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May
28

FORT ASHBY STORY

By
When:
May 6, 2017 all-day
2017-05-06T00:00:00-04:00
2017-05-07T00:00:00-04:00
Where:
FORT ASHBY WV
Dans Run Rd
Fort Ashby, WV 26719
USA

Fort Ashby Day !

Traditionally falls on Winchester’s Apple Blossom,

the first Saturday of May

Stay tuned for details.

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PAST EVENTS AND

THE STORY OF FORT ASHBY

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FORT ASHBY DAY 1http://www.ashbysfort.com/index.html

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APRIL 30, 2016 SATURDAY, 10AM TO 5PM

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To Schedule a Visit —————– > info@ashbysfort.com

Info About Upcoming Events——> info@ashbysfort.com

History Information Inquiries—-> history@ashbysfort.com

Info about Fort Ashby DAR——-> dar@ashbysfort.com

Make Donations ———————> info@ashbysfort.com

Web Site Problems——————> webmaster@ashbysfort.com

Friend of Ashby’s Fort————-> friendsofashbysfort@gmail.com

DAR Chapter————————> darlady4057fa@gmail.com

 

THE STORY OF FORT ASHBY 

Compiled and written by Jim Moyer  April 2015, updated 8/30/16

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There is an overwhelming amount of information here.

Read in bits and pieces.   Enjoy !

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December 1755 Ashby’s Fort  was built

Only fort still standing to this day of the Frontier Forts Washington commanded.

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See Fort Ashby web site for contact info

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Click on picture to enlarge

800px-Fort_Ashby

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Just a house?

Take a look at this link: National Historic Register of Places

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This  present structure served as the barracks for the soldiers, who at times numbered up to seventy.  The stockade and bastions are long gone.

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Captain Ashby’s company assisted Lieutenant John Bacon, of an independent Maryland Company,  in the building of two strong 90-foot square forts: Parker’s Fort on South Branch of the Potomac, the other 10 miles away on Patterson Creek being Fort Ashby.

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Washington considered the Patterson Creek stockades as a backup to the more heavily fortified structures on the South Branch. Fort Ashby was to provide cover for the Rangers “and receptacle now and therefor provisions.”

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The fort had a square stockade of 90 feet made of upright logs. Stockades on frontier forts were typically 12-15 feet high. Projecting outward from all four corners of the stockade were bastions; half-diamond shaped structures that were designed as the primary defensive points in forts of this period. The projecting bastions were also necessary to prevent an enemy from seeking cover at the stockaded walls of the fort (called curtains), thereby enabling an attacker, with relative safety, to breach the wall. These bastions were constructed of “hewn logs” and were probably of a strong, double-walled, earth-filled design. Inside the fort, a barracks and magazine were instructed to be built…”

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Fort-Ashby-2 pict0936

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The Google Car has not gotten to the street where this fort sits where the first sign is shown above.  But the Google Car got to the intersection of Routes 28 and 46 to show the 2nd historical sign on the above right.  This link  allows you to navigate around.

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CHRONOLOGY

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March 1748

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A 16 year old Washington’s journal to this area of Patterson’s Creek: A Journal of my Journey over the Mountains began Fryday the 11th. of March 1747/8.

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Fryday 25th. 1748. Nothing Remarkable on thursday but only being with the Indians all day so shall slip it. This day left Cresaps & went up to the Mouth of Patersons Creek & there swum our Horses over got over ourselves in a Canoe & travel’d up the following Part of the Day to Abram Johnstones 15 miles from the Mouth where we camped.”

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A sixteen year old Washington now becomes familiar of the area that will see the building of Fort Ashby.

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November 1748

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From Norman Baker’s French and Indian War in [old] Frederick County Virginia, published 2000, pages 138-139:

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The fortification was located on Lot 16 of the Patterson’s Creek Survey of November 1748, a 300 acre tract granted to Charles Seller.  Washington had advised [on October 26, 1755]  that the fort be built either “at the Plantation of Charles Sellars [Seller’s], or the late McCrackins [James McCrackin].”  McCracken settled in Lot 17, was killed by the Indians in October 1755,  while Charles Seller would also be killed by the Indians the following year. John Seller (Kellor), Charles’ son, would take over ownership of the land after his father’s death.

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Excellent link on Patterson’s Creek Survey of November 1748

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Another excellent link, mentioning over 200 settlers along Patterson’s Creek

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Moravian Diaries of Travels Through Virginia  (1747 – 1749)

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June 1755

See link about the formation of militia ranger companies before Washington was hired as Colonel.

“In late June while Braddock’s march to Fort Duquesne was underway, Thomas Bryan Martin and Lord Fairfax wrote Dinwiddie that Indians had killed several families in those two counties. After assuring himself of the assembly’s support, Dinwiddie sent up to Lord Fairfax officers’ commissions for two companies of rangers of 50 men each to be raised and to serve in Frederick and Hampshire.1 “

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Those 2 companies would be Cocke’s and Ashby’s before Washington was hired officially.

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14 August 1755

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Washington is appointed Colonel and overall commander of the Virginia Regiments.

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Late September Early October 1755

Of the 24 rangers that Cocks listed as being in his company in mid-October, 9 had joined by 1 Sept., and Ashby reported that he recruited 6 of his 33 men in August and the remainder in September and October.

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2 October 1755

WILLIAM H ANSEL, JR.’s article:

“… before his fort was built, Ashby, with his company, had    agreed to meet Captain Thomas Cocke and his men of the Virginia    Regiment at Solomen Hedges’ plantation located about three miles    above present Burlington for the purpose of doing scouting work along    the Creek. For some reason Ashby left the rendezvous before Captain    Cocke arrived, which caused consternation in Cocke’s command, as    the Indians were in considerable numbers throughout the region.    Captain Cocke, not finding Ashby, then beat a hasty retreat the fort    at Welton’s on Lunice Creek in present Grant County.”

