George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Mercer, 2 November 1757

From George Mercer

Charles Town [S.C.] Novr 2d 1757

Dear Colonel,

Tho. I have not been favored with an Answer to one of the many Letters I have wrote you since I came here, yet I will not let any Opportunity slip, agreeable to my Promise; as I shall attribute this, to your Letters miscarrying, for I woud not suppose but you have wrote.1

Notwithstanding every Precaution which the Governor pretended he had taken, to have Us regularly paid, We have already been three Months without Pay, & so far advanced in a fourth that I doubt it will not be the last—Colo. Stephen sends an Express to inform the Governor of this, and of the Impossibility of keeping the Men without Pay2—They have yet behaved extremely well, & tis Pity the Country shoud lose so many good Men after becoming serviceable; and I dont much doubt but they may with one Consent refuse to serve Us, & inlist with the Regulars; some of Them have attempted it already, & been Severely punished, but I am certain shoud it come to that, as they all know We cant oblige Them to continue without their Pay, they woud give Them any Encouragement to enlist with Them, Tho. to do the Gentlemen Justice they have yet done all in their Power to prevent it, but it woud be for the Interest of the common Cause to have Them enlisted in another Regiment rather than suffer Them wholly to quit the Service—what must add greatly to promote Uneasiness & Discontent in Them, is that they see every Soldier here except Themselves paid Weekly.

We have lately had a Reinforcement here from Britain of 1000 Highlanders under the Command of Lieut. Colonel Montgomerie3—I assure you they are a Set of fine Fellows, but quite undisciplined yet—They take great Pains with Them, tho., & they improve daily.

I coud but think my Friends had forgot Me, when the Drummer who came from you never brought Me a line from any Body; I have interrogated him often in Regard to the Dispositions & Strength of our Regt he coud give Me no very satisfactory Account of either, as I imagine, tho. he seems positive in his Assertions—what made me give the less Credit to his Reports was that he says Bell—who I remember when I left Virga was struck off the List, is sent to the Cherokee Fort, with 200 Men, surely they woud scarce reinstate him, & after trust him with such a Command I can’t think it possible, the most unfit Person that ever was in the service for such a Charge. Capt. Paul Demere is sent from this Place, to the So. Carolina Fort built there, really two very proper Men to manage Indians.4

We have still hoped to see Virginia this Fall, till the Arrival of a Man of War from Lord Loudoun—Colo. Bouquet says perhaps we may get Home in the Spring if theres nothing material to do—but if there is—says he, by way of Hum Bug, we cant do without you.5

I find my long Stay in this Place has only encreased the very bad opinion I at first conceived of it. To say no more of it tis the most extravagant & uncomfortable Place I ever was in—upon my Honor tis with some Degree of Oconomy that I can Live here upon my Pay—The Towns People dont desire to cultivate an Acquaintance or maintain a Society with Us, so that were it not for the Harmony that subsists between Ourselves (the Officers) it woud be intolerable.

I am not a little surprized that We have no late News with Us—A Vessel from Britain in seven Weeks has given Us very little fresh Intelligence; Save only there being a very Strong Fleet of at least 30 Men of War, 400 Transports & 10,000 Troops among which is about 4 or 500 Light Horse being ready at Plymouth when they left it to undertake a secret Expedition which Sr John Mordaunt conducts, & has two other Generals with him. There are three Admirals too with the Fleet—Hawke Knowles, & Boscowen.6

A French Prize was sent in here last Week, computed to be worth £40,000 Sterl.

I assure you I long much to see you again were I safe at Home So. Carolina woud be the last Place I ever woud come to.

Be pleased the first Opportunity to present my Compliments to your Mother & all your Family. I am Dr Sr Your much obliged Friend & humble Servt

Go: Mercer


Capt. George Mercer, GW’s aide-de-camp, and Lt. Col. Adam Stephen, GW’s second in command, took a contingent of the Virginia Regiment to Charleston, S.C., in late May 1757 to strengthen its defenses against a feared attack by the French. See particularly Dinwiddie to GW, 5 April 1757, n.2.

1The only other letter found from George Mercer at Charleston is that of 17 Aug. 1757.

2Dinwiddie arranged with Benjamin Stead of Charleston to serve as the agent to pay for the provisions for the two companies of the Virginia Regiment at that place and to give the soldiers their pay. For the difficulties that arose in getting the men’s money to them, see especially Dinwiddie to Stead, 22 July, 26 Aug., 24 Sept., and 23 Nov. 1757, all in Brock, Dinwiddie Papers description begins R. Alonzo Brock, ed. The Official Records of Robert Dinwiddie, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Virginia, 1751–1758. 2 vols. Richmond, 1883–84. description ends , 2:675–76, 689, 705, 716–17; Dinwiddie to Adam Stephen, 24 Sept. 1757, ibid., 705; Dinwiddie to Henry Bouquet, 24 Nov. 1757, ibid., 717–18; and Bouquet to Dinwiddie, 18 Oct., 16 Dec. 1757, in Stevens, Bouquet Papers description begins Donald H. Kent et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Bouquet. 6 vols. Harrisburg, Pa., 1951-94. description ends , 1:220–21, 261.

3Lt. Col. Archibald Montgomery (1726–1796) arrived in Charleston with his 1st Highland Battalion on 3 Sept. 1757.

4The report of the unidentified drummer that David Bell, recently a captain in the Virginia Regiment, had returned to duty at the unmanned fort in the Cherokee country was mistaken. The Virginia fort there was evidently never occupied. This fort has sometimes been referred to as Fort Loudoun, but it seems to have never been named. It is often mistaken for the Fort Loudoun in the same general area built a year later by South Carolina. For GW’s noncommittal appraisal of Bell when Bell applied for command of one of the proposed additional companies of the Virginia Regiment, see GW to Dinwiddie, 10 June 1757. Paul Demeré, the brother of Capt. Raymond Demeré, was commander of one of the three independent companies stationed in South Carolina.

5Col. Henry Bouquet sent Mercer’s company to Savannah, Ga., on 27 Aug. 1757, but “Capt Mercer being sick” (Henry Bouquet to Henry Ellis, 26 Aug. 1757, in Stevens, Bouquet Papers description begins Donald H. Kent et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Bouquet. 6 vols. Harrisburg, Pa., 1951-94. description ends , 1:177–78), Mercer remained in Charleston and his company was taken to Savannah by Lt. Walter Steuart. On about 12 Nov. Bouquet sent Captain Mercer to Savannah with a letter to Gov. Henry Ellis telling him that Loudoun had instructed him to send the Virginia forces home. Mercer returned to Charleston with his company on 9 Dec. 1757, but he and the rest of the Virginia forces did not leave South Carolina before March and they did not get back to Winchester in Virginia until 3 May 1758.

6A powerful expedition under generals Sir John Mordaunt and H. S. Conway and admirals Sir Edward Hawke, Sir Charles Knowles, and Thomas Brodrick (not Edward Boscawen) sailed from Plymouth on 8 Sept. 1757 to attack the French naval base at Rochefort up the Charante River from the Bay of Biscay. After some preliminary skirmishing, the commander of the expedition called it off in late September.

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