Fredericksburg in Revolutionary Days, Part I

William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine (William and Mary Quarterly)
Volume XXVII, No. 2. October 1918. pp. 73-95. Parts II, opens a new window and III, opens a new window may also be read online. 


In a charming diary, opens a new window kept by him while under indentures to Colonel William Daingerfield, of Belvideira , opens a new window(a plantation on the river about seven miles below Fredericksburg) John Harrower a clever Scotchman, and schoolmaster to the youth of the Daingerfield and other neighboring households, was wont from time to time to copy letters which he had addressed to his "kith and kin" across the seas. In a letter to his wife in Lerwick in Scotland, sent under date of December 6, 1774, Harrower, after alluding to the "hote war" on the frontier which had terminated in the sanguinary battle of Point Pleasant:, opens a new window the conflict known to history as Dunmore's War, refers to the trouble then brewing between the Mother Country and her American colonies.

"You no doubt," writes he, "have heard of the present disturbance betwixt Great Britain and the collonyes in North America." He tells of the blockade of Boston Harbor by General Gage and of the Americans who "are determined to act with caution and prudence" but at the same time are resolved not to lose an inch of their rights nor to submit "to the parliamentary abridgment of their liberties"; and also he describes in detail the mustering of troops below Fredericksburg and also how in far away Massachusetts there could be raised within twenty-four hours warning "odds of 60,000 men well disciplined and all ready provided with arms and ammunition."

The passage from Harrower's letter to his wife brings to mind also the rather prominent part which the people of Fredericksburg took in 1774 out of sympathy for the poor Bostonians. There was a great assemblage of citizens in the town house on Wednesday, June I, 1774, when Fielding Lewis, opens a new windowCharles Dick, opens a new window, Charles Mortimer, opens a new windowJames Mercer, opens a new windowCharles Washington, opens a new windowWilliam Woodford, opens a new windowJames Duncanson, opens a new window, William Porter, George Thornton, opens a new window and Charles Yates, opens a new window were appointed a committee "to correspond with the neighboring towns and counties for the purpose of communicating to each other, in the most speedy manner their sentiments on this present interesting and alarming situation in America." The cause of this gathering and the patriotic action of the townspeople was the "hostile invasion of the rights and liberties of the town of Boston." (See Appendix I.)

How real the great past seems to one in Fredericksburg: memorial objects are on every side to quicken the imagination. Within the limits of the town there lived for many years the remarkable woman who was the mother of George Washington; and all that is mortal of her reposes there., opens a new window On one of the beautiful avenues stands the massive memorial to Hugh Mercer, opens a new window, who shed his blood for the ideal of liberty on the field of Princeton. His home was in Fredericksburg and in the town and surrounding country he practiced his profession of medicine. Weedon, opens a new window was a townsman and John Paul Jones, opens a new window was not an alien on her streets. Many a brilliant officer of the Virginia line went from the town, and vicinity: Lewis Willis, opens a new window, William Daingerfield, opens a new windowWilliam Woodford,, opens a new window Alexander Spotswood, opens a new windowFrancis Taliaferro Brooke, opens a new window and his brother, Richard, a surgeon, are names which come to mind. Fredericksburg's revolutionary days were not without statesmen: Jas. Mercer, opens a new windowWilliam Fitzhugh, opens a new window, of Chatham, opens a new windowMann Page, opens a new window, of Mannsfield, may be named among them. In a house on the Main Street of Fredericksburg at the intersection of Commerce, was at one time maintained a hospital for wounded revolutionary soldiers (see Appendix 2) and the Alum Spring, in this vicinity, was the site of another of these hospitals. Charles Mortimer, opens a new window and John Julian, opens a new window ministered to the wounded and sick there (see Appendix 3).

Just beyond Falmouth on the Stafford side of the river is the site of one of the most important of Virginia's revolutionary industries: Hunter's Iron Works, opens a new window, where in 1776, Alexander Hanewinckle was manager, and later the genius of John Strode presided. We may well afford in passing to comment on the Iron Works. James Hunter, a wealthy resident of this vicinity, began some years before the Revolutionary War developing the iron industry by erecting works and mills. From contemporaneous accounts it appears that by the outbreak of the war he had quite an establishment. It was soon realized by the proprietor what a tremendous service he could render the State by increasing the size of his plant. Hunter sought State aid and a trifle was granted him but later petition for assistance was refused and toward the close of the struggle he frankly tells the executive that his inability to further render the public any great service was due to the fact that he had not funds to keep up his works.

James Mercer, opens a new window, one of the most influential and trusted citizens of the town and State says in a letter addressed to the Governor in April, 1781, "I am sure I need not tell you that it is from Mr. Hunter's works that every camp kettle has been supplied for the continental and all other troops employed in this State and to the Southward this year past: that all anchors for this State and Maryland and some for continent have been procured from the same works; that without these works we have no other resource for these articles and that without the assistance of bar iron made there even the planters hereabouts and to the Southward of this place would not be able to make bread to eat." (See Appendix 4.)

It would seem that the men of Fredericksburg were prompt in action at the first semblance of danger. One of Fredericksburg's honored institutions was its "independent company of foot composed of the gentlemen inhabitants of the town." There is a record of the existence of this company as early as 1753.* On August 25, 1775, Hugh Mercer, George Weedon, Alexander Spotswood and John Willis, representing the gentlemen of the independent company addressed to Colonel George Washington a brief but very fiery letter, expressing indignation at Dunmore's "Powder plot" and expressing the thought that "this first public insult is not to be tamely submitted to." These men sought Washington's approval to "join the bodies of armed men" and march to Williamsburg. The following Saturday, which was the 29th, was named as the date for departure. Messengers were dispatched to inform neighboring militiamen of their intention. "And we shall wait prepared" concluded the letter "for your instructions and their assistance." (See Appendix 5.)  

