George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Robert Stewart, 16 January 1759

From Robert Stewart

Fort Loudoun Janry 16th 1759

Dear Sir

I had the extreme pleasure of receiving your very agreeable favour by Mr Boyd and beg leave to present my hearty Congratulations on your happy union with the Lady that all agree has long been the just object of your affections—may you long enjoy all the Felicity you propos’d by it, or that Matrimony can possibly afford—Be so good as to offer my Complements in the most respectful and obliging Terms to Your Lady (a new Stile indeed) and tho’ she has rob’d me and many others of the greatest satisfaction we ever had or can enjoy in this Service yet none can be more sollicitous for her happiness.1

The regret, dejection and grief your Resignation has occasion’d in the whole Corps is too melancholy a Subject to enter on at this Juncture will therefore wave it.

I am at a loss for words to express the grateful sense I have for the particular manner in which you have been Pleas’d to Interest yourself in my welfare and your constant attention to it’s promotion, I know it to be so entirely the pure dictates of sincere Friendship, that acknowledgements are not only unecessary but troublesome But how can I silence Gratitude?

The Govrs answer was candit polite and obliging tho’ I think from it we may naturally infer that long Service claims no particular exertion of his Power to reward it—you see with what freedom I write the secret Sentiments of my mind—I had concerted a Plan for resuming another way of Life had that you propos’d taken place, but it like all my other Schemes however apparently well laid is render’d abortive—I have long been the sport of an adverse Fortune and dreads I must lay my accots with living and dying so.2

On the 7th Inst. my appointment to a Lieuty in the Royal-Americans was given in publick Orders at Carlyle by General Forbes3 and an Express sent next day with a Commission for me (but by a mistake of Major Halkets’ Blains was Inclos’d to me) with Orders to Join the Division of the first Battalion with which we did Duty last Campaign, as soon as my Affairs will permit me4—I need not inform you how disagreeable that Corps is to me, and that all my often well grounded hopes of Military Preferment is too likely to terminate in a pittance barely sufficient to keep Soul and Body together—It sometimes happens that when Provincial Officers gets inferior Commissions in the Service, that they are suffer’d to retain their Commands in the Provincial Pay, of this, I know two Instances vizt Colo. Glazier of the N. York Regiment and Colo. Parker of the N. Jersey Regiment both Lieuts. in the R. Americans;5 and as I will if Colo. Stephen should not get our Regt be a Field Officer in course,6 the Governor’s Interest and yours would probably procure me an Indulgence of this kind, which would make me excessively happy, as I should thereby be not only freed from doing Sub[altern]s Duty render’d doubly disagreeable by being under the Orders of many I have long Commanded which would be gratting to the last degree,7 But in time enable me with the Price of my Lieutenancy and a small assistance from my Friends to Purchass a Compy the Summit of my present ambition8—But if this or what I sollicited you for cannot possibly be obtain’d, what will you advise me to do? to enter at my time of Life, youngest Lieut. in His Majesty’s Service and spin out the remainder of an unfortunate Life in Want and Toils or search for an obscure livelyhood in some private Bussiness—I have not nor wou’d not mention this to any other upon Earth.9

Six days ago General Forbes left Lancaster on his way to Philadephia where General Amherst waits his arrival it’s said to concert the Plan of operations for next Campaign—when the several Detachments of Highlanders, R. americans and Pensylvanians that are March’d for Pittsbg arrives there it’s Garrison will consist of near 800 Effectives—There’s nothing new here—We have lost 8 Men by Desertion—Jenkins goes down with a Letter from the Genl to the Govr I by him send his Honr a Return of the Regt in which there’s little alteration from the last I sent you10—I long to hear from you and ever am with the highest Esteem and most entire regard My Dear Colo. Your most Affectionate & Most Obliged hble Servt

Robert Stewart

P.S. I leave it to you to mention my having got a Commission in the American Regt to the Govr.


