Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Steuben, 18 February 1781

From Steuben

Chesterfield Co. Ho. Feby. 18. 1781


I am favord with your Excellencys Letter of yesterday and submit whether it would not be prudent to order the prisoners removed from the Barracks at Albermarle.

I have the honor to be Your Excellencys most Obed Servt,

Steuben Maj: Genl:

RC (Vi); in an aide’s hand; addressed and endorsed.

Your excellencys letters of yesterday: Evidently the third letter from TJ to Steuben printed above under 17 Feb. In view of Steuben’s unremitting criticism of the Virginia government, his advice concerning the Convention prisoners is interesting. On the same day that he wrote the above letter, Steuben sent letters to Washington in part as follows: “If Cornwallis should continue to push in as rapidly as he has done or if Arnold should receive a reinforcement of 1500 Men, I fear that this State will not make much more resistance than No. Carolina has done. Every thing here is in confusion. The state is totally destitute of Arms, and by bad management of almost everything else necessary for defense. The Executive power is so confined that the Governor has it not in his power to procure me 40 Negroes to work at Hoods. In fact … I fear that without some speedy assistance our affairs in this quarter will go very badly. I have submitted to the Governor whether it would not be proper to remove the prisoners from Charlottesville” (Steuben to Washington, 18 Feb., NHi). Before Steuben made his suggestion about the prisoners, TJ had already acted: on 15 Feb., immediately on receipt of the inadequate information Greene had sent him, TJ directed James Wood to be prepared to remove the prisoners from Albemarle at an instant’s notice; and on 18 Feb., whereas Steuben was merely advising that it be considered, TJ ordered immediate withdrawal.

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