George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Blair, 11 May 1758

From John Blair

Wmsburgh May 11th 1758.


I have just received a Letter from the Honble Wm Nelson Esqr. in favour of Lieut. Baker, now here with yor permission. His Friends have prompted him to think of filling the Vacancy occasioned by the resignation of Capt. Joshua Lewis, and have strongly solicited Mr Nelson to intercede with me for that promotion, in consideration of his bold & gallant behavior in his Excursion towards Fort DuQuesne.1 His Honor was afraid lest it might be thought unjust to the Senior Lieutenant, who seemed to have a Right to a Preference. They replied that when a junior Officer had signalized himself by his remarkable good behaviour on any particular Occasion, as Mr Baker had, it was not unjust nor unusual to promote such a one, as it would inspire others to emulation; and that Rewards to merit are the best Means to make good Officers, rather than to adhere invariably to seniority. Upon the whole his Honr was so convinced of Mr Bakers Merit that he strongly recommended him to me, if it could be done without prejudice to the Service, & that it would be very Obliging to him. I have had other solicitations to the same purpose, but I need not mention them after Mr Nelson’s, whom I would fain oblige; only Col. Robt Burwell urges the Governors promise to promote him for his gallant Conduct on that Occasion.2 I told Colo. Burwell I was convinced of his Merit, & would gladly oblige; but that I had at yor request sent you up 6. blank Commissns abt 10 days ago. If that is yet blank I desire it may remain so, till I hear from you. I wish you had mention’d Mr Baker’s Courage & Conduct on that occasion, at the same time with Lt Bullet’s Seniority, that it might been consider’d here. I am Sir Yor very hble Servt

John Blair.

At least I hope Mr Baker may fill Colo. Mercer’s Post in your Regiment for this Campaign.3


1GW wrote Blair the day before this (dated 4–10 May) that upon Capt. Joshua Lewis’s resignation he had given the senior lieutenant of the 1st Virginia Regiment, Capt. Lt. Thomas Bullitt, a captaincy and had put him in command of Lewis’s former company. It was in a skirmish between the Cherokee and a party of French in June 1757 that Lt. James Baker became something of a hero (Baker to GW, 10 June 1757). When answering Blair’s letter on 28 May, GW insisted that Bullitt, not Baker, must have Lewis’s company. He told Blair that Baker should not be given command of George Mercer’s company either. Baker was still a lieutenant when he was killed near Fort Duquesne in September 1758.

2Robert Burwell (1720–1777), like James Baker a resident of Isle of Wight County, was a large landowner and in 1764 became a member of the council. The governor was Lt. Gov. Robert Dinwiddie.

3See note 1.

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