George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Blair, 4–10 May 1758

To John Blair

To The President

Honble SirFt L[oudou]n the 4[–10]th May, 1758.

The enclosed letter from Capt. Waggener, will inform your Honor of a very unfortunate affair. From the best accounts I have yet been able to get, there are about 60 persons killed and missing.1 Immediately upon receiving this Intelligence, I sent out a Detachment of the Regiment, and some Indians that were equipped for war, in hopes of their being able to intercept the Enemy in their retreat. I was fearful of this stroke, [(]but not time enough to avert it) as your Honor will find by the following account which came to hand just before Capt. Waggener’s letter, by Captn McKenzie.2

“Lieutenent Gist with 6 Soldiers and 30 Indians marched the 2d of April from the South-Branch; and after a tedious march (occasioned by the deep snows on the mountains) got on the waters of the monongahela, where Mr Gist was lamed by a fall from a steep bank, and rendered incapable of marching. The white people and some of the Indians remained with him; and the rest of the indians divided themselves into three parties, & separated. Ucahula and two more went down the monongahela in a bark-canoe and landed near Ft du Quesne, on the no. side, where they lay concealed for two days; at length an opportunity offered of attacking a canoe, in which were two french-men fishing; those they killed and scalped in sight of two other canoes with french men in them, and came off safe.

When he got about 15 miles on this side Ft du Quesne, he came upon a large indian Encampment; from the size of which, and the number of tracks, judged to be at least 1,00, making directly for the frontiers of Virginia; as they again discovered, by crossing their tracks.”3

At present I have nothing more to add to your Honor, having written several times lately on matters, to which I have received no answer.

I had wrote thus far, and was going to send off an Express with this melancholy account, when I received advice, that the Particulars relative to those murders had been transmitted from Augusta, to your Honor:4 I thereupon thought it most advisable to postpone sending, ’till I should receive answer to my several letters by Jenkins and Mr Gist;5 which I was accordingly honored with, the 7th and last night.

May 10th

After due deliberation on your Honors letter of the 2d by Gist;6 I am of opinion, that the number of Militia you have ordered for the defence of the Posts, to be evacuated by the Regiment, will be sufficient, unless the completing the works at this place should be thought necessary: As it can not be supposed, that the Enemy will attempt any formidable inception after the march of our army; and as to the depradations to be feared from their small scalping-parties, it would be out of the power of thrice the proposed number (or indeed of any number) effectually to prevent them. But, as you are pleased to desire my opinion—I beg leave to offer a few things relative to the disposition you propose.

I humbly conceive, therefore, that it wou’d be infinitely more for the interest of the service, to order the 1,00 from Prince-William to the south-branch, and continuing Rutherford’s company in its present station, making this its Head-Quarters. For, as that compy is perfectly acquainted with all that range of mountains, extending from the Potomack to the Augusta Line; and thro’ which the Enemy make incursions into this settlement; they could, with greater facility obstruct their inroads, and assist the Inhabitants of this valley (of whom they themselves form a very great part) than those who are ignorant of the Ground. The Militia from Prince-William, equally know the Branch and this vicinity, and therefore may be supposed to do as much there, as here; Whereas moving Rutherfords there, would be stripping them of those essential advantages which they may derive from their thorough knowledge of these parts, & removing them from defending their immediate Rights (the sole motive of their enlisting.) One half of this company, were it continued here, might be constantly ranging, and the other left in this fort, which is centrical to their present Station.7

If the works here are to be completed, which from their great importance I should think highly necessary—in that event, an additional number of 60 or 80 good men from the militia, for that particular service, would be wanted; and I do not know any person so capable of directing the works as Major Joseph Stephen, of Carolina-County. He formerly had the over-looking of them, and managed with remarkable Industry.8

A part of the Militia ordered for the Branch, should take post at Edwards’s (on Cacapehon) and at Pearsalls, for the security of convoys passing from hence to Fort Cumberland.9

I really do not know what method can be practised to compel the Country-people to deliver up the public arms; unless there cou’d be a general search in every County. Governor Dinwiddie, if I remember right, issued two or three proclamations ordering them in, to no purpose.10

With regard to opening the Roads, I think it would be most advisable to postpone all attempts, ’till Sir Jno. St Clairs’ arrival, as he is expected so soon. For Pearsalls, altho’ it is the most convenient road for the Virginia, may not be used by the northern Troops; as I understand their Rendezvous is ordered at Fort Frederick in maryland—This may also (altho’ I can not yet absolutely say) render Garrisons at Edwards and Pearsalls, useless—unless it be a few to preserve the Forts, and the families gathered into them.11

As several of our best Sergeants were made Officers in the Carolina Regiment (besides some other vacancies in that Rank) parting with 10 for the use of the new Regiment, will be a very great hardship at this juncture.12 We are likewise short of our number of Drummers; and many of those we have, are raw and untutored. As the General expects not regularity from the new Levies, well knowing how little any attempts towards it, in a short time, would avail; I can not help being surprized at their requesting your Honor to give directions for doing what would be of no real service to the new Regiment, and would be of vast prejudice to that I have the honor to command.