*On Feb. 7, 1753, William Lynn took the oath as captain of the Independent Company of Foot composed of composed of the gentlemen inhabitants of the town." There is a record of the existence of this company as early as 1753.* On August 25, 1775, Hugh Mercer, George Weedon, Alexander Spotswood and John Willis, representing the gentlemen of the independent company addressed to Colonel George Washington a brief but very fiery letter, expressing indignation at Dunmore's "Powder plot" and expressing the thought that "this first public insult is not to be tamely submitted to." These men sought Washington's approval to "join the bodies of armed men" and march to Williamsburg. The following Saturday, which was the 29th, was named as the date for departure. Messengers were dispatched to inform neighboring militiamen of their intention. "And we shall wait prepared" concluded the letter "for your instructions and their assistance." (See Appendix 5.)


(Copied from "American Archives," fourth series, Vol. I, columns 373-4.)

At a Meeting of the Inhabitants of Fredericksburg, in the County of Spottsylvania, and Colony of Virginia, at the Town House, on Wednesday, the first day of June, 1774: Resolved, That it is the unanimous opinion of this meeting to concur in every proper measure that may be thought expedient by our sister Colonies, on this important occasion, respecting the hostile invasions of the rights and liberties of the town of Boston.

Resolved, That Messrs. Fielding Lewis, Charles Dick, Charles Mortimer, James Mercer, Charles Washington, William Woodford, James Duncanson, William Porter, George Thornton, and Charles Yates, be appointed a Committee for this town to correspond with the neighboring towns and counties for the purpose of communicating to each other, in the most speedy manner, their sentiments on this present interesting and alarming situation of America.

Resolved, That Benjamin Johnston be appointed Clerk to this Committee.

Resolved, That the proceedings of this Committee, as well as those of other Provinces and Colonies, laid before them this day, be fairly transcribed by the Clerk in a book to be kept for that purpose.

Per order of the Committee,
Benjamin Johnston, Town Clerk.


[Copied from a paper in the Virginia State Library whose reference
number is "Legislative Petitions. 1799. December I9. Spotsylvania."]

To the Honourable the Speaker and Gentleman of the House of Delegates of Virginia.

The Petition of Henry Vowles humbly sheweth, That your Petitioner is the proprietor of a
large Brick House in the Town of Fredericksburg which, in the month of Nov. 1775, when your Petitioner was serving in the army, was by Order of the magistracy, converted into an Hospital & Barracks for the State Troops, who in the first instance did considerable damage to it, & by their possession occasion'd two tenants, who were in the occupation of part of the said house, to remove-That the said house was used for the purposes aforesaid, by both State & Continental troops, during the whole course of the War - That when your Petitioner return'd from the army at the end of the War, the house was render'd entirely useless, there being little else but the Walls & Roof remaining, the Doors, Windows, Sashes, & Glass, Floors, & other inside work, being wholly destroy'd, & many of the Joists & even some of the Sleepers, cut out by the troops so placed therein-

That so soon as the year 1783 & previous to his entering upon the Repairs of the said house, he had the damages thus sustain'd estimated by three Workmen, on Oath, of good character, in the said Town of Fredg, which valuation, together with sundry other vouchers to prove the occupancy of & damages to the said house, accompany this memorial of your petitioner-

That soon after the valuation aforesaid being inform'd that a Mr Zepheniah Turner was appointed by Congress to adjust claims of that kind, he transmitted to the said Mr Turner at Richmond a statement of his claim, who after having retain'd the same more than twelve months, return'd it to your Petitioner with this information, that he was not instructed to settle such claims, for that Congress had resolv'd that the individual States were to settle for all claims of that nature, as by the said Mr Turner's Letter will appear after which your Petitioner applied to the Auditor of public accounts at Richmond, who said he cou'd do nothing in the business.

Your Petitioner begs leave further to state, that from his constitution being much impair'd during the War, he was for many years after these applications, in a very low state of health, so much so, as to be oblig'd to go each summer to the Sweet Springs, & that during this lengthy indisposition he attended to little else but the preservation of life, as may be ascertain'd from members of your own body- That since the recovering a tolerable state of health, he has caus'd his Petition to the House of Delegates for compensation, to be presented several times, in each of which it has been, by their Committee, reported reasonable, but not finally decided on, the first at the Session of 179I, the last at the Session of 1798- That in the last instance your Petitioner was particularly desirous to have a conclusion, but from the House being occupied about important business 'till an advanc'd period of the Session, he has been inform'd that it was not done. Your Petitioner therefore, having no prospect of ever getting any part from the General Government, & no hope, for apart, but in the Justice & Bounty of his own State, humbly Prays that your honorable body will now take his case into tender consideration, & grant him compensation for such part, whatever that may be, as to you shall seem just & reasonable. And your Petitioner as in duty bound will ever pray &c.

Henry Vowles.

[Endorsed:] Henry Vowles Peto. Decem. 19, 1799. Rejected.

[From a paper in the Virginia State Library, whose reference number is Legislative Petitions, 1798. Dec. IO. Spots. No. 3902.]

