George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Robert Dinwiddie, 14 January 1756

To Robert Dinwiddie

Alexandria Jany 14th 1756

Honble Sir

When I was down the Committee among other things resolved that the Maryland and Carolina Companies shoud not be supported with our Provisions—This Resolve (I think) met with your Approbation; upon which I wrote to Colo. Stephen desiring him to acquaint Capt. Dagworthy thereof,1 who paid slight Regard to it, saying it was in the Kings Garrison and all the Troops had an equal Right to draw Provision with Us by his Order (as commanding officer) and that We, after it was put there, had no Power to remove it without his Leave—I shoud therefore be glad of your Honours peremptory Orders what to do in this Case, as I dont care to act without Instructions lest it shoud appear to proceed from Pique & Resentment as having the Command disputed2—This is one among the numberless Inconveniencies of having the Fort in Maryland—Capt. Dagworthy I dare venture to affirm is encouraged to say this by Governor Sharpe, who We know has wrote to him to keep the Command—This Capt. Dagworthy acquainted Colo. Stephen of himself.3

As I have not yet heard how General Shirley has answered your Honrs Request I fear the Success; especially as its next to an Impossibility (as Govr Sharpe has been there to plead Capt. Dagworthy’s Cause)4 by writing to make the General acquainted with the Nature of the Dispute—The officers have drawn up a Memorial to be presented to the General, & that it may be properly strengthened they humbly beg your Sollicitation to have Us (as We have certain Advices that it is in his Power) put upon the Establishment5—This woud at once put an End to Contention which is the Root of Evil & destruction to the best of Operations, and turn all our Movements into a free easy Channel—They have urged it in the warmest Manner to Me to appear personally before the General for this End—which I woud at this disagreeable Season gladly do Things being thus circumstanced if I have your Permission which I more freely ask since I have determined to resign a Commission which You were generously pleased to offer Me (and for which I shall always retain a grateful Sense of the Favour) rather than submit to the Command of a Person who I think has not such superlative Merit to balance the Inequality of Rank—however he adheres to what he calls his Right, & in which I know he is supported by Govr Sharpe—He says that he has no Commission from the Province of Maryland but acts by Virtue of that from the King—that this was the Condition of his engaging in the Maryland Service, & when he was sent up there the first of last October was ordered by Governor Sharpe and Sr John St Clair not to give up his Right—To my certain Knowledge his Rank was disputed before General Braddock; who gave it in his Favour, and he accordingly took Place of every Captain upon the Expedition—except Capt. James Mercer6 and Capt. Rutherford7 whose Commissions were older than his; so that I shoud not by any Means choose to act as your Honr hinted in your last, lest I shoud be called to an Account myself.8

I have during my Stay above from the 1st Decr to this disposed of all the Men & Officers (that are not recruiting & can be spared from the Fort) in the best Manner I can for the Defence of the Inhabitants, and they will need no farther Orders till I coud return, and the recruiting Officers are allowed till the 1st of March to repair to their Rendezvous—which leaves at present nothing to do at the Fort but to train & discipline the Men, & prepare and salt the Provisions for the better perfecting both these I have left full & clear Directions.

Besides in other Respects I think my going to the Northward might be of Service as I should thereby so far as they thought proper to Communicate be acquainted with their Plan of Operations especially the Pennsylvanians so as to act as much as the Nature of Things woud admit in Concert.

If you think proper to comply with my Request I shoud be glad of any Letters which You think woud enforce the Petition to the General or any of the Governors in my Way there—I am Yr Honours most Obt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, ViHi: Dinwiddie Papers. In GW’s letter book the copyist gave the date 14 Jan. to GW’s letter of 13 Jan. to Dinwiddie and omitted this letter of 14 Jan. The body of the letter appears to be in George Mercer’s hand rather than GW’s. GW wrote the closing and signed the letter.

1GW wrote Adam Stephen on 18 Nov. 1755 that Dinwiddie had approved “of the Committee’s resolve, in not allowing either the Maryland or Carolina companies [at Fort Cumberland] to be supported out of our Provision’s.” On 9 Dec. Stephen speculated about Capt. John Dagworthy’s likely response and asked GW for “peremptor Orders.”

2The description of John Dagworthy’s behavior differs from what Stephen wrote on 9 Dec. 1755, but he and GW had recently been together at Winchester and presumably GW was reporting what Stephen told him about Dagworthy at that time.

