George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Lund Washington, 20 August 1775

To Lund Washington

Camp at Cambridge Augt 20th 1775.

Dear Lund,

Your Letter by Captn Prince came to my hands last Night1—I was glad to learn by it that all are well. the acct given of the behaviour of the Scotchmen at Port Tobacco & Piscataway surprizd & vexed me—Why did they Imbark in the cause? what do they say for themselves? What does other say of them? are they admitted into Company? or kicked out of it? what does their Countrymen urge in justification of them? they are fertile in invention, and will offer excuses where excuses can be made. I cannot say but I am curious to learn the reasons why men, who had subscribed, & bound themselves to each other, & their Country, to stand forth in defence of it, should lay down their arms the first moment they were called upon.2

Although I never hear of the Mill under the direction of Simpson, without a degree of warmth & vexation at his extreame stupidity, yet, if you can spare money from other Purposes, I could wish to have it sent to him, that it may, if possible, be set agoing before the Works get ruined & spoilt, & my whole money perhaps totally lost.3 If I am really to loose Barraud’s debt to me, it will be a pretty severe stroke upon the back of Adams,4 & the expence I am led into by that confounded fellow Simpson, and necessarily so in Seating my Lands under the Management of Cleveland.5

Spinning should go forward with all possible dispatch, as we shall have nothing else to depend upon if these disputes continue another year6—I can hardly think that Lord Dunmore can act so low, & unmanly a part, as to think of siezing Mrs Washington by way of revenge upon me; howevr as I suppose she is, before this time gone over to Mr Calverts, & will soon after retug, go down to New Kent, she will be out of his reach for 2 or 3 Months to come, in which time matters may, & probably will, take such a turn as to render her removal either absolutely necessary, or quite useless—I am nevertheless exceedingly thankful to the Gentlemen of Alexandria for their friendly attention to this point & desire you will if there is any sort of reason to suspect a thing of this kind provide a Kitchen for her in Alexandria, or some other place of safety elsewhere for her and my Papers.7

The People of this Government have obtained a Character which they by no means deserved—their Officers generally speaking are the most indifferent kind of People I ever saw. I have already broke one Colo. and five Captain’s for Cowardice, & for drawing more Pay & Provision’s than they had Men in their Companies. there is two more Colos. now under arrest, & to be tried for the same Offences8—in short they are by no means such Troops, in any respect, as you are led to believe of them from the Accts which are published, but I need not make myself Enemies among them, by this declaration, although it is consistent with truth. I daresay the Men would fight very well (if properly Officered) although they are an exceeding dirty & nasty people. had they been properly conducted at Bunkers Hill (on the 17th of June) or those that were there properly supported, the Regulars would have met with a shameful defeat; & a much more considerable loss than they did, which is now known to be exactly 1057 Killed & Wounded9—it was for their behaviour on that occasion that the above Officers were broke, for I never spared one that was accused of Cowardice but brot ’em to immediate Tryal.

Our Lines of Defence are now compleated, as near so at least as can be—we now wish them to come out, as soon as they please, but they (that is the Enemy) discover no Inclination to quit their own Works of Defence; & as it is almost impossible for us to get to them, we do nothing but watch each other’s motion’s all day at the distance of about a Mile; every now and then picking of a stragler when we can catch them without their Intrenchments; in return, they often Attempt to Cannonade our Lines to no other purpose than the waste of a considerable quantity of Powder to themselves which we should be very glad to get.