The Committee of Claims have according to order had under their Consideration the Petition of Henry Vowles to them referred, and have agreed upon a report and come to two Resolutions thereupon as follows:

It appears to your Committee, that, sometime in the year 1775, a large brick house situate on the main street in the town of Fredericksburg, then belonging to Mary Frazier, and in the occupation of two persons tenents of the said Mary, was taken possession of by some State troops under the Command of Captain Gibson, as a barracks and hospital, and the tenents thereby compelled to remove from the same; that during the continuance of the said troops therein, through want of fuel, and from a disorderly disposition, they cut to pieces, burnt and otherwise destroyed all its floors, sleepers, joists, doors, window sashes, and glass: that, from the said time through the whole course of the War, the said house was almost continually used by successive bodies of troops, who marched through the said town, for the purposes above mentioned:

It also appears to your Committee that when these transactions took place, the said Mary Frazier was an infant, and that the Petitioner was an officer in the American Army, and served therein until the end of the War: that after his return from the Army he intermarried with the said Mary, and thereby, in her right, became entitled to the said house: that shortly thereafter the Petitioner proceeded to repair the same, for the accommodation of tenents, but to such extent was the destruction done to the said house, that the Petitioner could not by his utmost exertions render it habitable until some time in November 1783; and that after such repairs were made, so valuable was the house, on account of its structure and situation, that the Petitioner was for many years afterwards enabled to obtain therefor a rent exceeding ?200. per annum for the occupation thereof. It further appears to your Committee, that the Petitioner, after his
intermarriage with the said Mary, in contemplation of obtaining a Compensation from the State, in April 1783 caused the said house to be viewed by skillful workmen in the said town of Fredericksburg, that the real and actual damage done to the same by the said troops during their occupation as aforesaid might be by them ascertained; and they have accordingly certified upon oath that in their opinion the said damage amounted to f500. specie.

Resolved, that it is the Opinion of this Committee that the Petition of the said Henry Vowles praying that he may receive Compensation for the damages done to the said house by the American Soldiery, amounting to the sum of ?5oo, specie, is reasonable.

Resolved, that it is the Opinion of this Committee that the Petitioner ought to be allowed an annual rent of dollars for the said house, to commence on the 20th of November 1775 and end the 20th day of November 1783, during which period of time the Petitioners Wife in her own right while single, and the Petitioner himself in her right after the intermarriage were, by means of the said occupation thereof by the American Soldiery, and the damage done thereto by them, respectively deprived of the benefit thereof.*

*The Land Tax lists of Fredericksburg 1790 shows that Henry Vowles owned Lots 23 and 24 in the town; these lots are adjoining ones and extend from Caroline (Main) street to Sophia (Water) street on William (Commerce) street. The lots, or parts thereof, were sold in 1760, to James Hunter and George Fraser (or Frazier). George Fraser, in his will probated April I, 1765, mentions these two lots. (Spotsylvania County Records.) Vowles married Mary Frazier (see above) and thus came into possession of the lots and houses.


[From Papers Relating Chiefly to the Maryland Line During the Revolution. Edited by Thomas Balch, Philadelphia: Printed for the Seventy-Six Society, T. K. & P. G. Collins, Printers. 1857.]

Dr. Mortimer to General Weedon
Fredericksburg, Va., June 18th, 178I.

Dear Sir:

I informed you last month as commanding officer here and a gentleman who has often expressed great uneasiness of mind at the neglect of of the medical department by those who should have attended to it that it was not in my power to give the sick assistance longer, for the following reasons.

The want of medicines - my own indisposition often & sudden and never having any regular appointment from the State, only a requisition from Mr. Miskman to attend them until some regular arrangement was made and medicines provided. I have acted since last August merely through humanity for soldiers and prisoners, and have sent off near one hundred from this place without a death - found them all my own medicines, often things from my house and rendered them every service in my power, and make no doubt but you will assist me when opportunity offers to get some compensation for medicines, &c. I have made frequent applications North and South for medicines to no purpose-not even an answer to my letters. If a house could be got near here and a gentleman acquainted with the practice part of surgery to attend, it would be much; for I never did practice in surgery, or operate it being very repugnant to my disposition.

There are none ill now but one diseased negro fellow. Any assistance I can give in medical advice at any time will do it with pleasure, gratis. I never received any emolument-hope you will do me the justice to say I faithfully discharged my duty without.

I am, with esteem, your obedient Serv't
Chas. Mortimer


Gen'l Weedon.
General Weedon to Dr. Julian.
Fredericksburg, 20 June, 1781.

Dr. Mortimer having acquainted me that his indisposition prevents so strict an attention to the Public Hospital as a post of that consequence requires I am induced from that gentleman's friendly recommendation of your abilities to appoint you Director of that department, and doubt not you will attentively superintend the sick and wounded until the officer of the department furnishes you proper power and medicines, or my further orders. You will please in the first place to procure a convenient house in the vicinity of the town to remove the sick and to prevent any pestilential disorders among the inhabitants, and Sir, the patients from drunken and riotous company.

Your mo. obed. Serv't.

During your continuance in this department you are entitled to the pay and rations of a Director of the Hospital.


Appointment of Dr. Julian to the Hospital.
[Copied from a paper in the Virginia State Library whose reference is
"John Julian, B. W."]

Spotsylvania County Virginia to Wit

Personally appeared before me a justice of the peace for the county aforesaid, Edward Herndon aged seventy years, who being first duly sworn saith, That in the latter part of the year 1779 he was appointed to act as Commissary of issues at Fredericksburg, where Dr. John Julien acted as Hospital Surgeon, and gave orders for rations for the soldiers in the Hospital. That after the surrender of Cornwallis, a part of the prisoners were marched to Fredericksburg: part of them were sick, and were sent to the Alum Springs, about two miles from the town, and altho' they had a surgeon with them Dr. Julien attended them, and gave orders for their rations, to the best of this affiant's recollection. Dr. Charles Mortimer acted as a surgeon for a short time, but whether as an assistant to Dr. Julien or not he cannot say. He believes that Dr. Julien attended upon the sick in the Hospital as long as this affiant remained in the issuing department which was to the end of the war, or as long as rations were called for, and untill all the stores both of the Commissary and Quarter Master in Fredsburg were ordered to be sold.

Edward Herndon.

Spotsylvania County, State of Virginia to Wit.

I, Edward Hull, a justice of the peace for the County and State first aforementioned do hereby certify that Edward Herndon subscribed and swore to the above Affidavit as being a true and correct one to the best of his recollection. In witness whereof I hereunto affix my hand and seal
this 26th day of June 1831.

