The Fairfax County Independent Company of Volunteers, the Militia, And the Committee of Safety

Gunston Hall Plantation



Fairfax Independent Company of Volunteers - September 21, 1774

"That we will use our utmost Endeavours, as well as the Musters of the said Company, as by all other Means in our Power, to make ourselves Masters of the Military Exercise. And that we will always hold ourselves in Readiness, in Case of Necessity, hostile Invasion, or real Danger of the Community of which we are Members, to defend to the utmost of our Power, the legal prerogatives of our Sovereign King George the third, and the just Rights & Privileges of our Country, our Posterity & ourselves upon the Principles of the British Constitution."


Fairfax County Committee of Safety Proceedings - January 17, 1775

"Resolved, That this Committee do concur in opinion with the Provincial Committee of the Province of Maryland, that a well regulated Militia, composed of gentlemen freeholders, and other freemen, is the natural strength and only stable security of a free Government, and that such Militia will relieve our mother country from any expense in our protection and defence, will obviate the pretence of a necessity for taxing us on that account, and render it unnecessary to keep Standing Armies among us—ever dangerous to liberty; and therefore it is recommended to such of the inhabitants of this County as are from sixteen to fifty years of age, to choose a Captain, two Lieutenants, an Ensign, four Sergeants, four Corporals, and one Drummer, for each Company; that they provide themselves with good Firelocks, and use their utmost endeavours to make themselves masters of the Military Exercise, published by order of his Majesty in 1764, and recommended by the Provincial Congress of the Massachusetts Bay, on the 29th of October last."


Letter of George Mason to George Washington- February 6, 1775


"Enclosed you have a copy of the plan I drew for embodying the people of this county, in which you 'll be pleased to make such alterations as you think necessary. You will observe I have made it as general as I well could ; this I thought better at first than to descend to particulars of uniform, &c., which perhaps may be more easily done when the companies are made up."


Fairfax County Militia Plan - February 6, 1775

" And such of us have, or can procure Riphel Guns, & understand the use of them, will be ready to form a Company of Marksmen or Light-Infantry for the said Regiment, chusing our own Officers as aforesaid, & distinguishing our Dress, when we are upon Duty, from that of the other Companies, by painted Hunting Shirts and Indian Boots, or Caps, as shall be found most convenient, —Which Regulation & Establishment is to be preserved & continued, until a regular and proper Militia Law for the Defence of the Country shall be enacted by the Legislature of this Colony... And that we will always hold ourselves in Readiness, in Case of Necessity, Hostile-Invasion, or real Danger, to defend & preserve to the utmost of our Power, our Religion, the Laws of our Country, & the just Rights & Privileges of our fellow Subjects, our Posterity, & ourselves, upon the Principles of the English Constitution."


Letter of George Mason to George Washington- February 17, 1775


"I can't conceive how Mr. Harper could make such a mistake as to buy double the quantity of powder wanted for this county, when he had the order in writing signed by you and me. If there is any ambiguity in the said writing (for I don't now recollect the words) by which Mr. Harper might be led into such a mistake, I think we are in honor bound to take the whole off his hands; otherwise it does not appear to me that he can reasonably expect it ; though I am exceedingly concerned that any kind of misunderstanding should happen in an affair which must have given Mr. Harper a good deal of trouble, and which I am convinced was undertaken by him merely from public motives, and a desire to oblige the Committee. I remember your mentioning in conversation, to Mr. Harper, an application made to you from London County to procure a quantity of powder for their Committee, upon six months' credit, and telling him if it could be purchased in Philadelphia upon such credit you would see the money paid when it became due ; to which he answered that powder was generally a ready-money article there, and at this time in particular he did not imagine it could be got upon credit. I speak from recollection (having had no concern in the affair), but as nearly as I can remember this is the substance of what passed between you and him respecting the Loudon Committee, and may possibly have occasioned the mistake ; at least I can account for it in no other way.

I have already paid Messrs. McCrea and Maire half their account. And my half the money due to Mr. Harper for the articles ordered for Fairfax County, is at any minute ready, having kept a sum in gold by me for that purpose..."



Remarks on Annual Elections for the Fairfax Independent Company of Volunteers - April 1775

"A moment's reflection upon the principles on which this company was first instituted, and the purposes for which it was formed, will evince the propriety of the gentleman's motion; for it has been wisely observed by the deepest politician who ever put pen to paper, that no institution can be long preserved, but by frequent recurrence to those maxims on which it was formed.

