By Sandra Mayo, and published in Northern Virginia Heritage, February 1987 (Vol. IX, No. 1)
Historians recognize that the French and Indian War (1754-1763) was a necessary prerequisite to the coming of the American Revolution. The war led Great Britain to tighten her control over her American colonies, most dramatically exemplified in a new unprecedented taxation such as the Stamp Act. American resistance began a chain of events which eventually led to an open break a decade later.
It is not as clearly recognized that Virginia, and especially northern Virginians, played the decisive role in the events which led to the French and Indian War. It was the efforts of the Ohio Company to establish settlements west of the Allegheny Mountains on land also claimed by France which precipitated the conflict. The Ohio Company was dominated by the leading families of the Northern Neck, including the Lees, Carters, Masons, Washingtons and Fairfaxes.
In 1753 Governor Robert Dinwiddie gave young George Washington, under the patronage of Councillor William Fairfax of Belvoir, the delicate mission of warning the French to stay out of the Ohio Valley and simultaneously discovering their intentions and strength. Washington's rash actions in the Jumonville affair the following year led to the actual outbreak of hostilities. Following Washington's surrender at Fort Necessity in July of 1754, Great Britain decided to send regular troops under General Edward Braddock to drive the French out of the Ohio Valley. Virginia's War had become the Great War for Empire. Braddock's disastrous defeat in July of 1755 and the subsequent withdrawal of British forces to Philadelphia opened up the entire Virginia frontier to attack by the French and especially by their Indian allies.
In this time of crisis, George Washington was appointed Colonel of the Virginia Regiment and commander-in-chief of Virginia forces. Washington's job was impossibly difficult. The war was far from universally popular. It was extremely difficult to raise even a regiment of regular troops and the qualities of many of those enlisting left much to be desired. To augment his forces, Washington periodically called on the militia of nearby counties.
In the following article, Sandra Mayo examines the role which citizens of Fairfax and Prince William Counties played in the French and Indian War, especially in the crucial early years of conflict. While not purporting to be a full history of their role in the conflict, she seeks, through the use of various vignettes, to help us better understand the realities of those long gone but crucially important events.
Throughout his efforts as commander of the Virginia forces and even in the events leading up to the war, Washington called upon those friends and neighbors with whom he was intimately acquainted. On his mission to the forks of the Ohio in the spring of 1754, George Mercer and William Bronaugh, both cousins of his neighbor, George Mason, accompanied him. Mercer owned a lot in Alexandria and Bronaugh was from a prominent Fairfax County family. John Fenton Mercer, George Mercer's brother, served Washington as a captain in the Virginia Regiment. At the age of 21 he was killed at Edwards Fort within 20 miles of Winchester. George Mercer later acted as Washington's aide de camp during the hostilities and won notoriety when he was appointed Stamp distributor for Virginia. John Kirkpatrick of Alexandria became Washington's secretary.
For the difficult task as commissary and paymaster Governor Dinwiddie appointed Washington's friend, John Carlyle, a prominent Alexandria merchant. No doubt, Carlyle's connection with the Fairfax family through his marriage to William Fairfax's daughter, Sarah, influenced Dinwiddie's decision. Carlyle anticipated his appointment would be a profitable position. Although he realized the position would require considerable effort, he was confident he would not be subject to criti- cism as the Virginia governor was his "hearty Friend." Criticism was not long in coming from Williamsburg, however. By July, Carlyle complained to his brother that the post was "the most troublesome one Ive had."(1) As his problems mounted he wrote Washington in frustration, ". . . never was man so duned as I am turn what Way I Will Still I have demands upon me & my Supplys are So Short & uncertain that I dont know what to doe." In August, 1754, Dinwiddie scorned Carlyle in a letter in which he wrote, "The Council having Com- plaints of y'r not having discharg'd y'r duty as Commiss'y of Stores and Provis's, with the Exactness and Dispatch expected..."(2) Carlyle seems to have been besieged with problems. In a letter dated October 17, 1755, he advised Washington that powder, lead and clothing had been sent with the hope that they would reach the commander in time. As he explained ". . . I Coud Nether gett Carradge horses, nor a Waggon, before this, nor did I think it Safe to Send the powder on horse back the Casks Was So bad --"(3)
Dinwiddie later appointed Thomas Walker as Commissary. Both Washington and William Fairfax wrote letters recommending Carlyle and William Ramsey, another prominent Alexandria merchant. Dinwiddie was adamant, however, as evidenced in his letter of December 15, 1756. "You recommend Messrs. Carlile and Ramsay for Com'rs, in the Room of Mr. Walker, w'ch I by no Means aprove of; the first resigned when formerly apointed and when mostly wanted; I don't incline to give him that Opp'ty again. The other, I doubt not, is a Gent. of Capacity, but a Stranger to the Business, and not sufficiently acquainted with the People to make Purchases; therefore not eligible."(4)
Dr. James Craik served as surgeon for the Virginia forces and established his hospital at Winchester. Craik became an Alexandria resident, a life-long friend of Washington's and was one of the physicians attending Washington's last illness. He had accompanied the ill-fated Braddock expedition and was to become chief physician and surgeon of the Continental Army. As the months progressed, Craik was inclined to quit the service as the pay was inadequate. Washington recommended a pay raise for his friend in a letter to Speaker of the House, John Robinson. "He has behaved extremely well, and discharged his duty, in every capacity, since he came to the regiment." In an effort to retain the doctor, the soldiers even had ". . . subscribed each one day's pay in every month."(5) In October 1756 his pay was 10 shillings a day. Craik remained in the service until Washington retired in 1758.