Edward Hull [SEAL]


[Executive Papers, April, 1781, Virginia State Library.]

Frederic'sb'g April I4th 1781

Dear Sir,

It would be an effront to your Excellency's understanding was I to make an apology to the first Magistrate of this State for communicating any Facts or even Hints that might contribute to your better Information in your public character. I shall therefore without appollogy proceed to inform your Excellency, that for my own knowledge of the country & the uniform opinion of all I have conversed with on the subject there is not in this State a place more deserving of public attention than this Town and its appendage Mr. Hunter's Iron Works-I am sure I need not tell you that it is from Mr. Hunter's Works that every Camp Kettle has been supplyed for the continental and all other Troops employed in this State & to the Southward this year past-that all the anchors for this State & Maryland & some for continent have been procured from the same works; that without these works we have no other resource for these articles, and that without the assistance of the Bar Iron made there, even the planters hereabouts & to the Southward of this place wou'd not be able to make Bread to eat-

As to the Town itself I need not inform you that the public manufactory of Arms is here-that without it, all our Arms, however so little injured wou'd be useless to us; besides the number of new muskets & bayonets made there, renders that an object worthy our preserving & the Enemy's destruction-- To this however, I may add that there is not one spot in the State so generally useful in our military operations -full one-third of all new lines rendezvous here; all the Troops from North to South & South to North must pass through this Town, where wagons are repaired, horses shoed and many other &cas which they cou'd not proceed on without, the Troops get provisions here to the next Stage & no place is so convenient to a very extensive & productive Country for the reception of Grain & other Articles of Provision. If this state of facts is admitted, can it be doubted but that the Enemy will consider it as one of their first objects to deprive us of so many advantages to their prejudice-

The Foundary was thought an object worthy their attention & this from information only-But now far more certain that this place will be thought so when Genl. Phillips has himself been an eyewitness that there are such advantages here & has so often seen the conveniences drawn from this place by all our Troops both regulars & militia. I will not say more, but to tell you that yesterday's experience produced proofs of our very alarming situation. Six armed Vessells went up Potomack River on Wednesday night; on Thursday they were said to be nine & more, with about five hundred Troops. Colo Towles, the commanding Officer, not doubting this to be an object set himself about its defence with as much vigour as possible, but behold not more than eighty muskets cou'd be procured (& these repaired arms & without bayonets)-abt. 60 more guns of all sorts compose the whole; and where are the rest? with our militia before Portsmouth & at Williamsburg! Even men are wanting, there being now two Drafts of militia from Stafford & Prince William & Fairfax, now the scene of war & this county as vulnerable of* . . .at Williamsburg & other places not near the consequence to this State as this place is -Colo. Towles, writing by the same opportunity will make it unnecessary for me to say anything abt. the want of flints &cca.

I write at his desire, and am at all times, and with great Esteem & respect, your Excellency's
most obed't & very humble serv't

Js. Mercer.

[Endorsed] His Excellency

Thomas Jefferson, Esqr.
Governor of Virginia
c/o Express.

[Executive Communications Oct. 20, 1777 to Jan. 24, 1778, Virginia State Library.]

Rapph. Forge 19 Febry 1777.
In a paragraph of the Governors Letter you were pleased to communicate, I observe His Excellencies disposition to encourage these manufactures in a more extensive plan of operation. Happy should I be on the Occasion to receive and carry your Commands for that Laudable purpose into execution. Provided it can be done on Terms whereby you will not be looser. Hands I believe under proper regulations might be obtained, especially as most of those at present employed here are Master workmen and could each take in a prentice or unexperienced hand under him if we had shoproom. Tools and the different Machinery enlarged. An New shop for the Gunsmith 300 feet in length will be absolutely necessary, where a Clerk or two to assist the Head Workman could receive & deliver work and minute down each mans performance & loss of Time.

But the expence of Building and procuring (in these times) the Materials for the different apparatus would in the whole amount to a Sum too large I apprehend for you or any private person in America to advance without Government would take your guns and all the different Arms, Anchors &c. of your Manufacture on certain Terms for some fixed Time not less than Ten or more years, and make such provision by Law for price and payment as will be a just equivalent for your expence and trouble at least. For I am well convinced that you are no gainer by it even now, when your stock of Pig Iron, Steel, Brass, Copper, Spitter(?) and most all the Materials hath been laid in in the very best terms, long since purchased when plenty & cheap paid for in specie and Bills. Its true muskets can be made without Brass mounting. But without Pig Iron you cannot make even the Scalps for your Factory or any other State not to mention the Vast consumption in Ship building. And anchors for the Navy, and variety of Smith work you are already (and a great expence) prepared to do and so deeply engaged in.

And tis plain from Mr. Lawson's Letters you can have but small dependance in Colo. Tayloes Furnaces for any supply. If you are to furnish your works from Maryland with Pig metal it must come excessive high. Should the Iron Masters there agree to sell it at all, which I must doubt as each Furnace which makes good Pig for Bars are connected with Forges belonging to same owners, who will perhaps have it in their power soon to oblige their extensive State to purchase from them Manufactured Iron only.

The encouragement which that province has at all times given to works of the kind enables the proprietors to carry them on with such facility, dispatch and advantage as you nor no Iron Master here can accomplish untill countenanced and enabled by the Legislative power, but were you sure of purchasing Pig Iron from Maryland on any terms you are not always certain of conveyance by Water and that conveyance extravagant as freight is raised is not always safe, at best difficult and never certain. I have Ventured to say more on this Head as it is the very Source and radical Matter from which every branch of business here must depend for existence, and except you can first come on some contract or certainty of supply or encouragement to explore the neighbouring Lands for Ore, and if on examination a sufficient stock thereof be found, liberty to work and improve the same for the State or yourself.

