Buckner Stith to George Washington
22 March 1787, Philadelphia
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Transcription | Original
from Buckner Stith (1722-1791), originally of the Chotank area of the
Northern Neck of Virginia, is unique in that it is the only known letter
from a companion of GW's childhood recalling the days of their youth.
Stith, who was living at this time at his home Rock Spring in Brunswick
County, was a justice of the county and a captain in the Brunswick militia.
His sons John (1755-1808) and Robert Stith were married to Ann (d. 1824)
and Mary Townshend Washington respectively, daughters of GW's cousin and
childhood friend Lawrence Washington of Chotank, the "old Laurence"
mentioned in this letter. In July 1764, Buckner Stith paid £32 to
Joseph Royle to have printed 1,000 copies of his detailed tract on tobacco
which was reprinted in Richmond in 1824 (Virginia Gazette Daybook, 1764-66,
ViU; Christopher Johnston, "The Stith Family," WMQ, 1st
ser. 21 [1912-13], 181-93). Buckner Stith's Opinion on the Cultivation
of Tobacco was advertised in Royle's Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg),
6 July 1764.
March 22d 1787
I have seriously had thoughts of troubling you with an Epistle
these four Years, but my Mind has all the way fallen under the task;
'till just know, after smoking three full Pipes, which you know
inebriates a good deal if the Tobacco be strong, and a little Man
here informing me he lived within three miles of your House, zounds
said I, I will this minute write to the General. 
I will tell him, that I am the same Man who marched with him and
old Laurence from Chotanck to Fredericksburg, how Laurence and him
laughed at me for holding the wine glass in the full hand, but as
I was five Years older than either of them, I thought I might hold
the wine glass as I pleased; that we lost a Horse or two in the
Trip, and were obliged to walk honestly in turn clear to Chotank
again; and moreover I will tell him, that although Laurence and
I might notice him on the Road when in turn to walk, a sound looking,
modest, large boned young Man, still I would not defend the matter
for a round sum, that were Laurence and I put to the oath, that
we thought at the same time, we had each of us an equal chance at
least with him, for a Generalship.
Now as the giving you an account of the many good things said of
you in this part of the World, might be disagreeable to you, shall
be totally silent; knowing (if I be but a piece of a Connisieur, 
and Satan tells me at times, I am the hundredth pard of one) that
the good Mind wants not adulation. To speak in my own way it would
be thus, I had rather see you in sound health bending over bushes
and mire in full Chace with twenty four Hounds, than to hear the
most difficult point discussed of the most difficult RETREAT ever
made, between your Honour and the old King of Prussia's ghost.
The force of the three full pipes being for some moments evaporated
into open air, and my Mind reduced into its primitive littleness
again, must sincerely proceed to ask pardon for the trouble (sure
enough) I have given you in reading the above stuff, and ask also
to subscribe myself Your most obedient humble Servt.
Buckner Stith Senr
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1. From the Oxford
English Dictionary: zounds zaundz, int. Now rare or Obs. In later
use a literary archaism. A euphemistic abbreviation of by God's wounds
(1535, 1573, s.v. god sb. 14 a) used in oaths and asseverations.
2. Stith drew an asterisk here and noted at the
side of the page: "not in my Dictionary."
The following is adapted from Abbot, W.W., ed, et al. The Papers of George Washington, Confederation
Series, vol. 5, February - December 1787. (Charlottesville and London:
University Press of Virginia, 1997), 99-101.
Transcription | Original