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10 October 1755

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Col Washington writes Lt Gov Dinwiddie in a long letter dated 10-14 October 1755,

“The Men I hired to bring Intelligence from the Branch, return’d last Night with Letter’s from Captn Ashby and the other Partys up there, by which we learn that the Indians are gone off.11.”

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This same letter famously reports opposition of the “back inhabitants” to help:

“In all things I meet with the greatest opposition no orders are obey’d but what a Party of Soldier’s or my own drawn Sword Enforces; without this a single horse for the most urgent occasion cannot be had, to such a pitch has the insolence of these People arrivd by having every point hitherto sumbitted to them; however, I have given up none where his Majestys Service requires the Contrary, and where my proceedings are justified by my Instruction’s, nor will I, unless they execute what they threaten i, e, “to blow out my brains.”

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TWO FORTS?

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Washington writes  10 October 1755 to these first two companies of Virginia Rangers created:

“If their numbers are not large, from many concurring accounts, you ought to send out Parties to stop their progress, which the Timidity of the Inhabitants has been the cause of. If it should so happen, that you are obliged to quit your Fort for want of Provisions, &c. You are hereby positively ordered, to Retreat no farther than Joseph Edwards in Cacapehon:10

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Washington refers to “Fort” but this may be just a fortified encampment at this point.

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Here I surmised that it was just a fortified encampment with no proof but conjecture.

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And so a new discovery, and a moral here. Research is never final. New discoveries await. And former statements are found to be untrue.  It appears there were 2 forts at the Fort Ashby site.  Was the “fort” referred to by Washington a fort built before Washington assumed control in September of 1755?  Washington orders another fort be built on 26 October 1755.

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See these links:

http://wvarch.org/annual-meeting-2008/

http://www.pennsylvaniaarchaeology.com/Symposium801.pdf

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In 2007-2008, McBride Preservation Services, LLC conducted  archaeological and archival research at the site of the French and Indian War era Fort Ashby in Fort Ashby, Mineral County, West  Virginia. This project was funded by a grant from the West Virginia  Humanities Council awarded to the Fort Ashby Chapter of the Daughters  of the American Revolution. Archaeological investigations focused on  understanding the design and construction of the fort or forts, as  there appeared to be at least two construction episodes. The archival  research consisted of examining French and British reports and orders  dealing with the French and Indian War in western Virginia, that were  housed in the Canadian National Archives.  The archaeological investigations involved re-exposing, excavating,  and analyzing previously discovered sections of the fort(s) and  searching for new stockade trenches and bastions. Our excavations  indicated that there were definitely two forts constructed at this  site, including 1) the 1755 fort with four horizontally laid log  bastions and four stockaded walls, and 2) a later fort, which  consisted of an irregular stockade with at least one stockade  bastion. The archival research discovered French reports on French and  Indian raids, information on white captives, one frontier fort  description, and general information on French and British strategy on  the frontier.

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What I am searching for is the written report by McBride Preservation Services.

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23 October 1755

Washington is at Pearsall’s, present day Romney WV, the site of a future fort on the chain of forts mandated by the Virginia House of Burgess in May 1756. Washington meets Captain Cocks. Cocks owns the Cocks Tavern at 21 S Loudoun Street Winchester VA where Washington pays a year of rent on 2 December 1756 before moving into Fort Loudoun Winchester VA

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Pearsall’s is in present day Romney WV directly south of Fort Ashby.

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Washington leaves Winchester to go to Pearsall’s, present day Romney WV

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Col Washington writes to Ashby  23 October 1755

Col Washington writes to George William Fairfax 23 October 1755.

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To get a sense of all the forts that rose up in the next year, click on this Google map. On the bottom right notice almost off the picture is a plus and minus to zoom in or zoom out.  Or to zoom in, you can double click anywhere on the terrain to zoom in,  except on the icons which contain info about the site.  Use the minus sign though to zoom back out. It takes a lot of clicking around to zoom, but it is worth it to get a feel for this whole area these frontier men knew.  This was the Wild West.

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26 October 1755

Birthday of Fort Ashby

Washington writes Lt John Bacon,  Independent Maryland Co., to oversee the building of 2 forts, one of which is later named Ashby’s Fort.

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“You [Lt John Bacon] are to make choice of the most convenient Ground, and direct them in building a Quadrangular Fort of Ninety feet, with Bastions. You will direct them in what part of the Fort to build their Barracks, and the most convenient part for a Magazine. Another Fort of the same dimensions is to be built by Captain Ashby’s Company, at the Plantation of Charles Sellars, or the late McCrackins; whichsoever you shall judge the most convenient Situation.”

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Seller’s Plantation at Lot 16 was picked.  From Norman Baker’s French and Indian War in [old] Frederick County Virginia, published 2000, pages 138-139:  “The fortification was located on Lot 16 of the Patterson’s Creek Survey of November 1748, a 300 acre tract granted to Charles Seller. “

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Col Washington writes a letter dated 27 October 1755,

“To Captain William Cocks, of the first Company of Rangers; and Captain John Ashby, of the Second Company. You are hereby ordered, to remain with your Companies at George Parkers’ Plantation, where you are to erect a Stockade Fort; in building of which, you are to follow Lieutenant Bacons Instructions; he being sent to direct and plan the same.1

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Col Washington writes to Lt John Bacon of the Independent Maryland Company, 28 October 1755 :

“As those Stockades on Pattersons Creek, are only intended by way of cover to the Rangers, and as a Receptacle now and then for Provisions; you are desired not to plan any work, which requires much time to execute—We have neither men nor Tools, to carry on the undertaking with vigour.1 I am &c.”

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Ironic that one of the first 2 forts allegedly built with not much planning is the only one still standing, although the stockade and the 4 bastions are long gone.

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Fort Ashby in 1755 was one of the first 2 forts authorized by Washington before the Virginia House of Burgesses mandated a chain of Forts in  May 1756.

