Volume 4: Nov. 1756 – Oct. 1757

The year 1757 was a turning point in the life and career of George Washington. By November 1756, when this volume begins, Washington had been colonel of the Virginia Regiment, in charge of the colony’s defenses for more than a year. The documents in volume 4 reflect his growing skill as a military commander. During the winter and early spring of 1756-57 the dream of the 24-year-old provincial officer was that the new commander in chief in America, Lord Loudoun, would take the Virginia Regiment into the army establishment and give its colonel a commission in the British army. Washington’s high hopes faded during the summer and fall of 1757 as he dealt with the now familiar problems of military command on the frontier. He conducted the business of his regiment, saw to the building, manning, and supplying the little frontier forts, struggled to manage unmanageable militiamen, sent soldiers in pursuit of marauding French and Indians, trained new recruits, and dealt with Lt. Gov. Robert Dinwiddie and other officials in Williamsburg.

The letters and orders that Washington wrote and received between November 1756 and October 1757, all printed in this volume, reveal a soldier functioning with far greater confidence and sophistication than the one to be found in these papers dated between September 1755 and November 1756 and printed in volumes 2 and 3 of the Colonial Series. Before he returned to the Virginia Regiment in March 1758, after being ill at Mount Vernon for four months, Washington had given up his ambitions for a military career and was prepared to challenge directly the military judgment of his British commander in chief in one final campaign before he settled down at Mount Vernon with his bride.

W.W. Abbot, ed., The Papers of George Washington: Colonial Series volume 4, November 1756 – October 1757. Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1984.

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