To augment the Virginia Regiment, the colony was required to depend upon the ancient British tradition of the militia, which Washington described as ". . . a poor resource, a very unhappy dependence! tho' our only one at present." As Major John Carlyle wrote his brother, "We are all obliged to be soldiers and defend our propertys, our militia titles is not nominal but actuall and if you was to see me Now in my military, I doubt not but you'd think we make but a poor figure, sum armed and sum not."(6)
As a local institution, the militia was administered by County Lieutenant who was the official appointed to supervise the regulating and disciplining of the militia. Washington's mentor and neighbor, William Fairfax, served as the County Lieutenant of the Fairfax County militia. He was the cousin of Thomas, the sixth Lord Fairfax, after whom Fairfax County was named. Col. Fairfax established his family at Belvoir on the Potomac, just below Mount Vernon, in 1741. That same year he was elected a member of the House of Burgesses and introduced the bill which partitioned Fairfax County from Prince William County. After the passage of the bill, the Governor appointed Fairfax the County Lieutenant and presiding Justice of the County Court. He later served as a member and president of the Governor's Council of Virginia. In 1743 his daughter Anne married Lawrence Washington, elder half-brother of George Washington.
Henry Lee of Leesylvania was the County Lieutenant of the Prince William County militia. Coming from a prominent Virginia family, Lee was very active in the affairs of the county. He was the presiding Justice of the County Court, as well as a trustee of the growing town of Dumfries. Later, Washington was often a guest at Leesylvania when traveling to Williamsburg for meetings of the Burgesses. In all probability Lee accompanied Washington on his trips to the colonial capitol as Lee represented the County of Prince William from 1758 until the Revolution. Lee was the father of four illustrious sons: "Light Horse" Harry Lee, who would later serve Washington in the Revolutionary War; Charles, who became Washington's personal attorney and twice U.S. Attorney General under Presidents Washington and Adams; Richard Bland Lee, who became the first U.S. Congressman representing Prince William and Fairfax; and Edmund Jennings Lee, who was twice Mayor of Alexandria from 1814 to 1818.(7)
Washington established his headquarters at Winchester, which was the nearest settlement exposed to the enemy. There he built a defensive post named Fort Loudoun as an honor to the recently commissioned titular governor of the colony. From this point, Washington planned to erect a chain of forts along the western frontier of Virginia.
Arriving in Winchester on October 10, 1755. Washington found "...every thing in the greatest hurry and confusion, by the back Inhabitants flocking in, and those of the Town removing out..." Amidst terror and panic, his attempts to raise the neighboring militia were futile. The men refused to leave their homes unprotected to go against the Indians, choosing instead "...to die, with their wives and Familys."(8)
Washington was required to await the arrival of militia from the counties further from the frontier, usually Fairfax and Prince William. On the very day that Washington arrived in Winchester, a meeting of the Fairfax County militia officers decided that six men were to be drafted from each troop and company within the County, and formed into one company commanded by Captain Lewis Ellzey for the purpose of marching to Winchester as soon as possible. Ellzey and his militiamen remained on duty nearly two months before being discharged and returning to Fairfax.(9) Ellzey was a member of one of the leading families of Fairfax and at that time was a justice of the peace.
