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RUTHERFORDS

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Any History Researcher’s Apology:

This is presented for vetting.  Please feel free to correct, rebuke, add, question.

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Also there is a great advantage and disadvantage with much previously hard to find information going online.

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So, we in no way disrespect those who put up this sign and did the hard work just to get close to this incident.

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Finally most history books look like settled science.  The story told reads like all loose ends have been found.

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Any researcher can tell you research never stops.  At some point the researcher stops researching and writes what they found so far.

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This story is included in the story on Fort Ashby.

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Before 25 July 1756 

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RUTHERFORD’S “DEFEAT”

Compiled and written by Jim Moyer  April 2015, updated 8/30/16, 10/2/2017, 4/15/2018, 5/4/18

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This Sign

 sits at intersection of Routes 28 and 46 in Fort Ashby WV.

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This link  allows you to navigate around.

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Wrong Rutherford.

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Wrong month.

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More on Fort Ashby here in  Wikipedia and here in this link on French and Indian War Foundation’s story of Fort Ashby.

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The sign should read:

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“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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See the sign in center?

Move around with Mouse to Touch.

The Google History Car drove here.

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The Story:

On a mission of transporting mail, they were attacked and the men panicked.

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Lieutenant Thomas Rutherford and some of his men withdrew to safety of Fort Ashby.

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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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Robert Rutherford is Assisting Commissary

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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THOMAS RUTHERFORD

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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Washington knew well the whole Mercer family, just as he knew the whole Rutherford family.

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Washington also knew 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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LETTERS OVER THE YEARS

 Here, 2o some years later, is a letter Thomas Rutherford on  18 June 1778 writes to Washington.

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40893 Friday 5/4/2018 1125am

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For later research –

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From George Washington to William Cocks, 4 June 1756

To William Cocks

[Winchester, 4 June 1756]

To Captain William Cockes—of the Rangers.
Sir,

I received yours, complaining of the irregular method of supplying you with provisions; and communicated the contents to Commissary Walker, who writes you on this head: His directions you must follow1 You must make out an accompt of the pay which is owing to you, and transmit it to me per the first opportunity.2 Take care to be very vigilant and active; and to communicate all the intelligence that is remarkable and certain. You must always, upon any alarm, have regard to the summons of each other; and to unite on all extraordinary occasions. Endeavour at working by stratagem; to way-lay and surprize the Enemy; rather than seek them in an open pursuit.

I was greatly surprized and angered to hear of the dastardly behaviour of seven of your men, who fled from a less number of the Enemy, without discharging their pieces. Such behaviour merits the fate that some of our men [(]for the like offence) will soon meet with.3 and, you may assure your company that they shall not escape unpunished for such Offences. Your parties that go for provision, should always be made strong. I am &c.

G:W.

LBDLC:GW.

1. None of this correspondence between Cocks, Thomas Walker, and GW has been found.

2. A weekly return from Cocks at Patterson Creek, dated 3 July 1756, lists in his ranger company one captain, one lieutenant, three sergeants, one drummer, and thirty-two rank and file (DLC:GW).

3. The Maryland Gazette (Annapolis) for 1 July 1756 reported that on 29 May “an Express arrived [in Williamsburg] from Cox’s fort, with Advice, That the Indians had killed and scalped two Men belonging to it, that were out a Hunting, wounded a third, and a fourth was missing, of the Party which consisted of Seven; that they drew up on an Eminence near the Fort and fired at it several Times.”

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