On paying the owner by appraisement of disinterested men or some just and eligible method whereby you can secure a certain and constant supply of metal without which it be would be too hazardous and indeed quite imprudent to extend your sphere of operation and like raising a magnificent superstructure without a solid foundation, but should these matters be settled to your safety and satisfaction you cannot then promise much to yourself or country while every recruiting officer has it in his power to enevigle and enlist the hands from the works and at any time press the waggons out of your Service, which has happened frequently and in the Very throng of my business.

Once last Summer they carried off Six Waggons just as I was endeavoring to remedy that loss by replacing those with Three more all I could get they in like manner pressed them and divers other times have they taken waggons some on Journeys for grain and other Supplies for the Works which has obliged me (together with your positive orders to supply the publick gunnery from the coale here) to continue coaling all this winter and now in the severest frost & snow (to your great loss) weather neither fit for Man nor Beast to go out in, or otherwise suffer all
your works to stand idle, on the whole, as laying in a Stock of Coale and every other part of the business here performed by Waggons stands on so precarious a footing, nothing now, nor indeed ever will without absolute security in this service be carried on with advantage to yourself or the State.

Therefore if His Excellency, in conjunction with the other branches of the Legislature would consider of some expedient for working the Iron mines within the state Protecting the Artificers, Labourers, Teams and other property of the Adventurers employed therein and the Works, Factorys, &c. depending thereon in which case, not only any branch already carried on here, but a variety of others may be extended to any length they desire and to advantage of the proprietors and also to the state, and every individual thereof. The heads of what occurs to me now is in the following notes, viz.

I. That no recruiting officer be allowed to enlist any of your workmen that has not obtained your (or yr managers) discharge, or been absent from the place Three months.
2nd. That no officer whatever without your consent be allowed to take a Team employed at your works whether your own property or hired.
3d. That if at the instance of the Legislative powers you extend the different machinery for gunns and other Arms they agree to take the produce at certain reasonable rates for some fixed time, or if it be found expedient to discontinue the Manufactory for any reason, cause or event,
which may arrise before the expiration of yr Term, in that case you to have an adequate allowce made for the loss and disapointment which you must otherwise suffer.

1st your works for that branch rendered useless
2d your stock Matterials on hand 3 the great variety of useless tools 4 workmen to whom you will be under engagements 5 the number of apprentices, with whom cost has been to teach them the forepart of thr Time. 4th. The liberty to raise ore on any place convenient and carry it off, paying for same as before mentioned and
5th To erect Furnaces for Smelting said ore on the Next and most convenient place for wood and water.
6th Some small encouragement or priviledge to Artificers, particularly for ingenuity and constant faithful application to the branch they profess particularly gunlock's.
7th That the most effectual Measures be taken for prosecuting and enlarging the different branches you have already engaged in viz Ist Bar Iron for Army & Navy, 2d Arms 3d Slitting and plating mills. 4th Wire mill. 5th Steel Furnace.

I am Sir your very Faithful Serv't.

John Strode

To Mr James Hunter
Wmsburg May 3I, 1777

As there was no Manufactory of Iron in this State which was carried on to such an extent, and to Purposes of such vast Importance as Mr. Hunter's near Fredericksburg I took the liberty of promising him the assistance of the Publick in the Prosecution of his Works on a more enlarged Plan. In consequence of this Mr. Hunter laid my letter before Mr. John Strode his Manager, that he might enable him to inform me how far his works were capable of answering my expectations. This produced a Letter from Mr. Strode which Mr. Hunter has laid before the
Council Board with a Memorial. The Subject of these Papers was of so much consequence to this State, and Mr. Hunter himself so deserving of the attention of the Publick that I thought it my duty to lay them before the General Assembly, who alone can enable him to carry on these extensive & valuable Works.  What must strongly recommend Mr Hunter is, that he asks for no pecuniary assistance, but merely for Materials to work. He requires only what the good of the State most evidently points out, which is to, open Mines within the same, and not to depend on our Neighbours for so necessary an article as Iron. With great Regard I have the Honor to be,
Yr mo. ob't. & very h'ble Ser't
P Henry

To the Hon'ble George Wythe Esqr
Speaker of the House of Delegates
The Governor's Letter May 31, 1777

Inclosing Hunter's Memorial with other papers relative thereto.

To His Excellency the Governor and the Honorable the Council of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The Memorial of James Hunter humbly sheweth that your Memorialist actuated by the warmest zeal for the good of his Country, has with very great Labour & expence erected a Variety of Works, such as Forges, Steel Furnaces &c & begun others such as slitting, plating & wire Mills, & established Factories for fabricating small Arms, entrenching Tools, Anchors & other things necessary in the Army & Navy, Works evidently essential not only to the welfare, but to the very existence of this State. That he has been encouraged to overlook in the Prosecution of these works Difficulties which seemed to private Abilities insurmountable by assurances from your Excellency of Publick Countenance & Support.

That he has been heretofore supplied with Pig Iron, the Basis of all his Manufactures, from Maryland; but that this mode of supply, at best are improper as well as an unbecoming dependence for a great State, is now become exceedingly expensive & precarious.

That Nature has made ample Provision amongst ourselves for these our necessities; but that no advantage can be derived from this circumstance either to the Publick or your Memorialist, these necessary Materials being the property of Persons who either have not the Power or the Inclination to work them. That he has more than once suffered by the enlisting of his workmen & the pressing of his waggons, & that he dreads the greatest Detriment to the Publick as well as to himself if he be not secured from such injurious Proceedings in future.

And lastly that for fuller saitifaction with respect to several Matters mentioned in this Memorial, your Memorialist begs leave to refer you to a Letter received by him on this subject from the Manager of his works.

