George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Robert Dinwiddie, 17 October 1755

To Robert Dinwiddie

Winchester Octr 17th 1755

Honble Sir

Last night by return of the express who went to Captn Montour I receivd the Inclosd from Mr Harris at Susquehanna1—I think no means shd be neglected to preserve what few Indians still remain in our Interest, for wch Reason I shall send Mr Gist so soon as he arrives (which I expect will be today) to Harris’s Ferry2 in hopes of engageing, and bringing with him the Belt of Wampum, and other Indians that are at that place; and I shall further desire him to send an Indian Express to Andw Montour to try if he can be brought along with them.3

In however trifling light, the French attempting to alienate the affection’s of our Southern Indian’s may at first appear, I must look upon it as a thing of the utmost consequence, that requires our greatest and most immediate attention—I have often wonderd at not hearing that this was attempted before, and had it noted among other Memdms to acquaint your honour off when I shoud come down. The French policy in treating with Indians is so prevalent, that I shoud not be in the least surprisd, were they to engage the Cherokees, Cuttaba’s &ca, unless timely and vigorous measure’s is taken to prevent it—A Pusilanimous behaviour now woud ill suit the times, and trusting to Traders & Common Interpreter’s (who will sell their Integrity to the highest bidder) may prove the destruction of these Affairs: I therefore think that if a Person of distinction, acquainted with their language is to be found, his Price shd be come to at any rate; if no such can be had, a Man of Sense and Character to conduct the Indians to any Council that may be held, or to Superintend any other matter’s, will be found extreamely necessary—It is impertinent I own in me to offer my opinion in these matter’s, when better Judges may direct, but my steady, and hearty Zeal to the cause, and the great imposition’s I have known practis’d by the Traders &ca upon these occasion’s wd not suffer me to be quite Silent: I have heard from undoubteded Authority that some of the Cherokee’s that have been Introduced to us as Sachim’s and Princes by the Interpreters4 (Who share their presents and profits) have been no other than common hunter’s, and blood thirsty Villain’s—We have no accts yet of the Militia from Fairfax &ca. This day I march with abt 100 Men to Fort Cumberland, Yesterday by an express I was informd of the arrival of 80 odd Recruits to Fredg whh I have order’d to proceed to this place,5 but for want of that regularity being observ’d by wch I shd know where every Officer &ca ought to be—my order’s are only conditl & always confusd. Whatever necessarys your honour gets below, I shd be glad to have them sent to Alexandria, from where they come much more handy than from Fredg—besides, as Provisions are lodgd there and none at the other place it will be best for the Men to be all sent there that is any ways convt for we have met with insuperable6 difficulty’s at Fredg & in our March from thence by the Neglect of the Com[missar]y who is at this time greatly wanted here therefore I hope yr honr will order him up immey if not things will suffer very much.7 I am Honble Sir Yr most Obt Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, MHi: Washington Papers; LB, DLC:GW.

1On 17 Oct. GW paid James Jackson £1 for riding express to Montour (Va. Regimental Accounts, 1755–58, DLC:GW). John Harris (1726–1791), a storekeeper and friend of the Indians in western Pennsylvania, operated Harris’s ferry across the Susquehanna, where he lived and in the 1780s established Harrisburg. His letter to GW has not been found. GW’s letter to Montour is dated 10 Oct.

3The lull on the Pennsylvania frontier after Braddock’s defeat was ended on 16 Oct. when the Indians killed about 25 German settlers near the mouth of Penn’s Creek, up and across the Susquehanna from Harris’s ferry. After a force under John Harris was ambushed at Penn’s Creek on 25 Oct., the Belt of Wampum (Belt, Old Belt), a Seneca chief, led a party of friendly Indians in pursuit. Andrew Montour remained in the employ of Pennsylvania.

4In the letter-book copy “by the Interpreters” is changed to “by this Interpreter.” Except for one other substitution noted below, the differences in the wording between the letter printed here and the corrected letter-book copy do not affect the meaning.

6The word “insuperable” becomes “insufferable” in the corrected letter book.

7He is referring to Commissary Charles Dick.

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