is Match coats & light Fuzees, both which may be had at this place [Philadelphia], and I know no where else” (ViU: Forbes Papers). For the letter Thomas Bullitt wrote on 31 Mar. 1758 as senior officer at Fort Loudoun to Lt. Gov. William Denny, see Denny to GW, 25 Mar., nn.4 and 5.

2For a discussion of the arrival of numerous Cherokee warriors in Winchester, see GW to John Stanwix, 10 April. For a return of the Indians who came to Virginia before 21 April, see note 3.

3Christopher Gist, Edmond Atkin’s deputy agent for Indian affairs at Winchester, wrote to St. Clair from Winchester on 12 April: “At the desire of Colo. Washington I make free to inform your Honour how the Indian affair stands at this time, we have now in this Town 174 Indians I have aquipt (but not according to the Colony’s agreement) 343 which how ever is gone to war on the Frotiers of this Colony & Maryland, Some of the Parties I Make no doubt will see Fort Du Quesne, my son Lieut. Gist of the Virginia Regiment, with 30 Indians & 3⟨2⟩ men is gone from the South Branch a bout 10 days, & I bleive will See the French Fort. I desired them if Possible to get a Prisoner.

“Ther is now 110 Cherokees, on the road between this Town and Augusta, 52 of which, is this night with in five miles of this place.

“I have a Letter from John Watts, who is one of my Interpreters, that he with a Large Party will be at this place in this month....

“P.S. I have just recd advice that Mr Henry Russell & my Son Thos Gist of the Regiment with Party 48 Cherokees they Marcht with, (Some time before Lieut. Gist & his Party went out) is return’d to South Branch Last week & is Setting out agin now.

“The government of Maryland Who have had a Party of 50 or 60 Cherokees at their Request Sence the 22d of Novr Last ...” (Scottish Record Office: Dalhousie Muniments).

Capt. Abraham Bosomworth of the 2d Battalion, Royal American Regiment, submitted to General Forbes “A Return of the Southern Indians Winchester April 21st 1758” (ViU: Forbes Papers), from a return made by Christopher Gist. The return indicates that 652 Indians had come to Virginia, 58 on 16 Nov. 1757 and the rest between 28 Feb. and 21 April 1758. One party of 26 on 18 Mar. and another of 24 on 20 Mar. arrived “at Augusta,” while the other twenty-one parties arrived “at Winchester” (ibid.). One hundred and sixty-five warriors in six parties had gone from Winchester to Fort Frederick, Md.; 174 in four parties had gone from Winchester to the South Branch; one party of 26 had gone down from Augusta to the James River and one party of 24 to the South Branch; and one party of 25 had left Winchester for Fort Loudoun in Pennsylvania. A total of 23 parties ranging in size from 7 to 75 with a median size of 41 made up the total of 652 who had come. Twenty of the parties came from one or another Cherokee town, two parties were Catawba and one party contained Indians of both tribes. The return names the commander of each party. By 21 April eleven parties totaling 364 warriors had left Winchester; 238 men in ten parties remained in town.

4For the arrival in Virginia of the two companies of the Virginia Regiment which had gone to Charleston, S.C., at the end of May 1757, see Adam Stephen to GW, 22 April 1758.

5In addition to the signed copy in the Scottish Record Office there is a copy of the February return of the Virginia Regiment, dated 1 Mar., in DLC:GW. The information on the two manuscripts varies slightly. For a summary of the regimental returns for January and February, see GW to John Blair, 9 April. Only two of the ten companies of the Virginia Regiment were in Winchester at this time, GW’s and Robert Stewart’s. The men in Capt. Joshua Lewis’s company were in the small forts to the north of Winchester; Capt. Thomas Waggener’s and Capt. Robert McKenzie’s men were in forts on the South Branch to the west; Maj. Andrew Lewis, Capt. Henry Woodward, and Capt. John McNeill were with their companies to the south in Augusta County; and the men in Lt. Col. Adam Stephen’s and Capt. George Mercer’s companies were en route from South Carolina. The February return reported 675 effective soldiers in the regiment, 30 sergeants, and 15 drummers.

6GW returned 201 men “Upon Command.”

7St. Clair’s fellow officers in America assumed that he had the title of a Scottish baronet. See GW’s Memorandum, 30 May–11 June 1755, n.1.

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