This company is essentially different from a common collection of mercenary soldiers. It was formed upon the liberal sentiments of public good, for the great and useful purposes of defending our country, and preserving those inestimable rights which we inherit from our ancestors; it was intended in these times of extreme danger, when we are threatened with the ruin of that constitution under which we were born, and the destruction of all that is dear to us, to rouse the attention of the public, to introduce the use of arms and discipline, to infuse a martial spirit of emulation, and to provide a fund of officers, that in case of absolute necessity, the people might be the better enabled to act in defence of their invaded liberty. Upon this generous and public-spirited plan, gentlemen of the first fortune and character among us have become members of the Fairfax Independent Company, have submitted to stand in the ranks as common soldiers, and to pay due obedience to the officers of their own choice. This part of the country has the glory of setting so laudable an example: let us not tarnish it by any little dirty views of party, of mean self-interest or of low ambition."

Is George Mason the Author of the Militia Article in the Virginia Gazette on the Militia Officers Being Popularly Elected on May 12, 1774?


Account of Fairfax County Weapons Levy - April 17, 1775


Committee of the House of Burgesses on The Removal of the Gunpowder by the Governor and the Formation of Independent Volunteer Companies- June 1775

" It appears to your Committee from the Testimony of Benjamin Waller that the morning after the Powder was removed from the public Magazine, the People in the City of Williamsburg were much alarmed and assembled some with and others without Arms, but when, the Corporation reported the Governor's answer to their Address, they, by the persuasion of the Magistrates, and, other principal Gentlemen of the Town dispersed and were quiet, except in the Evening, when a Report prevailed that the Marines were landed, and intended to Town, they expressed great uneasiness and went with their Arms to the Magazine to guard it, but soon dispersed except a few who acted as patrole that Night. That the next Day Doctor Pasteur came to the said Waller's House, and informed him of the Governor's Threatening that if himself his Family or Captain Collins were insulted, he would declare liberty to the Slaves, and lay the Town in Ashes, and that the Governor had desired him to communicate this his Declaration to the Magistrates of the City, for that there was not an Hour to Loose. That these Declarations gave the said Waller and the other Inhabitants of the Town great uneasiness... That his Lordship further observed that some Slaves had offered him their Service at the time the Hanover Men were coming down but that he had sent them away. The said Benjamin Waller further says that several young Gentlemen of the Town and others had formed themselves into a Company by the name of an independent Company to learn the Military exercise and elected the Colonel of the Militia for their Captain and that they usually mustered once a Week. That when his Excellency returned from the Indian Expedition last fall many of the said Company waited upon him in their uniform to congratulate his Lordship on his Return but the said Waller heard they were cooly received."


Letter to Martin Cockburn- July 1775

"This will not be wondered at when the extent and importance of the business before us is reflected on—to raise forces for immediate service—to new-model the whole militia—to render about one-fifth of it fit for the field at the shortest warning—to melt down all the volunteer and independent companies into this great establishment—to provide arms, ammunition, &c.,—and to point out ways and means of raising money, these are difficulties indeed ! "


Letter to Martin Cockburn- August 22, 1775


"The 3,000 regular troops (exclusive of the western frontier garrisons) first proposed to be raised are reduced to 1,000, to be formed into two regiments, one of eight, the other of seven companies ; these 15 companies are to be raised in the fifteen western- shore districts, the captains and subaltern officers to be appointed by the committee of the respective district, formed by a deputation of three members from the committee of each county in the district. The first regiment is commanded by Col. Henry, Lieut.

Col. Christian and Maj'r Eppes ; the second regiment by Col. Wm. Woodford, Lieut. Col. Charles Scott and Major Spotswood. A regiment of minute-men of 680 rank and file in each of the fifteen districts on the western shore, with the same field and staff officers, chaplain, surgeon, &c., as the regiments of regulars, and with the same pay when upon duty in the district, or drawn into actual service—the officers to be appointed by the District Committees, and commissioned by the Committee of Safety—the militia officers are all to give up their present commissions, and be nominated by the respective committees' of the counties, the militia companys to be exercised once a fortnight, except the three winter months, and general county musters twice a year. Arms, tents, &c., to be provided for the minute-men at the public charge. These are the great outlines of our plan of defence, which I think a good, though very expensive one ; the particulars would take up too much room for a common letter ; particular rules are drawn up for the better regulation and government of the army, to which both the minute-men and militia are subjected, when drawn out into actual service ; the volunteer companys are all discharged and melted down in the plan for the regiments of minute-men—these informations you may rely on, as the ordinance yesterday received its final fiat."


