Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to J. P. G. Muhlenberg, 12 April 1780

To J. P. G. Muhlenberg

Richmond Apr. 12. 1780.


The state of the recruiting business in this country is as follows.

There are some draughted soldiers in different parts of the country, but they are so few, so dispersed, and enlisted for so short a term that we have not thought them worth the expence and trouble of gathering up.

There are recruits raising under a standing law concerning officers, souldiers, sailors and marines. These are enlisted for the war, by a person resident in each county. We have an officer appointed who rides the circuit of the country once in two months to receive these men at certain places of rendezvous. He has just finished a circuit and we have sent on about fifty of these recruits under Capt. Minnis to the Southward.

All the officers of the Virginia line now in the state who have (according to a request of the executive) applied for recruiting instructions and money, have received them. These have been given with a particular view to the re-enlisting such souldiers of their respective regiments as are discharged or entitled to discharge. I hear they are tolerably succesful. As to the 1st. and 2d. state regiments particularly, there not having been in the treasury money enough to re-enlist them at the time they became entitled to discharges, their officers (as I am informed) postponed paying them off, gave them furloughs to visit their friends till the 1st. of May, at which time they were to rendezvous at Williamsburg and Fredericksburg, and it was hoped money would then be ready for re-enlisting them. In the mean time considerable sums have been furnished the officers, and more will be provided; and there is good reason to hope this judicious measure of their officers will enable us to recover most of them. Colo. Harrison’s regiment of artillery is very considerable recruited.

Under the preceding state of things I do not know of any immediate services with which we need to trouble you. Perhaps you could be instrumental in procuring orders, from the proper authority for such of the above regiments as are not yet ordered to the Southward, to march thither by fifties as fast as they are recruited. We had such orders for all other new recruits not yet regimented, but I do not consider those as authorising the march of men raised by the officers of a particular battalion for their battalion, and that not under marching orders.

I have the honor to be with great respect Your most obedient & most humble servt.,

Th: Jefferson

RC? (DLC: PCC, No. 148, i); this is presumably the “copy” sent by Muhlenberg to the Continental Board of War, mentioned in Muhlenberg’s letter to George Washington, 8 May 1780 (DLC: Washington Papers), and so it may be a duplicate of a lost RC. It is, however, entirely in TJ’s hand and is probably the original sent to Muhlenberg (PCC, No. 148 consists of Continental Board of War papers). Tr (DLC: Washington Papers); in a clerk’s hand and bearing notation of address at foot of text: “To Genl. Muhlenberg at Richmond.” Tr is dated “April 10th. 1780,” but the “10.” is heavily written over another date (perhaps correcting a mistake in the date by TJ); the presumed RC is very clearly dated “Apr. 12.” Text of presumed RC and that of Tr are identical except for copyist’s errors. Ford (ii, 301–2) printed the letter from the Tr and therefore under the date of 10 Apr., but he added to the confusion by stating that the recipient was George Washington; Ford has been followed by Official Letters description begins Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia, ed. H. R. McIlwaine description ends , ii, 117–18. Hence this letter has hitherto been printed only from a defective text, with an erroneous date (or at least not the date TJ gave it), and assigned to a wrong addressee.

Brig. Gen. John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg of the Virginia Line was in command in Virginia from Mch. to Dec. 1780, when he became second in command to Steuben (DAB description begins Dictionary of American Biography description ends ). Acting under instructions from the Continental Board of War, his initial task was to fill up the Virginia Line and speed the recruits to the southern theater of war (Washington to Muhlenberg, 20 Apr. 1780, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, xviii, 285–7; Muhlenberg to Washington, 8 May 1780, cited above; the latter letter summarizes a number of early exchanges between TJ and Muhlenberg no longer surviving).

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