George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Robert Dinwiddie, 20 March 1754

To Robert Dinwiddie

[Alexandria, 20 March 1754]

Honble Sir

I was favour’d with your Honours Letter by Mr Steward, inclosing a Lieutt Colo.’s Commission;1 for which Promotion, I hope my future Behaviour will sufficiently testifie the true sense I have of the kindness; and as I intend strictly to adhere to all the proper Rules (as far as it is in my power) and discipline of the Profession I have now enter’d into; I am vain enough to believe, I shall not be quite an unfit Member for it; but in time, shall be able to recompense for the present indulgences—At this time there is abt 75 Men at Alexandria near 50 of which I have Enlisted, the others have been sent by Mesrs Polson,2 Mercer,3 and Waggoner4 to this place, there is very few Officers repaird hither yet, which has occasiond a very fatiguing time to me, to manage a number of selfwill’d, ungovernable People, I shall implicitly obey your Honour’s Commands, and March out with an Expedition: Majr Carlyle is now preparing Waggons for the conveyance of Provisions &ca which till now could not travel for heavy roads. I doubt not but your Honour has been inform’d before this of Mr Vanbraam’s ill success in Augusta by the Express which was sent from thence on that purpose.5

Major Muse’s promotion, and Messrs Rose and Bently’s6 declining will occasion the want of Officer’s; in which Case, if I may be so bold I would beg leave to mention Mr Vanbraam who is the oldest Lieutt and an experienced Soldier for a Comd, unless the Officers come in, I shall be obligd to appoint him that Office till I have your Honrs further commands it would be confering a very great Obligation on him was yr Honr to confirm the place to him I verily believe his behaviour therein would not render him displeasing to you Sir—I have given Captn Stephen’s orders to be in readiness to Join us at Winchester with his Company as they were already in that Neighbourhood—raiz’d there;7 I have nothing further to trouble your Honour with at present, but my sincere thanks for the indulgent favour’s I have met with; and to declare, how much I am your Honour’s most Obedient & very Hble Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, owned by Mr. Paul Mellon, Upperville, Va. The date given is not in GW’s hand.

1The commission has not been found. Dinwiddie noted in his letter to GW of 15 Mar. that he was enclosing the commission, but GW dates his commission 20 Mar. in his General Ledger A description begins General Ledger A, 1750–1772. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, Series 5, Financial Papers. description ends , folio 45 (DLC:GW).

2Lt. William Polson, a Scot, accompanied GW on the expedition into the Ohio country and was present at the capitulation at Fort Necessity on 3–4 July. After his return from the campaign he was made a captain. The next summer Polson commanded a company of Virginia troops in Braddock’s forces, and at the fighting at the Monongahela in July, he and all but one of his officers were killed. He left a wife named Rebecca and an infant child, but the heir to his estate by 1771 was his father, who was then living in Georgia. After the Revolution it was his brother John Polson, a veteran of the Braddock campaign and briefly in the fall of 1755 an officer in GW’s regiment, who laid claim to the land bounty due his dead brother for his participation in the expedition of 1754.

3George Mercer (1733–1784) was one of the lieutenants Dinwiddie appointed in February to recruit men for the proposed expedition to the Forks of the Ohio. He became a captain under GW at the same time that GW became a colonel following Fry’s death and was present at the capitulation at Fort Necessity in July. When GW organized the new Virginia Regiment in Sept. 1755 after Braddock’s defeat, he made Mercer his aide-de-camp. Mercer subsequently served as a company commander in GW’s regiment before going in 1757 with a Virginia detachment under Lt. Col. Adam Stephen to South Carolina. In 1758 he was made lieutenant colonel of the 2d Virginia Regiment, which was recruited by Col. William Byrd III for Gen. John Forbes’s expedition against Fort Duquesne. After the war George Mercer and GW were fellow burgesses from Frederick County from 1761 to 1765, and in 1765 Mercer briefly held the title of Stamp Act officer for the colony. As the London agent for the Ohio Company, 1763 to 1770, Mercer lived in England after 1765 and remained abroad during the American Revolution. He was the son of John Mercer (1704–1768) of Stafford County and the brother of Capt. John Fenton Mercer (1735–1756) of the Virginia Regiment.