Letter to Martin Cockburn - August 29, 1775

"As it is proposed that a company of fifty men for the standing army shall be raised in each county, my son George may perhaps have a mind to enter into the service ; in which case, pray tell him that it will be very contrary to my inclination, and that I advise him by all means against it—when the plan for the minute-men is completed, if he has a mind to enter into that I shall have no objection ; as I look upon it to be the true, natural and safe defence of this, or any other free country, and as such wish to see it encouraged to the utmost. "


Letter of George Mason to George Washington - October 14, 1775

"Our friend, the Treasurer, was the warmest man in the Convention, for immediately raising a standing army of not less than four thousand men, upon constant pay. They stood a considerable time at three thousand, exclusive of the troops upon the western frontiers ; but at the last reading (as you will see by the ordinance), were reduced to one thousand and twenty, rank and file ; in my opinion, a well-judged reduction, not only from our inability to furnish, at present, such a number with arms and ammunition, but I think it extremely imprudent to exhaust ourselves before we know when we are to be attacked. The part we have to act, at present, seems to require our laying in good magazines, training our people, and having a good number of them ready for action. An ordinance is passed for regulating an annual election of members to the Convention and County Committees ; for encouraging the making saltpetre, sulphur, and gunpowder ; for establishing a manufactory of arms, under the direction of commissioners ; and for appointing a Committee of Safety, consisting of eleven members, for carrying the ordinances of the Convention into execution, directing the stations of the troops, and calling the minute-battalions and drafts from the militia into service, if necessary, &c."


To The Maryland Council of Safety - November 29, 1775


Potomac Navy, 1776


George Mason Militia Payments - 1776

"Ordered that a Warrant issue to George Mason Esquire for six hundred and three pounds five shillings and three farthings for the pay of the Fairfax Militia as settled by the Commissioners."



To the Maryland Council of Safety - March 15, 1776


"Being employed by the Committee of Safety for this colony to fit out three armed cruisers, & two row gallies, for the protection of potomack River, we have, in consequence thereof, bought three sloops; the largest of which (called the American Congress) will mount 14 Carriage Guns, 6 & 4 pounders, & be man'ed with about ninety men. "


Letter of George Mason to George Washington- April 2, 1776


"We are building the row-galleys, which are in considerable forwardness ; and have purchased three sloops for cruisers, two of them being only from forty to fifty tons burden, are to mount eight carriage-guns each, three and four pounders ; they are not yet fitted up, and we are exceedingly puzzled to get cannon for them. The other, the American Congress is a fine stout vessel, of about one hundred and ten tons burden, and has such an easy draft of water as will enable her to run into most of the creeks, or small harbors, if she meets with a vessel of superior force. She mounts fourteen carriage-guns, six and four-pounders, though we have thoughts of mounting two nine-pounders upon her main beam, if we find her able, as we think she is, to bear them ; her guns are mounted and to be tried to-morrow. We have twenty barrels of powder, and about a ton of shot ready—more is making ; swivels we have not yet been able to procure, but she may make a tolerable ship without, until they can be furnished. We have got some small-arms, and are taking every method to increase them, and hope to be fully supplied in about a week more. Her company of marines is raised and have been for some time exercised to the use of the great guns. Her complement of marines and seamen is to be ninety-six men. We are exerting ourselves to the utmost and hope to have her on her station in less than a fortnight, and that the other vessels will quickly follow her, and be able to protect the inhabitants of this river from the piratical attempts of all the enemy's cutters, tenders, and small craft."


Letter of George Mason to Martin Cockburn - June 23, 1776

"Tell George his recruiting Expences are not allowed, nor any of the Minute Officers. I have got a Warrant for £3..5 for the two Guns, chd. in his Acct. furnished the Detachment of his Compy. wch. march'd with Ensign Cofer. I have spoken to Capt. Lee about the two Guns, his Compy. carried from Dumfries; but he says he knows nothing about them, & unless George can make some other Proof, they will be lost, & no Satisfaction recd. for them; especially as Capt. Lee's Company, wth. the rest of the third Regiment is ordered to march imediatly to Carolina. He shou'd also get a Certificate from Ensign Cofer for the Musket he took of mine from John Tillet's Shop; tho' I had much rather have the Musket re-turn'd; for as we have a Bayonet for her, she wou'd now sell at £5…10."


