George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Augustine Washington, 14 May 1755

To Augustine Washington

[Fort Cumberland, Md., 14 May 1755]

To Colo. Auge WashingtonWestmoreland Cty1
Dear Brother

I left home the 24th of last Month,2 and overtook the General at Frederick Town in Maryland: from whence we proceeded by slow Marches to this place; where, I fear, we shall remain some-time for want of Horses and Carriages to convey our Baggage &ca over the Mountains; but more especially for want of Forage; as it cannot be imagin’d that so many Horses as we require, will be subsisted without a great deal.erasure ⟩.3

We hear nothing particular from the Ohio only except that the French are in hourly expectation of being joind by a large body of Indians; but I fancy they will find themselves so warmly attackd in other places, that it will not be convenient for them to spare many.erasure ⟩.4 I am treated with freedom not inconsistent with and respect, by the General and his Family; so that I dont doubt I have no doubt therefore but I shall spend my time very more agreeably than profitably during thise Campaigne, tho’ not advantageously; as I conceive a little experience will be my chief reward. Please to give my Love to my Sister5 &ca. I am Dr Sir Yr most Affecte Brother

Go: Washington

This Letter was not sent.7

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

1Augustine Washington was at this time in Williamsburg representing Westmoreland County in the House of Burgesses, to which he had been recently elected.

2In the letter that GW wrote to William Fairfax, 23 April 1755, he said, “I this day set out for Wills Creek.”

3“The want of Forage for the Horses was wt I always dreaded,” Dinwiddie wrote to Braddock on 3 June 1755, “but was in hopes You cd have reduc’d their Number” (ViHi: Dinwiddie Papers). Braddock’s decision to take his whole artillery train with him to the Monongahela as well as the necessity of carrying all of the provisions that the troops would need in the unsettled region across the mountains required hundreds of horses and thousands of bushels of grain. “I am to expect Numberless Inconveniences and Obstructions from the total want of dry Forage,” Braddock admitted to Robert Napier on 19 April 1755, and “from the being oblig’d to carry all our provisions with us which will make a vast Line of Baggage and which tho’ I reduce as much as possible will nevertheless occasion great Trouble and retard me considerably” (Pargellis, Military Affairs in North America description begins Stanley Pargellis, ed. Military Affairs in North America, 1748–1765: Selected Documents from the Cumberland Papers in Windsor Castle. 1936. Reprint. Hamden, Conn., 1969. description ends , 81–84).

4“All [the intelligence] I have,” Braddock wrote Napier from Fort Cumberland on 8 June 1755, “is from Indians, whose veracity is no more to be depended upon [than] that of the Borderers here; their Accounts are that the Number of French at the Fort [Duquesne] at present is but small, but pretend to expect a great Reinforcement; this I do not entirely credit, as I am very well persuaded they will want their Forces to the Northward” (Pargellis, Military Affairs in North America description begins Stanley Pargellis, ed. Military Affairs in North America, 1748–1765: Selected Documents from the Cumberland Papers in Windsor Castle. 1936. Reprint. Hamden, Conn., 1969. description ends , 85, 92). Braddock’s informants, however, were essentially correct. By May considerable reinforcements of both French and Indians were moving toward Fort Duquesne to strengthen the small garrison there. See GW to William Fairfax, John Carlyle, and John Augustine Washington, 7 June 1755. For the northern attacks that Braddock expected to divert the French, see GW to John Carlyle, 14 May 1755, n.5.

5Augustine’s wife was Anne Aylett Washington (d. 1773).

6Fort Cumberland, situated on a ridge overlooking the confluence of Wills Creek and the Potomac River, had been built the previous fall and winter by the independent companies and Maryland provincials stationed there. Named in honor of William Augustus, duke of Cumberland, the king’s son and captain general of the British army, the fort was intended to serve as a depot for military stores of all kinds and a defense against incursions by enemy parties. It fulfilled neither purpose in the opinion of Braddock’s quartermaster, Sir John St. Clair, who inspected the place in Jan. 1755. “I cannot learn what cou’d induce People ever to think of making a fort or Deposite for Provisions at Wills’s Creek,” St. Clair wrote Braddock on 9 Feb. 1755. “It covers no Country, nor has it the Communication open behind it either by Land or Water” (Pargellis, Military Affairs in North America description begins Stanley Pargellis, ed. Military Affairs in North America, 1748–1765: Selected Documents from the Cumberland Papers in Windsor Castle. 1936. Reprint. Hamden, Conn., 1969. description ends , 61–64). The ridge on which the fort stood was nearly surrounded by higher terrain, a circumstance favorable to attackers. Its distance from the main settlements, compounded by the want of good roads and the fact that the upper Potomac was not navigable, posed serious logistical problems, as Braddock discovered. Nevertheless, Braddock had been instructed privately in England to march from Wills Creek, and no better alternative was now immediately available.

The fort proper was described by one of Braddock’s officers as “a Square, the sides about 120 feet [long] built of large Logs fixed upright in the ground as close as can be; fastened within side with a rail: at the joyning of these Logs they have fixed plank to make it nearly of an equal thickness, & cut loop-holes for small Arms” (“The Journal of a British Officer,” in Hamilton, Braddock’s Defeat description begins Charles Hamilton, ed. Braddock’s Defeat. Norman, Okla., 1959. description ends , 42). The walls, about 12 feet high, were angled out at the corners to form bastions, each with four embrasures for cannon, although when Braddock arrived only nine or ten 4–pounders were mounted there. A house for the commanding officer, two guard rooms, four storehouses, and a powder magazine were located inside the main fort. Outside to the east stood troop barracks and officer quarters enclosed by a log stockade extending about 300 feet east from one wall of the main fort to a point near the bank of Wills Creek. See the plan of Fort Cumberland in Lowdermilk, Cumberland, Maryland description begins Will H. Lowdermilk. History of Cumberland, (Maryland): From the Time of the Indian Town, Caiuctucuc, in 1728, Up to the Present Day, Embracing an Account of Washington’s First Campaign, and Battle of Fort Necessity, Together with a History of Braddock’s Expedition, &c., &c., &c. 1878. Reprint. Baltimore, 1971. description ends , following p. 92. All of the buildings were of crude log construction, as an officer’s sister found on her arrival in June: “I was put into a Hole that I could see day light through every Log, and a port Hole for a Window; which was as good a Room as any in the Fort” (Harrison, “Mrs. Browne’s Diary,” description begins Fairfax Harrison, ed. “With Braddock’s Army: Mrs. Browne’s Diary in Virginia and Maryland.” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 32 (1924): 305–20. description ends 316).

7GW made similar notations, all in his early handwriting, on three other letters that he wrote today: to John Carlyle, to Sarah Fairfax Carlyle, and to John Augustine Washington. His fifth letter of this date, written to Sarah Cary Fairfax, is not so noted, however. These letters, including possibly the one to Mrs. Fairfax, were never sent, probably because the unanticipated journey to Williamsburg that GW began the next day gave him an opportunity to see all of his correspondents in person.

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