Inhabitants near Winchester were becoming so fearful that they readily believed rampant wild rumors, causing Washington and his men to pursue imaginary Indians. One Saturday evening Indians were reported within twelve miles of Winchester causing residents to flee "...in the most promiscuous maner from their dwellings." Two scouts were sent to investigate, but before the militia could proceed on Sunday morning, another alarming report was received stating the In- dians were now within four miles of Winchester committing barbarous cruelties. Washington and his force rushed to the murderous scene only to find "...but 3 drunken Soldiers of the Light- Horse, carousing, firing their Pistols, and uttering the most unheard of Imprecations."(10)
In a letter to Dinwiddie dated October 11, 1755, Washington insisted upon the necessity of more stringent regulations for the militia. Dinwiddie was sensitive to the deficiencies of the militia law but was hopeful that efforts of the militia and recruits would drive the Indians from the Virginia frontier. "I wish You may get a Troop of Horse from Fairfax County, as they will be of great Service in Clearing the Woods," wrote Dinwiddie, "and I shall be glad if they can send down a No. of their scalps."(11)
The relative quiet of the frontier during the winter months allowed the Virginia Regiment to construct forts. At other times officers of the Regiment were required to escort supply wagons to the various forts. William Bronaugh of Fairfax County performed this task as well as carrying money from Alexandria to the paymaster in Winchester.
The spring of 1756 found renewed bloody incursions on the isolated settlers. Washington reported that settlers would be forced to retreat eastward across the Blue Ridge if the raids were not checked. In an Indian incursion near Edwards' Fort on April 18, 1756, Matthew Fling, a 29 year old fellow from Fairfax County, was accused of throwing away his musket in his hurried retreat. At his court martial, however, a determination was made, based upon his good behavior during the engagement, that Fling had not "designedly thrown away" his musket but had simply lost it.(12)
In his letter of April 22, Washington advised Dinwiddie "...I see inevitable destruction in so clear a light, that, unless vigorous measures are taken by the Assembly, and speedy assistance sent from below, the poor inhabitants that are now in forts, must unavoidably fall, while the remainder of the country are flying before the barbarous foe."
To alleviate the situation, Dinwiddie ordered that the regular troops on the frontier be reinforced by half of the militia in ten western counties. The first to answer the call was Captain John Dalton of Alexandria with 54 of the county militia who reached Winchester on April 29. Dalton was one of the founders and trustees of the town of Alexandria as well as John Carlyle's merchant partner. He was to figure prominently in the later affairs of Fairfax County as a signatory to the 1770 Association to boycott articles from England.
Also arriving upon the scene were Captains Charles Broadwater, William Ramsay, Nicholas Minor and James Hamilton with their militiamen. Of these five militia captains from Fairfax County, Nicholas Minor was the only one to return to the frontier with his company of militia in the following summer of 1657. Ramsay, another merchant in Alexandria who supplied the Virginia Regiment, returned home along with Broadwater a couple days later, having been dismissed by Washington. Broadwater would later serve with Washington as representative of Fairfax County in the conventions of 1774 and 1775, and as a burgess in 1775. Minor and Hamilton lived in that area which was to become Loudoun County in 1757; in fact Minor maintained an ordinary in the area now the site of Leesburg. Both would serve as trustees of Leesburg. Hamilton was elected burgess from Loudoun in 1758.
Hamilton and Minor, with 100 Fairfax militiamen, were dispatched to patrol the area around the South Branch where they remained until the end of July although Hamilton returned home briefly in June.
Dalton and the remaining Fairfax militiamen were ordered to strengthen the area of Conococheague on the Potomac. On the evening of May 8, 1756, Captain Dalton returned to Winchester with his Fairfax County volunteers and such militiamen as had not deserted. Asked why they had returned, Washington was told the men were fatigued and needed to return home. In a memorandum regarding the militia, Washington wrote sarcastically, "The Officer's and Soldiers of the Militia begin to discover great uneasiness at their stay and want much to return thinking they have performed a sufft. Tower of duty by Marchg. to Winchester."(13) Dalton and his men were ordered back to Alexandria.
On May 6, eight officers and 121 men arrived from Prince William, further complicating the scene. Although information was scant, it now seemed probable that the raid was over and that the Indians had returned to Fort DuQuesne. Washington was now faced with the prospect of having more militiamen than he could shelter or employ.
