George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Byrd, 20 April 1755

To William Byrd

[Mount Vernon, 20 April 1755]

To The Honble William Bird Esqr.Westover
Honble Dr Sir

I was am sorry it was not in my power to wait upon you at Westover last Christmas—I had enjoy’d much real satisfaction even in the thought of doing it when an unexpected accident put it intirely out of my power to comply either with my promise, or Inclination; both of which equally urg’d prompted me to make the is Visit.1

I am now prepareing for, and shall in a few days sett off, to serve the in the ensueing Campaigne;2 with different views from what , however, from those I had before; for here, if I can gain any credit, or if I am entitled to the least ⟨erasure3 countenance and esteem, it must be from serving my Country with a free voluntary will out fee or rewd; for I can very truely say I have no expectation of reward but the hope of meriting the love of my Country, and friendly regard of my acquaintances; and as to any prospect either—To merit its esteem—and the good will of my friends is the sum of my ambition, having no prospect of att[o]baining a Comn, I have none, as I am pretty being well assur’d it is not in Genl Braddocks power to give such an one as I woud accept off; as I am told The commd of a Compa. is the highest Comn that is invested in his gift.4 He was so obliging as to desirde my Company this Campaigne, has honour’d me with particular marks of his Esteem, and has kindly envited me into his Family; a Circumstance which will ease me of that expence, which s that otherwise, woud unavoidably must have accrued in furnishing a proper stores Camp Provision equipage &ca; whereas the expence cost will now be easy, (comparitively speaking) as baggage Horses, Tents, & some other necessarys will constitute the whole of the charge.5 Tho’ I mean to say, Yet, to leave a Family just settling, and in the utmost confusion & disorder (as mine is in at present) will be the means of my using my is not a pleasing thing & may be hurtful private Fortune very greatly, but however this may happen be this as it may, it shall be no hindrance to my making this Campaigne. I am Sir with very gt esteem, Your most Obt Servt

Go: Washington

LB (original), DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW.

William Byrd III (1728–1777), newly appointed a member of the Virginia Council, resided at his family’s great James River plantation, Westover, in Charles City County. He also held extensive lands in many other counties, including Lunenburg, which he represented in the House of Burgesses from 1752 to 1754. As burgess, he evidenced some interest in military matters and concern about French encroachments in the Ohio Valley, foreshadowing the roles he was to play during the war years as an Indian negotiator and as a commander of Virginia forces on the frontier. Competent as he was in performing his public duties, he had no head for managing his own affairs. He eventually dissipated his inherited fortune by indulging his passions for thoroughbred horse racing, gambling for high stakes, personal luxuries, and fine houses.

1Byrd’s invitation to spend the holidays at Westover probably was extended during GW’s visit to Williamsburg between 20 Oct. and 2 Nov. 1754. It may have been the leasing of Mount Vernon on 17 Dec. 1754 or some related event that prevented GW from keeping this engagement. He was apparently at or near Mount Vernon from the day the lease was signed until 1 Jan. 1755 when he set off on a trip to Fredericksburg. Little is known of his activities during that period beyond the fact that he played cards on 25, 26, and 27 Dec.

2GW left Mount Vernon to join General Braddock on 23 or 24 April 1755.

3The erased word may be “regard.”

4In an autobiographical note written for David Humphreys c.1786, GW said that Braddock offered him “A Captns Comn by brevet . . . the highest grade he had it in his power to bestow” (ViMtvL, photostat). An infantry company is normally commanded by a captain.

5On 10 April 1755 GW paid Lt. John Hart of the 48th Regiment £4 16s. 3d. “for a Field Bedstead & Curtains.” On 21 July, 12 days after the Battle of the Monongahela, he paid Lt. John Hawthorn, also of the 48th Regiment, £1 2s. 6½d. “for a Mattrass” (General Ledger A description begins General Ledger A, 1750–1772. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, Series 5, Financial Papers. description ends , folio 20, 22, DLC:GW). Hart was killed in the battle, but Hawthorn survived unscathed.

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