To James Hamilton
[Wills Creek, Md., c.24] April—17541
It is with the greatest concern I acquaint you that Mr Ward2 Ensign in Captn Trents Company was compelld to surrender his small Fort in the Forks of Monongehele to the French on the 17th Instant: Who fell down from Venango with a Fleet of 360 Batoes and Canoes with upwards of one thousand Men and eighteen pieces of Artillery—which they planted against the Fort, drew up their Men and sent the enclos’d Summons to Mr Ward, who having but an inconsiderable number of Men and no Cannon to make a proper defence was oblige to surrender they sufferd him to draw of his Men, Arms, and Working Tools and gave leave that he might retreat to the Inhabitants.
I have heard of your Honour’s great zeal for His Majestys Service; and for all our Interest’s on the present occasion—You will see by the Inclos’d Speech of the Half Kings that the Indians expect some assistance from you and I am perswaded you will take proper notice of their moving Speech and of their unshaken fidility.3
I thought it more advisable to acquaint your Honour with it imediately than to wait ’till you could get Intelligence by way of Williamsburg and the Young Man as the Half King proposes.
I have arriv’d thus far with a detachment of 150 Men; Colo. Fry with the remainder of the Regimt and Artillery is daily expected. In the meantime we advance slowly across the Mountains making the Roads as we March, fit for the Carriage of our great Guns &ca and are design’d to proceed as far as the mouth of red Stone Creek which Enter’s Monongehele abt 37 miles above the Fort taken by the French from whence we have a Water Carriag⟨e⟩ down the River—And there is a storehouse built by the Ohio Company which may serve as a recepticle for our Amunition and Provisions.4
Besides these French that came from Venango we have credible accts that another party are coming up Ohio—we also have Intelligence that 600 of the Chippoways and Ottoways are Marching down Sciodo Ck to join them.5 I hope your Honour will excuse the Freedom I have assum’d in acqt. you with these Advises. It was the Warm Zeal I owe my Country that influenced me to it and occasiond this express. I am with all due respect & Regard Yr Honours most Obt & very Hble Servt
ALS, PPiU; copy, P.R.O., C.O. 5/14, f. 327; copy, P.R.O., C.O. 5/14, f. 177–78; copy, House of Lords; copy (fragment), NN; copy, MHi: Miscellaneous Bound Collection. This letter is docketed “James Foley the Express says he left Mr Washington at the New Store on Patowmack about 130 [miles] from Capn Trents fort at the Mouth of Monongiale, on Saturday 27 April. Recd ad 3d May.”
James Hamilton (c.1710–1783) was appointed lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania in the fall of 1748. He resigned in Oct. 1754 but remained on the provincial council and served again as lieutenant governor from 1759 to 1763.
1. After leaving Winchester, presumably on 18 April, the expedition under GW’s command proceeded to Joseph Edwards’s fort on Cacapon River, to Job Pearsal’s on the right bank of the South Branch of the Potomac, then to Thomas Cresap’s establishment near the mouth of the South Branch, and then on to Wills Creek where camp was established (Account with the Colony of Virginia, Oct. 1754).
2. Ens. Edward Ward, a Pennsylvania trader and half brother to George Croghan, was left in charge of the construction of the fort at the Forks of the Ohio while William Trent returned to Virginia for additional supplies. In mid-April Ward learned that the French were marching toward the fort from Venango, a French post at the confluence of French Creek and Allegheny River, and attempted unsuccessfully at Turtle Creek and Wills Creek to secure reinforcements from his superiors for the 33 soldiers he had under his command. On 17 April the French expedition under the command of François Le Mercier (1722–c.1800) appeared near the half-completed fort (Deposition of Edward Ward, 7 May 1754, P.R.O., C.O. 5/1328, ff. 101–2). The “Summons” to Ward to surrender the British fort was dated 16 April and signed by Claude Pierre Pécaudy, sieur de Contrecoeur (1706–1775), commander of French forces in the Ohio country. A copy of the document was enclosed in Dinwiddie to the Board of Trade, 10 May 1754 (P.R.O., C.O. 5/1328, ff. 95–96).
3. The Half-King was at the Forks with Ward when the French arrived. His speech, addressed to Dinwiddie, was intended to let the governor know how the Indians “were used by the French” and requested British support (P.R.O., C.O. 5/1328, f. 99). According to GW’s diary, the Half-King’s speech to Dinwiddie was followed by one addressed to GW. See Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 1:178.
4. The Ohio Company storehouse at Redstone Creek was constructed for the company by William Trent in the winter of 1753–54. The building was burned by the French in July 1754 after the surrender of Fort Necessity.
5. GW is presumably referring to the Scioto River. A major north-south Indian trail ran along the Scioto River.