The militia were consequently employed in other constructive endeavors. On May 12 Washington issued orders to supply Captain John Baylis with tools to construct a small fort at the mouth of the Little Capecapon where it empties into the Potomac. Two months later Baylis, then a Major, and his men were ordered to gather in the harvest left on the nearby abandoned plantations.
On July 15, 1756, John's brother, William Baylis, also of the Prince William militia, led a contingent in a confrontation with the Indians at Pearsal's fort. After the harvest from the abandoned plantations was gathered, Captain Baylis and his men were to be discharged. He was additionally advised that no horses were to be impressed by his men as "...there have been many complaints made to me of the militia officers inpressing Horses to come down here, and ride about upon their own Business."
In later years John Baylis was appointed trustee of the Town of Dumfries. He also served with Henry Lee as a member of the House of Burgesses from 1761 to 1765. Baylis met an untimely death on September 24 1765 in a duel. He had been challenged by an 18 year old, John Scott, but it was Scott's brother-in-law and second, Cuthbert Bullitt, who replaced Scott in the duel. Baylis was shot in the groin and died a few hours later at his wife's family home, Rippon Lodge.(14)
A letter to Washington dated January 30, 1758 gives evidence that Baylis had been challenged to a duel before by Alexander Woodrow on December 25, 1757. Although Baylis was ready the following morning with his sword and pistols, Woodrow refused to fight and indeed denied that he had challenged Baylis. Woodrow, according to Baylis, was an "Arrant coward" and had no choice but to restate the challenge in order to retrieve his honor.
Nearly all the militia remained law abiding in their idleness except the contingent from Prince William County who became violently abusive in claiming their superiority not only to the privates but also the officers of the Virginia Regiment. As a result, one militiaman was seized and locked in the guardhouse for his insolence. This insult was not to be endured. A militia officer gathered his comrades, stormed the guardhouse, released their compatriot and proceeded to demolish the building. The leader of the mutiny swore that the Virginia Regiment officers were all scoundrels and that "...he could drive the whole Corps before him..." Although the Regiment was anxious for reinforcements from the militia, insults were not to be countenanced. The mutinous militia leader was personally acquainted, in a manner left unexplained, with military law and enforcement by irate members of the Regiment. The next morning the chastened militia officer tendered his apologies at headquarters. Washington chose not to punish the leader as the fright he had suffered at the hands of the Regiment "...sufly attoned for his imprudence."(15)
As the town of Winchester already contained more men than it could lodge, Washington, in an effort to disperse those quarrelsome fellows, dispatched the Prince William militia to raise stockades and build storehouses on the Little Cacapon and Patterson Creeks. Washington originally intended to send Captain Baylis to command the contingent until his superior, Lt. Col. Henry Peyton, insisted upon going. Peyton was one of the incorporators of the town of Dumfries and served as a justice of the peace for Prince William County and at one time was County Sheriff. He had recently been elected as a burgess from Prince William upon his successful challenge of the validity of Henry Lee's election on the grounds that Lee "had treated the Freeholders of the said County, to engage their Votes."(16) Washington issued orders to Peyton to strengthen the garrison at Cockes' Fort and Ashby's Fort and then to erect a fortress for the security of the pass at the mouth of Little Cacapon. The next day a humiliating report was received from Peyton announcing that a sergeant and fourteen of Peyton's devoted private soldiers had deserted, a loss which represented one sixth of Peyton's enlisted strength. Washington immediately issued an order stating that in the event any militia ordered to the small forts on the South Branch deserted, they would immediately be drafted into the Virginia Regiment.