In consequence of your Orders for completing the Regiment (with all possible dispatch) by Recruiting; I sometime ago sent all the officers I could spare to those parts of the Country where there is the greatest probability of success, and furnished them with all the money I had, and directions to draw upon me for whatever sum they might want for that Service.13 I likewise engaged some of the most popular of the Country Gentlemen to recruit for me, giving them the same liberty, to draw upon me, well knowing the difficulty of getting any tolerable number in a short time. I exerted myself in prosecuting every measure that afforded a prospect of success, having then, not the least reason to doubt of being duly supplied with money: But how great is my surprize at that paragraph of your Honors letter, that you can not send me any for that Service. As I had immediate demands upon me, which I put off until Mr Gist’s arrival, I consulted with my officers about applying the £4,00 sent for contingencies, towards these demands; and enclose you their opinion on that head:14 and I must earnestly request, that you will be pleased to fall upon some measures of sending me 8,00 or 1,000£ more; as your honor, the honor of the Colony, as well as mine and the Officers, together with that of those Gentlemen above-mentioned, who I have employed, is so nearly and immediately interested in the completion of those Engagements, which I have, in consequence of your Orders entered into. Surely it can not be imagined that I can pay the money (if I had it to deposit) out of my own private fortune; nor does the shortness of the time, nor the circumstances I am under, admit of any other alternative.

I will chearfully bespeak, and can easily procure, the Stage-Horses you desire—when furnished with money for that purpose.

As Jno. Berry was made a Soldier [(]how legally, the Court of Officers, &c. that sent him, can better declare) I must think it not only repugnant to Law but to the articles of war, and the customs of the army, to allow him to enlist in any other Corps; for, by this means, if there were no other bad consequences attending it, he defrauds the Country of double Bounty-money.15

I shall make a prudent use of the Power you have been pleased to give me, respecting the issuing Orders to the parties of Militia.

Your favor of the 3d by Mr French Mason, I have just been presented with: and would gladly have appointed him Ensign in the Regiment, had not the vacancies been disposed of, in the following manner, before it came to hand—vizt

Capt. Lt Bullett, to Joshua Lewis’s company—Mr Duncanson, oldest Ensign, to the Lieutenancy occasioned by this removal: and Mr Thomas Gist, and Mr Allen, volunteers; and John McCully, & John Sallard, worthy Sergeants, (all of whom had served a considerable time with credit and reputation) to be Ensigns.16 I had likewise, before the receipt of yours, promised Major Hite, of this County, a Gentleman of good character, the Colours that would become vacant, upon the event of Colo. Mercer’s Company being filled up; as he, in consideration, had engaged to recruit 50 men for the Service—which I then thought would be a vast advantage.17 I am, with great Respect, Your Honors most obedient, humble Servant,



1In his letter to St. Clair of 4 May GW adds information about parties of Indians having “fallen upon the back Inhabitants of Augusta County and destroyd near 50 persons besides an Officer & 18 Men of Captn Hogs Rangg Company.” The Virginia council at its meeting of 19 May read “two Letters from Capt. Hog in Augusta, the one of the 7th of April, giving an Account of two Forts in that County being destroyed by the Enemy, and the third Part of his Company cut off” (Exec. Journals of Virginia Council description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia. 6 vols. Richmond, 1925–66. description ends , 6:91–93). The forts captured and burned were the Upper Tract fort on the upper reaches of the South Branch and Fort Seybert, a short distance away on the South Fork of the South Branch. The Preston Register reports on 27 April the slaying of Capt. James Dunlop and twenty-two others at the Upper Tract, and, on the following day at Fort Seybert, the killing of Capt. Jacob Seybert (Siebert) and sixteen others and the capture of twenty-four. Dunlop, a militia captain, was also a lieutenant in Peter Hog’s ranger company.

2The (missing) letter from Thomas Waggener that GW enclosed was clearly one that Waggener wrote after his letter to GW of 30 April, which Robert McKenzie also apparently brought to Winchester.