James Hunter may 31, 1777.
Ref'd to Mr. Nicholas Harvie, Zane, Adams, Jones, A. Hite, Starke, Henry, Jett, Carter & Claphan.* James Withers, Francis Stern, Thomas Arrasmith, Enoch Benson, Joel Radish, Thos. Edrington, William Edrington, Zacharial Benson, Thomas Stephens, Joseph Radish, Cossom Horton.

We of the Jury have attended the survey being first sworn and deliberately considered the value of two Hundred Acres of Land at the Accakeek Iron Works are of opinion the value thereof to be five hundred pounds current Money of Virginia.

James Withers, foreman.
Nov'r Ist, 1777.
Elijah Threlkeld, Sheriff.

Plat of Land
Novemb'r 1777. Surveyed for Mr. James Hunter
(agreeable to an Act of Assembly) in presence of the Commissioners & a jury two hundred acres of land at accakeed old Iron Works Beginning at the Chestnut oaks on a millside at A near the Head of the pond & run from thence So. 25d east 350 po. to B a stake near the head of a small Branch, thence So. 63 east 80 poles to C near an appletree & in the Companys lower line from thence Noth East go poles to D two small white Oaks & a Hickory in the s'd Line thence N. W. 116 poles to E, a white Oak thence No. east 70 poles to F, a large gum near a spring, thence N. W. 154 poles to G the old Dam, thence up the side of the pond N. 64 W. 48 poles to H. from
thence across the Head of the pond to the Beginning.

* Act from Hening, XX, p. 303 for James Hunter's I Travers Daniel S. S. C.

North East Maryland io July

Mr. James Hunter
Sir, I am favor'd with yours of the fifth Instant pr Mr. Ash: in reply thereto I have no thoughts of enlarging our Concern in Iron Works at this time especially at so remote a distance & where the Prospect is not very inviting. You are to use your own discretion in this matter and I doubt [not] but our Gentlemen will receive sufficient [compensation] for any of their Lands that may be appropriate for ye building of Iron Works & making of Iron. You will please observe that the taking a part[icular] Spot from them may render the remainder of their Lands of little value. I am with wishing you all des[ira]ble success in your undertakings

very respectfully

Dear Sir
Yo. mo. Ob't Serv't
Thos. Russell
A copy attested by us
William Fitzhugh
Thos. Lud. Lee
Rob Brent
Saml Selden
Chs Carter

Stafford to wit Mr. John Ash declared before me on the holy Gospel God that the above is a copy of a letter which he recd. from Thos Russell in answer to a letter which he the said Ash delivered to the said Russell from Mr. James Hunter, & that he the deponent also delivered to the said Russel a copy of an Act of the General Assembly entitled an Act for the Encouragement of Iron Works.

Given under my hand this tenth day of Novr. 1777
Thos. Lud. Lee

The under written Commissioners appointed by a certain Act of the General Assembly entitled an Act for Encouragement of Iron Works being informed by James Hunter Esqr. that he was ready to locate two hundred acres of a certain tract of Land in the County of Stafford, called and known by the name Accokeek furnace tract, & the said Hunter having produced to the said commissioners a Letter subscribed Thomas Russell for self & Company containing a disclaimer of any intention to erect a furnace on the tract herein before mentioned as by a copy of [a letter] by us attested & herewith transmitted will more fully appear, the said commissioners attended by the County Surveyor, Sheriff, & Jury in Comformity to ye directions of the forementioned Act must upon ye said Land & Directed the bounds of ye said two hundred acres to be laid off according to the Platt & Survey hereto annexed, together with the evaluation of the Jury.

Subscribed by us this third day of November 1777.
William Fitzhugh, Thos. Lud. Lee, Rob Brent, Saml Selden, Chs. Carter.

Report of Commissioners, Appointed to Locate Land for Iron Works, Novr I5th, 1777

[Executive Communications, May 3 to June 24, 1779, and Oct 4 to Dec
24, 1779, Virginia State Library.]

The Committee to whom the Governors Letter with the Memorial of James Hunter & other papers where refer'd have according to order had the same under their consideration and come to the following Resolutions thereupon vizt.

Resolv'd as the Opinion of this Committee that the subject matter contain'd in the said memorial is reasonable & merits every encouragement of the Legislature. agd to.

Resolv'd as the Opinion of this Committee that the Memorialist ought to be allow'd to locate two Hundred acres of Land of the Accakeek Tract, lying in the County of Stafford including the old Furnace Seat & dam, & if a sufficient Body of Iron ore is not discovered therein that he be at liberty to explore and open any other unimproved Lands belonging to the said Furnace tract, and upon discovering a sufficient Body of ore, to locate ten acres thereof (in case the proprietors or their agents shall not within a reasonable time open them) paying to the proprietors such valuation as well of the two Hundred acres as of the Ten acres, as shall be made by a Jury of twelve good & Lawfull Freeholders upon Oath; and that two Commissioners be appointed in behalf of the proprietors, to attend the Survey & valuation of the said Land. agreed to.

Resolv'd as the Opinion of this Committee, that if a Body of Iron Ore is not discovered on the Accakeek Tract, the Memorialist ought to be allowed to explore & open for the discovery of Iron ore, any other unimproved Lands within the circuit of Thirty Miles, in conjunction, & with the concurrence of two commissioners to be appointed for that purpose, paying to the proprietors any damage they may sustain thereby and making report of these discoveries to the next Session of Assembly, agreed to. The Accakeek Iron Mines in Stafford County, belonging to a company in England whose property they still remain, were worked but discontinued upwards twenty years ago because they had larger & richer Banks of ore, with greater conveniencys of Wood & Water in Maryland, where all their Hands, stocks & utensils were removed.