1GW’s letter to Stewart has not been found, but it is probably the one Stewart refers to on 14 Jan. in a letter to General Forbes: “Yesterday I received a Letter from Colo. Washington informing me that he has resigned the Command of his Regiment. This has already occasioned some of his Officers to quit the Service and more will soon follow the Example—It is thought Lt Colo. Stephen will succeed him who is not liked in the Corps” (Scottish Record Office: Dalhousie Muniments). Although Stewart seems here to indicate that GW’s marriage came as no surprise to him and his fellow officers, nowhere in the steady stream of letters during the preceding fall does Stewart refer to an impending marriage. The marriage between GW and Mrs. Martha Dandridge Custis took place in New Kent County, on 6 Jan. 1759.

2As Stewart’s letters to GW in December 1758 [1] [2] [3] [4] demonstrate, his chronic worries about his future military career became acute when the Forbes expedition was finished and GW, his friend and supporter, decided to give up command of the Virginia Regiment. See particularly Stewart to GW, 12 Dec. 1758, n.4. Fauquier wrote to GW about Stewart on 7 Feb. 1759.

3Forbes wrote Gen. James Abercromby on 24 Oct. 1758: “There is one Lieut. [Joseph] Ray of the first Battn of Royal Americans dead, I therefore take the liberty of recommending to you in the strongest manner Capt Stewart of the Virginia light horse, as one every way qualified and deserving a much better recompense, having to my knowledge spent five hundred pounds of his own money in the service without any reward. And this would be a certain kind of bread, he is from Argyle shire and his story deserves being taken notice of—As he is a Highlander and speaks the language I do not think it would do any hurt to the Service to make him a Lieutenant in [Archibald] Montgomerys [77th Regiment], as really and truly they want some good Officers as well as their neighbours” (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 , 244–47). Abercromby did not give Stewart a commission in the Highlander’s regiment, but as Stewart says here he was made a lieutenant in the Royal American Regiment (see note 7).

4Archibald Blane (Blaine), an ensign in Bouquet’s 1st Battalion of the Royal American Regiment, was being promoted to lieutenant.

5Beamsley Glazier of the New York Regiment and John Parker of the New Jersey Regiment both simultaneously held commissions in their provincial regiments and in the Royal American Regiment.

6Lt. Col. Adam Stephen did not at this time succeed GW as colonel of the Virginia Regiment. The choice fell instead on William Byrd, colonel of the 2d Virginia Regiment. Robert Stewart was the senior captain in the regiment, and before the end of 1762 after which the Virginia Regiment went out of existence he had served both as its major and as its lieutenant colonel.

7On 11 Mar. 1759 Fauquier wrote Jeffrey Amherst, the commander in chief of the British forces in America: “I am sollicited by Captn. Robt. Stewart an Officer who has been long, and behaved well in our Service, and who, by the Representations that have been made to me of the whole Tenour of his Conduct, by his late Colonel Mr. Washington would be a Loss to us, if he was to quit the Regiment and not serve us this Campaign; to intercede with you for an Indulgence to him that he may retain both Commissions, and do Duty in our Regiment” (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 , 1:183–84). Stewart referred to “both my Commissions” when writing to GW, 2 Oct. 1760.

8Stewart’s ambition to purchase a company became a recurring topic in his correspondence with GW. See his letters of 25 Jan., 8 Mar. 1760, 17 Sept. 1761, 18 Jan. 1763, and 14 Jan. 1764.

9Scribbled in pencil on a letter from Stewart to Robert Monckton, 9 Aug. 1760, is this barely legible description of Stewart: “A very worthy Man & a good Officer whom my Father esteemed. When I was a Child I used to fancy he was a Frenchman—he ⟨certainly⟩ looked like one—was always bien-poudré—not a hair out of place, his frill his ruffles ⟨so nice⟩ & stiff that he seemed as if ⟨he had⟩ been taken out of a Band Box at my Father’s door—he ⟨spoke very slow and measured⟩ his words & had rather a French accent—He was the ⟨ablest⟩ & most respectful man I ever met with & I should have ⟨been⟩ ashamed of being ⟨lacking⟩ in politeness in his presence though much ⟨given to quizzing⟩ in those days” (Public Archives of Canada, MG 18 M, Series 1: Northcliffe Collection, Monckton Papers, vol. 38).

10Fauquier wrote Forbes, 24 Jan. 1759: “I received the Favour of your Letter yesterday which was brought me down by [William] Jenkins” (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 , 1:162–63). No return of the Virginia Regiment from Stewart has been found. Amherst was not awaiting Forbes in Philadelphia.

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