The Journal Of Capt. Charles Lewis, 1755

by Terry Gruber

The following excerpt is from a journal kept by Charles Lewis of Fredericksburg, Va. Lewis, born about 1730 and a cousin of George Washington's, had just received a captain's commission in the Virginia Regiment and was on his way from Winchester, Va. to Fort Cumberland, Md. with several companies of the regiment. He left the service when the regiment was "down-sized" in mid-1757. He should not be confused with another Charles Lewis from Augusta County who, as Captain, served on Bouquet's 1764 Ohio expedition and was killed in 1775 at the Battle of Point Pleasant.

The excerpt chosen begins with the soldiers leaving Winchester and traveling on the "Old Waggon Road" which was built around 1742. The road headed west from Winchester to present Capon Bridge, where it turned north to follow the Cacapon River for several miles. The road then crossed Sandy Ridge to the present village of North River Mills. From there, the road followed a southwestly course, passed south of Slanesville, and joined present Route 50 at the forks of the Little Cacapon River. From there, the road continued west to present Romney.

The road west of Romney generally followed the route of Route 50 to present Burlington, now in Mineral County (although they may have traveled a brand new road that crossed Middle Ridge, west of Romney, and joined the road again north of Headsville---a much shorter route). The road then headed north along Patterson Creek, through Headsville, to present WV Route 46. From that point the road continued along the creek to Fort Ashby and then roughly followed WV Route 28 north to Cumberland.

The excerpt opens on October 20, 1755. The source for the excerpt is a pamphlet printed by the Virginia Historical Society in the early 1900's. No publishing information is printed in the pamphlet. The full title is, Journal of Captain Charles Lewis of Fredericksburg, Virginia, when in the service of the colony of Virginia in the year 1755. The original journal is at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond. Editorial comments are inserted within brackets [].

Oct 20 - We left Winchester under the command of Major Andrew Lewis, and marched ten miles to Captain Smith's [Jeremiah Smith, a Frederick County militia captain residing on Back Creek in present Gore, Va.], a very remarkable man. I was this day appointed captain over forty-one men of different companies; a remarkable dispute between Lieutenant Stanbergen [Peter Steenbergen, later stationed at Fort Pleasant in present Hardy County until leaving the regiment on misconduct charges] and an Irish woman - 10 miles.

Oct 21 - Marched from Captain Smith's and crossed Great Cape Capon, a beautiful prospect and the best land I ever saw. We encamped this night on top of a mountain. The roads, by far, were the worst this day, and our march for that reason but thirteen miles...

Oct 22 - This day we marched from Sandy Top Mountain to Little Cape Capon; the land very good. We encamped this night at a poor man's house entirely forsaken and the people drove off by the Indians. We found here plenty of corn, oats, and stock of all kinds; even the goods and furniture of the house were left behind [the fall of 1755 was the beginning of the devastating Indian raids that would plague the county until Fort Duquesne fell in November 1758 (for a related article, see the "Gentlemen's Magazine" entry in this series)]. This night about nine o'clock, we were joined by the Hon. George Washington and Captain George Mercer, A.D.C. [Assistant Deputy Commissary] - 15 miles.

Oct 23 - Very bad weather, snow and rain. We marched very slow today and arrived at the South Branch, where we encamped at a house on the Branch [possibly Job Pearsall], having come up with Colonel Washington and Captain George Mercer, A.D.C. - 9 miles. Very ill-natured people here.

Oct 24 - A very wet day. We marched to Patterson's Creek, on which we encamped in a deserted house. We found here good corn, wheat and pasturage . . . Colonel Washington marched before Captain Ashby's company of Rangers - 14 miles.

Oct 25 - Marched from Patterson's Creek and passed many deserted houses. I was this day very curious in the examination of the mischief done in the houses, and was shocked at the havoc made by the barbarous and cruel Indians. At one, Mecraggin's [James McCracken, near Ft. Ashby], I found the master of the family, who had been buried but slightly by his family and friends, after his assassination, half out of the grave and eaten by the wolves; the house burnt, the cornfield laid waste and an entire ruin made. At half-after six we arrived at Fort Cumberland, cold and Hungry. We had this day, by Major Lewis's order, two women ducked for robbing the deserted houses - 20 miles.

Lewis's journal provides a rare, eyewitness account of the troubled life on the frontier during the years of the French and Indian War. In his casual reporting, one can also gain insight into aspects of living in the Hampshire County frontier. Material culture, agricultural information, commercial information, and disposition of inhabitants encountered are but a few pieces of information that can be gleaned from Lewis's simple prose. It is unfortunate that the journal is not easily accessible to the general public.
The author welcomes your e-mail comments and questions: Terry Gruber

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