To Mr. Brent - October 1778 (Or to George Mercer?)

"My eldest Son George engaged early in the American Cause, & was chosen Ensign of the first independent Company formed in Virginia, or indeed on the Continent, it was commanded by the Present General Washington as Captain, & consisted entirely of Gentlemen. In the Year 1775 he was appointed a Captain of Foot, in one of the first Minute-Regiments raised here, but was soon obliged to quit the Service, by a violent Rheumatic Disorder; which has followed him ever since, & I believe will force him to try the Climate of France or Italy...

...When I was first a Member of the Convention, I exerted myself to prevent a Confiscation of the King's Quit-Rents; and altho' I was for putting the Country imediatly into a State of Defence, and preparing for the worst; yet as long as we had any well founded hopes of the Reconciliation, I opposed, to the utmost of my Power, all violent Measures, & such as might shut the Door to it; but when Reconciliation became a lost Hope, when unconditional Submission, or effectual Resistance, were the only Alternatives left us, when the last dutiful & humble petition from Congress received no other Answer than declaring us Rebels, and out of the King's protection, I from that Moment look'd forward to a Revolution & Independence, as the only means of Salvation; and will risque the last Penny of my Fortune, & the last Drop of my Blood upon the Issue: for to imagine that we cou'd resist the Efforts of Great Britain, still professing ourselves her Subjects, or support a defensive War against a powerful Nation, without the Reins of Government in the Hands of America (whatever our pretended Friends in Great Britain may say of it) is too childish & futile an Idea to enter into the Head of any Man of Sense. I am not singular in my Opinions; these are the Sentiments of more than nine tenths of the best men in America."


An Amendment to the Recruting Act- July 1780

"and any Person who, either before or after the said Draft, shall enlist an able bodied Soldier to serve, in his Stead, during the War, shall upon delivering him to the County Lieutenant or Commanding Officer of the Militia of his County (or Corporation), and taking his Receipt be exempted from all future Military Service, other than in the Militia; the Soldiers so enlisted shall receive the Bounty allowed by this Act, and be marched with other Recruits in the Manner herein after directed. "


To Thomas Jefferson - October 1780


"This will be deliver'd you by my Son William, who commands the Militia Company ordered from this county to Carolina: the men are mostly Voluntiers; who turned out from the Battalion at large, without any Regard to the Divisions to which they belonged; there are among them several Soldiers, & three or four Serjeants, who have served out their Time in the Virginia Line on continental Establishment; so that I look upon it to be equal to any Militia Company in the State. I entreat you Sir to order them to be furnished with good Musquets & Bayonets &c. It is a most discouraging Circumstance to a young-fellow to lead Men into Action, without proper Arms; and I fear the former Regiments of Militia, serving to the Southward, have thrown away & lost so many of their Arms, that they can have little Dependence in being properly supplyed, on their Arrival at Hill's borough."


To George Mason Junior- June 1781

"Your Brother William writes you by this Opportunity. He returned some time ago, from South Carolina, where he commanded a Company of Voluntiers (75 fine young fellows from this Country). He had rough Campaign of it, and has acquired the Reputation of a vigilant & good officer; and I think is greatly improved by the Expedition. Your Brother Thomson has lately returned from a Tour of Militia-Duty upon James River; He commanded a Platoon, in a pretty close Action at Williamsbourg, & behaved with proper Coolness & Intrepidity. He is now from Home, or wou'd have wrote to you...The Enemy's capital Object, at this time, seems to be Virginia. General Philips died lately in Petersburg; upon which the Command of the British Troops there devolved upon Arnold. But Ld. Cornwallis quitting North Carolina, has since join'd Arnold, with about 1200 Infantry & 300 Cavalery & taken the Chief Command of their Army in Virginia, now consisting of about 5000 Men: They have crossed James River and by the latest Accounts were at Westover; their light Horse having advanced as far as Hanover Court House: They have burn'd Pages Warehouses, where the greatest Part of the York River Tobacco was collected; they had before burn'd most of the Tobacco upon James River, and have plunder'd great part of the adjacent Country. The Marquis De La Fayette is abt. twenty Miles below Fredericksburg with about 1200 regulars & 3000 Militia, waiting the arrival of General Waine, with abt. 1500 regular Troops of the Pensylvania Line....

...God bless you, my dear Child! and grant that we may again meet, in your native Country, as Freemen; otherwise, that we may never see each other more, is the Prayer of. Your Affectionate Father. "