Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to the County Lieutenants of Hampshire and Berkeley, 24 December 1780

To the County Lieutenants of Hampshire and Berkeley

Richmond December 24th. 1780


A powerful army forming by our enemies in the south and an extensive combination of savages in the west will probably render the ensuing campaign exceedingly active, and particularly call forth the exertions of this state. It is our duty to look forward in time and to make a proper division of our force between these two objects. There seems but one method of preventing the savages from spreading slaughter and desolation over our whole frontier, and that is by carrying the war into their own country: and to render even this measure effectual our movements must be so early as to be beforehand with them. Your county is allotted to the western defence. You will therefore be pleased to send of [off] your militia under proper officers by the way of pittsburg to the falls of Ohio to join under Colo. Clarke in an expedition over that river and to continue in service during the expedition as to which Colo. Clarke is instructed from hence. They must be at pittsburg precisely by the first of march. They are to be subsisted on the way by such commissary as you shall appoint who is to act as quarter master, both offices to cease when he shall have conducted the militia to Pittsburg. I send him for the purpose of fulfilling the duties of these two offices pounds1 which however I consider as principally to be expended in victualling the men as the baggage they take with them must be very trifling. Shoud it indeed be otherwise they will certainly lose it as the means of transportation will become less and less during their tour. Let every man go well armed, and with such arms as suit the western service. I must desire you to keep up a constant correspondence with Colo. Clarke till you shall have marched your men, and having fixed myself the number of men you are to furnish every other instruction I give you herein is submitted to any alterations he shall find necessary.

I am sir, your most obedient servant,

T J.

FC (Vi). This is the “master text” of a communication sent on the same day to various other county lieutenants, each of the other communications (the four following letters) being appropriately modified in substance. The order in which they are presented here is the same as that in the Executive Letter Book for 1781 from which they derive.

This sequence of five letters to the county lieutenants of several western counties was a part of TJ’s elaborate plan for an expedition against the British post at Detroit; see his letter to Washington, 13 Dec., and his instructions to G. R. Clark, 25 Dec. 1780. See the reply from the Officers of the Berkeley County Militia, 25 Jan. 1781.

1The following note at foot of text indicates the sum inserted at this point in each of the two letters: “Hampshire 255 Militia £25,000. Berkeley 275 [militia] £30,000.”

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