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Dec
20

Christmas in 1755

By
When:
December 25, 2015 – December 27, 2015 all-day
2015-12-25T00:00:00-05:00
2015-12-28T00:00:00-05:00
Where:
FORT CUMBERLAND
16 Washington St
Cumberland, MD 21502
USA

Christmas in Fort Cumberland, 1755

Compiled, written by Jim Moyer 12/20/2015, 12/12/2016, 12/18/16

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Some may think this is just the view of a “White” Christmas. And they’re right.  The Native American, who by now knew the whites by name and their ways were pushed and pulled in so many directions.

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The atrocities that followed were not by strangers but by those who knew each other. They traded with each other. Hunted with each other.  Proof? Read the story of Killbuck.  And that’s one story of many.

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[Picture of statue of George Washington looking at Guyasuta, one of the Indians on GW’s trip in 1753 to Fort LeBoeuf.   Click on location.  When map appears, click on red dot. ]

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Guyasuta

With such a tidal wave of people hitting what was currently “their” land and the concepts of ownership radically different between the two, this is what happened:

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Letter carriers from Fort Cumberland

needed armed escort

to reach Winchester VA

after the Braddock Expedition Defeat.

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From that July 9 defeat, into the winter of 1755,

Fort Cumberland was an island outpost,

surrounded by bands of native Americans waiting to pick off

any outlyers, any settler still near the fort.

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Burnt cabins. Smoking corpses filleted. Children’s heads bashed in.

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UP THE POTOMAC RIVER

INTO THE HEART OF DARKNESS

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Apocalypse-Now

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Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

is a story going up the Congo River.

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Apocalypse Now 

is  a movie based on that story but goes up the Mekong River.

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And this Story?

How about the Potomac River, Kurtz?

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Or rather John St Clair. who thought about blowing up the Great Falls on the Potomac to make it more navigable to transport supplies and troops back and forth for Major-General Edward Braddock, Generalissimo of H. R. M. Forces in America earlier in 1755.

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THE NIGHTMAREs BEFORE CHRISTMAS

Read a description of horror

preceding that Christmas of 1755:

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CHARLES LEWIS’ observation

Charles Lewis writes in his journal on December 6, 1755:

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In this last command I may,
with the greatest truth, aver that I saw the most horrid, shock-
ing sight I ever yet beheld.

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At a house adjoining to the corn-
field, in which our soldiers were employed in gathering corn, we
saw the bodies of three different people who were first massacred,
then scalped, and after thrown into a fire.

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fort-cumberland-historical-sign

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These bodies were
not yet quite consumed, but the flesh on many parts of them.

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We saw the clothes of these people yet bloody, and the stakes,
the instruments of their death, still bloody and their brains stick-
ing on them, the orchards cut down, the mills destroyed, and a
wast of all manner of household goods.

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These people were, in
my opinion, very industrious, having the best corn I ever saw,
and their plantations well calculated for produce and every other
conveniency, suitable to the station of a farmer.

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ADAM STEPHEN’S Observations

In this island of a semi siege sat Lt Col Adam Stephen,

Washington’s No. 2 guy in the 1st VA Regiment.

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For several months, incidents like this one occur:

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Sunday about 9 O’Clock two Indians took a fuzee from a Boy within musket Shot of the Sentry in the Bottom as you pass Will’s Creek1

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[Will’s Creek empties into Potomac River – location of Fort Cumberland Maryland. Click on  Picture to enlarge. Picture is from William Lowdermilk’s 1878 History of Cumberland Maryland]

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fort_cumberland-md-lowdermilk

They took hold of him and asked him to go along—why they did not kill him I cannot Say, but upon his refusing they gave him a Couple of Blows with their Fist—

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And upon his retiring a little, they Shot two Arrows into him, the wounds are but slight—

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He Roard out murder, & the Savages Ran.

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I sent out a party under Lt Stuart to intercept them, and about twelve, Burris came in wounded.2

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They took him about a mile below the Fort where the Old Path enters the waggon Road, and carried him to the Top of Wills Creek mountain, crossing Potomack above the New Store, and going Steight to the Gape.3

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They there discovered our Party and were only 300 yards behind them—Burris encouragd by the Sight of our men, while the Two Frenchmen and 5 Indians were Sculking, Sprung off—

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an Indian pursud him and coming up Sides with him threw the Tomhawk and woundd him Notwithstanding, Burris was lucky enough to Escape.

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Lt Stewart Saw nothing of the Enemy; Burris was oblig’d to take another Course.

