Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Horatio Gates, 14 October 1780

From Horatio Gates

Hillsborough 14th: October 1780.


I have read and attentively considered Your Excellencys Letters of the 23d Ult:, and 4th. Instant and Lest Congress, or the Board of War, should conceive Greater Supplies for the Southern Army, can be furnished by your State than it is in their Power, or Abillity, to give, I have sent The President by this conveyance, Exact Copies of Your Excellencys Two letters to me, that no Plea of not knowing Our Wants may in Future be Urged in Excuse of not Supplying this Army in Time. My Opinion of what this State will do, has been long ago transmitted to Congress. Inclosed is a Copy of Letter I received this morning from Col: Polk. The Payment of the Bill he mentions to have deliverd to Mr. Ochilltree should be Stop’d, as that Gentleman is supposed to be a Prisoner by his Own Consent. As the Salvation of our Troops upon the Yadkin, and to the Westward, depends So intirely upon Polks supplying them with provisions I have sent him the Bill he requests upon Your Excellency in Lieu of that Lost, or carried off by Mr. Ochilltree; I am somewhat alarm’d at what Your Excellency says in regard to my Bills, to be drawn in Favour of The Quarter Master; I have only yet drawn in Favour of The Purchasers of Provisions, Supplied to the Army; and in favour of Persons furnishing Cloathing; I must have a much better Opinion of the Qr: Mastr: Department before I give them a Single Draught either upon Your Excellency, or Maryland, but if my Bills for Victualling and Cloathing the Troops are not paid, the consequence will I have reason to fear be most injurious to Our Affairs. I am to thank Your Excellency for your great Care and Assiduity for this Army. It is some releif to my Mind, to have so good a Friend in my Rear. I beg you to forward the inclosed to Col. Senf. I am &c


FC (NHi). Tr (DLC) of same. Enclosures: (1) Thomas Polk to Gates, 10 Oct. (not found, but see Gates’ reply, 13 Oct.; Tr in DLC); (2) Gates to J. C. Senf, 14 Oct.; Tr (DLC); RC of Gates to Senf was sold at Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., Catalogue of Oliver R. Barrett Sale, 30 Oct., 2 Nov. 1950, Item No. 455.

Gates’ letter to the president (Samuel Huntington) enclosing copies of TJ’s letters to Gates of 23 Sep. and 4 Oct. is dated 13 Oct. 1780 in RC (DLC: PCC, No. 154, ii), but 14 Oct. in a transcript in DLC: TJ Papers. Gates’ letter to Senf, enclosed in the present letter, ordered Senf to obtain TJ’s “directions in respect to the Survey you are to make of the Coast and posts on the South side of Virginia” (see TJ to Gates, 4 Oct. 1780) and to “keep an Attentive Eye upon the Sea Board” for “the Fleet of our Allies”; if the fleet (which was transporting the daily-expected second division of the French forces) arrived, Senf was to go aboard and to conduct any French officer that might be sent to Gates’ headquarters; on the other hand, if a British fleet appeared, Senf was “instantly” to notify TJ, then to determine its strength and return to Gates. This letter, as TJ told Gates on 28 Oct., was never delivered, “as it did not come till the enemy had taken possession of the ground on which I knew him to have been.” On 20 Oct. Senf wrote Gates from Portsmouth (RC in DLC) informing him that “Yesterday I had finish’d with Surveying the Situation of this place, and was to go to morrow Morning to Cape Henry, but prevented. Genl. Nelson received last Night an Express from Cape Henry, says, that a fleet of about Sixty Sails … came to Ancher without Cape Henry. This Morning some of the Ships were discovered standing in for Cape Henry. It is generally believed, that they come from the Northern and are Ennemy‥‥ This Place is in no kind of Defence, we hardly can muster forty Militia Men, and the greater part of the Inhabitants are about securing their effects.” Nelson is nevertheless determined, continues Senf, to make a stand with what men he can muster “till supported by the Country. It seems the Mean Arnold has given good Intelligence to the Ennemy of our Situation.” For further reports by Senf on the actions around Portsmouth, see N.C. State Records, xv, 112–13, 144–5.

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