In the fall of 1774, as they heard about the crisis in Massachusetts, George Mason and his Fairfax County neighbors organized an “independent” militia company outside Gov. Dunmore’s control. For their commander they naturally chose Col. George Washington, then away at the First Continental Congress.
When he received this news (probably not altogether unexpected), Washington bought new clothes. In a letter that appears to be lost, he sent to the Philadelphia merchant William Milnor for some of the insignia that a military officer needed. On 29 November, Milnor wrote back:
your favour of the 17th. Inst. [i.e., this month] came to hand on fryday last, I have made the strictest search, after a Sash and have sent the only one, that is to be had in this City, I am sorry to inform you, tis not intirely New tho’, not much changed. I have bought it Conditionally if not approved of, to be sir returned by the first post & taken again, I had no Alternative, as no Other Could be had…It looks like Washington kept that “not intirely New” sash. Over the winter other Virginia counties also started to organize independent companies, and several applied to Washington to be their colonel and/or to order supplies for them. On 23 Jan 1775 he wrote to Milnor about muskets, cartouche boxes, and more:
I have lately received a request from the Officers of the Prince William Independant Company, for the following Articles;But in Philadelphia those supplies were still hard to find. Having visited Mount Vernon early in the month, Milnor wrote back on 21 February:
4 Officers Sashes like the one you sent me...
As to Sashes, the Maker tells me, he thinks, he cannot get Silk Enough, for more than three, those he will have done in three weeks, they will come at Nine pounds each perhaps by the time they are done we may find more Silk—. The Gorgets, Shoulder Knots &c I have bespoke & will send all, as soon as possible—But on 7 March:
I have Just to mention that the Sashes are all like to be done soon, Silk enough for the whole is procured, the Gorgets will be done about the same time the shoulder Knots are all finished, I hope I shall have them all to send by Peter Jones, he leaves this place on the 19th. Inst:Jones probably didn’t bring the good news (or sashes) that Washington hoped for, and in early April he evidently passed on the news of the shortage to William Grayson of Dumfries, Virginia, in Prince William County. On 5 April Grayson replied:
it is the desire of our Officers, that if they can’t be furnished with such sashes, as are proper; they would not incline to have any; but this matter is altogether left to yourself, as the person most capable of determining…So everything was up to Col. Washington.
TOMORROW: What did Washington decide?