George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Blair, 28 May 1758

To John Blair

To The President.

Honble Sir.Williamsbgh 28th May, 1758.

I came here at this critical juncture, by the express order of Sr John St Clair, to represent in the fullest manner, the posture of our Affairs at Winchester;1 and to obviate any doubts that might arise from the best written narrative—I shall make use of the following method as the most effectual I can at present suggest, to lay sundry matters before you for your information—approbation—and direction. And I hope when your Honor considers how we are circumstanced, and how absolutely necessary dispatch; that you will please to give me explicit and speedy answers on the several points which are submitted.

For, without the latter, the Service will be greatly impeded, and wanting the former, my conduct may be liable to error, and to censure.

To begin: 1st Sr John St Clair’s letter will, I apprehend; inform your Honor of our principal Wants; namely, Arms, Tents, and other sorts of Field Equipage, articles so absolutely, and obviously necessary, as to need no argument to prove that the men will be useless without them: and that the vast sums of money which have been expended in levying and marching them to the place of Rendezvous, will be entirely lost: besides impeding if not defeating the Expedition, and loosing every Indian now on our frontiers by delay.2

2. The Officers will be entirely unprovided with the means of taking the Field, till they have an allowance made to them of Baggage, forage, and bat-money.

Governor Dinwiddie, from what cause I could never yet learn, thought proper to discontinue this allowance to the Companies that remained in Virginia, at the same time that he allowed it to those who went to Carolina: and altho’ I produced, from under Genl Stanwix’s hand (the then commanding officer on this Quarter) that all Officers were entitled to it, and that it was indispensably necessary to equip them for, and enable them to take the Field.

Genl Forbes has obtained this allowance for the Pennsylvania Troops, and desired Sir John St Clair (who has given me a copy of it, signed) to urge it strongly on this Government also: see the copy.3

3. The different Pay of the two virginia Regiments will, I conceive, if a stop is not put to it, be productive of great discontent, and many Evils. For the Soldiers of the 1st Regiment, think their claim upon the Country equally good, if not better than that of the Second; because their Services are not limited—They have lacked the great Bounty, which the others have received; and have had no clothes for near 2 years, when in strictness they have an annual call for, and an equal right to expect them.4

4ly As our Regimental clothing can not possibly last the campaign, will it not be advisable to send for a supply against next winter? I have sent to Philadelphia for 1,000 pair of Indian Stocking (Leggings) the better to equip my men for the woods, and should be glad to know whether I am to pay for them in behalf of the Country, or deduct the cost out of their pay? As they have not received the clothing they are entitled to, they may think this latter rather hard.

5. Should not the Pay of the Surgeon’s mates in the First Regiment be equal to that of those in the Second. The latter have 4 and the former only 3/ per day. And should there not be the same number of S. mates allowed to the old, as are to the new Regiment?5

6. It will cause great dissatisfaction in the Regiment, if Lt Baker is put over the heads of older officers—It is granted, that Mr Baker is a very deserving officer; but there are others equally deserving—and have adventured equally to seek Glory, and to merit applause! Ensign Chew, for instance, was with him when the scalps were taken; Capt. McKenzie, Lt Gist, Mr Woodward, and many others have adventured as far into the Enemy’s Country, tho’ with less success.

I therefore hope (to prevent the Disorders consequent upon his advancement) that your Honor will suffer Colo. Mercers company to be given to Mr Stewart, the oldest Lieutenant; as Captn Lewis’s, in the like case, was to Mr Bullet.6

7. Sir John St Clair directs, in consequence of Orders from the General, that the First Virginia Regiment shall immediately be completed; and leaves the mode of doing it, to your Honor.7 I should be glad of Direction in this affair. The season, I fear, is too far advanced, to attempt it now by Recruiting.