What does Doctr Craik say to the behaviour of his Countrymen, & Townspeople? remember me kindly to him, & tell him that I should be very glad to see him here if there was any thing worth his acceptance; but the Massachusets People suffer nothing to go by them that they can lay hands upon.10

I wish the money could be had from Hill, & the Bills of Exchange (except Colo. Fairfax’s, which ought to be sent to him immediately) turnd into Cash; you might then, I should think, be able to furnish Simpson with about £300;11 but you are to recollect that I have got Cleveland & the hired People with him to pay also. I would not have you buy a single bushel of Wheat till you can see with some kind of certainty what Market the Flour is to go to—& if you cannot find sufficient Imployment in repairing the Mill works, & other things of this kind for Mr Roberts and Thomas Alferd, they must be closely Imployed in making Cask, or working at the Carpenters or other business otherwise they must be discharged, for it is not reasonable, as all Mill business will probably be at an end for a while, that I am to pay them £100 a year to be Idle. I should think Roberts himself must see, & be sensible of the reasonableness of this request, as I believe few Millers will find Imploymt if our Ports are shut up, & the Wheat kept in the Straw, or otherwise for greater Security.12

I will write to Mr Milnor to forward you a good Country Boulting Cloth for Simpson which endeavour to have contrived to him by the first safe conveyance.13 I wish you would quicken Lanphire & Sears about the Dining Room Chimney Piece (to be executed as mentioned in one of my last Letters) as I could wish to have that end of the House compleatly finished before I return.14 I wish you had done the end of the New Kitchen next the Garden as also the old Kitchen with rusticated Boards; however, as it is not, I would have the Corners done so in the manner of our New Church. (those two especially which Fronts the Quarter.[)]15 What have you done with the Well? is that walled up?16 have you any accts of the Painter? how does he behave at Fredericksburg?17

I much approve of your Sowing Wheat in clean ground, although you should be late in doing it, & if for no other purpose than a tryal18—It is a growing I find, as well as a new practice, that of overseers keeping Horses, & for what purpose, unless it be to make fat Horses at my expence, I know not, as it is no saving of my own Horses—I do not like the custom, & wish you would break it—but do as you will, as I cannot pretend to interfere at this distance. Remember me kindly to all the Neighbours who enquire after Yr Affecte friend & Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, NN: Emmet Collection.

1Lund Washington’s letter has not been found. Although there was a Capt. Asa Prince in Col. John Mansfield’s Massachusetts regiment on Winter Hill, the bearer was probably Capt. Thomas Price of Frederick, Maryland. He left Frederick with his rifle company on 18 July and arrived at Cambridge about 11 Aug., after a brief stopover in Philadelphia, where he may have been given Lund’s letter. See Benjamin Harrison to GW, 21–24 July 1775, n.16.

2The town of Piscataway on Piscataway Creek in Prince Georges County, Md., is a few miles east of Mount Vernon. Port Tobacco lies in Charles County, Md., about sixteen miles south of Piscataway. Dr. Robert Honyman, who visited Port Tobacco on 2 Mar. 1775, wrote in his journal that he “went out into a field by the town & saw a Company of about 60 Gentlemen learning the military Exercise” (Philip S. Padelford, ed., Colonial Panorama, 1775: Dr. Robert Honyman’s Journal for March and April [San Marino, Calif., 1939], 2).

3As manager of GW’s property at Washington’s Bottom, Pa., Gilbert Simpson, Jr., was supervising the construction of a large gristmill near the mouth of Washington’s Run, a tributary of the Youghiogheny River. Begun in early 1774, the work on the mill had been slow and costly, which GW attributed to Simpson’s mismanagement (Gilbert Simpson to GW, 31 Aug., 1 Oct. 1773, 4 May, 20 Aug., 24 Sept., 9 Nov. 1774, 6 Feb., 3 April 1775). The mill ran for the first time in the spring of 1776, but it produced no profits during the war years to reimburse GW for the £1,000 to £1,200 that he spent in building it. When GW visited western Pennsylvania in September 1784, he found the mill on Washington’s Run in a state of total disrepair (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:20–21).

