The Washington – Fairfax Correspondence, 1775-1782

: Being the Letters of General George Washington to and from Mrs. G. William Fairfax

[Note: The letters which follow are a fiction:  We contend they could have been written but, to our knowledge, were not….]


[Editor’s note: Mrs. Fairfax and her husband had moved to Kent, England in 1774.]


July 6th 1775My Dear Sally,This writing finds me in, of all places, Boston! I’ve been away from Mt. Vernon for almost ten weeks now: eight in Philadelphia and a fortnight here in Massachusetts. The colonial Congress have made me commander of the American forces in their entirety and I have flown here to defend New England against your wicked countrymen — or I should sayour wicked countrymen: it’s still my most fervent hope that King George will recall these ill-advised adventurers. (Ministerial armies, mind you, not the King’s men!)

Though convinced of my own incapacity in the conduct of so momentous a concern and truly believing that it will be the ruin of my reputation, here I am. There is simply no one else to do it.

I hope you don’t fault me. Why should we not have the rights of Englishmen? Why should we live as slaves, subject to laws in whose creation we have had no say whatsoever?

The women of Virginia have nothing to fear from these Philadelphia and Boston ladies, of whom I have met a great many: Though not without their charms, with respect to wit and grace and amiability, they fall far short of their Virginia counterparts and are, I dare say, a mere shadow of a certain ex-Fairfax-County resident one might mention…. Our intercourse is not unpleasant but lacks the weight, the sparkle, the history of our own tete-a-tete’s…. Oh, Sally, I miss you terribly.

One so needs in one’s life a ravishing beauty.

I thought it was a torture being near to you and not being able to touch. But now I know that being unable to see you, to hear at all your own sweet voice is a torture a thousand times greater. Cordiality and friendship provide a needed sustenance, but it’s beauty which thrills the pallet, which overwhelms the senses….

Be assured that I am Dear Madam, with the most unfeigned regard,
Yr most Obedient and Humble Servant,

G. Washington



July 2d 1776My Dear Mrs. Fairfax,

I write from New York. It seems we are to be enemies. I saw three possible outcomes to the conflict: reconciliation, independence, or hanging. King George’s declaration of December last (of his intent to smash by force our “rebellion”) has narrowed these to two. You can’t imagine my shock and dismay.

We have driven your soldiers from Boston, but now they are striking at New York. Martha was with me through the winter but now is headed back to Mt. Vernon. Affairs are likely to get rougher.

We fight with halters about our necks, impelled by necessity and a repetition of injuries insufferable.

If only we had more regulars! (The Congress and the states have hobbled us with militia whose annual terms are due to expire in December. Just as we get them trained, they depart. It’s madness!)

If the British Army doesn’t defeat us, it seems likely that our own factions will.

Yours, sincerely,

G. Washington



Leeds Castle, Kent. 23d October 1776My Dear George,

I received your letters of July 1775 and 1776. If “my soldiers” at Boston had obeyed my orders and attacked with gusto your right flank, things might have turned out very differently — or at least been a lot more exciting.

I would suggest that being subject to laws in whose creation one has had no say is not quite equivalent to slavery. The question is whether the laws are just. If you were to trust a bit more in the benevolence of our sovereign and sue with a bit more patience,… But I guess all hope for that is past. May God have mercy on us all!

I know that you will follow a course which is honourable and in which you honestly believe.

You underestimate your abilities. You have a natural instinct for battle. You’re a born leader. (Just think back on Fort Necessity and Fort Duquesne — not a general in one hundred could have inspirited his men as you did.)

Our English armies are like oxen, moving slowly and steadily in their yokes…. You … — you are a tiger! You’ll pounce on them when they least expect it!

George, listen carefully: I am so proud to have known you. Regardless of what happens, whether you die tomorrow or live to be a hundred, you will always be my hero: the gentlest, bravest, noblest man I’ve ever known….