8. Lt Steenbu[r]gen having been guilty of several irregular, and ungentlemanly practises; and finding his conduct was about to be enquired into; begged leave to resign—which I granted, so far as depended upon me: Because the crimes he was then accused of, were not sufficient to break him—altho’ quite sufficient to give the whole Corps, the most indifferent opinion of his morals.8 This resignation, and Captn Lt Stewart’s promotion, will cause two vacancies in the Regiment; to fill up which, and to make the several promotions hereby occasioned, will require five blank-commissions.

9. I should be glad to know if the works at Fort Loudoun are still to go on? In what manner to be forwarded? and under whose direction? Nothing surely will contribute more to the public weal, than this Fort when compleated: Because it will be a valuable repository for our Stores, if the event of our Enterprize prove successful; and an assylum for the Inhabitants, (and place of retreat for our Troops) in case of a Defeat.

10. Great advantages must consequently arise, by appointing Lt Smith to that direction, and to the Command of Fort Loudoun: First, because he has had the over-looking of the Works for near 2 years—is, by that means, become perfectly well acquainted with every thing intended to be done—and is exceedingly industrious.

Secondly, because there must necessarily be many sick and lame Soldiers left at that Garrison, who may require the eye of a diligent officer, to keep them together—Thirdly, because all the Regimental stores and Baggage must be left at that place; and ought to be under the care of an officer who can be made accountable for his conduct: and not left to the mercy of an ungovernable and refractory militia: and, forethly—it is necessary, if for no other reason than to preserve the materials for finishing the works that are now lying there.9

11. I conceive we shall be ordered to take with us the greatest part of the ammunition now at Fort Loudoun: It will [be] necessary, therefore, to have a supply laid in there, for the use of the frontier Garrisons.

12. I did, in a late letter, endeavour to point out in what manner the Service would be benefited by continuing Rutherford’s Rangers in the Parts they now are; and sending the Militia of Prince-William to the Branch, in their stead—And again recommend it, for the reasons then given, and for many others which might be given.10

I must now conclude, with once more begging that Your Honor would come to some speedy determination on these several matters—From what Sir John St Clair has wrote—from my Orders—and from what I have here set forth, I conceive it must sufficiently appear, that the greatest dispatch is absolutely necessary; the success of our Expeditions in a manner, depending upon the early commencement of it: Every delay therefore, may be attended with pernicious consequences.11

The Indians, glad of any pretence for returning home, will make use of delays for a handle: and a spirit of discontent and desertion may spring up among the New Levies for want of Employment.

These are matters obvious to me; and my Duty requires that I represent them in this free and candid manner. I am your Honor’s most obedt and most humble Servant,



2GW is undoubtedly referring to St. Clair’s letter to Blair of 23 May, which St. Clair seems to have let GW read and which GW seems to have himself delivered to Blair. St. Clair wrote: “On the 21st at Night Mr [Alexander] Finnie brought me your Honours Letters of the 15th and 16th Inst. acquainting me, that you was not to come to this place as Genl Forbes desired . . . . Genl Forbes thought your being at this place so very material, that he acquainted the Secretary of State with it, so that the many things to be done must be delayd, and the Service retarded. Colonel Washington whose presence here wou’d be very necessary is obliged to go to Williamsbourg, to consult your Honour on the many things that your two Regts must have before they can take the field, and which falls on your Collony to furnish them. The General has acquainted me, by a Letter of the 7th Inst. ‘that the Commissioners of Pensylvania at last convinced, have now come to an agreement, of allowing Camp Equipage to the Men; as likewise of an allowance of Batt Money to the Captains & other officers, for carrying of their field Equipage: When you see Mr Blair at Winchester or if you cou’d write to him, that you will put him in mind of Camp Equipage being likewise provided for the Virginia forces, and make no doubt of their following the Example of this Province.’

“Your Honour must be very sensible that if any Accident has happend to the Store Ship which has the Tents on board or if the fleet has a long passage, all the large Sums granted for the Service will be thrown away unless the Men have Tents, and the present Circumstances are such that the troops are immediately wanted for Service on the Frontiers which has obliged me to put Colo. Washingtons Regt under marching Orders.