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23 December 1755

Adam Stephen, Lt Col,  stationed at Fort Cumberland and who is Washington’s 2nd in command, writes George Washington:

“Last night Mr Campbell Returnd from Recruiting on the Branch—without the least Success,9 and informs me ten of Ashbys men went off Bodily, and told him of it before. As I have reason to believe it is a Scheme to go home & keep the Holly-days—I have sent Majr Livingston to Examine into the affair[.] Capt. Ashby asked Leave for a good many of them; and for himself, when I was there.”

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Christmas Day, 1755

From Wikipedia link :

Captain Charles Lewis ,  of Fredericksburg took command of the fort and a garrison of twenty-one men. He had orders from Colonel Washington to remain quiet as long as he could and to hold the fort as long as possible, but if necessary rather than surrender, he should burn it and try to escape to Fort Sellers on the east side of mouth of Patterson’s Creek.

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Note: Captain Charles Lewis’ Journal below shows he didn’t take command until 2 days later.  Captain Charles Smith was being entertained by Lt Col Adam Stephen at Fort Cumberland Christmas Day.

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27 December 1755

From Captain Charles Lewis’ Journal, December 27th, 1755

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“I was ordered to march with one lieutenant, one sergeant, one corporal and twenty men to take the command of Ashby’s Fort; arrived about 5 o’clock, met Captain Ashby near the barracks, inquired his number of men and desired to see his list. He informed me he did not know the number, and that his lieutenant had the list and was absent. I ordered the drum to beat to arms, when with much difficulty we got together twenty-one men. I appointed Lieutenant John Bacon adjutant, had the articles of war read to the men, and let them know I wast to command them. Mr Bacon made a most affectionate speech to them and then discharged them for this night. They seemed to be mutinous, but were soon convinced after reading orders from (Lt) Colonel Adam Stephen that I was their commander. I gave orders for a parade.”

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Side note: Captain Charles Lewis was brother to Major Andrew Lewis. Ranks noted here are of that time in the French and Indian War.

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All correspondence between Charles Lewis and George Washington

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28 December 1755

A Jezebel? And bad Rum Prices?

See letter from  George Washington to John Ashby

“I am very much surprized to hear of the great irregularities which were allowed of in your camp. The Rum, although sold by Joseph Coombs, I am credibly informed, is your property. There are continual complaints to me of the misbehaviour of your Wife; who I am told sows sedition among the men, and is chief of every mutiny. If she is not immediately sent from the camp, or I hear any more complaints of such irregular Behaviour upon my arrival there; I shall take care to drive her out myself, and suspend you.1

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29 December 1755

See letter from George Washington to John Ashby

“As I am informed of several Soldiers having deserted your Company. You are hereby ordered to pursue them with all possible dispatch; and use your utmost endeavours to apprehend and secure them.”

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See all correspondence from Washington to Ashby

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29 December 1755

Captain Charles Lewis  was the first interim commander of this fort and is also confirmed in above link to Captain Charles Lewis’ Journal.

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But 2 days after Captain Charles Lewis appears at Fort Ashby, Washington writes To Lieutenant Thomas Rutherford of The second Company of Rangers.

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“You are hereby ordered to repair to the Company immediately, and use your utmost endeavours to keep it under due regulation, until the return of Captain Ashby. “

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“So soon as you arrive there, you are to acquaint Captain Lewis, it is my Orders that he with his party, return to Fort Cumberland. Given &c. at Winchester, the 29th of December 1755.”

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9 January 1756

Colonel Washington writes to Lieutenant Colonel Adam Stephen, of the Virginia Regiment:

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“You are Ordered to proceed from this to Fort Cumberland: and to be accompanied by all the Officers now in Winchester, on your way thither. You are to Reconnoitre well the Ground about Ashby’s-Fort; and from thence down to the mouth of Patterson’s Creek: and inform me, if you meet with a convenient situation to erect a Fort on. If you find none there; take notice of the ground, between that and Fort Cumberland; and Report accordingly as you find it. This account must be transmitted by the first opportunity.” 1

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10 January 1756

Col Washington writes Commissary Thomas Walker 10 January 1756:

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“You are to lay in at Cockes and Ashby’s Forts, three months provision.”

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Job Pearsall’s Fort is also mentioned.  Capt Waggener and providing for him is also mentioned.

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 18 January 1756

Fort Lewis is probably Ashby’s Fort.  Capt Lewis was briefly in charge of it around Christmas Time.

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See Lt Col Adam Stephen’s letter to Colonel George Washington, stating:

“In obedience to your Commands I reconnoitred to Ross’s mill on the South-Branch—from that to Fort Lewis, and found it may be made very easily a good Waggon Road. Waggons have been carried that way already. only four miles which may be Cut by a Single Company in a day.1 I also reconnoitred the ground on Pattieson’s Ck and found a ⟨mutilated⟩ Convenient place for a fortress, about a mile and a half above where Ashby has built.”

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29 March  1756

WILLIAM H ANSEL, JR.’s article:

Captain John Ashby “had forty men in his command, but for    some reason, ten of these soldiers “took a disgust to him,”     and unceremoniously walked off to join Colonel Stephen’s command    at Fort Cumberland. On July 25, 1756, Colonel Stephen advised    Washington that “a detachment of militia at Ashby’s absolutely    refused to escort an express rider to Fort Cumberland as they were in    such fear of the Indians they would not leave the fort on any    account, and Ashby was powerless to do anything about it.”

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Question: Was Ansel confusing the March date with the July date?

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late March, early April 1756

Battle of the Trough   southwest of Ashby’s Fort, an attack attributed to John Killbuck Sr.

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April 1756 Volume 7

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Prior to 8 April 1756

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Lieutenant John Bacon who,  5 months ago supervised the construction of Ashby and Cocke’s fort as ordered by Col Washington, was killed and then scalped.

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Norman Baker’s book, “French and Indian War in [old] Frederick County Virginia, published 2000, page 41 :

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The Maryland Gazette would report on April 8, 1756, that James Tucker, who had returned from “Capt Waggoner’s Fort in Virginia” (Fort Pleasant), was informed that Lieutenant John Bacon, of Captain John Dagworthy’s Independent Maryland Company, was killed and scalped by the Indians four or five miles from Fort Cumberland. … Tucker would also relate that he was informed that five men in Captain Ashby’s Ranger Company had been killed, and that the Indians had attacked “one Cox Fort, ” but were repulsed.  This would have been either Friend Cox’s Fort at mouth of the Little Cacapon River or Captain William Cocke’s Fort on Patterson’s Creek.

