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Portrait by an unknown artist, c. 1760-1765

Robert Dinwiddie (1693 – 27 July 1770) was a British colonial administrator who served as lieutenant governor of colonial Virginia from 1751 to 1758, first under Governor Willem Anne van Keppel, 2nd Earl of Albemarle, and then, from July 1756 to January 1758, as deputy for John Campbell, 4th Earl of Loudoun. Since the governors at that time were largely absentee, he was the de facto head of the colony for much of the time.

French and Indian War

Dinwiddie's actions as lieutenant governor are commonly cited as precipitating the French and Indian War. He wanted to limit French expansion in Ohio Country, an area claimed by the Virginia Colony and in which the Ohio Company, of which he was a stockholder,[1] had made preliminary surveys and some small settlements.

In 1753, Dinwiddie learned the French had built Fort Presque Isle near Lake Erie and Fort Le Boeuf, which he saw as threatening Virginia's interests in the Ohio Valley. He sent an eight-man expedition under George Washington to warn the French to withdraw. Washington, then only 21 years old, made the journey in midwinter of 1753-54. Washington arrived at Fort Le Boeuf on 11 December 1753. Jacques Legardeur de Saint-Pierre, commandant at Fort Le Boeuf, a tough veteran of the west, received Washington politely, but contemptuously rejected his blustering ultimatum.[2]

Jacquess Saint-Pierre gave Washington three days hospitality at the fort, and then gave Washington a letter for him to deliver to Dinwiddie. The letter ordered the Governor of Virginia to deliver his demand to the Major General of New France in the capital, Quebec City.[3]

In January 1754, even before learning of the French refusal, Dinwiddie sent a small force of Virginia militia to build a fort at the forks of the Ohio River, where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers merge to form the Ohio (present-day Pittsburgh). The French quickly drove off the Virginians and built a larger fort on the site, calling it Fort Duquesne, in honour of the Marquis de Duquesne, who had recently become governor of New France. In early spring 1754, Dinwiddie sent Washington to build a road to the Monongahela. After having attacked the French at the Battle of Jumonville Glen, Washington retreated and built a small stockade, Fort Necessity, at a spot then called "Great Meadows", by the Youghiogheny River, eleven miles southeast of present-day Uniontown. Here he encountered the French in a skirmish on 3 July 1754 and was forced to surrender. Dinwiddie was subsequently active in rallying other colonies in defense against France and ultimately prevailed upon the British to send General Edward Braddock to Virginia with two regiments of regular troops.

Dinwiddie's administration was marked by frequent disagreements with the Assembly over finances. In January 1758 he left Virginia and lived in England until his death at Clifton, Bristol.


Dinwiddie County, Virginia, which lies 30 miles south of Richmond, is named in honor of Robert Dinwiddie. In Portsmouth, Virginia a hotel was opened in his honor [1]


  1. Anderson, F.: "Crucible of War", page 37. Vintage Books, 2000.
  2. "France in America, Fitzhenry & Whiteside Limited, p. 181
  3. Nos racines, l'histoire vivante des Québécois, Éditions Comémorative, Livre-Loisir Ltée. p457

Anderson, Fred (2001). Crucible of war: the Seven Years' War and the fate of empire in British North America, 1754-1766. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 0-375-70636-4. 

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