Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to the County Lieutenants of Chesterfield and Dinwiddie, 18 February 1781

To the County Lieutenants of Chesterfield and Dinwiddie

Richmond Febry. 18. 1781


Not knowing where the very rapid march of Ld. Cornwallis may terminate, I think it necessary to desire that every man of your Militia who has a firelock or for whom one can be procured by impressing or otherwise be immediately embodied under proper Officers. I do not herein give orders for their march because you are so convenient that you can without it’s causing but little delay give me notice when your men are embodied, and I may then give you orders suited to the actual situation of things at the time. I am with much respect Sr. &c.

FC (Vi). Another FC (Vi). These have identical texts, but variant captions. The first is headed: “County Lieuts. of Chesterfield & Dinwiddie.” The second is headed: “County Lieut. or Commanding Officer of Chesterfield Militia.” Since both are transcribed in the Executive Letter Book (the first at p. 119 and the second at p. 122), and since it is unlikely that TJ dispatched two identical letters to the county lieutenant of Chesterfield on 18 Feb., this curious duplication was an apparent error. Two possible explanations occur: (1) the second FC was intended for the commanding officer of some county other than Chesterfield and the clerk, in transcribing, made an error in the caption on p. 122; and (2) the clerk simply erred in repeating the text in the Executive Letter Book, forgetting that he had already transcribed such a text. Either error is understandable on a day when the executive office must have been operating under an exceptional “throng of business,” as TJ put it. The second appears to be the more likely explanation, for if such a text had been intended for some other county in addition to the two mentioned, the clerk, following usual practice, would no doubt have added the name of that county to the caption of the text on p. 119, instead of wasting time in making another copy.

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