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See link, Timeline of Maryland Forces 1754-1764 quoting the Maryland Gazette

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“By a deposition of James Tucker, this day brought to town by an express, we have the following account, viz, that he was at Capt. Waggoner’s fort in Virginia, and heard that some of Capt. Waggoner’s Company say, that Mr. John Bacon, Lieutenant of Capt. Dagworthy’s Company, was kill’d and scalped by the Indians 4 or 5 miles from Cumberland fort; and also, that two men in company with Lieutenant Bacon, were wounded, but made their escape to the fort”

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Interesting link on  Lt John Bacon’s father, Thomas Bacon.

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15 April 1756

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“400 INDIANS” IS THE REPORT

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Dispatch Captain John Ashby at Ashby’s Fort sent to Fort  Edwards on the Cacapon River:

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 “This day my fort was Demanded of me by four hundred Indians and we came to a parly. I told the interpreter that I would not give up my fort untill I was killed and all my men, they first told me to make ready, I told them I was Ready, any time to give Battle & I would give them battle They also told me that there was two thousand gone to Juniata and fifteen hundred to Cumberland fort, and four hundred to Attact me, and also four hundred to attact the upper fort Cocks and that their orders was not to kill but to take all to Allegheny. I told them that I was but a Captain & I cold not give it up. nor would not. but I would send to our great man, and he might do as he pleased & they aggreed that I should send an Express.”

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“I give him a dram and so Departed without one fire of a gun & in the Evening I heard them attact the fort at the mouth of the Creek and a number of guns fired but what is done I know not. I believe Every word that they told me was a lie, I seen a vast number but not four hundred.”

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“Sir I am Your most Humble Servt to command, John Ashby”

attested to this and gave “To Colll Henry Vanmeter and so to Capt. Waggoner these” which Lieutenant William Stark sent to Col Washington.

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Lieutenant William Stark encloses Ashby’s dispatch above  to Washington who writes a letter back to Stark 20 April 1756 saying he, Washington, received this dispatch “about two o’clock this morning.1. “

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Washington did not believe Ashby but Ashby didn’t believe the enemy either and safely stayed inside the fort.

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The modus operandi of the attacker is very similar to the Battle of the Trough, The Battle of the Great Cacapon, Fort Seybert Massacre – all were either baited to come out of the fort into an ambush or were lied to with threats or promises.  This April 15th 1756 incident mimicked that pattern and so it was likely orchestrated by John Killbuck Sr who led the other attacks.

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There is another pattern you will see in many of these Indian attacks.  The Indian leading the attack had often lived with and traded with the white settlers.

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17 April 1756

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DANIEL MORGAN SHOT

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See a letter  dated 17 April 1756 by John Fenton Mercer to George Washington, refers to the wound Daniel Morgan received.

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“Yesterday Morning one of Captn Ashby’s Men,  who has been on Forlow some Time, with one Hintch who came down with Us as a Pilot, were in their Return to Ashby’s Fort & were fired on by seven Indians, Hintch killed dead on the Spot and the other returned here wounded in the Neck [Daniel Morgan], but no ways dangerous2—This happen’d about fourteen Miles from hence in the Road to Parker’s Fort,3 “

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One day later the above writer of that letter,  John Fenton Mercer,  dies in the Battle of the Great Cacapon 18 April 1756 east of Ashby’s Fort.

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A month later while court martials are in progress for some who did not follow orders or who left the scene of this battle, Washington’s men finds John Fenton Mercer dead.  Col Washington writes Lt Gov Dinwiddie, 3 May 1756,

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I have sent down an Indian scalp, which was taken at the place where Captain Mercer had his engagement. He was found thrust under some rocks, with stones piled up against them. They believe more were killed, from the quantity of blood found on the ground, and from other discoveries of their attempts to make more graves. But a hard shower of rain prevented their making a farther search.”

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Washington knew the whole Mercer family, the father and the sons.

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John Fenton Mercer’s brother, George Mercer, was Washington’s aid de camp at Fort Loudoun. Their father,  John Mercer,  was George Washington’s lawyer and a founding member of the Ohio Company of Virginia.

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Back to the story of Daniel Morgan’s wound :

MORGAN_exb

Click on the picture to enlarge. Notice the line above Daniel Morgan’s lip. That’s the wound. The bullet entered the back of the neck crashing through some teeth in his mouth and exiting above his lips.

About this Portrait: 38 years after the wounding, Charles Willson Peale  paints a portrait of “General” Daniel Morgan in 1794,  on his way to the western frontier at the time of the Whiskey Rebellion. This painting was thought to be a copy until recent conservation removed earlier overpaint, uncovering the distinctive scar on Morgan’s upper lip..

This national park website wrongly states this wound occurred in 1758.

The source of that wrong date comes from James Graham’s 1856 The Life of General Daniel Morgan, pages 32 – 34, who based much of his information from Reverend William Hill’s notes, who was pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Winchester VA and who was a friend of Daniel Morgan. Hill compiled extensive notes but never followed through with a published biography. Don Higginbotham, in his book, Daniel Morgan Revolutionary Rifleman , published 1961, stating that Graham “confuses the time and place of the event.” Graham did not have access to John Mercer’s letter to Washington 17 April 1756.

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Questions:

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How do we know Mercer’s letter to Washington 17 April 1756 refers to Daniel Morgan?

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And how do we know this phrase, “and the other returned here wounded in the Neck, but no ways dangerous”   in that same letter refers to Daniel Morgan and his neck-mouth wound?

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According to this site, a listing of Daniel Morgan’s name is on a return Ashby submits to Washington:

Morgan is listed on “Weekly Return of the 2nd Co. Of Rangers Stationed at Sellars’s Plantation on Pattersons Creek under Command of Capn John Ashby 29 Dec 1755″, in the Library of Congress GW Papers. 