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He learned from the Indian who Could Speak Shanase, That there were Parties all round us, & We have discoverd Numerous Tracts, in Several places.

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ADAM STEPHEN on Christmas

In this context, Christmas of 1755 was still observed with merriment.

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Adam Stephen, the creator of Martinsburg WV,

writes to Washington in Winchester VA,

five months before the construction

of Fort Loudoun Winchester VA :

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I had the honour to dine at the head of 24 fine Gentlemen yesterday—We had an extreamly good dinner, and after drinking the loyal Healths, in a Ruff and Huzza at every Health we pass’d an hour in Singing and taking a Cheerful glass.

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We then amus’d ourselves with acting part of a Play, and spending the Night in mirth, Jollity and Dancing, we parted very affectionatly at 12 O’Clock, remembering all Absent Friends

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Footnote – A ruff, or ruffle, was a term used among drummers of British regiments to signify a sort of vibrating sound made upon a drum, less loud than the roll.

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Charles Lewis, in reporting the same celebration, spoke of the “Rowls of Drum” (Charles Lewis, “Journal” in ViU: Lewis Family Papers).

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In an amusing letter written probably in 1756, Henry Woodward described to John Dagworthy a production of “Tamorlane” performed at Fort Cumberland.

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Woodward listed the cast of 12 men, all members of the Virginia Regiment, and added: “Brockenbrough was so touchd by it so that he will never never Act Again.

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Aesop was the Farce and De fierre [Defever] was the fine Lady by wh you may judge if it was a Farce or not” (Turner, Sussex County, Delaware, 323).

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Austin Brockenbrough, who was no older than 17, took the role of “Prince of Tanais.”

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Source is Founders Online Footnote:

http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/02-02-02-0237

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CHARLES LEWIS on Christmas

Captain Charles Lewis

(NO relation to Major Andrew Lewis who commanded

the southwestern portion of VA)

also writes of the same Christmas

in Fort Cumberland  in his journal:

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December 24 1755

Being Christmas, we were invited to spend the evening with Colonel Stephen, where we spent the time in drinking loyal healths and dancing ’till 1 1 o’clock, and then parted in the most amicable manner.

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December 25th 1755

Were invited to dine with Colonel Stephens, where we had the most sumptuous entertainment. After dinner drank the Royal Healths and sung some entertaining songs with Huzzas and rolls of Drums to every health and song. Then took partners and spent the evening in dancing, about 12 o’clock broke up well pleased with our generous entertainment.

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December 26th 1755 Sociably spent.

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Here’s Charles Lewis’ journal.

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The next day he is to take over Fort Ashby

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https://archive.org/stream/journalofcaptain00lewi#page/216/mode/2up

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Christmas in Winchester 1755

And what was Christmas like for George Washington?

and for his aid de camp, Captain George Mercer?

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They’re staying at Cocke’s Tavern, 21 S Loudoun St Winchester VA (roughly on the lot that has the lawyer office across from the Thai House Restaurant as of 2016) .

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GW paid a year’s rent to Cocke’s Tavern on December 2, 1756 when he moved into the upstairs of the building in Fort Loudoun overlooking the present day walking mall of Loudoun Street.

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George Mercer’s Orders

Winchester December 25th 1755.

It is Colonel Washington’s Orders, that Ensigns Polson and Thompson,1 Corporals McDonald and Broughton,2 do immediately go in pursuit of Sergeant Campbell3 and two men who deserted last night;

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and use all possible means to apprehend and bring them back.

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As an encouragement for apprehending them, the Colonel promises a reward of twenty-shillings for each of them, to the two Corporals.

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G:M. Aid de camp  (Captain George Mercer)

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N:B. That two of the above Deserters were brought in by John Rins; and a certificate given him, to entitle him to the reward by Law, for apprehending, and securing Deserters.

G:W.

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And Captain George Mercer adds among other things this Christmas Day:

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The commanding Officers of Companies to give in an exact return to the Commissary to-morrow morning, at 9 O’Clock, of their men, signed by themselves.

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Source:

http://founders.archives.gov/?q=Date%3A1755-12-25&s=1111311111&r=2

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And about those Deserters on Christmas Day in Winchester VA?

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[Winchester, 26 December 1755]

After Orders.

The Deserters1 now confined in the Guard-House, are to be immediately handcuffed; and to be supported with bread and water only.

