George Washington Papers

Memorandum respecting the Militia, 11 May 1756

Memorandum respecting the Militia

[Winchester, 11 May 1756]

May 11th—Colo. Spotswood from Spotsylvania with 3 Field Officers 5 Captns 10 Subalterns and 130 private Men arrivd here & encampd in Colo. Woods Meadow.1

Colo. Henry Fitzhugh with 2 Captains 4 Subalterns 1 Clark 4 Sergts and 102 private also came to Town.2 as did 9 of the King George Deserter’s.3

The Prince William Militia were orderd to March to Morrow under the Comd of a Captn and 4 Sub. to strengthen the Forts on Pattersons Creek with a Subn & 20 men and to build another at the Mouth of Little Cacapehon but Colo. Henry Peyton who had recd a special Comn from his honour the Govr insisted upon going out to command them I expostulated with him on the absurdity of it: and represented the unnecessary charge it wd run the Country to, employing of supernumerary Officer’s but, nothing woud put aside his intentions he said his only motive in going was to serve his Country and that he expected no reward or gratuity for his trouble—and that unless he went he was sure the Men wd desert.4 present Colo. Lee, Captn Mercer and Mr Kirkpatrick.

1John Spotswood (d. 1758), the son of Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood (1676–1740), had been county lieutenant for Spotsylvania County since 1753, and John Thornton (d. 1777), a close associate of the Washington family, was the colonel of the militia. In an attempt in 1757 to get Spotswood removed from his position as county lieutenant, Thornton wrote Dinwiddie that “the March of the [Spotsylvania] Militia to Winchester was greatly retarded” because Spotswood “put every thing into the greatest disorder & Confusion by Abusing both Officers & Soldiers with the most Scandelouse Language” (29 Oct. 1757, Vi: Colonial Papers, miscellaneous). Foreseeing Thornton’s move, Spotswood wrote to Dinwiddie a week before asserting that there were men in the county who wished for the distinction of militia rank without assuming any of its burdens. “They suspect your Honor is going Home,” he wrote on 22 Oct. 1757, “& that when another Gentleman succeeds you there will be a general Election, & as there are some of them Ambitious to gett into The House of Burgesses they have Thought no Scheme could be so takeing with the Commonality to make themselves popular as to cry down Military Dissipline tho. their Country their Lives & Liberty are at Stake” (ibid.). The third field officer for Spotsylvania County was Maj. Benjamin Pendleton, who whose commission as major of the Spotsylvania militia was dated 29 April 1756.

2Henry Fitzhugh, Jr. (1723–1783), was county lieutenant of Stafford County.

Index Entries