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See this link referencing Virginia Military Records. showing Daniel Morgan’s name.  

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More follow up on this later.  Stay tuned.

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And about the STORY itself that led to Daniel Morgan’s wound?

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Although James Graham, in his book published 1856, may have gotten details of the dates wrong, he had direct access to the notes  from the minister who was the contemporary friend of Daniel Morgan who recorded the stories he heard as it were from the “horse’s mouth.”

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So we cannot ignore all the details. Take a moment to read this story.

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No date assigned

Family tradition relates John Ashby’s close escape from a vengeful, long-legged Indian known locally as “The Crane.” Surprised on the hill, Ashby outraced him to the fort. 

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In addition to the descriptive name of Crane, that name “Crane” or “Twightwee” was what the Delaware called the Miami. See wiki article on this:

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“Some scholars contended the Miami called themselves the Twightwee (also spelled Twatwa), supposedly an onomatopoeic reference to their sacred bird, the sandhill crane. Recent studies have shown that Twightwee derives from the Delaware language exonym for the Miamis, tuwéhtuwe, a name of unknown etymology.[2] Some Miami have stated that this was only a name used by other tribes for the Miami, and not their autonym. They also called themselves Mihtohseeniaki (the people). The Miami continue to use this autonym today.”

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18 April 1756

Battle of Great Cacapon, 3 days after the incident at Fort Ashby. 

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See a short account by Stark about that Battle of the Great Cacapon.

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Col Washington writes  John Robinson, Speaker of the  Virginia House of Burgesses 24 April 1756,

“Frederic county will not be mistress of fifteen families. They are now retreating to the securest parts in droves of fifties. In short, every thing has too melancholy an appearance for pen to communicate. “

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Col Washington writes Lt Gov Dinwiddie, 3 May 1756,

I have sent down an Indian scalp, which was taken at the place where Captain Mercer had his engagement. He was found thrust under some rocks, with stones piled up against them. They believe more were killed, from the quantity of blood found on the ground, and from other discoveries of their attempts to make more graves. But a hard shower of rain prevented their making a farther search.”

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20 April 1756

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Lt Thomas Rutherford of Ashby’s ranger company is in Williamsburg.

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Dinwiddie writes to Washing 23 April 1756:

“Dinwiddie may have mistook the day when he wrote that ranger lieutenant Thomas Rutherford gave him GW’s letter of 19 April (Monday) on 20 April (Tuesday), but Charles Carter’s letter of 22 April to GW seems to establish that Rutherford arrived in Williamsburg from Winchester no later than 21 April. Thomas Rutherford was the brother of Robert Rutherford, the assistant commissary in Winchester.”

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 From footnote 1 of this link: “According to Dinwiddie, Lt. Thomas Rutherford of John Ashby’s rangers arrived in Williamsburg on Tuesday, 20 April 1756.”

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22 April 1756

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See reference to a letter from Washington to Ashby in a footnote here for confirmation of a Wikipedia article stating, “On April 22, 1756, Washington wrote to Ashby that if he was attacked by Native Americans to wait for the cover of darkness then blow up the fort and retreat to Fort Cumberland, taking what ammunition they could.”

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The above is confirmed by Col Washington’s letter to Lt Gov Dinwiddie 22 April 1756 about the April 15th incident:

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“Ashbys Letter is a very extraordinary one.3 The design of the Indians was only, in my opinion to intimidate him into a Surrender—For which reason I have wrote him word, that if they do attack him, he must defend that place to the last extremity: and, when he is bereft of hope; then to lay a train to blow up the Fort, and retire by night to Cumberland.4 A small Fort which we have at the mouth of Pattersons Creek, containing an officer and thirty men, guarding Stores, was attacked smartly by the French and Indians; and were as warmly received; upon which they retired.5

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May 1756

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“CHAIN OF FORTS”

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Web link summarizing this time: The disastrous April 1756 induced the legislature to take more seriously the attacks that were taking place in the backcountry of the colony. In May, the House of Burgesses approved the funding to erect a “chain of forts” that would stretch from the Potomac to the Mayo River, a span of nearly 500 miles. Ashby’s Fort was made a part of the defensive chain.
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 Council of War, Held at Fort-Cumberland, July 10th 1756 discusses the chain of forts mandate, in particular on point 5 discussing the area near Fort Ashby:

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“Fifthly: Is it then necessary to have a fort between that at Enocks and Ashby’s?  To open a communication between the forts at Enocks’s and Ashby’s, it is necessary to clear a road leading to the South-Branch above Suttons plantation, passing near to Ross’s mill, from the best and nearest way to the fort commanded by Captain John Ashby: and as the distance will not be above twenty-two miles, it is not necessary to build between.3 But the Council are of opinion a Block-House may be found necessary to secure the passage of the River.”

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Washington writes Lt Gov Dinwiddie 4 August 1756, a progress report on this chain of forts:

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“Although we have not kept strictly to the Act of Assembly, I hope it will be overlooked; as I am sensible this will be the best chain that can possibly be erected for the defence of the people, and that the Assembly aimed at that—but, being unacquainted with the situation of the Country had fallen into an error, agreeable to this Council the chain is ordered to be built.”

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16 May 1756

Col Washington in Winchester VA writes to Lieutenant Zachary Lewis of the Spotsylvania Militia:

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“You are hereby ordered to proceed with the Detachment under your command, to Captain Ashby’s Fort, on Pattersons Creek: and are to put yourself and party under his command.

You are to be very circumspect on your march; and endeavour, as much as possible, to guard against a Surprize. Given at Winchester, May 16th 1756.”

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Norman Baker, in his book, French and Indian War in (old) Frederick County Virginia, published year 2000, page 139, writes, ” …ordered Lieutenant Zachary Lewis of the Spotsylvania County Militia, to take his detachment of two Sergeants and 45 men to the fort, under the command of Ashby, A day later, the Spotsylvania militia unit had been reduced by desertions to 22 men. Washington was forced to change the garrison at the fort to two Lieutenants, six Sergeants, and 56 men from Spotsylvania, King George and Stafford counties.”