4GW never received the £1,748 17s. in Virginia currency that the Norfolk firm of Balfour & Barraud owed him for flour and ship biscuit (Ledger B description begins General Ledger B, 1772–1793. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, Series 5, Financial Papers. description ends , 136). The contract that GW signed with an agent of the company at Mount Vernon on 4 Jan. 1775 called for GW to deliver the flour and bread by 1 March and for the company to pay him half of his money at the April meeting of the general court in Williamsburg and the balance at the court’s October meeting. The company’s failure to meet its April obligation may have been due to James Balfour’s death early that month at his home near Hampton. GW’s absence from Virginia and the wartime disruption of the economy in tidewater Virginia effectively prevented his bringing the firm’s surviving partner, Daniel Barraud, to account (Fielding Lewis to GW, 14 Nov. 1775, 6 Mar. 1776; GW to Neil Jamieson, 20 May 1786). GW did receive some compensation, however, for the debt of £106 6s. 6d. in Virginia currency that Daniel Jenifer Adams (b.1751) of Charles County, Md., still owed him for flour that Adams had sold for GW in the West Indies during 1772. In a letter to Adams on 8 Mar. 1775, GW agreed to take 552⅓ acres of land in Charles County and a Negro slave in settlement of the debt, although he would have much preferred cash (Ledger B description begins General Ledger B, 1772–1793. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, Series 5, Financial Papers. description ends , 57, 99). Adams deeded the land and slave to GW in December 1775 (Lund Washington to GW, 10 Dec. 1775).

5For a discussion of James Cleveland’s efforts to perfect GW’s rights to his lands on the Kanawha and Ohio rivers, see Valentine Crawford to GW, 24 June 1775, n.1.

6For Lund Washington’s difficulties in obtaining spinning wheels, see his letters to GW of 29 Sept. and 5 Nov. 1775.

7For Lund Washington’s accounts of the rumor that Virginia’s royal governor, Lord Dunmore, might sail up the Potomac River and attempt to capture Martha Washington, see Lund Washington to GW, 5 and 15 Oct. 1775. No British vessel seriously threatened Mount Vernon until the spring of 1781. See GW to Lund Washington, 30 April 1781. Martha Washington visited Benedict and Elizabeth Calvert, her daughter-in-law’s parents, at Mount Airy in Prince Georges County, Md., during part of August and between 30 Sept. and 3 Oct. 1775 (Peyton Randolph to GW, 6 Sept. 1775; Lund Washington to GW, 29 Sept., 5 Oct. 1775). On 17 Oct. Mrs. Washington left Mount Vernon to see her relatives in New Kent County, Va. (Lund Washington to GW, 22 Oct., 5 Nov. 1775). For GW’s proposal to build a kitchen next to his small townhouse in Alexandria, see GW to Martha Washington, 18 June 1775, n.3.

8The cashiered officers were Col. Samuel Gerrish and captains John Callender, Christopher Gardner, Oliver Parker, Jesse Saunders, and Eleazer Lindsey (General Orders, 7 July, 2, 9, 16, 19 Aug. 1775). The two colonels awaiting trial were Ebenezer Bridge, who was acquitted of the charges against him, and John Mansfield, who was cashiered (General Orders, 13, 17, 20, 21 Aug., 11, 15 Sept. 1775).

9GW earlier put the British losses at 1,043 killed and wounded. See GW to Hancock, 21 July (third letter), GW to George William Fairfax, 25 July, and GW to John Augustine Washington, 27 July 1775.

10GW’s friend Dr. James Craik of Port Tobacco, Md., did not enter the Continental service until October 1780. See Valentine Crawford to GW, 24 June 1775, n.2.

11As steward of the Custis estate from 1772 to 1778, James Hill of King William County, Va., managed John Parke Custis’s plantations and those which GW held in King William and York counties by virtue of Martha Washington’s dower rights. George William Fairfax’s bill of exchange was the one from John Syme, about which GW wrote to Fairfax on 26 July 1775. For the sale of two of GW’s bills of exchange, see Lund Washington to GW, 29 Sept. and 5 Oct. 1775. Lund Washington set aside £300 in Pennsylvania currency for Gilbert Simpson, but he had trouble getting the money to him (Lund Washington to GW, 29 Sept., 15, 29 Oct., 17 Dec. 1775).

