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TO GOVERNOR FAUQUIER.
The enclosed was written with the intention of sending it by the General's express, but his indisposition prevented that express from setting out for three days afterwards ; and the General thought, that my waiting upon your Honor would be more eligible, as I could represent the situation of our affairs in this quarter more fully, than could well be done by letter. This I accordingly attempted ; but, upon trial, I found it impracticable to proceed with despatch, for want of horses, having now nearly two hundred miles to march before I can get a supply, and those at present in use being entirely disabled. I shall, notwithstanding, endeavour to comply with the General's request, but I cannot possibly be down till towards the 1st of next month^ and the bearer may arrive much sooner.
The General has, in his letters, told you what garrison he proposed to leave at Fort Duquesne, but the want of provisions rendered it impossible to leave more than two hundred men in all ; and these, without great exertions, must, I fear, abandon the place or perish. To prevent, as far as possible, either of these events, I have by this conveyance written a circular letter to the back inhabitants of Virginia, setting forth the great advantages of keeping that place, the improbability of doing it without their immediate assistance, that they may travel safely out while we hold that post, and that they will be allowed good prices for such provisions as they may carry. Unless the most effectual means shall be taken early in the spring to reinforce the garrison, the place will inevitably be lost, and then our frontiers will fall into the same distressed condition as heretofore. I can very confidently assert, that we never can secure them properly, if we again lose our footing on the Ohio, since we shall thereby lose the interest of the Indians. I therefore think, that every necessary preparation should be made, and not a moment lost in adopting the most speedy and efficacious measures, for securing the advantages to be derived from our holding possession of that important country.
The preparatory steps should immediately be taken for preserving the communication from Virginia, by constructing a post at Red-stone Creek, which w r ould greatly facilitate the supplying of our troops on the Ohio, where a formidable garrison should be sent, as soon as the season will admit. A trade with the Indians should be established upon such terms, and transacted by men of such principle, as would at the same time redound to the reciprocal advantage of the colony and the Indians, and effectually remove the bad impressions, which the Indians have received from the conduct of a set of villains, divested of all faith and honor, and give us such an early opportunity of establishing an interest with them, as would ensure to us a large share of the fur-trade, not only of the Ohio Indians, but, in time, of the numerous nations possessing the back country westward. To prevent this advantageous commerce from suffering in its infancy, by the sinister views of designing, selfish men in the different provinces, I humbly conceive it advisable, that commissioners from each of the colonies should be appointed to regulate the mode of that trade, and fix it on such a basis, that all the attempts of one colony to undermine another, and thereby weaken and diminish the general system, might be frustrated.
Although no one can entertain a higher sense of the great importance of maintaining a post on the Ohio than myself, yet, considering the present circumstances of my regiment, I would by no means have agreed to leave any part of it there, had not the General given an express order. I endeavoured to show, that the King's troops ought to garrison it ; but he told me, that, as he had no instructions from the ministry relative to this point, he could not order it. Our men, left there, are in such a miserable condition, having hardly rags to cover their nakedness, and exposed to the inclemency of the weather in this rigorous season, that, unless provision is made by the country for supplying them immediately, they must perish. If the first Virginia regiment is to be kept up any longer, or any services are expected from it, the men should forthwith be clothed. By their present nakedness, the advanced season, and the inconceivable fatigues of an uncommonly long and laborious campaign, they are rendered totally incapable of any kind of service ; and sickness, death, and desertion must, if they are not speedily supplied, greatly reduce their numbers. To replace them with equally good men will, perhaps, be found impossible.
With the highest respect, I am, &,c.
- The Writings of George Washington Vol II, Jared Sparks, 1847