The Lands are said to have been offered for sale by the company's agent and probably from their being very broken without Timber and the soil excessive poor, have not been sold. These being situated on the same direction & vein of Ore with Mr. Spotswoods & Mr. Chissels is likely to be of same quality and though improper for Bars (?) is yet exceedingly fit for various other manufactures set on foot here and if opened may be instantly renedered serviceable from their vacinity to Hunters works in want of Pig Mettal and at present not procurable from the neighbouring States untill these and other Lands can be explored for Ore and convenient Furnace Seats fixed on His slitting, plating & wire Mills being on a scale large enough to supply this State provided he can secure the Pig Mettal without which it is impossible for him to furnish the Country with Bar Iron for Planting and many Utensils, the Army & Navy with Arms, Entrenching Tools, Anchors & all sorts of shop work which they have hitherto depended on him for besides his steel Furnace now in operation with the Publick & Private Factorys for Arms.

Two or three hundred acres of Land including the Old Accakeek Furnace seat & Dam, and extending to any Bank of Iron Ore upon the Lands located, where sufficient is discovered to work the Furnace, with ten or twelve acres of Land, at the most convenient water on Aquia or Poto Creeks on Poto Run, for a Landing & Pasture for transporting Oyster shells &c., paying the Proprietors the value by appraisement of disinterested men, as also the liberty to send out miners to search for and open on any uncleared & uncultivated Lands Banks of Iron Ore within
such distance of his works as well bear the carriage of Pig Mettal, say about thirty miles, on paying the Proprietors for any injury breaking the soil, in case his views at Accakeek are disappointed or [do] not sufficiently answer the purpose.

[Executive Papers, Jan. 1781, Virginia State Library]
Fredericksburg, 25th January 1781.


I received in course your excellencys favour of the Ioth currn. with an intimation of the supposed design of the enemy to come this way, and your advice to remove whatever would be most exposed to their attempts. I beg permission to return your excell'y my best thanks for this your kind attention to my concerns, and for the early notice your letter conveyed.

In consequence whereof I immediately caused to be transported to a place of safety such of the articles at my works as were made for the public use being the camp kettles, axes, &c, ordered by Gen. Greene some of the same & other things designed for the state; and a part of my own effects. And though for this purpose I had no occasion to make use of your excellency's permission to impress waggons, the assistance afforded me by those belonging to the public together with the service of my own teams having proved sufficient, I consider myself nevertheless as obliged by it as I am by the directions given to Gen Weedon to take measures for the protection of my works. which were fully complied with But it gives me concern to acquaint your excell'y that it is not in my power to repair any of the arms sent me by Col Winter whose letter accompanying them came to hand yesterday; my workmen in that branch having all left me, and the manufactory of small arms being of consequence discontinued; but the orders before given by the State for other matters are going on with all possible expedition.

I have sent by the bearer Mr. Dick, the warrant granted me on the treasury sometime ago, for 150,000; of which I have not yet received payment, but beg I may now as the reasons for obtaining it and which I had the honour to lay before your excell'y still subsist with undiminished force; and as I have also certificates from Gen. Gates of the delivery of sundries the manufactures of my works, furnished during the course of the last summer, for the use of the army under his command to the amount of at least ?I30,ooo, a considerable portion of which is due for workmen's wages, provisions, &c.

I have on hand a parcel of coarse woollens, sufficient for the clothing of 150 or 200 men, which I would deliver if the state has occasion for them; and receive in payment tobacco, inspected at the warehouses of Fredericksburg and Falmouth at the price of ?50 per hundred weight. if this should answer you will be pleased to appoint somebody to examine into the quality and to fix with me the prices of these goods.

I have the honour to be
with the most perfect respect
Your excellencys very obedient
and very humble servant,
James Hunter

[Endorsed] His Excellency
Thomas Jefferson, Esqr
Governor of Virginia
Favd. by Mr Dick

[Executive Papers, Feb. 1781, Virginia State Library]

Stafford, 25th February, 1781

In reply to your excellencys inquiry how far the orders that have been given for camp kettles to be made at my works, are complied with and in what manner those made have been disposed of I beg leave to inform you, that the order given last summer for Iooo to be furnished for the particular use of the state is now fully compleated, and the greater part of them, including in the number the 200 received by Col. Zane by virtue of your excellencys orders to that effect have, at different times, been delivered; and for more full satisfaction on this head, I shall direct my manager to make out an exact specification of the number furnished at each time, to whom delivered, and an account of what remains on hand, which paper shall be transmitted to your excellency.

We are now engaged in fabricating a parcel together with some other things by the direction of Gen. Greene, and for the use of his army; nevertheless the order your excellency has last given for Iooo additional arms to be immediately got ready for the separate service of the state, shall be particularly regarded; all possible dispatch used for its completion, and your excellency made acquainted with our progress in the execution of it; be assured no exertions within the compass of my power shall be wanting, where the public good is concerned.

And on this occasion I cannot forbear to testify to your excellency the great regret I felt that I was unable to render fit for service the muskets sent to this place some weeks ago; at a time too when they were so much wanted;- but the making and repairing of small arms, once prosecuted to so considerable an extent at my works, has been for sometime past, discontinued for want of workmen, all those employed in this service having left me, principally because by an act of the legislation, they were rendered subject to militia duty, draughts, &c. from which they had always enjoyed exemption - altho' if that privilege could again be restored, I have no doubt that the works in this branch might be resumed, to the great benefit of the state;- and although, with respect to myself, I never desired any emolument from their continuance, but the contrary, yet, as I am fully persuaded of the utility they would be of to the public, at this time especially; in case the exemption I before mentioned would be granted to the artificers, and to the writers employed there, which last, it must be obvious, are also indispensibly necessary at such works, and if I could receive such countenence from your excellency as should be thought reasonable, I would attempt to set them on foot once more.