12William Roberts was the miller at Mount Vernon from 1770 to 1785. During the fall of 1775, Roberts and his apprentice, Thomas Alfred (Alford), were employed for several weeks in repairing the milldams and millrace, which were twice damaged by freshets (Lund Washington to GW, 5, 15, 22 Oct. 1775), but Lund Washington found little else for them to do because barrels that were made in advance usually had to be rebuilt before they could be used (Lund Washington to GW, 12 Nov. 1775, 25 Jan. 1776). During GW’s absence from Mount Vernon, Roberts turned increasingly to alcohol, and GW was finally obliged to dismiss him in the spring of 1785 (GW to Robert Lewis & Sons, 6 Sept. 1783, 1 Feb. 1785). GW continued to have a high opinion of Roberts as a miller and millwright and in 1799 was willing to hire him again (GW to Roberts, 17 June, 8 July 1799).

13William Milnor was a Quaker merchant in Philadelphia who rented a fishery at Mount Vernon during 1774. A strong supporter of the American cause, Milnor assisted GW during the winter and spring of 1775 in obtaining various military accoutrements both for his own use and for the Fairfax and Prince William independent companies. Milnor also supplied GW with household and plantation goods from Philadelphia, and in the fall of 1773 he sent GW two yards of good bolting cloth, presumably for the Mount Vernon mill (Milnor to GW, 19 Oct. 1773; GW to Milnor, 16 Dec. 1773). Although no letter has been found from GW to Milnor requesting a bolting cloth for the mill at Washington’s Bottom, Milnor did receive the order, and sometime before 15 Oct. he wrote to Lund Washington assuring him that the bolting cloth would be sent (Lund Washington to GW, 15 Oct. 1775). On 8 Feb. 1776 Lund Washington wrote to GW that he still had not received it.

14GW decided as early as the fall of 1773 to extend the Mount Vernon mansion house on both ends by adding a downstairs library and an upstairs master bedroom on the south and a two-story banquet room on the north. Work on the southern addition was begun in April 1774 by Going Lanphier (1727–1813), a house carpenter who had done smaller jobs at Mount Vernon in 1759 and 1765. This addition was finished by the end of 1775, and in 1776 Lanphier began raising the northern addition. The interior of the second addition was still incomplete when GW returned to Mount Vernon at the end of 1783. The work on the chimneypiece in the dining room, which adjoined the southern addition, was apparently the responsibility of William Bernard Sears. He was sick and absent from Mount Vernon during much of October 1775, but he returned in late fall to finish the chimneypiece and to paint the dining room and the new rooms (Lund Washington to GW, 29 Sept., 5, 15, 22 Oct., 10 Dec. 1775).

15The new kitchen, which stood near the south end of the mansion house, was apparently finished by the end of this year. The new church was the Pohick Church, located a few miles west of Mount Vernon. It was completed and turned over to the Truro Parish vestry in February 1774 (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 3:233).

16GW wished to have the brick lining of the well replaced. The old lining was removed without great difficulty, but the tendency of the unsupported sides to fall in made the replacing of the lining a dangerous job which workmen were reluctant to undertake. The new lining, nevertheless, was in place by the end of February 1776 (Lund Washington to GW, 17, 25 Jan., 8, 29 Feb. 1776).

17The painter was Joseph Smith, an indentured servant who belonged to GW (Lund Washington to GW, 29 Sept. 1775, 17 Jan. 1776; Fielding Lewis to GW, 14 Nov. 1775).

18Lund did not begin sowing wheat until the latter part of August, and then frequent rains made the ground too wet to plow for several weeks. The sowing was still not finished as of 22 Oct. (Lund Washington to GW, 29 Sept., 5, 15, 22 Oct., 23 Dec. 1775).

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