Fielding Lewis Letter

Fielding Lewis LetterThis letter was written by Fielding Lewis to his brother-in-law George Washington, on February 4th, 1776. In it, he provides details about Army regiments that are forming, plans to build some ships, and the progress of the Fredericksburg Gunnery.

The transcript below is direct, ignoring any grammar, punctuation, or spelling errors. The transcript and notes are from volume 3 of the multi-volume collection of The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series (W. M. Abbott, Editor, University of Virginia Press.)

February the 4th - 1776

Dear Sir

Your favour of the 25th Decr I have recd with one from George by Mr. Matthews,1 I approve much of your caution in bestowing Commissions, more especially on a Relation, I hope George may be serviceable to you in some other way, as you must have occasion for some person to do some little things that you can confide inn, George writes me that he shall have occasion for some necessarys, anything he may want please to furnish, and your Order for the amount shall be paid on sight. we are making preparation to receive the Enemy should any appear in the Spring in the whole we have & are raising nine Regiments which are expected to be ready by the last of March our Convention have at last appointed some of your Old Officers to the Command of the Regiments Vizt2

  Colo. L.C.  Majr
1st Regimt  Patrick Henry Christian  
2nd Wm. Woodford Scott A. Spotswood
3 Hugh Mercer                Go: Weedon Marshall
4 Mor:. Buckner Wm. Elliott  Hendricks
5 Wm. Dangerfield Geo: Matthew McClanahan
6 A. Stephens Fleming  
7 Wm. Peachy    
8 Eastern Shoar    
9 German Regimt. German Officers  


I do not recollect the other Officers nor have I placed them according to seniority3

One Company of Artillery:4  The Minute Men are continued but expect they never will be compleat as the Regiments may be recruted out of the Minute Men, we are also preparing a Naval force Two Row Gallys one to carry one 18 pounder & the other a 12 pounder Mann Page Esqr. & myself are to build immediately at this place, and I expect other Vessels are preparing in the different parts of the Country5, many attempts are making to procure Powder from abroad, and numbers are now making Salt Petre which succeeds beyond expectation, my Son John brings this as far as Philadelphia where he is procuring persons to build a Powder Mill & a Powder maker Sulphur we have abundance of;6 I expected the Parliament would have repealed the American oppressive Acts;  as persevering must I think ruin England, which I hoped they would have been sensible off, and had it been so, we should have had peace by the month of March as I mentioned to you.7  We have just heard that our Ships of Warr are arrived from Philadelphia, and that an engagement must have hapned before this, we are impatiently expecting some acct of the matter God send us success & that our most inveterate enemy Dunmore may be among the first slain8

[Back side]

Our little Manufactory improves daily I expect by the last of March we shall be able to make ten muskets compleat per Day, we have been mostly imploy’d in repairing Old Gunns since we began and had only one Gunn Lock maker who has instructed many others who begin to be very expert we make now 35 per week and increasing, most of the Locks which Ld Dunmore stole away from the musquets In the magazeen are now replaced by our workmen: I propose making a Rifle next week to carry a quarter of pound ball. If it answers my expectation a few of them will keep off Ships of Warr from our narrow Rivers, and will be usefull in the beginning of an engagemt by Land.

I have not heard anything of Barron lately, expect he will take advantage of the times.  Nor has Mr Newton wrote me a line about it, I believe he has to Mr Lund Washington;  Mr Ben: Harrison is now in this neighborhood expect to get some information by him as his Relation is in the same situation with you having sold Belfour a quantity of Flower at the same time,10 no money is paid among us only by those who have been able to supply provisions, to the Country.  I have got clear of some of my Flower that way and am sending a venture to procure Powder & Arms.

We have been much dejected here at the misfortune of loosing Genl Montgomery & our miscarriage agst Quebeck. Yet are are hopefull that our Army will yet get the place before Carlton can receive any assistance I wish you success Health and Happiness and am Dr Sr with my respects to Mrs Washington Mr & Mrs Custis Your most Affectionate Humble Servant

Fielding Lewis

1 Letter not found. Lewis's son George accompanied Martha Washington to Cambridge in December, 1775.

2 Lewis's list of field officers for the nine Virginia regiments is incomplete and inaccurate. In August, 1775, the third Virginia convention made Patrick Henry colonel of the 1st Virginia Regiment, his brother-in-law William Christian its lieutenant colonel, and Francis Eppes its major. For the 2nd Virginia Regiment, the convention elected William Woodford colonel, Charles Scott lieutenant colonel, and Alexander Spotswood major. For the seven new regiments to be raised in 1776, the fourth Virginia convention, on 11 and 12 Jan. 1776, elected the following officers: 3rd regiment, Col. Hugh Mercer, Lt. Col. George Weedon, and Maj. Thomas Marshall; 4th regiment, Col. Adam Stephen, Lt. Col. Isaac Read, and Maj. Robert Lawson; 5th regiment, Col. William Peachy, Lt. Col. William Crawford, and Maj. Josiah Parker; 6th regiment, Col. Mordecai Buckner, Lt. Col. Thomas Elliott, and Maj. James Hendricks; 7th regiment, Col. William Daingerfield, Lt. Col. Alexander McClenachan, and Maj. William Nelson; 8th (or German) regiment, Col. John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, Lt. Col. Abraham Bowman, Maj. Peter Helphinstine; and 9th regiment, Col. Thomas Fleming, Lt. Col. George Mathews, and Maj. Matthew Donavan (Scribner and Tarter, Revolutionary Virginia, 3:400-401, 457-59, 5:383, 390-93).

3 This sentence is written in the margin of the manuscript. The context suggests its position here.

4 The fourth Virginia convention established an artillery company consisting of "one captain, three lieutenants, one serjeant, four bombardiers, eight gunners, and forty eight matrosses" (9 Hening 83).

5 For the Convention's authorization of armed vessels for the defense of the colony, see Lund Washington to GW, 3 Dec. 1775, n.5. Mann Page, Jr. (d. 1803), who was one of Spotsylvania County's two delegates to the fourth Virginia convention, lived at Mannsfield near Fredericksburg.

6 John Lewis (1747-1825), Fielding Lewis's only son by his first wife Catharine Washington Lewis, lived in Fredericksburg.

7 See Fielding Lewis to GW, 14 Nov. 1775.

8 The Continental fleet had not yet sailed from the Delaware River. See GW to Joseph Reed, 4 Jan. 1776, n.6.

9 For an earlier reference to the arms manufactory near Fredericksburg, see Fielding Lewis to GW, 14 Nov. 1775.

10 For references to GW's dealings with Balfour and Barraud, see Lund Washington to GW, 17 Jan. 1776, n.8. "Barron" is Daniel Barraud, the firm's surviving partner. Benjamin Harrison, Jr. (1742-1799), was the eldest son of Benjamin Harrison (c.1726-1791) of Berkeley, who at this time was one of the Virginia delegates attending the Continental Congress. On 13 Feb. the Secret Committee of Congress gave the younger Harrison a permit to export produce from Virginia, presumably for the purpose of obtaining military supplies, and two days later, Congress appointed him paymaster of the troops in Virginia, a position that he held for several years (Scribner and Tarter, Revolutionary Virginia, 6:90, 97: JCC, 4:151).