Or, should it be judged more conducive to the public advantage to have them carried in & by for the state rather then for the account and under the eye of an individual, I will most readily assent to it, and require nothing for the use of the building which before served my people for this purpose, or for the use of such tools as I have that can be serviceable. Nor do I stand singly in this opinion of their usefulness; - when I last saw Gen. Greene, he expressed his concern that a work which might be rendered of such general service, should be suffered to sink into disuse; and promised, should it ever be revived, to send to it such artificers as it should be in his power to procure.

I have the honour to be,
with perfect respect, Sir,
your excellencys obedient and humble servant,
James Hunter

His Ex'y Thos. Jefferson, Esqr.
[Endorsed] His Excellency

Thomas Jefferson, Esquire at Richmond
[Executive Papers, Oct. 1781, Virginia State Library]


Upon the Receipt of your former Favour respecting the traveling Forges I immediately applied to Mr. Hunter, who engaged to have them finished with the utmost expedition. I for some time made frequent Enquiries into their Progress, & found that the Workmen were employed about them, but a late fit of sickness has prevented me from knowing whether they were finished or not. I will to Day make a farther Enquiry, & when they are finished, will cause them to be sent over to you.
I have the honour to be with perfect Esteem, sir,

Your mo. obed't h'ble serv't
Mann Page
[Spotsylvania Co.]

Oct'r I6, 1781
From Mann Page respecting the travelling forges.
[Executive Papers April 1782, Virginia State Library]

Fredericksburg, 23d April, 1782.


I duly received your Favour of I2th inst. & would very readily render the Public any assistance in my power in repairing the Arms, but the little attention they gave to the support of my works to do them effectual service, obliged me to discharge all the Workmen last Dec first after I had made some large addition & necessary Repairs at very considerable Expence.

I am very Respectfully Sir
Yr most obed't Serv't

James Hunter

William Davies, Esqr
[Commissioner of War]


[Copied from Jared Sparks's "The Writings of George Washington," Vol. 2, p. 507]

To Colonel George Washington.
"Fredericksburg, 25 April 1775.

"By intelligence from Williamsburg it appears, that Captain Collins of his Majesty's navy, at the head of fifteen marines, carried off the powder from the magazine in that city on the night of Thursday last, and conveyed it on board his vessel by order of the Governor. The gentlemen of the Independent Company of this town think this first public insult is not to be tamely submitted to, and determine, with your approbation, to join any other bodies of armed men, who are willing to appear in support of the honor of Virginia, as well as to secure the military stores yet remaining in the magazine. It is proposed to march from hence on Saturday next for Williamsburg, properly accoutred as light-horse men.

"Expresses are sent off to inform the commanding officers of companies in the adjacent counties of this our resolution, and we shall wait prepared for your instructions and their assistance.

"We are, Sir, your humble servants,
"Hugh Mercer,
"G. Weedon,
"Alexander Spotswood,
"John Willis.

"P. S. As we are not sufficiently supplied with powder, it may be proper to request of the gentlemen, who join us from Fairfax or Prince William, to come provided with an over proportion of that article."


[From "The Virginia Gazette," May 13, 1775.]

Fredericksburg, Committee Chamber, Saturday the 29th of April, 1775.

At a Council of one hundred and two members, Delegates of the Provincial Convention, officers and special deputies of fourteen companies of light horse, consisting of upwards of six hundred well armed and disciplined men, friends of constitutional liberty and America, now rendezvoused here in consequence of an alarm occasioned by the powder being removed from the country magazine in the city of Williamsburg, in the night of Thursday the 21St instant, and deposited on board an armed schooner by order of his Excellency the Governor;

"The Council having before them the several matters of intelligence respecting this transaction,
and particularly a letter from the Hon. Peyton Randolph, Esq.; Speaker of the late House of Burgesses of Virginia, received here last night by an express despatched to Williamsburg for the purpose of gaining intelligence, informing that the gentlemen of the city of Williamsburg and neighbourhood have had full assurances from his Excellency that this affair shall be accommodated, and advising that the gentlemen assembled here should proceed no further at this time, this Council came to the following determination, and offer the same as their advice to those public spirited Gentlemen, friends to British liberty and America, who have honoured them
by this appointment.

“Highly condemning the conduct of the Governor on this occasion, as impolitic, and justly alarming to the good people of this Colony, tending to destroy all confidence in Government, and to widen the unhappy breach between Great Britain and her colonies, ill timed and totally unnecessary, consider this instance as a full proof that no opinion which may be formed of the good intentions of a Governor in private life can afford security to our injured and oppressed country, but that obedience to arbitrary, ministerial mandate, and the most oppressive and tyrannical system of Government, must be the fatal line of conduct to all his Majesty's present servants in America; at the same time justly dreading the horrors of a civil war, influenced by motives of the strongest affection to our fellow subjects of Great Britain, most ardently wishing to heal our mutual wounds, and therefore preferring peaceable measures whilst the least hope of reconciliation remains, do advise that the several companies now rendezvoused here do return to their respective homes.

“But considering the just rights and Liberty of America to be greatly endangered by the violent and hostile proceedings of an arbitrary Ministry, and being firmly resolved to resist such attempts at the utmost hazard of our lives and fortunes, do now pledge ourselves to each other to be in readiness, at a moment's warning, to reassemble, and, by force of arms to defend the laws, the liberty, and rights of this, or any sister colony, from unjust and wicked invasion. Ordered that expresses be despatched to the troops assembled at the Bowling Green, and also to the companies from Frederick, Berkeley, Dunmore, and such other counties as are now on their march to return them thanks for their cheerful offers of service, and to acquaint them with the determination now taken.


The foregoing determination of Council having been read at the head of each company, was cordially and unanimously approved.

(To be continued) editor's note: additional spacing has been added to facilitate readability.  Those wishing to consult the original article should see:
"Fredericksburg in Revolutionary Days: Part I"
The William and Mary Quarterly , Vol. 27, No. 2 (Oct., 1918), pp. 73-95
Published by: Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture