One of the most difficult tasks when researching the French and Indian War is uncovering primary sources that can answer the age-old question in military history: Why did men fight? What were their motives for answering the call and sustaining the struggle? What were their observations and opinions regarding the events that surrounded them?
The letter included here in this post, written by Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Whiting of the 2nd Connecticut Provincial Regiment to his wife on August 1, 1755, during the Crown Point Expedition in New York is a rarity. Not only is it filled with raw emotion, but it also highlights a soldier’s fears and concerns relating to news of the war elsewhere, as well as his hopes for the coming days and weeks. The most fascinating aspect, however, is how the letter closes with the precise reasons for why Whiting was fighting—Duty to himself, his country, and his God. The commonly cited theme of duty, honor, and country is a constant in why men fight and sustain. Even in the French and Indian War, a conflict that did not involve a fight for independence, to preserve the Union, or to free the world from oppression, Whiting’s motives were still consistent.
Here is his letter:
My dearest wife,
I am here much Longer than I expected When I left you[.] Tis unhappy on many Accounts that we have delayed so long, but know not that it could be prevented. [W]e have orders now to March and . . . tis probable I shall not have opportunity to write you again till I get to the Carrying Place [the future site of Fort Edward along the Hudson River] I doubt your tender concern for me my dear will fill you with too many uneasy apprehensions & fears for my Safety Which I fear will be much increased upon hearing of the unhappy disaster of General [Edward] Braddock [at the battle of the Monongahela] but Let Not that trouble you my dear[.] God is my Safeguard and defense & I Trust has better things in store for his people than to give them all a prey Into the hands of their enemys—we are never more discouraged on Account of that defeat but Rather Animated with the greater Resolution to go on, we may have more enemys to encounter so that we may want more Strength, or our conquests will be more Glorious or our defeat less Shameful but the Latter I hope & believe Will Not be the Case. Pray make your Self as easy as possible I know your Dayly prayers are for my preservation Let it be an article of them that it not be obtained by any unworthy means, but in the prosecution of the Duty I owe at this time to my Self, my Country & my God.
Whiting, a New Haven merchant and veteran of King George’s War, led the 2nd Connecticut Regiment with distinction at the battle of Lake George on September 8, 1755, the culmination of the British campaign to capture Fort Saint-Frédéric (Crown Point) along Lake Champlain. Another post highlighting that action can be found here.