Fairfax County also had its share of deserters. Both Minor and Hamilton had advised William Fairfax of "...their own and Companys Uneasiness at being very long detaind on Duty in So much that Many have deserted." The behavior of Fairfax militia prompted George William Fairfax to write Washington "I am extreamly sorry to hear that our People have misbehaved, and I hope my Father and the Officers under him will punish them as they deserve, and those sent back will I dare say meet with their Reward." (17)
William Fairfax also wrote Washington, expressing his hope that the militia draft from other counties would be completed soon "...so as to discharge the Remains of our Militia, who have done more duty than Others." In the same letter he promised Washington that stern action would be taken against Fairfax County deserters. Captains and armed men would make diligent Enquiry after and a Search for Such Deserters as are within their Districts and when found and Secured, to have Them conveyed to the public Prison..."(18)
The sweep for deserters, however, proved futile. Fairfax later wrote his son, Bryan, "The many desertions from your corps and our militia give me much concern, as it must be known to the enemy, and encourage their so-frequent invasions and hostilities. Our several captains were ordered out last Sunday, to enquire after, search for, and apprehend the deserters from Captain Minor and Captain Hamilton, but without success, which denotes a too-great pusillanimity or want of consideration on our Country's lying naked and almost defenceless against an implacable and blood-thirsty crew of savages."(19)
When the Fairfax militia was finally dismissed at the end of July, they were instructed to march through Winchester to leave those arms belonging to the Colony. Although the militia laws provided that militiamen were to provide their own weapons and ammunition, in practice, such was not the case. In June 1757 in a letter to Dinwiddie, Washington wrote of the "odd behaviour" of the militia from Fairfax, Culpeper and Prince William Counties. "Many of them unarmed, and all without ammunition or provision." Obviously the situation did not improve as one year later in a letter to the new Governor, Francis Fauquier, Washington wrote of the one hundred militia ordered from Prince William County, seventy-three arrived "...every one of them unprovided with either arms or ammunition . . . by which means they were useless but burthesome to the country, as they receiv'd true allowance of provisions and had their pay running on." As a result of informing Henry Lee of this deplorable condition, one hundred weapons were dispatched by Lee's order but only five were serviceable and "...not more than 30 cou'd possibly be made to fire. "(20) Lee's explanation for the condition of the arms was that new ones were expected from England any day. With the assistance of gunsmiths and provisions from the store at Fort Loudoun, Washington finally completed the company which was then down to sixty-eight men.
Washington found the militia negligent of their ammunition, wasting it in hunting and firing at targets for wagers. He instructed Captain Thomas McClanahan of Prince William County on June 19, 1758 to maintain a careful accounting of the ammunition used, and for what purpose. On occasion the militia arrived without ammunition, forcing Washington to provide it with a great deal of reluctance as apparently he was blamed for such practices. An additional supply of ammunition was issued to the Prince William militia stationed at the Branch but the commanding officer was directed "...to take proper care that a more frugal use be made of the ammunition for the time to come, or the expense thereof will be deducted from their pay."(21)
Amidst his troubles with the enemy and his own men, Washington had to accommodate neighbors and friends. Washington was pressured by his mentor and neighbor, Col. William Fairfax, to procure a Lieutenant's commission for his third and youngest son, Bryan, who had expressed a desire to participate in military life. It would appear that Washington was to act more as a protective, father figure than as Bryan's superior commander. Fairfax wrote Washington, "When I cautioned Bryan against Gaming, I told him I imagind You would also discountenance it as a pernicious Tendency. I have given Bryan a little Mony, but in Case any unforseen Case should happen requiring more Please to supply Him with what You may think needful which I will thankfully repay to your Order."(22) As the filling of vacancies in the Regiment was left to Washington, Fairfax's request placed Washington in an embarrassing situation. Apparently, Washington wrote Fairfax that no vacancies existed and further that he could not appoint an inexperienced recruit before experienced volunteers. Fairfax responded tersely, "As to Bryan Fairfax if You think You have not warrantable Authority to appoint Him an Officer, after having told You the Governor mentioned to me that You had his Leave I think Bryan should return, for to remain as a Cadet in any Regiment can answer no Reasonable Purposes."
Washington yielded to the pressure of his friend as he was loathe to deny any request within his power to grant. He was to express to a neighbor years later in 1775, "I never deny, or even hestitate in granting any request that is made to me (especially by persons I esteem, and in matters of moment) without a feeling of inexpressable uneasiness."(23) In the summer of 1756, in the reorganization of the Regiment, Bryan received his commission as a Lieutenant in Captain Mercer's company.