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1. Sgt. Henry Campbell and two soldiers deserted on Christmas Eve and were retaken on Christmas Day. See the Orders and After Orders of 25 Dec. 1755.

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Source:

http://founders.archives.gov/?q=Date%3A1755-12-26&s=1111311111&r=4

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LINKS

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More on Captain Charles Lewis’ Journal – New River Notes website

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Fort Cumberland Name Origin

Named  after

Prince William Augustus  (26 April 1721 [N.S.] – 31 October 1765)

was the third and youngest son of George II of Great Britain

and Caroline of Ansbach,

He was  Duke of Cumberland from 1726.

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He is best remembered for his role

in putting down the Jacobite Rising

at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

 Nicknamed by his English Tory opponents: ‘Butcher’ Cumberland.

Despite his triumph at Culloden,

he had a largely unsuccessful military career.

Following the Convention of Klosterzeven in 1757,

he never held active military command

and switched his attentions to politics and horse racing.

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Source

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_William,_Duke_of_Cumberland

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Initially named Fort Mount Pleasant,

it was renamed Fort Cumberland in 1755 …

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Sources:

extracts from  colonial Maryland Gazette September–October 1754

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Cumberland_(Maryland)#cite_ref-2

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CAST OF CHARACTERS

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DISAMBIGUATION

Which Lewis was related and

which Lewis was NOT

Short biographies on each Lewis:

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Charles Lewis

Charles Lewis (b. 1730), a cousin and friend of GW’s,

was a younger brother of Fielding Lewis, GW’s brother-in-law,

and of Warner Lewis, of Warner Hall in Gloucester County,

whose letter to GW of 9 Aug. is referred to here.

Charles Lewis secured a commission as captain

and served under GW in the Virginia Regiment

from Sept. 1755 until mid–1757, leaving the service

after Dinwiddie on 16 May 1757 ordered t

hat the number of captains in the regiment be reduced.

Source is Founders Online Footnote.

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Our  Charles Lewis  is related to George Washington,

according to Founders Online Footnote  and

is still writing to GW four years after

a different Charles Lewis is

killed in the Battle of Point Pleasant on October 10, 1774,

who is the younger brother of Andrew Lewis  –

according to this source:

https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Lewis-442

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Joshua Lewis – all correspondence with GW

Not sure if Joshua Lewis is related to

the Charles Smith of George Washington or

the Charles Smith of Andrew Lewis or

to neither.

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MAJOR ANDREW LEWIS FAMILY

Andrew Lewis – all correspondence with GW

Andrew Lewis – Wikipedia bio

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Thomas Lewis – all correspondence with GW.

Thomas Lewis 1718 to 1790 the older brother of Andrew Lewis, was the longtime surveyor of Augusta County.  Source is Founders Online. Scroll down to see beginning of footnotes. See his Wikipedia bio.

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William Lewis

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More on Sir John St Clair, Baronet

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Biography in Pennsylvania Magazine 1885, Vol. IX, No.1

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https://archive.org/stream/jstor-20084686/20084686#page/n1/mode/2up

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Letters between John St Clair and GW

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http://founders.archives.gov/search/Correspondent%3A%22St.%20Clair%2C%20John%22%20Correspondent%3A%22Washington%2C%20George%22

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EDWARD BRADDOCK

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The history of an expedition against Fort Du Quesne, in 1755; under Major-General Edward Braddock , Generalissimo of H.M.R Forces in America Author  Sargent, Winthrop, 1825-1870  Publish Data  1855, 1856

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https://archive.org/stream/expeditionagains00sarg#page/n9/mode/2up

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Wiki Map of Braddock

http://maps.thefullwiki.org/Edward_Braddock

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A 1754 CHRISTMAS

Founders Online Footnote

avers GW might have been around Mt Vernon for Christmas 1754  playing cards.

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1. Byrd’s invitation to spend the holidays at Westover probably was extended during GW’s visit to Williamsburg between 20 Oct. and 2 Nov. 1754. It may have been the leasing of Mount Vernon on 17 Dec. 1754 or some related event that prevented GW from keeping this engagement. He was apparently at or near Mount Vernon from the day the lease was signed until 1 Jan. 1755 when he set off on a trip to Fredericksburg. Little is known of his activities during that period beyond the fact that he played cards on 25, 26, and 27 Dec.

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A 1753 Christmas

George Washington and Christopher Gist’s adventure written by themselves.

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geo-wash-journal-300

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George Washington’s version gets printed in London, fascinating important readers across both sides of the Atlantic.

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