George Washington Papers

From George Washington to George William Fairfax, 25 September 1758

To George William Fairfax

Camp at Rays Town 25th Septr 1758.

Dear Sir

Your acceptable favour of the 15th I had the pleasure to receive Six days afterwards.

I greatly bewail the misfortune that gives rise to the following Relation. Major Grant of the Highlanders with a Chosen detachment of 800 Marchd from Our advancd Post at Loyal Hannan the 12th Instt for Fort Du-quesne what to do there I cannot with certainty say, but it is reported and I suppose justly, to annoy the Enemy and gain Intelligence. In the Night of the 13th He took post with his Troops in seve[ra]l Columns on a Hill just above the Fort, from whence he sent out to Reconnoitre the Works—this they did, and burnt a Log House just by the Walls—Not content with this Success Majr Grant must needs send an Engineer in full view of the Fort next morning with a covering Party to take a Plan of the place—he also orderd Majr Lewis two Miles back to their Baggage Guard where Captn Bullet Commanded, and while this was doing causd the Revielle to beat in different places, which causd the Enemy to Sallie upon them in very great numbers. hence ensued an obstinate Engagement and the running away of the Pensylvanians, who were just behind, and ought to have Sustained the Highlanders. Majr Lewis nowithstanding his former Orders Marchd up the Virginians with great dispatch & Intrep<mutilated> their bravely fell with <5> more of my Officers besides Captn Walter Stewart who was left wounded in the Field (but is since come in).1 I had also 62 killd; this is a heavy stroke upon the Regiment who only had 8 Officers & 166 Men there. I inclose you a Return of all the Troops that were there—of the killd wounded &ca2—Your Friend Bullett has acquird immense honour in this Action, defending himself with what Virginian’s were left against the whole Force of the Enemy while his Ammunition lasted, and then was the last Man that left the Field3—It is with infinite pleasure I tell you that the Virginians, Officers and Men, distinguishd themselves in the most eminent manner—that the General has Complimented me publickly on their good behaviour, and that every Mouth resounds their Praises. the Highlanders and them are become one People, shaking each other by the hand wherever they meet tho. perfect stranger’s. I woud be more particular woud time permit me—I can only add some thing in answer to your Letter & then conclude.

The Floor of my Passage is really an Eye sore to me, I woud therefore take it up if good & Seasond Plank coud be laid in its place. You will do me a Singular favour to enquire after my Goods of Mr William Nelson (of York) in whose care they were lodgd at his own request, & promise of sending them up.4 I have nothing fresh to add, I have long ago, and frequently, told you that if a happy Issue attended this Expedition ’twas more than I expected; I have no Reason to alter my Sentiments from any changes in our affairs that yet have happend. Captn Gist who carries this from hence to W<mutilated> to go from thence by Express with Letters to the Governor is waiting, you may imagine therefore I write in haste, and not so full as I woud otherwise choose.5 Major Lewis is a great loss to the Regiment, & Colony we have the Honr to serve; he opposd that Expedition to the utmost, unavailingly, but went chearfully upon it after his Sentiments were known, he desird his Friends however to remember (as he went out) that he had opposd it, foreseeing I imagine the Disaster that woud happend—Remember me kindly to all enquiring Friends, & be assured that I am Dr Sir Your Most Obedt Hble Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, ViMtvL.

1Maj. James Grant (1720–1806) of the 77th Regiment, the Highlanders, persuaded Bouquet to allow him to lead a force of about eight hundred men (including 150 Virginians) to reconnoiter the environs of Fort Duquesne and perhaps make a night raid on any Indians encamped near the fort. Grant reached the Forks of the Ohio on the night of 13 September. The next morning he sent Capt. William McDonald with a company of Highlanders to the fort itself. A sortie of French and Indians from the fort cut McDonald’s company to pieces and then forced the main body of Grant’s troops to flee, after suffering heavy losses. See Grant’s undated report to Forbes and Bouquet’s report to Forbes of 17 Sept. 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 , 2:499–505, 517–22. For GW’s support of Andrew Lewis’s effort to refute the charges against him in Grant’s report, see Fauquier to Jeffrey Amherst, 11 Mar. 1759, in Reese, Fauquier description begins George Reese, ed. The Official Papers of Francis Fauquier, Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, 1758–1768. 3 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1980–83. description ends , 1:184.

2In DLC:GW the document headed, “A List of Officers and Soldi<ers> [Killed] <mi>ssing wounded and Return’d from the Action near Fort Duquesne. Septr 14th 1758,” is an imperfect copy, in GW’s hand, of the list printed 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 , 2:508–9. It names the officers of the various units making up the expedition and indicates which ones were reported killed, wounded, and safely returned. (For GW’s emendation of this report noting that seven of the officers originally reported dead were in fact prisoners, see GW to Fauquier, 28 September.) The document also gives the number of soldiers in each unit and how many of these were reported dead and missing. In the Royal American Regiment, 4 of 6 officers were reported killed or missing (2 of the 4 were prisoners) and 35 of the 108 soldiers were killed and 3 were wounded. Ten of the Highland officers were listed as dead or missing (3 of whom, including Grant, were in fact prisoners), 2 wounded, and 4 unharmed, while 131 soldiers were killed or missing, 24 wounded, and 162 unharmed. The copy in the Bouquet Papers description begins Donald H. Kent et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Bouquet. 6 vols. Harrisburg, Pa., 1951-94. description ends erroneously lists 187 soldiers killed. The casualties reported from the 1st Virginia Regiment were given as 6 officers and 62 men killed or missing, 1 officer and 2 men wounded, leaving 104 unharmed; it turned out that Maj. Andrew Lewis and Thomas Gist were prisoners rather than among those killed. The North Carolinians lost 4 soldiers killed or missing, and they had 2 wounded and 7 unharmed. The Marylanders lost 1 of their 4 officers and had one wounded, while 21 of their 71 soldiers were killed or missing and 6 wounded. An ensign in the 2d Battalion of the Pennsylvania Regiment reported killed was found to be a prisoner, and of 122 Pennsylvania soldiers 20 were killed or missing and 5 were wounded. The printed copy in the Bouquet Papers description begins Donald H. Kent et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Bouquet. 6 vols. Harrisburg, Pa., 1951-94. description ends also lists two of 14 Delaware soldiers as killed or missing. There are some differences in the totals in GW’s copy of the list and the one in the Bouquet Papers description begins Donald H. Kent et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Bouquet. 6 vols. Harrisburg, Pa., 1951-94. description ends . GW later learned that, in addition to the 7 officers, “2 Sergeants and 30 private men” thought dead were prisoners (GW to Fauquier, 28 Sept. 1758).

3For Bouquet’s report to Forbes of the bravery of Capt. Thomas Bullitt of the 1st Virginia Regiment, see GW to Francis Fauquier, 25 Sept. 1758, n.6.

4For an earlier discussion of the floors at Mount Vernon, see Fairfax to GW, 5 Aug. 1758. For reference to GW’s British goods at Yorktown now needed to complete the work at Mount Vernon, see John Carlyle to GW, 1 Sept., n.4. William Nelson (1711–1772), a member of the Virginia council and a large landowner, was a successful merchant in Yorktown.

5The mutilated word appears as “Winchester” in Jared Sparks’s transcript in the Massachusetts Historical Society. Presumably Christopher Gist took GW’s letters written 25 Sept. to Fauquier in Williamsburg and to Mr. and Mrs. Fairfax in nearby Hampton where they were visiting her family.

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