George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Robert Hunter Morris, 9 April 1756

To Robert Hunter Morris

[Winchester, 9 April 1756]

Dear Sir

I had scarce reachd Williamsburg, before an express was after me with news of the French & Indians advancing within our Settlements, and doing incredable mischief to the Inhabitants which obligd me to postpone my business there, and hurry to their assistance with all expedition: when I came to this place I found everythings in deep confusion: and the poor distressd Inhabitants under a general consternation. I therefore collected such force as I coud immediately raise, and sent them in such parties, and to such places as twas judged most likely to meet with the Enemy:1 one of which, under the command of Mr Paris, luckily fell in with a small body of them as they were surrounding a small Fort on the No. River of Cacapehon;2 whom they engagd, and (after half an hour’s close firing) put to flight with the loss of their commander Monsr Donville (killd) & three or four more mortally wounded. The accident that has determined the fate of Monsieur; has, I believe, dispers’d his Party: for I dont hear of any mischief done in this Colony since, thô we are not without numbers who are makeing hourly discoverys.

I have sent you a copy of the Instructions that were found about this Officer:3 that you may see how bold and enterprising the Enemy have grown, how unconfind are thes ambitious design’s of the French: and how much it will be in their power, (if the Colonys continue in their fatal Lethargy) to give a final stab to liberty, & Property.

Nothing I more sincerely wish than a union to the Colonys in this time of Eminent danger: and that you may find your assembly in a temper of mind to act consistently with their preservation. What Maryland has, or will do I know not: but this I am certain off, that Virginia will do every thing that can be expected to promote the publick good.

I went to Williamsburg fully resolved to resign my Commission, but was disswaded from it, at least for a time.4 If the hurry of business in which I know your honour is genlly engagd: will admit of an oppertunity to murder a little time in writing to me. I shoud receive the favour as a mark of that esteem, which I coud wish to merit, by shewing at all times when its in my power, how much I am Dear Sir Yr honours most Obt & most Hble Servt

Go: Washington

P.S. A Letter this instant arriving from Williamsburg, informs, that our Assembly have voted 20,000£s more and that their Forces shd be increas’d to 2000 Men.5 a laudable example this, and I hope not a singular one.

The inclosed to Colo. Gage6 I beg the favr of you to forward.

ALS, CSt; two copies, PHi: Penn Manuscripts. The letter is undated. GW could not have written it before receiving news of Douville’s death on 7 April (GW to Dinwiddie). Written on Morris’s copy of the letter after GW’s postscript are the words “endorsed April 1756.” GW’s letter is printed in Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 2d ser., 1:620, between letters dated 9 April and 10 April, and Ford, Writings of Washington description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed. The Writings of George Washington. 14 vols. New York, 1889–93. description ends , 1:239–241, dates it at Winchester on 9 April. For the possibility that this letter was not sent or even written until 14 April, see note 6.

1According to his letter to Dinwiddie of 7 April, GW arrived in Winchester on 6 April and got word of Robert Pearis’s encounter with Douville the next day.

2The North River, the largest tributary of the Cacapon, runs northward into the Cacapon several miles above Joseph Edwards’s house.

4GW apparently became piqued when he learned on his way to Williamsburg from Boston in March that Gov. Horatio Sharpe of Maryland had been put in command of all the forces to be raised in the southern colonies. By the time he wrote Morris, however, he had not only decided against resigning but had even written to Sharpe asking for his favor. On 10 April 1756 Sharpe wrote Governor Shirley: “The inclosed Letter I am desired to forward to yr Exllency from Colo Washington & to request you to commissionate & appoint him Second in Command in case these Colonies shall raise a sufficient Number of Troops for carrying on an Expedition or making a Diversion to the Westward this Summer; As Mr Washington is much esteemed in Virginia & really seems a Gentln of Merit I should be exceedingly glad to learn that your Excellency is not averse to favouring his Application & Request” (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 , 1:389). See also Adam Stephen to GW, first letter, 29 Mar. 1756, n.6.

5The letter has not been found. The House of Burgesses resolved on 6 April 1756 that both a poll and a land tax be levied for 2 years “towards raising the said Sum of £20,000 for the Protection of our Frontiers,” but it was not until 24 April that the House passed “An Act for raising the Sum of £25,000, for the better protection of the Inhabitants on the Frontiers of this Colony” (JHB, 1752–1755, 1756–1758 description begins H. R. McIlwaine and John Pendleton Kennedy, eds. Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia. 13 vols. Richmond, 1905–15. description ends , 356, 382).

6The letter has not been found, but on 10 May 1756 Thomas Gage wrote to GW thanking him for his “Favor of the 14th of April” with “the good News . . . of The Defeat of a Body of Indians, by one of your Partys.” This must have been the same Pearis affair that GW describes here in his letter to Morris. It is possible that GW in the midst of a crisis wrote Gage on or shortly before 9 April and again on 14 April, but it is also possible that Gage misstated the date of his letter from GW, that GW misdated his letter to Gage, or that GW did not send his letter of 9 April to Morris until 14 April when he enclosed his letter of that date to Gage.

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