“That there may not happen any more delays in opening the Campaign I have (with the Concurrence of Governor [Horatio] Sharpe and Colo. Washington) sent Mr [Thomas] Walker to Philadelphia to get Tents made for 2000 private Men, on a supposition of your engaging to pay for them, but if you cannot enter on that engagement, I must keep the Tents and sell them to other Regts next Spring that I may not be a looser: and your Troops will suffer the hardship of being in the field without Cover, which will infalibly create desertion and perhaps Mutiny. If the Tents were arrived from England I do not see that Colo. Washingtons Regt cou’d have any claim for their Share of them, for all Regts so soon as they go into Quarters make a Stoppage from the Men for Tents & Kittles for their Men.

“Colo. Washington will give you a Copy of the orders I was oblig⟨ed⟩ to give him . . ., and I must request of you not to detain him at Williamsbourg lest his Regt will be obliged to take the field before his Return” (ViU: Forbes Papers). Blair answered the letter on 3 June in a conciliatory manner, promising full cooperation (ibid.).

3For Robert Dinwiddie’s decision to limit the number of batmen to two for each company and two for GW, see his letter to GW, 1 June 1757. For GW’s protests, see his letters to Dinwiddie, 10 June 1757, and to John Stanwix, 15 June 1757. For the copy GW is referring to, see note 2.

4The soldiers of William Byrd’s 2d Virginia Regiment were receiving £10 to enlist and were to serve only until 1 Dec. 1758. St. Clair wrote Blair on 23 May: “There was an absolute necessity of sending Colo. Washington to you. . . . He will lay before your Honour the necessity there is of having the pay of the two Regts equal” (ViU: Forbes Papers).

5The new 2d Virginia Regiment was allowed two surgeon’s mates, while the old 1st Virginia Regiment was allowed only one (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 163–69; 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 , 3:428–29).

6For Blair’s earlier unsuccessful attempt to have Lt. James Baker be given command of Capt. Joshua Lewis’s company instead of Capt. Lt. Thomas Bullitt, see Blair to GW, 11 May 1758, and note 1 of that document. The captaincy of George Mercer’s old company now that Mercer had become lieutenant colonel of the 2d Virginia Regiment was vacant, and GW was successful in having Walter Steuart given the command of the company as a new captain. See Steuart to GW, 27 June.

7See St. Clair to GW, 24 May. St. Clair also wrote Blair on 23 May: “You’ll please direct the manner in which Colo. Washington’s Regt is to be compleated,” and then went on to direct how Robert Stewart’s troop of light horse was to be formed and paid (ViU: Forbes Papers).

8For the Peter Steenbergen affair, see particularly Court of Inquiry, 4–8 May, and note 4 of that document.

9St. Clair wrote Blair, on 23 May: “It will be of the greatest Service to leave 12 or 18 Men of the Virginia Forces at fort Loudoun to take care of the valuable Stores, and a carefull Officer wt. them. . . . I think the Officer to be left there shou’d be Lt Charles Smith, who has been diligent in erecting the fort and in my opinion your Honour ought to send him a Commission as fort Major which will give him the Command of the Militia Captains” (ViU: Forbes Papers). See GW’s Orders to Charles Smith, 24 June, as commander of Fort Loudoun.

11St. Clair wrote Bouquet from Winchester, 9 June: “Coll Washington is arrived from Williamsbourg, and Mr Prest Blair has been graciously pleased to grant every thing I demanded excepting leaving a Carefull Officer at Fort Loudoun to take care of their Valuable Stores. . . . The Officers have got Forage, Batt, & Bagage Money; and on the Prests reflecting what he had done about Arms, he had all those in the Govrs house pack’d up and put on board of a Vessell, which saild from York for Fredericksbourg the 2d Inst and some quantity of Blanketts comes up with them” (Stevens, Bouquet Papers description begins Donald H. Kent et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Bouquet. 6 vols. Harrisburg, Pa., 1951-94. description ends , 2:60–62). For the actions President Blair and his council took, see minutes of 2 June, 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 , 6:96–99.

Index Entries