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July 1756

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Captains Cocke and Ashby furloughed

Captain Cocke and Captain “Jack” John Ashby are “furloughed”, so that officers of the Virginia Regiment can hire Cocke’s and Ashby’s rangers to join the Virginia Regiment, if they can be induced to do so. 

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Side note of Cocke’s Fort  is added here because it was one of the first two forts built outside of Fort Cumberland (Fort Ashby – being the other):

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On 9 November 1756 GW writes a long letter of issues to Lt Gov Dinwiddie, one of which is about 2 forts falling into disrepair:

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Besides, most of the forts are already built by the country people or Soldiers, and require but little improvement—save one or two, as Dickinsons and Cockes’s. Your Honor will see Fort Cumberland excluded here.11

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http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/02-04-02-0001-0001

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Before 25 July 1756 

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RUTHERFORD’S “DEFEAT”

The Google Car got to the intersection of Routes 28 and 46 in Fort Ashby WV.  This link  allows you to navigate around.

pict0936The wrong Rutherford and wrong month is referenced in the sign and is  mistakenly echoed throughout many internet websites, such as Wikipedia.

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The sign should read, “Lieutenant Thomas Rutherford, with company of Rangers, was attacked  by the French and Indians and withdrew to the safety of this fort, July 1756.”

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Also the word “defeat” in this historical marker sign is questionable because it implies men being killed or taken hostage, neither of which is verified.  But the word “defeat” is justly chosen because Washington called it a “Defeat.”

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The Story:

On a mission of transporting mail, they were attacked and the men panicked.  Lieutenant Thomas Rutherford and some of his men withdrew to safety of Fort Ashby.  The battle may have continued to the fort.

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Why the Month on the sign is Wrong

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The incident must have happened before 25 July 1756 as that is the date of a letter Lt Col Adam Stephen (sitting at Fort Cumberland) writes to Col Washington of the “defeat” and the subsequent failure of the escort to bring the mail.

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Lt Col Adam Stephen writes to Col Washington 25 July 1756:

“The Detachmt of militia at Ashby’s, absolutely refusd to Escort the Express to this place, and am afraid never will get over the pannick which Seiz’d them under Command of Mr Rutherford.3 “

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Lt Col Stephen,  colorfully calling this letter a “memorandy”, adds, “One of them named Croucher has always behavd well, and came up with the express in the night4Pray Urge the necessity of having more men, the Militia will add to our disgrace but nothing to our Strength.”

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Letter From George Washington to Robert Dinwiddie, 4 August 1756:

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This date of this letter is a possible reason for the mistake of the wrong month on the sign.

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Washington writes:

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“I make no doubt your Honour has ere this heard of the Defeat of Lieutenant Rutherford, of the Rangers, escorting an Express to me at Fort Cumberland; and of the dastardly behaviour of the militia, who ran off without one half of them having discharged their pieces, altho’ they were apprized of the ambuscade by one of the flanking party, before the Indians fired upon them; and ran back to Ashby’s Fort, contrary to orders, persuasions, threats, &c.8 They are all ordered in so soon as the people have secured their Harvest..”

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The word “ere”  assumes some time lapse. Washington assumes someone has already sent a post to Lt Gov Dinwiddie. News takes some time to travel, even if it is bad news. Also Stephens’ letter referencing this incident is dated July not August.

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From the footnote on above link: Thomas Rutherford, lieutenant in John Ashby’s company of rangers, was in command at Ashby’s fort of what remained of Ashby’s rangers while Ashby himself was on furlough. For an account of Thomas Rutherford’s military career, see GW’s Orders, 10 Oct. 1755, n.2.

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Why the Wrong Rutherford is on the Sign

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Again this letter, Lt Col Adam Stephen writes to Col Washington 25 July 1756:

“The Detachmt of militia at Ashby’s, absolutely refusd to Escort the Express to this place, and am afraid never will get over the pannick which Seiz’d them under Command of Mr Rutherford.3 “

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The reference to “militia at Ashby’s” establishes the “Mr Rutherford” as Thomas, because Robert was still Deputy Commissary in Winchester to Commissary Walker at the time, and Robert was never associated with Captain Ashby’s Ranger company.

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CHRONOLOGY:

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This letter dated 29 December 1755 by Washington is to a ” Lieutenant Thomas Rutherford of the 2nd Company of Rangers headed by “Captain Jack,” aka John Ashby.  

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Robert Rutherford is Assisting Commissary to Commissary Thomas Walker as of 10 January 1756 according to this letter.

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In between, the Thomas Rutherford’s  “defeat”  occurs July 1756.

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Robert Rutherford,  who was  assistant Commissary  and who has not been associated with any Ranger company, is now picked to raise a new Ranger company and to be its Captain according to this letter 5 October 1757, more than a year after his brother Thomas had his “defeat” in July 1756.

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Colonel Washington writes to Lt Gov Dinwiddie, 5 October 1757, “Mr Robert Rutherford, late deputy-commissary here, says, that he could raise the men in a shorter time than any other: and, from his universal acquaintance on the frontiers; and the esteem the people in general have for him, I am apt to believe he could raise them as soon as any person whatever.3

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Col Washington again recommends Robert Rutherford to resurrect a company of rangers 24 October 1757 and lists reasons against a Captain Hogg and that Robert Rutherford will not accept being 2nd in command to Captain Hogg.

