George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Robert Dinwiddie, 20 August 1754

To Robert Dinwiddie

Alexandria 20th of August 1754

Honble Sir

Mr Peyrouney solliciting for leave to attend the Assembly, hoping to have some allowance made for his loss of Cloaths &ca which he sustaind in common with us all, and being not thoroughly cur’d of his Wounds which has hitherto render’d him unfit for Duty I thought it proper to indulge him in his request, and he now comes for the purpose aforesaid1—By him I again2 take the Liberty of recommending to your Honour the great necessity there is of a regulation in the Soldier’s pay. and that a deduction be made for the Country to furnish them with cloath’s; otherwise, they never will be fit for Service; they are now Naked and can’t get credit even for a Hatt, and are teazing the Officer’s every Day to furnish them with these and other necessarys—Another thing which should be fix’d indisputably, is the Law we are to be guided by; whethe[r] Martial, or Military if the former I must beg the favour of Your Honour to give me some written order’s, & indemnification; otherwise I cannot give my assent (as I am liable for all the proceedings) to any judgement of the Martial Court that touches the Life of a Soldier; tho. at this time, there is absolute necessity for it, as the Soldier’s are deserting constantly, and Yesterday while we were at Church 25 of them collected and were going of in Face of there Officer’s, but were stop’d and Imprison’d, before the Plot came to its full hight.3 Colo. Innis did not fill up any Commission’s for the Virginia Regiment which has given those that were entitled to promotion some uneasiness;4 his reason’s were, it wou’d be an unnecessary expence to the Country till there were order’s to recruit, but this I think shou’d not have been consider’d while it is remember’d who5 small encouragement is shewn them upon every occasion—another motive which I believe served to prevent it, was, his dislike to the tenour of the Commissions, which favourd so much of the Militia: he told me he woud send down another for your Approbation, & Colo. Fairfax has also taken another both of which is greatly preferable to those by which we act. and here I must beg leave to acquaint your Hono⟨r⟩ that the one you sent me is not signed—The Officers are uneasy abt their Pay, and think it hard to be kept out of it so long; they hope your Honour will order, that the dates of their Commission’s be from the vacancy’s that happen’d, of which I have enclos’d a list for information hoping with them your Honour will be kind enough to fill them up yourself and send such Comn as were sent for Presedents.6

Mr West Lieutt of Vanbraam’s Company has resign’d his commisn which I herewith send—I also inclose a List of Medecines which the Doctr desires may be procur’d for the use of the Regiment;7 he sollicits much for a Mate & I believe it necessary as he often has more business than he can well manage, then were a large Detacht sent upon Duty it woud be imprudent to go witht a surgeon: If your Honour shou’d think proper to promote Mr Peyrouney we shall be at a loss for a good Disciplinarian to do Adjutants Duty wch requires a perfect knowledge of all kinds of the Duty. I shoud therefore take it extreamely kind if you woud be pleas’d to confer the Office upon Mr Frazier who I think I can fully answer for let his former conduct be what it will.8 We have Catchd two Deserter’s which I keep imprison’d till I receive your Honours answer how far the Martial Law may be extended, and it is absolutely necessary that an Example be made of some for warning to other’s, for there is scarce a Night, or oppertunity but what some or other are deserting, and often two three or 4 at a time; we always advertize, & pursue them as quickly as possible, but seldom, to any purpose:9 the expences attending this will fall heavy upon the Country while this Spirit prevails. I am Your Honours Most Obt & most Hble Servt

Go: Washington

NB I shou’d be extreamely pleas’d if your Honour thought it advisable to send these Commissions by Majr Carlyle or the first Opperty.

ALS, ViHi.

1After the capitulation at Fort Necessity, GW and his fellow officers, without horses, had to leave behind most of their baggage, which the French Indians then looted. William La Péronie was one of the four officers of the Virginia Regiment wounded in the battle at Great Meadows. On 31 Aug. 1754 the House of Burgesses transmitted an address to Dinwiddie requesting that La Péronie be promoted to captain for “his gallant Behavior in the late Engagement, to which his Honor answered that he would promote him, and was pleased that the Sentiments of this House concurred with his own” (JHB, 1752–1755, 1756–1758 description begins H. R. McIlwaine and John Pendleton Kennedy, eds. Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia. 13 vols. Richmond, 1905–15. description ends , 193, 198, 199).

2GW seems to have written to Dinwiddie twice between the time that he received Dinwiddie’s letter of 3 Aug. and when he wrote this 20 Aug. letter. The first of these letters, which GW sent down to Williamsburg by William Polson, has not been found; the second to Dinwiddie was undated and is included under date of Aug. 1754.

3GW was asking whether his troops were to be governed by laws regulating the militia (“Martial”) or by those embodied in Britain’s Mutiny Act (“Military”). It was not until the fall of 1755 that the Virginia Assembly, at the insistence of GW and Dinwiddie, passed an act (6 Hening description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends 560) permitting the death sentence in the Virginia Regiment for desertion and certain other offenses. An imperfection in the act prevented GW from imposing the death penalty until well into 1756.

4Dinwiddie had informed GW that Col. James Innes would consult him in the appointing of officers for the regiment. See Dinwiddie to GW, 1 Aug. 1754.

5Perhaps GW meant to write “what.”

6GW’s list has not been found, but see the list of commissions in note 10, Dinwiddie to GW, 11 Sept. 1754. GW’s commission as colonel has not been found.

7According to James Innes, Dr. James Craik of the Virginia Regiment had his “Doctor’s Box” destroyed by the French Indians at Fort Necessity (Maryland Gazette [Annapolis], 1 Aug. 1754).

8GW is possibly referring to Lt. John Fraser’s refusal to leave his store at Turtle Creek on 14 April 1754 to go to the stockade being built at the Forks of the Ohio at the moment a large force of Frenchmen was expected. See Dinwiddie to GW, 4 May 1754, n.4. However, more likely the reference is to Simon Fraser who served as adjutant to the Virginia forces during the Braddock campaign. See Peter Hog to GW, 26 June 1756. For La Péronie’s adjutancy, see GW to Dinwiddie, 10 June 1754, n.17.

9No advertisements for specific deserters appear in the extant July–September issues of the Virginia, Maryland, or Pennsylvania newspapers. For GW’s general advertisement regarding deserters, which he placed in the Maryland Gazette, see “Advertisement” by GW, 28 Aug. 1754.

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