4Thomas Waggener (d. 1760), who, like George Mercer, was one of the lieutenants appointed by Dinwiddie in Feb. 1754, was wounded slightly in the skirmish of 28 May between GW’s force and the French. Cited by the Virginia Assembly for bravery in the unsuccessful defense of Fort Necessity in early July, Waggener was promoted to captain. In 1755 he commanded a Virginia company in Braddock’s defeat on the Monongahela, where he was wounded and his brother Edmund Waggener was killed. As colonel of the new Virginia Regiment, GW kept Waggener and his company on the frontier, in the vicinity of the South Branch of the Potomac, from the fall of 1755 until the summer of 1758. Waggener’s company was among the Virginia forces in John Forbes’s army that reached the site of Fort Duquesne after the French had abandoned and burned it. Waggener remained for a time with a detachment of Virginians at what is now Pittsburgh, before returning to Virginia in Sept. 1759. According to GW, he had been an officer in the Virginia contingent of the planned expedition to Canada in 1746.

5Jacob Van Braam (1725–1784) was born in Holland and came to America in 1752. By 1753 he had settled in Fredericksburg where, with GW, he was a member of the Fredericksburg Masonic Lodge. In that year he accompanied GW as an interpreter on the journey to the French commandant. Van Braam had previous military experience as a lieutenant in the Dutch army. Present at the capitulation of Fort Necessity, he was widely criticized for his translation of the articles of capitulation. See “The Capitulation of Fort Necessity,” 3 July 1754. He was one of the two hostages demanded by the French after the Fort Necessity defeat and remained a prisoner in Canada until 1760. After his release he secured a commission in the Royal American Regiment and at the end of the war settled in Wales. In 1775 he rejoined the Royal American Regiment and served at Saint Augustine in East Florida and as a captain in the British campaign in Georgia. He sold his commission in 1779 and settled in France (Van Braam to Lord George Germain, 31 July 1777, P.R.O., C.O. 5/116, ff. 2–24; Van Braam to GW, 20 Dec. 1783, DLC:GW). Van Braam was ordered in Jan. 1754 to recruit in Augusta County (see Dinwiddie to GW, Jan. 1754), but in addition to finding the Augusta County lieutenant, James Patton, less than cooperative, Van Braam discovered that few residents of this frontier county were willing to join the expedition and leave their families unprotected against Indian raids.

6Rose was probably Hugh Rose, who served as an ensign and lieutenant in the Cartagena campaign and apparently retired on half pay as a captain. After failing in his attempt to raise recruits in a Virginia company in the winter of 1755, Rose was appointed a first lieutenant in William Pepperrell’s regiment (Brock, Dinwiddie Papers description begins R. Alonzo Brock, ed. The Official Records of Robert Dinwiddie, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Virginia, 1751–1758. 2 vols. Richmond, 1883–84. description ends , 2:66; Browne, Sharpe Correspondence description begins William Hand Browne, ed. Correspondence of Governor Horatio Sharpe. 3 vols. Archives of Maryland, vols. 6, 9, and 14. Baltimore, 1888–95. description ends , 6:227). Bentley was probably Thomas Bentley, adjutant of Virginia’s frontier district.

7Adam Stephen (c.1718–1791), a Scottish medical doctor who served in the British navy before coming to America, was made a major by GW in June 1754. When Lt. Col. George Muse resigned his commission in July after the defeat at Fort Necessity, Stephen became lieutenant colonel under GW. In the months after GW’s resignation in the fall of 1754 and the mounting of Braddock’s expedition in late spring 1755, Stephen was the senior Virginia officer, serving first under Col. James Innes and then under Gov. Horatio Sharpe of Maryland. He participated in Braddock’s expedition, and he was in charge of the Virginia forces remaining at Fort Cumberland when GW took command of the new Virginia Regiment in Sept. 1755. He continued as GW’s second in command of the Virginia Regiment until GW left the service at the end of 1758 and then succeeded GW’s successor William Byrd III as colonel of the regiment in Sept. 1761 not long before it was disbanded. He became a brigadier general in the Continental Army in 1776, but his military career was brought to an abrupt and final end in Nov. 1777 when he was discharged from the service for his conduct at the Battle of Germantown.

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