3Nathaniel Gist, the second son of Capt. Christopher Gist, became a lieutenant at the end of 1755 in his father’s company of scouts, which was attached to GW’s regiment, and he remained in the Virginia Regiment after the scouts were disbanded in 1757. Ucahula (Ocayula) was a son of the Cherokee emperor Old Hop. GW’s letter to John St. Clair of 4 May seems to suggest that GW got this account from Ucahula himself.

4See note 1.

6Blair’s letter of 2 May has not been found. For GW’s refusal to call out the militia himself, see GW to Blair, 24 April.

7For a discussion of the differences of opinion about the disposition of Robert Rutherford’s rangers, see GW to Blair, 24 April, n.3. See also GW’s Orders to Rutherford, 24 June 1758.

8Maj. Joseph Stevens (d. 1766) of the Caroline County militia supervised the work on Fort Loudoun at Winchester in the early stages of its construction in the summer of 1756.

9The forts of Joseph Edwards and Job Pearsal were on the old wagon road from Winchester to the South Branch, the road usually taken to Fort Cumberland on the Potomac at Wills Creek. Soldiers of the Virginia Regiment had been stationed at Edwards’s since the fall of 1755 and at Pearsal’s on the South Branch since at least the beginning of 1756.

10Blair had instructions from Gen. John Forbes “to encourage the provincialls to bring their own arms” (Forbes to James Abercromby, 24 April 1758, in James, Writings of Forbes description begins Alfred Procter James, ed. Writings of General John Forbes Relating to His Service in North America. Menasha, Wis., 1938. description ends , 71–73).

11For GW’s short-lived advocacy of Fort Loudoun as the general rendezvous point for the expedition, see GW to Stanwix, 10 April, and note 4 of that document; and GW to St. Clair, 18 April, and note 3 of that document.

12For earlier reference to sergeants in the two companies of the Virginia Regiment stationed in South Carolina becoming officers in the South Carolina forces, see George Mercer to GW, 17 Aug. 1757.

13Receipts in DLC:GW indicate that among the officers GW sent out in April–May 1758 to recruit for the 1st Virginia Regiment were Lt. John King to Fairfax County, Lt. William Crawford to Loudoun County, and Lt. John Campbell and Lt. Nathaniel Thompson perhaps to Winchester and outlying Frederick County. For the recruiting of men for the 1st Virginia Regiment in and around Fredericksburg, see GW to Adam Stephen, 24 April, n.2.

15Among the draftees taken up to Winchester in the summer of 1757 was a John Berry from Fairfax County who was promptly declared unfit for service and a John Berry, Jr., from Culpeper County whom GW described as “Carpr likely usd ⟨to⟩ Arm⟨s⟩” (GW’s Notes and Memoranda, NN).

16James Duncanson, who served as a volunteer in the Virginia Regiment until he was made an ensign in Capt. Joshua Lewis’s company in the summer of 1756, was reported to be “mortally wounded” at Loyalhanna on 12 Oct. 1758 (Bouquet to John Forbes, 13 Oct., in Stevens, Bouquet Papers description begins Donald H. Kent et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Bouquet. 6 vols. Harrisburg, Pa., 1951-94. description ends , 2:555–56); but he survived and remained a lieutenant in the regiment until the end of the war. The cadet, or volunteer, John Allen may have been the Mr. Allen who carried messages from Lt. Gov. Robert Dinwiddie and Maj. Andrew Lewis to the Cherokee in the fall of 1756 (see Andrew Lewis to GW, 28 Oct. 1756, n.2). In any case, he was at this time in Augusta with Andrew Lewis, and he was killed in James Grant’s raid in September 1758 when Andrew Lewis was captured. John McCulley, a member of the Virginia forces since 1754 and a protégé of Andrew Lewis with whom he was now serving, was a longtime and well-regarded sergeant in the Virginia Regiment (see the recommendation that he be promoted made to GW, 10 Oct. 1757, by Thomas Bullitt et al.). John Sallard came in September 1755 from Richmond County with the recommendation of Landon Carter to join the Virginia Regiment. He was a sergeant in 1756 and a lieutenant in 1762 before the Regiment was disbanded.

17John Hite, son of Jost Hite, was an officer in the Frederick County militia. George Mercer upon his return from South Carolina in April got the appointment of lieutenant colonel in the 2d Virginia Regiment, and the promotion of the two subalterns left vacant the ensigncy in Mercer’s company of GW’s regiment. There is no evidence that Hite became an officer in the Virginia Regiment or marched in the Forbes expedition. At GW’s insistence the senior lieutenant in his regiment, Walter Steuart, filled the vacant captaincy (see GW to Blair, 28 May, and Steuart to GW, 27 June). Steuart was the lieutenant in Capt. George Mercer’s company and had acted as captain of the company in South Carolina and Georgia when Mercer was ill in the fall of 1757.

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