To William Byrd
[Mount Vernon, 20 April 1755]
To The Honble William Bird Esqr.
was 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 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 me to make th e Visit.1
I am now prepareing for, and shall in a few days sett off, to serve
the ensueing Campaigne;2 with different views from what I had before; for here, if I can gain any credit, or if I am entitled to the least ⟨erasure⟩3 and esteem, it must be from serving my Country with a free voluntary will ; 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 of a ttaining a Comn, I have none, as I am pretty well assur’d it is not in Genl Braddocks power to give such a one as I woud accept of f; as I am told a Compa. is the highest Comn that is invested in his gift.4 He desir d my Company this Campaigne, has honour’d me with particular marks of Esteem, and kindly envited me into his Family; which will ease me of that expence, which otherwise, woud unavoidably have accrued in furnishing a proper Camp Provision ; whereas the expence 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, to leave a Family just settling, and in the utmost confusion & disorder (as mine is at present ) will be the means of my using my
private Fortune very greatly, but however this may happen , it shall be no hindrance to my making this Campaigne. I am Sir with very gt esteem, Your most Obt Servt
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.
1. Byrd’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.
2. GW left Mount Vernon to join General Braddock on 23 or 24 April 1755.
3. The erased word may be “regard.”
4. In 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.
5. On 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” (Ledger A description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 1, 1750-72, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 20, 22, DLC:GW). Hart was killed in the battle, but Hawthorn survived unscathed.