3Horatio Sharpe wrote to Cecilius Calvert on 6 Oct. 1755: “The Garrison at that place [Fort Cumberland] consists of about 150 effective Men who since the Departure of Coll Innes to Carolina are I expect under the Command of Capt. Dagworthy who is the eldest Officer” (Browne, Sharpe Correspondence description begins William Hand Browne, ed. Correspondence of Governor Horatio Sharpe. 3 vols. Archives of Maryland, vols. 6, 9, and 14. Baltimore, 1888–95. description ends , 1:289–90). And on 11 Oct. in a letter to Gov. Robert Hunter Morris of Pennsylvania, Sharpe referred to “Capt. Dagworthy who commands the Garrison consisting of 137 Men at Fort Cumberland” (ibid., 292). Dinwiddie wrote Sharpe, 2 Jan. 1756, “I think it’s absurd in him to expect to Comd the Forces of this Dominion or to have rank before Colo. Washington” (ViHi: Dinwiddie Papers). Before receiving Dinwiddie’s letter but after having talked in New York to William Shirley, who knew all about the controversy, Sharpe wrote Dinwiddie on 4 Jan.: “Upon hearing that Colo Washington excepted agst Capt Dagworthy’s acting as Commander in Chief at Wills-Creek by virtue of His Majesty’s Commission I sent him Orders to confine himself to the command of the Fort alone & not interfere with any Troops in the Barracks or assume any Authority over the Virginians that should be there Posted” (Browne, Sharpe Correspondence description begins William Hand Browne, ed. Correspondence of Governor Horatio Sharpe. 3 vols. Archives of Maryland, vols. 6, 9, and 14. Baltimore, 1888–95. description ends , 1:333–35). See also Horatio Sharpe to John Dagworthy, 12 Sept. 1755, in Turner, Sussex County, Delaware description begins C. H. B. Turner, comp. Some Records of Sussex County, Delaware. Philadelphia, 1909. description ends , 323.

4Sharpe met with Shirley and other colonial governors and military men in New York in December.

5When writing Shirley on 4 Nov. 1755 about GW’s problems with Dagworthy, Dinwiddie suggested that Shirley issue brevet commissions to GW, Lt. Col. Adam Stephen, and Maj. Andrew Lewis of the Virginia Regiment, thereby removing any doubts about their outranking the Maryland captain. In his letter to Shirley dated 24 Jan. 1756 explaining the purpose of GW’s mission to Boston to see Shirley, Dinwiddie again asked for brevet commissions but then wrote: “The Offs. of our Forces have address’d Yr Exy to be brot on B[ritish] Establishmt and pray’d me to recommend it; as this is an affair entirely with You, I can say nothing further than that” (ViHi: Dinwiddie Papers). As early as the fall of 1754 Dinwiddie had asked the secretary of state of the Southern Department that “blank Commiss[ion]s [be] sent out to me to fill up as was done on the Expedition to Carthagena” (Dinwiddie to Sir Thomas Robinson, 25 Oct. 1754, ibid.). The officers’ memorial has not been found.

6Capt. James Mercer (1716–1757) was the younger brother of John Mercer of Marlborough in Stafford County, and therefore uncle to captains George and John Fenton Mercer of the Virginia Regiment. He received a captaincy for the Cartagena campaign in 1740 and served in the 48th Regiment of Foot during the Braddock campaign. He died in Albany, N.Y., in 1757. He is sometimes confused with Lt. Col. James F. Mercer of Sir William Pepperrell’s regiment, who was killed at Oswego in 1756. George and John Fenton Mercer also had a brother named James Mercer (1735/6–1793), who became a leading citizen of Fredericksburg and a burgess representing Hampshire County.

7John Rutherfurd (1712–1758) got his commission in the British army in 1741 in exchange for his opposition seat in Parliament. Arriving in New York in 1742, Rutherfurd settled in Albany as captain of an independent company of the regular army and 3 years later took his seat on the New York Council, a position he held until his death. He became a major in the Royal American Regiment in 1756. For his role as captain of the independent company sent from New York to Virginia for the campaign of the summer of 1754, see William Fairfax to GW, 5 July 1754, n.2.

8On 14 Dec. 1755 Dinwiddie suggested that GW ask Dagworthy “if he did not Command by virtue of Governor Sharpe’s Commission” and thereby make clear “your Commission from me is greater than what he has.”

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