Review of The Papers of George Washington: Colonial Series, Volumes 3 – 4
The Journal of Southern History
Reviewed by Charles Royster
In volumes three and four of the Colonial Series of The Papers of George Washington W.W. Abbot and his colleagues establish even more fully than in the first two volumes the worth and success of their undertaking. This installment contains Washington’s incoming and outgoing correspondence and military papers from April 16, 1756, to September 30, 1757. During most of this time Colonel Washington was organizing and planning the defense of the Shenandoah Valley, with headquarters at Winchester, Virginia. His correspondence touches on such diverse concerns as recruiting, supply, discipline, fortifications, militia, plans of campaign, and–underlying all–finance. His position was politically as well as militarily trying, since Indian attacks led to public criticism of the officials in charge of frontier defense. Washington seems to have been as testy about criticism when he was twenty-five years old as was later while commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and president of the United States. In 1756 Landon Carter, Thomas Gage, and Augustine Washington urged him not to gratify his critics by resigning. Meanwhile, Washington was trying, unsuccessfully, to get his regiment of colonial troops onto the British payroll and to get himself a British commission. His extraordinary poise and perseverance in later life, after undertaking continent-wide responsibilities, may seem somewhat less miraculous when one reviews the administrative complexities that he weathered when still in his twenties.
The editors’ annotation of the documents is unobtrusively helpful. It is especially useful in providing biographical information, documentary cross-references, and citations and transcriptions of relevant newspaper material–for example, the criticism of the Virginia Regiment in the Virginia Gazette (III, 411-12, n. 2) Lili Wronker, who deserves more credit than a tiny note on the copyright page, has executed three interesting maps of the Virginia frontier, 1754-1758, for Volume III. Persons concerned with the history of the Shenandoah Valley can study these maps with profit. Those who are curious about Washington’s manner of living can examine two invoices for shipments of household goods (IV, 376-81; 427-28). In addition to their principal value for the history of the Seven Years’ War in Virginia, these volumes make more accessible a wide range of information on the social and political history of mid-eighteenth-century Virginia. As an editorial project, The Papers of George Washington is well on its way toward becoming a model of fidelity to text and of service to researchers.
Louisiana State University
Royster, Charles. Review of The Papers of George Washington: Colonial Series, Volumes 3-4 in The Journal of Southern History, volume 51, number 4 (November 1985), 616.