Washington soon had reason to lament his decision, however. Douglas S. Freeman succinctly summarized what followed:
Bryan resigned his commission, unsuccessfully sought the hand of one young lady and then of another, and soon disappeared from home. His father thought him dead, but, in a short time, Bryan wrote to say that he was in jail in Annapolis. He had gone off, presumably to enlist under an assumed name in one of the Northern Regiments, but apparently had overlooked the fact that a young man of military age, traveling in Maryland, had to provide himself with a pass. Lacking this, Bryan had been arrested on suspicion of being a deserter. He had prompt succor, of course, and after he came back to Belvoir he received commission as a Captain of militia, "in hopes," his doting father wrote, "his courage and good conduct will give testimony of his capacity." Washington had been so embarrassed by Bryan's disappearance that he had felt himself unable to write Colonel Fairfax a letter of sympathy and he doubtless was somewhat mystified to have the father say of Bryan, "He has experienced your kindness, therefore need not repeat my desire in his behalf."(24)
Another of Colonel Fairfax's sons, George William Fairfax, also expressed his desire of serving in the Virginia Regiment. Although he never served with the Regiment, he reiterated his willingness to assist in a letter dated May 9, 1756 addressed to Washington, "...if those cruel Savages should hereafter return or while you are up I beg that you'l freely Command me, being willing and always desirous of serving my Country under so experienced a Commander." It is interesting that Fairfax thought it necessary to consult his father as well as his patron, Lord Thomas Fairfax, before serving in the military, but not his wife. "Wives, good Sir," he wrote Dinwiddie, "are not to be consulted upon these occasions, but I make no doubt but mine would consent upon so laudable a call."(25) His wife was of course the charming Sally Cary Fairfax, the woman with whom Washington was enamored and to whom he wrote a love letter shortly before he married Martha Custis.
Likewise, another friend and neighbor, George Mason, endeavored to secure an ensign's commission in Washington's regiment for his cousin, French Mason. An earlier application to John Blair, acting governor of the colony for the first six months of 1758, proved unsuccessful as every commission had been filled. Aware of existing vacancies in Washington's regiment, Mason personally sent a letter of recommendation with his cousin on May 6, 1758 which read in part "...you may be assured, Sir that I wou'd not recommend a person to your Favour who I did not, from my own Knowledge, believe to be a Young fellow of Spirit & Integrity." By the time Mason reached Ft. Loudoun, however, all vacancies in Washington's forces had been filled earlier as evidenced by a letter dated May 4 to John Blair wherein Washington wrote he "...would gladly have appointed him Ensign in the regiment, had not the vacancies been disposed of..." Apparently no hard feelings were created by Washington's rejection of young Mason, as George Mason responded in a letter dated May 16, 1758 that he was "perfectly satisfied" with the reasons given by Washington.
Instead of volunteering for the immediate campaign, it appears that French Mason wished to establish a military career with the professional forces. George Mason had recommended that his cousin not jeopardize his small estate by volunteering. In a subject all too well known to Washington, Mason reiterated the fact that a young man could be assured of a commission for his military service in the British force, whereas the volunteers of Virginia lacked any assurance and might well incur disappointment or a life maiming accident.
Aside from the desire to launch his cousin on a military career, another reason for spiriting the young man away surfaced in Mason's letter. The elder Mason found it an absolute necessity for French to enter the military life "...as the only Means of getting him clear of a very foolish Affair he is likely to fall into with a Girl in this Neighbourhood..."
In June 1756, Washington received a letter from George Mason recommending that a neighbor and former classmate of Washington's, Mr. Piper, be discharged as an "Act of Humanity." While in Winchester it seems that Piper enlisted as a Sergeant in Captain Mercer's Company. This company may have been the 2nd which was commanded by Mason's cousin, George Mercer, or the 8th company under the command of George's brother, John Fenter Mercer. As Piper's father, who provided his son's principal livelihood, was extremely adverse to this enlistment, it seemed the prudent thing as well as "the Duty naturally due to a parent" to leave the military service immediately. A legal means for his departure existed as Piper had never been attested, which appeared to be an essential factor of the enlisting procedure. Young Piper's father most likely was Harry Piper, a Scottish merchant established in Alexandria in 1757. (27)
As difficulties multiplied on the frontier, Washington was faced with the constant task of recruiting. Provision was made in the laws that men could be drafted from the county militia rosters to complete the required number for the Virginia Regiment. Those able-bodied single men whose names were entered on the muster rolls were required to present themselves on an appointed day at the courthouse to volunteer. Each man who refused voluntarily to enlist was represented by a slip of paper. On each twentieth slip was written "This obliges me immediately to enter his Majesty's service." These slips were deposited in a box, from which each man was compelled to draw. There was a clause in the militia act exempting a draftee from serving, however, if he found another man to take his place or immediately paid a fine of ten pounds, thereby discriminating against the poor.
In September 1756, William Fairfax wrote Washington of his concern regarding the unwillingness of young men to enlist. Fairfax held a Council of War asking single men to volunteer to enter the service. As none offered, the muster roll lists were called by the respective Captains. Fairfax issued warrants for sixty men whose names were called, but who were not in attendance. They were to be apprehended and delivered to an officer of Washington's choice.