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Lt Gov Dinwiddie writes Col Washington 2 November 1757, approving Robert Rutherford:

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“Yr Letter of the 24th Ulto I recd—And as You observe the absolute Necessity of having a Company of Rangers, I agree to the raising sixty, seventy or 80 Men to be Commanded by Mr Rutherfurd…”

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Robert Rutherford writes Col Washington 22 November 1757, needing assurances:

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“…there seems to Prevail Some Objections that retard the Speedy raising the Company, which I hope you can readily remove—Notwithstanding they have been assured to the Contrary in the Strongest terms. they are Possess’d of a Notion that they are to be ensnared into the Regiment So that if you Can Certify 2. or 3 Words under Your hand that they are not inlisted as Soldiers or to Serve as Such in Keeping Garrisson, Mounting Guards, &c. but only to act as Rangers under their own officers, it wou’d greatly facilitate, and Expedite the Matter, or if they Cou’d be inlisted at First for 12. Months…”

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Note signing of letter “R. Rutherford.”

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Meanwhile, Robert’s brother, Thomas Rutherford, is no longer with the disbanded 2nd Company of Rangers under Ashby. Thomas Rutherford has been appointed by Lt Gov Dinwiddie  in June 1757 “to conduct the Catawba Indians to British forts on the western frontier. Rutherford served as an Indian agent under Christopher Gist from July 1757 until the fall of 1758,”

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Then to make  matters MORE CONFUSING,  Thomas Rutherford takes his brother Robert’s former position of deputy to Commissary Thomas Walker sometime after August 15, 1758.  In 1761 he was elected a burgess for Hampshire County, and he served continuously in the Virginia Assembly until 1769.”   Thomas later followed his father’s footsteps and became Sheriff of Frederick County,  11/7/1770 to 1/5/1772.

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 Will provide a link to a list of names of Captain John Ashby’s 2nd Company of Rangers.  Stay tuned.

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See all correspondence between Washington and Thomas Rutherford

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See all correspondence between Washington and Robert Rutherford

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Why does the sign mistakenly refer to a Robert Rutherford?

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Confusion of names within the Rutherford family is the short answer.

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Just as Washington knew well the whole Mercer family noted above, so too did Washington know the Rutherford family.

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He knew the father, Thomas, and his two sons, Robert and Thomas.

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The Father, Capt Thomas Rutherford:

Captain Thomas Rutherford, Sr. (d. 1760), first High Sheriff of Frederick County 11/11/1743 to 3/6/1745,  sold to Washington the Bullskin property and who originally owned the property on which stands Washington’s Office on Braddock and Cork Streets in Winchester.  Later the daughter of the elder Thomas Rutherford and who had married James Wood Sr and who was widowed in 1759, gave back to her brother, the younger, surviving Thomas the property around Washington’s Office.  See Link:  The father was a founder of Frederick County sworn in by Morgan Morgan November 14, 1743, five years after the original creation of Frederick County March, 1738.

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Deputy Commissary Robert Rutherford:

  MORE THAN A YEAR LATER  after his brother Thomas’ “Defeat”, Washington proposes Robert Rutherford  to raise his own Ranger Company at one point headquartering in Fort Loudoun Winchester VA and never was he, Robert, under Ashby’s command.  Robert also owns the land under Fort Loudoun.  Robert sells this land to John Peyton Jr,  on November 1, 1785.  John Peyton Jr,  who became clerk of Frederick County, married Robert’s daughter , Savannah, in 1780 and built his home on the southeastern bastion of Fort Loudoun (now 406 N Loudoun St) remaining owner until his death in 1800.

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All correspondence between George Washington and Robert Rutherford

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Lieutenant Thomas Rutherford in Captain Ashby’s company:

Footnote reference states: Washington wanted to get  Thomas out of the rangers and into the Virginia Regiment as an ensign, but instead Dinwiddie appointed him Indian agent to conduct the Catawba Indians to British forts on the western frontier. Thomas Rutherford served as an Indian agent under Christopher Gist from July 1757 until the fall of 1758, when he became deputy to Commissary Thomas Walker (sometime after August  15, 1758). In 1761 he was elected a burgess for Hampshire County, and he served continuously in the Virginia Assembly until 1769.  Thomas later followed his father’s footsteps and became Sheriff of Frederick County,  11/7/1770 to 1/5/1772.

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All correspondence between George Washington and the younger Thomas Rutherford

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It is not like Robert Rutherford or Thomas Rutherford got mixed up in Washington’s mind or that the 2 were interchangeable. Here, 2o some years later, is a letter Thomas Rutherford on  18 June 1778 writes to Washington.

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Early 1757

 In early 1757, Fort Ashby was abandoned by the Virginia Regiment. The  absence of inhabitants to protect together with a reduction in size of the  Virginia Regiment and the loss of several hundred from the frontiers to act  with the British in South Carolina contributed to the decision to abandon the  fort. Not until the spring of 1758 was a garrison stationed at Ashby

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1758-1764

See Link for following summary

The arrival of the British forces at Raystown (later Bedford, PA) signaled  a renewal of activity at the fort. Ashby’s was garrisoned again to protect  the supplies and dispatches that moved along the road between Winchester and  Fort Cumberland.

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Traffic on the road reached a peak during the summer and fall  as the campaign to capture Fort Duquesne at the Forks-of-the-Ohio made its way  through western Pennsylvania and began to draw supplies from western Virginia.

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After the conclusion of this successful campaign, the region was stabilized,  making transportation and habitation much safer. Fort Ashby was not an  essential element any longer and may have been used only intermittently until  the end of hostilities in 1764, when it was, in all likelihood, abandoned. All  that remains today of the fort is the barracks; the portion of the fort now  identified as “Fort Ashby”.

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One last note: Fort Ashby served as a brief training ground for a future  general and heroic icon of the American Revolutionary War. Daniel Morgan  served as a private in Ashby’s company and spent his brief 10-month military  career of the French and Indian War at Ashby’s Fort. While on duty with the  ranger company, he received his first wound while escorting an express from  Ashby’s to Winchester.5

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1791–1794

 Whiskey Rebellion 

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Washington appoints Gov Henry Lee commander of forces from Virginia.

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Daniel Morgan writes to Washington, 24 September 1794, datelined Winchester VA.  

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Troops on their way from Richmond to Winchester through  Fort Ashby to Fort Cumberland.

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Washington visits Fort Cumberland after leaving Alexander Hamilton overall head of all forces in Bedford PA.