Yours most sincerely,

Mrs. G. W. Fairfax



Newtown, Pennsylvania. Dec. 25th 1776My Dear Sally,I received your letter of October 23. The game is pretty near up. We were badly defeated in New York, losing 2000 men as prisoners to your forces. It was, I fear, largely the result of my own poor judgment. We have fled across the Delaware River, here to Pennsylvania: 2500 regulars only, plus 2500 militia (– the latter’s terms largely due to expire within the week). Your well-equipped forces in New Jersey number 8000.

But I believe that your generals have made a mistake: they have posted only 2000 men at Trenton. If we can surprise these troops with the full force of our army, I believe we can defeat them decisively. It’s true that my men lack food and clothes, but they do have guns and, at this point at least, still can walk. We will cross the river tonight and attack at dawn.

Military strategists would laugh at my plan, thinking it far too risky, relying far too heavily on surprise — but for our poor forces there will simply be no great victory without great risk.

Not only will the militia be gone in a week, I may very well too. A number of the Congress think that General Lee could do better. (As, I know for a fact, does General Lee himself.)

I know it’s a desperate plan, but this is a desperate situation. Our nation needs to be dissuaded of British invulnerability. We need a decisive victory.

Yours, sincerely,

G. Washington



Morristown, New Jersey
Jan. 12th 1777
My Dear Sally,As you will no doubt have already heard, we succeeded beyond all reasonable expectation at Trenton: surprising the Hessians and capturing 800 of them. When the main British force advanced from their base at Princeton, we circled around behind and attacked the small force they had left there, capturing another 300. All with fewer than 50 casualties on our side.

Though these victories don’t change the picture militarily — your British forces remain superior in numbers and equipment — it has had a great spiritual effect upon our people: many of the militia have re-enlisted and, if our people still question the likelihood of victory, they no longer question its possibility ….

Yours, sincerely,

G. Washington



Valley Forge, Penna.
Jan. 25th 1778
My Dear Sally,It’s very discouraging to find ourselves in exactly the same position we were a year ago: out-manned and out-equipped. The number of regulars is greater, but their equipment is even poorer. They lack clothing and their dwelling places are abysmal. I write three letters a week, but naught comes of it. Our treatment at the hands of the Congress and the states is a scandal.

My men have no shoes. I do not mean this figuratively. I mean: my men HAVE NO SHOES!

With our defeat at Brandywine, our surrender of Philadelphia, and our seeming “inaction”, the clamour in certain quarters to replace me with General Lee or General Gates has grown louder…. I hope I’ve made myself clear: I’ve no great attachment to this position. If there were able men ready to step in and relieve me, I would gladly defer to them. But I would be doing our nation a great disservice if I ceded command to either of these men.

Yesterday, when an aide reported that a delegation of enlisted men was at my door — something quite unheard of — I feared the worst: mutiny or desertion. (One could hardly blame them!) And when they expressed great sympathy with my difficulties and said they just wanted to assure that their own were understood, my eyes filled with tears. I knew at that moment that we *will* ultimately triumph….

Yours, sincerely,

G. Washington


——————————————————————–Baltimore. September 8th 1781

Dear Sally,It seems the war will soon end! With the help of a large French naval force we have trapped the British army on the Yorktown peninsula. There will be no escape.

At last I will be able to retire to Mount Vernon. I will be visiting there, on my way south tomorrow, for the first time in seven years. Perhaps I’ll even catch a glimpse of Belvoir!

Sometimes I think I would give up everything — my freedom, my property — to have just a single child living after me. We have John, of course [ Editor’s note: his step-son], but it’s not the same….

Who, looking at Smithfield’s Ball in 1752, would have thought that the biggest stallion and the prettiest mare would be the ones with no colts or fillies in their pens?

Yours, always,





Leeds Castle, Kent. 22 February 1782

My Dearest George,To be sure, our childlessness is an unspeakable misfortune, a pain we will feel even in the grave….

So you will sit on your porch, sipping Madeira, watching the boats go up and down the Potomac? You yourself said that the force most likely to destroy you is not the British army but your own internal factions. Is that not still the case? Your nation may need you to guide it through the treacherous waters of its formation. I hope not, I hope that you can tend your acres in peace, but I wouldn’t be surprised if your countrymen had other ideas….

Yours, always,



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