Gov. Dinwiddie was equally concerned with the recruiting. He wrote Washington on September 13, 1756 that he was "...afraid the draft from Prince Wm., Culpeper and Fairfax are not made agreeable to expectations, as I hear many of the young men have made their Escape and do not appear at the Musters."(28)
Even some of those men who reported as soldiers of the Virginia Regiment were not acceptable. In a letter to Henry Lee, Washington stated he had discharged John High Werden "...who, thro' age and consequent infirmity, is althogether unfit to undergo the fatigues of a soldier." The next day, July 1, 1757, Lee received instructions from Washington to receive the drafts for the Regiment at Fredericksburg. "You are to take their names, size, complexion, age, country, and former employment.... You must not receive any that are subject to fits, or that have ulcers or old sores on their legs, or any other disease that renders them incapable of service. Nor that are under five feet four inches high; unless active and wellbuilt."(29)
One individual from Fairfax County, Dennis McCarty, was quite successful in his recruiting by forcibly seizing men from their beds in the night, as well as confining and torturing men until they volunteered. McCarty was one of the most contentious officers in the Virginia Regiment which caused Washington to warn McCarty in a letter dated November 22, 1755, "I am very sorry you have given me occasion to complain of your conduct in recruiting; and to tell you, that the methods and unjustifiable means you have practised, are very unacceptable, and have been of infinite prejudice to the Service: of this I am informed by many Gentlemen, as well as by all the Officers who were ordered to recruit in these parts: and am further assured, that it is next to an impossibility to get a man where you have been; such terror have you occasioned."(30)
So desperate was the recruiting situation that Washington recommended McCarty for an Ensign's commission despite his disreputable behavior. Unfortunately his behavior did not improve as a complaint of a different nature was registered against McCarty from a tavern keeper. John Stewart complained of "...very gross abuse and ill treatment" received from the young Ensign.(31)
Less than a year later, Washington was to write Dinwiddie of the discovery of a "...base and villainous scheme" involving the same Dennis McCarty. By virtue of a commission from Dinwiddie, McCarty was authorized to recruit for the Royal American Regiment. Lord Loudoun was authorized to raise a regiment in the Colonies composed of four battalions which were to be commanded by officers bearing the King's commission and known as the Royal American Regiment. Recruiting officers were paid a sum of money for each man who enlisted in the regiment. Unfortunately, McCarty's recruits were deserters from the Virginia Regiment whom he had "seduced" with promises of protection and rewards. Washington informed Dinwiddie "...a deep-laid plan was concerted for accomplishing his base designs, binding each individual with an oath to follow him; to stand true to each other in case of being pursued; to kill the officer who attempted the command; and in case of a separation, private instructions to repair to McCarty, or some of his friends who were to receive and entertain them."
Further evidence of McCarty's recruiting methods is related in a letter to Washington dated January 22, 1757. Col. Fairfax wrote, "Denis McCarty supported by Mr. Thomas Campbell an Officer sent from the Noward to recruit among Us, comitted several illegal Acts lately at Alexandria, forcing open Doors in the Night time, taking Men out of their Beds and carrying them to their Guard etc. which Mr. Kirkpatrick then in Town can pticularly acquaint You with."(32) Dinwiddie revoked McCarty's commission on December 10, 1756.
McCarty came from an illustrious family. His grandfather had been Speaker of the House of Burgesses, his father was elected a burgess representing Prince William County and his brother became a vestryman of Pohick Church in 1748. Washington was well acquainted with the McCarty family as they often socialized on the hunting field and in one another's homes. It is understandable that Washington wrote Dinwiddie of Dennis as one ". . . whom all ties of honor and morality are of no force." McCarty died in 1767, young and unmarried.(33)
Another Fairfax County scoundrel was John Poesy. Poesy, whose home, Rover's Delight, was located one mile southwest of Mount Vernon, joined the Second Virginia Regiment as a second Captain. In 1758 he was sent recruiting, but failed to return within the specified time. Instead he was seen in Williamsburg, although he had strict orders not to go there, no doubt with good reason. Notation in the Executive Journals foreshadowed Poesy's predicament and reputation, "...shall put him under an Arrest when he returns, and that probably he will be broke..."(34) After the war, Poesy often joined Washington in fox hunting. His family regularly joined the social activities at Mount Vernon; in fact, his daughter joined Patsy Custis for dancing lessons. Poesy, however, was constantly in debt and was eventually sent to debtor's prison. From his land he operated a ferry to the Maryland property owned by Thomas Marshall. In 1769 Washington acquired Poesy's land to finally settle an unpaid loan of 750 pounds. This part of the Mount Vernon estate was referred to as the Ferry farm.
