George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Robert Dinwiddie, 15 March 1754

From Robert Dinwiddie

Mar. 15th 1754


Yr two Letters of the 3d1 & 7th Currt I recd & the enclos’d from Messrs Trent & Cresap.2 I am surpriz’d from their Letters that the French are so early expected down the Ohio; which I think makes it necessary for You to march what Soldiers You have enlisted immediately to the Ohio, & escort some Waggons, with the necessary Provisions; Colo. Fry to march with the others as soon as possible.3 I shall send three Sloops with Recruits from York, James River, & the Eastern Shoar, so that I hope the Number of Men will be fully Compleated.4 By the first of these Sloops, I shall send 24 more Tents, which is all that’s to be had here. Picks, Cutlasses, or Halberts, none in the Magazine; so the Officers must head their Comps. with small Arms.

I have no Objection to the Soldiers being in an uniform Dress, on the Head You propose, but I am perswaded You have not Time to get them made, unless to be sent after You; in that Case, Care shd be taken of buying the Cloth at the cheapest rate—The Soldiers are to be pd from the Day they were enlisted, ’til the Day they march, after that every two Mos. to be pd by Mr Carlyle at Alexa. on producing a Certificate from the Comdg Officer & their Capt. which Certificate will be a Voucher to Mr Carlyle, & he will be supplied accordingly. Mr Muse was with me this Day, & will soon be at Alexa. I have appointed him Majr at 10/ ⅌ Day;5 & enclos’d You have a Como. for Lieut. Colo. pay 12/ ⅌ Day, without any Trouble of Comanding a Compa.—I have sent to the Treasurer for Money, if he disappoints me, I shall nevertheless send You some immediately, which You may expect in 24 Hours after this Messenger. I recommend to You Dispatch to be with Capt. Trent if possible before the French come down the river; send a Runner before You for Intelligence that You may not meet with any Surprize. I hope the Colonies to the Nowd will assist Us.

His M[ajest]y has order’d two Independt Comps. from NY: & one from Carolina, to come here to be under my Comd—I have sent Expres[se]s for their immediate coming here, wn they arrive I propose sending them out to the Ohio.6 I wd gladly hope, as Capt. Trent has begun to build a Fort at Allegany,7 that the French will not immediately disturb us there; & wn our Forces are properly collected we shall be able to keep Possession, & drive the French from the Ohio. I hope the Cherokees and Catawbas are there by this Time. I intreat You to be diligent in Yr March, take wt Officers You see proper that are at Alexa., & keep up a good, Dicipline, ’till Colo. Fry joins You: He has my Orders to choose a Court Martial, to peruse the Articles of War, & select from them such the Court may think proper for the Dicipline of the Men.

Pray God preserve You, & grant Success to our just Designs. I am most Sincerely Sr Yr Friend & hble Servt

LB, ViHi: Dinwiddie Papers.

1The letter of 3 Mar. has not been found.

2One of the enclosures was probably William Trent to GW, 19 Feb. 1754. Thomas Cresap (1694–1790) was one of Maryland’s most prominent frontiersmen and land speculators. About 1736 he had moved his operations from Pennsylvania to a fortified trading post which he established at Shawnee Old Town on the Maryland side of the Potomac River. GW had visited him at Old Town in 1748. See Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 1:12. in 1749 he was one of the founders of the Ohio Company and helped lay out the company’s road from Wills Creek to the Monogahela. In 1753 Cresap had worked with Trent and Gist on the plans for the Ohio Company fort at the Forks. No letter from Cresap to GW dated before Mar. 1754 has been found. Possibly Dinwiddie meant to refer to a letter from Christopher Gist to GW of 23 Feb. rather than to one from Cresap.

3GW began his march from Alexandria on 2 April “with two Companies of Foot, commanded by Captain Peter Hog, and Lieutenant Jacob Vambraam, five Subalterns, two Serjeants, six Corporals, one Drummer, and one Hundred and twenty Soldiers, one Surgeon, one Swedish Gentleman, who was a Volunteer, two Waggons, guarded by one Lieutenant, Serjeant, Corporal, and Twenty-five Soldiers” (ibid., 174–75). Before Joshua Fry could join GW, he died, on 31 May 1754, from injuries suffered in a fall from his horse. GW then succeeded Fry as colonel of the Virginia Regiment with instructions from Dinwiddie to act as commander of the entire expedition until the expected arrival from North Carolina of the new commander in chief, Col. James Innes.

4Dinwiddie wrote to Fry on 18 Mar. that he had sent GW and his men on to the Ohio to reinforce Captain Trent, and added: “The rest of the Forces, wn collected into a Body, I desire You will marshall them into different Compas the List of the Officers Commissd by me You have here enclosd. This Week all the recruits raisd here & [on] the Eastern Shoar, will embark in Sloops & be with You soon” (ViHi: Dinwiddie Papers). In addition to the three staff officers, he listed five captains, six lieutenants, and one surgeon.

5George Muse (1720–1790), an Englishman, served with the Virginia troops in the Cartagena expedition of 1741. He subsequently served as Lawrence Washington’s deputy adjutant general of Virginia before being appointed to the adjutancy of the Middle Neck. See GW to Dinwiddie, 10 June 1752. Muse joined GW before the skirmish at Fort Necessity in July 1754 and was present at the fort’s capitulation. Criticized for the way he conducted himself in the confrontation with the French, he resigned his commission. Dinwiddie wrote of this to James Innes on 20 July: “as he is not very agreeable to the other Officers, I am well pleas’d at his resignatn” (ViHi: Dinwiddie Papers).

6On 4 May Dinwiddie ordered Capt. James Mackay, who, with his company, had arrived at Hampton from South Carolina, to embark immediately for Alexandria. Mackay (d. 1785) served as an ensign in a Georgia independent company of foot in 1737 and was promoted to lieutenant in 1740 and to captain in Oglethorpe’s regiment in 1745. In 1749 he became captain of one of the South Carolina independent companies. Mackay joined GW at Great Meadows about 14 June and after the French attack participated with GW in signing the articles of capitulation. The New York independent companies did not get to Virginia until mid-June, too late to have a part in the expedition. Mackay’s company was one of three independent companies of the British army stationed on the southern frontier, two in South Carolina and one in Georgia. Four independent companies had been authorized for the New York frontier since 1700, but all of them were well below strength in the spring of 1754. The fact that officers of the independent companies held their ranks in the regular army from the king and therefore outranked any colonial officer promised to be a serious complication for Dinwiddie and a sore point for GW and his fellow colonials. In his letter to Dinwiddie begun on 10 June, GW writes at length about the problems of command raised by Captain Mackay’s arrival.

7Dinwiddie is referring to the Forks of the Ohio.

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