From Buckner Stith
March 22d 1787
I have seriously had thoughts of troubling you with an Epistle these four Years, but my Mind has all the way fallen under the task; ’till just know, after smoking three full Pipes, which you know inebriates a good deal if the Tobacco be strong, and a little Man here informing me he lived within three miles of your House, zounds said I, I will this minute write to the General. I will tell him, that I am the same Man who marched with him and old Laurence from Chotanck to Fredericksburg, how Laurence and him laughed at me for holding the wine glass in the full hand, but as I was five Years older than either of them, I thought I might hold the wine glass as I pleased; that we lost a Horse or two in the Trip, and were obliged to walk honestly in turn clear to Chotank again; and moreover I will tell him, that although Laurence and I might notice him on the Road when in turn to walk, a sound looking, modest, large boned young Man, still I would not defend the matter for a round sum, that were Laurence and I put to the oath, that we thought at the same time, we had each of us an equal chance at least with him, for a Generalship.
Now as the giving you an account of the many good things said of you in this part of the World, might be disagreeable to you, shall be totally silent; knowing (if I be but a piece of a Connisieur,1 and Satan tells me at times, I am the hundredth pard of one) that the good Mind wants not adulation. To speak in my own way it would be thus, I had rather see you in sound health bending over bushes and mire in full Chace with twenty four Hounds, than to hear the most difficult point discussed of the most difficult RETREAT ever made, between your Honour and the old King of Prussia’s ghost.
The force of the three full pipes being for some moments evaporated into open air, and my Mind reduced into its primitive littleness again, must sincerely proceed to ask pardon for the trouble (sure enough) I have given you in reading the above stuff, and ask also to subscribe myself Your most obedient humble Servt
Buckner Stith Senr
This letter from Buckner Stith (1722–1791), originally of the Chotank area of the Northern Neck of Virginia, is unique in that it is the only known letter from a companion of GW’s childhood recalling the days of their youth. Stith, who was living at this time at his home Rock Spring in Brunswick County, was a justice of the county and a captain in the Brunswick militia. His sons John (1755–1808) and Robert Stith were married to Ann (d. 1824) and Mary Townshend Washington respectively, daughters of GW’s cousin and childhood friend Lawrence Washington of Chotank, the “old Laurence” mentioned in this letter. In July 1764 Buckner Stith paid £32 to Joseph Royle to have printed 1,000 copies of his detailed tract on tobacco which was reprinted in Richmond in 1824 (Virginia Gazette Daybook, 1764–66, ViU; Christopher Johnston, “The Stith Family,” WMQ description begins The William and Mary Quarterly: A Magazine of Early American History. Williamsburg, Va. description ends 1st ser., 21 [1912–13], 181–93). Buckner Stith’s Opinion on the Cultivation of Tobacco was advertised in Royle’s Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg), 6 July 1764.
1. Stith drew an asterisk here and noted at the side of the page: “not in my Dictionary.”