The capture of Fort Duquesne by the English in 1758 enabled Washington to relinquish his duties as military commander. In an address by the officers of the Virginia Regiment dated December 31, 1758, they expressed their gratitude to their retiring commander:
in our earliest infancy you took us under your Tuition, train'd us up in the Practice of that Discipline, which alone can constitute good Troops, from the punci il Observance of which you never suffer'd the leas. )eviation . . . Judge then, how sensibly we must be uffected with the loss of such an excellent Commander, such a sincere Friend, and so affable a Companion.(35)
On January 6, 1759, Washington married Martha Custis, a wealthy young widow with two children, and retired to Mount Vernon, fully expecting his military career was over and little realizing his experiences in the French and Indian War would help him succeed in the greater mission Fate had in store for him. Sandra Mayo is a recent graduate of George Mason University and lectures on the history of Northern Virginia.
1. W.W. Abbot (ed.), The Papers of George Washington: Colonial Series (Charlottesville, Virginia: The University Press of Virginia, 1983), I, p.66.
2. Virginia Historical Society, The Official Records of Robert Dinwiddie: Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Virginia, 1751-1758 (Richmond, Virginia: Virginia Historical Society, MDCCCLXXXII), I, 264.
3. Stanislaus Hamilton (ed.), Letters to Washington (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, and Company, 1898-1902), I, p.111.
4. Virginia Historical Society, op. cit., II, p.563.
5. John C. Fitzpatrick (ed.), The Writings of George Washington (Washington, D.C.:United States Government Printing Office, 1931), I, pp.433-434.
6. Mary Kate Black, "My Dear Brother - John Carlyle of Alexandria As Revealed in Letters to George Carlyle," Northern Virginia Heritage, Vol. VI, No.3, October 1984.
7. Eleanor Lee Templeman, "Leesylvania Plantation," Virginia Homes of The Lees. For further detail see "The Lees of Leesylvania" written by Eleanor Lee Templeman and published in Northern Virginia Heritage, Vol. VII, No.3, October 1985.
8. Fitzpatrick, op. cit., 1, 201.
9. Abbot, op. cit., p. 123.
10. Fitzpatrick, op. cit., p.204.
11. Virginia Historical Society, op. cit., II, p.247.
12. Abbot, op. cit., III, p.76.
13. Fitzpatrick, op. cit., 1, p.349.
14. Willetta Baylis Blum and Dr. William Blum, Sr., The Baylis Family of Virginia (Washington, D.C., 1958), p. 134.
15. Fitzpatrick, op. cit., I, p. 347.
16. Abbot, op. cit., III, p.97.
17. Ibid., p.108.
18. Abbot, op. cit., III, p.284.
19. Fitzpatrick, op. cit., I, p.444.
20. Fitzpatrick, op. cit., II, p.219.
21. John K. Kennedy (ed.), Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia (Richmond, Virginia: Duopage Process, 1955), 1758, p.109. 22. Hamilton, op. cit., I, pp.257-258.
23. Charles Cecil Wall, George Washington: Citizen-Soldier (Charlottesville, Virginia: University Press of Virginia, 1980), p.2.
24. Douglas Southall Freeman, George Washington: A Biography: Volume II: Young Washington (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1949), II, pp. 407-408.
25. Edward D. Neill, The Fairfaxes of England and America in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (Albany, New York: Joel Munsell, 1868), p.81.
26. Robert A. Rutland (ed.), The Papers of George Mason: 1752- 1792 (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press, 1970), I, p.42
27. Ibid., p. lxxxvii.
28. Virginia Historical Society, op. cit., II, p.506.
29. Fitzpatrick, op. cit., II, p.83.
30. Fitzpatrick, op. cit., I, pp.239-240.
31. Abbot, op. cit., III, p. 387.
32. Hamilton, op. cit., II, p.40.
33. For information on the McCarty family, see the McCartys of Virginia by Clara McCarty (Berryville, Virginia, Virginia Book Co., 1972).
34. Benjamin J. Hillman (ed.) Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia: Vol.II (June 20, 1754-May 3, 1775) (Richmond, Virginia: Virginia State Library, 1966), p. 106.
35. Wall, op. cit., pp.22-23.