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1927 to 1998

Click on picture to enlarge

Fort-Ashby-3

Modern Events for Fort Ashby from   http://www.ashbysfort.com/history.html

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In 1927,  the Potomac Valley Chapter  of the DAR  purchased the Fort from Mr. Tom Pyles for $200.   The fort had been used as a school as well  as a residence Through the assistance of the WPA the Fort was restored  in 1938.    The Fort was  officially opened  for visitors on July 4th, 1939.

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One of the striking features of the building is  the double fireplace that is fourteen feet wide and four feet thick.  Numerous   other woodwork and wrought-iron materials  date to the eighteenth century.

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On Dec 12th, 1970,   Ashby’s Fort was listed in the National Register of  Historic Places.

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In 1998, a  archaeological dig was done on the adjacent property.  Numerous objects relating to the period were  found and the results of this project are still being evaluated.

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ERRORS IN RESEARCH

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A word about this site and other sites you will see in your investigations. Be careful !!!  Many ERRORS in research are found. And since the Internet is an echo chamber often mimicking over and over just one wrong source, be watchful for  this.

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For this reason, this author prefers corrections, suggestions to achieve accuracy here.

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The site below is a great introductory inviting further exploration

http://web.hardynet.com/~gruber/ashbys_fort.htm

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This site, however, mistakenly refers to a Lt Richard Bacon.  His name is really Lt John Bacon.

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Yet to its credit the above site catches  and corrects an error repeated throughout the internet and also stated incorrectly on a historical sign shown here:

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It correctly states that a “defeat” as referenced in historical sign  was in July not August. and that the name was Thomas Rutherford not Robert Rutherford.

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pict0936 See Google car link to navigate around the street around this sign.

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“Another event, occurring around July 25 of the same year, did not end with  such exemplary behavior. Lt. Thomas Rutherford, now in command of the rangers  at Ashby’s (Ashby having retired as the ranger companies were being  disbanded), a few of the remaining rangers, and a number of militia were  escorting an express from Winchester to Fort Cumberland. Some of the flankers  spied some Indians in the woods ahead. When the alarm was sounded, the militia  ran off before any firing began, leaving Rutherford and the ranger remnants no  other choice but to return to the fort with the panicked militia. No mention  is made of the party of Indians, so it can be assumed they went elsewhere.4

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GW Papers 3:313, letter to Robert Dinwiddie 4 August 1756. More detail is given in a letter from Adam Stephen 25 July 1756 in 3:294-5.  “

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More links:

Historical Marker link (waymarking.com)

Historical Marker Project

Wiki Forts on Fort Ashby

See Wikipedia article 

Short Bio on John Ashby

See article by WILLIAM H ANSEL, JR

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Ashby’s Gap

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References to Ashby’s Ranger Company Virginia Rangers site

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See  National Register of Historic Places Request

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picture of historical marker and site

http://livingnewdeal.org/projects/fort-ashby-restoration-fort-ashby-wv/

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The life of General Daniel Morgan, of the Virginia line of the army of the United States, with portions of his correspondence; compiled from authentic sources By James Graham, published 1856

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Short bio on Daniel Morgan: General Daniel Morgan: Reconsidered Hero ,” by Richard L. Morgan, Ph.D, Burke County Historical Society, Digitized by Internet Archive in 2012 witii funding from University of Nortii Carolina at Chapel Hill, Copyright, 2001, by Richard L. Morgan, Ph.D., Published by Burke County Historical Society, P. O. Box 151, Morganton, North
Carolina 28680

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Sunday Gazette-Mail, State Magazine January 10, 1971 Fragment of the Old Frontier By William C. Blizzard 

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Rutherford family references

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Proof Washington bought Bullskin land from the elder Capt Thomas Rutherford

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Washington’s neighbor was the elder Capt Thomas Rutherford and other Rutherford family info

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More on the Rutherfords

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Excerpts from book written by T. K. Cartmell Clerk of the Old County Court connecting James Wood to Rutherfords

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All correspondence between George Washington and the younger Thomas Rutherford

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All correspondence between George Washington and Robert Rutherford

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 See all the Rutherfords who were involved in building  the first roads in Frederick Co VA:

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FREDERICK COUNTY ROAD ORDERS 1743-1772  by Gene Luckman, Under the direction of Dr. Warren R. Hofstra Shenandoah University and Ann Brush Miller Senior Research Scientist Virginia Transportation Research Council

 

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In 1738, the County of Frederick was set off, including all Fair fax grant west of the Blue Ridge, now embraced in ten counties.  The preamble of the law says — ” Whereas great numbers of people have settled themselves of late upon the rivers Shenandoah, Cohon gorooton and Opecquon, and the branches thereof, on the north  sicle of the Blue Ridge Mountains, whereby the strength of the  colony, and its security upon the frontiers, and his majesty’s revenues  of quit-rents are like to be much increased and augmented,” &c,  & c. On Tuesday, November 14th, 1743, eight persons took the  magistrates’ oath, and composed the court. Morgan Morgan and  David Vance administered the oath to Marquis Calmes, Thomas   Rutherford, William M’Mahon, Meredith Helmes, George Hoge  and. John White. These, in turn, administered the oath to Morgan
Morgan and David Vance. James Wood was made Clerk of the  County, and Thomas Rutherford, Sheriff. James Porteus, John  Steerman, George Johnston, and John Newport, gentlemen, taking  the oath of attornies, were admitted to the Bar. Winchester was  the county seat.

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See book   

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https://archive.org/stream/sketchesofvirgin00foot#page/16/mode/2up      

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Ranger Militia Companies separate from the Virginia Regiment

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The resurrection of the Ranger militias 19 September 1757 after they had been disbanded

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Virginia Rangers site

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Some info on Lt Bacon who was at Fort Ashby. Lot of detail in this letter of 4 October 1755 from Lt Col Adam Stephen to Colonel Washington:  http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/02-02-02-0068

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VIRGINIA LAWS

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House of Burgesses Hening Statutes

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