George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Robert Dinwiddie, 12 July 1756

From Robert Dinwiddie

Williamsburg July 12th 1756


At the Desire & Request of Colo. Wm Byrd I recommend the Bearer Mr Henry Timberlake to Your Favour & Countenance he has great Inclinations to serve in Your Regiment & I hope his Spirit & Behavior may recommend him to Preferment, in proper Course upon any Vacancy.1

I have Acct that a number of French & Indians have invaded Augusta & committed horrid Murders &ca2 as usual I have order’d out Part of the Militia of four Counties to oppose them & to repell their Violences, & I am in hopes they will be able to drive them over the Mountains; but I think we shall be in continual Alarms of this kind, unless an Expedition is undertaken to drive them from the Ohio. I have wrote fully to Lord Loudon on this Subject;3 I believe he is arriv’d at N. York tho’ I have not any acct thereof as yet.4

I wish You Health & Success in all Your Operations & I remain Sir Your most humble Servant

Robt Dinwiddie


1Henry Timberlake (d. 1765), a young Virginian, perhaps from Hanover County, decided to enter GW’s regiment after his experiences earlier in the summer as a member of the brief expedition to Winchester of the “Association of Gentlemen,” or “Patriot Blues.” GW refused to give Timberlake a commission but expressed his willingness to accept him as a volunteer to “wait, as others have done, his turn” (GW to Dinwiddie, 4 Aug. 1756). Timberlake decided to return home, however. In 1758 Col. William Byrd made him an ensign in the 2d Virginia Regiment, and Timberlake subsequently served as an officer in the 1st Virginia Regiment. Shortly before his death in 1765 Timberlake completed the writing of his memoirs, which included a full account of his experiences in the Cherokee country in 1761–62 while he was in the 1st Virginia Regiment as well as of his voyage to England in 1762 with the Cherokee chief Ostenaco and two other men of the tribe. See The Memoirs of Lieut. Henry Timberlake . . . (London, 1765).

2A party of more than one hundred Indians and about twenty-five French Canadians, led by François-Marie Picot de Belestre, attacked Ephraim Vause’s fortified house near the headwaters of the Roanoke River on 25 June 1756. The defenders, no more than twenty-five men led by Capt. John Smith, were soon forced to surrender, and the place was burned to the ground. Smith, whose son Lt. John Smith, Jr., was killed in the affray, was carried into captivity with, among others, his son Joseph, Ens. Peter Looney, and Ephraim Vause’s wife, two daughters, and four servants. Vause himself was away from home at the time of the attack. The fullest accounts of this incident are two unsigned and undated drafts of letters or reports written shortly after the event and directed to Dinwiddie. One was from the senior officer of the Augusta County militia, John Buchanan, and the other was from Capt. William Preston, who arrived on the scene with a party of men on 26 June too late to come to the aid of the people in the fort (WHi: Preston Papers, 1QQ, Reel 100 [June 1756]). Nearly a year later at Niagara, N.Y., Looney escaped from his captors. He reached Albany, N.Y., on 12 July 1757, “from whence he proceeded to this City [Philadelphia], and is now gone to Virginia, where his Parents live. He was born in this Town, and is about 23 Years of Age. Captain Smith, he said, was given to the French, and sent to Canada in the Spring” (Pennsylvania Gazette [Philadelphia], 28 July 1757). John Smith was later sent to England in an exchange of prisoners. He returned to Virginia early in 1758. His son Joseph died in captivity.

3Dinwiddie wrote to Loudoun, on 1 July 1756, about the need to launch an offensive against the French and Indians in the Ohio Valley, not about the loss of Vause’s fort.

4Loudoun did not arrive in New York until 23 July. See Thomas Gage to GW, 10 May 1756, n.4.

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