Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Steuben, 19 February 1781

To Steuben

Richmond Feby. 19. 1781


The inclosed is an extract of a letter from Genl. Greene to me. As the Gentlemen of the Army whom he wishes to take Command of the Militia who shall join him are now pretty generally collected with you for the purpose of arranging the line; on which Arrangement it is probable some will become supernumerary I submit to you whether it would not be agreeable to Genl. Greene if you could prevail on all the Gentlemen who shall become supernumerary and as many of those who tho remaining of the line have not a present Command of Regulars, to join Genl. Greene without delay on the present important occasion and take such Commands as he shall assign them. You will be pleased to act in this as you shall think best.

I have the honor to be with great respect Sir Your most obedt & most humbl Servt.,

Th: Jefferson

RC (NHi); in a clerk’s hand, signed and addressed by TJ to Steuben at “Chesterfd. Court house”; endorsed.

Extract of a letter from Genl. Greene: This was that part of Greene’s letter to TJ of 15 Feb. in which Greene remarked: “If the Militia is called out let them be put under Continental officers, that are or have been in service.” On 23 Feb. Steuben’s aide-de-camp, Major William North, wrote to Greene as follows: “The Virginia Line give him [Steuben] the Greatest Trouble. The Arrangement is nearly completed and they are continually applying for leaves of absence. An extract of your letter to the Governor was published in orders, and they were ask’d to Join You—and had the Baron commanded he knew it would have been of no Effect. Six signed their names but afterwards excused themselves. Gen. Nelson is sick, Lawson at home. Arnold in Portsmouth. The Assembly to meet 1st March. Rendezvous opened. Officers to be sent to receive the recruits. Government to be harrassed ’till they cloath the men they raise. The Baron wishes to be with you. He had rather Obey in an Army, than Command in Virginia” (North to Greene, “Moors Ordinary,” Prince Edward co., 23 Feb.; an extract from Steuben’s General Orders of 19 Feb., addressed to Colonel Davies, is in Vi). The discontent of the Virginia officers, and their requests for leaves may have been Steuben’s fault in some measure. The arrangement of the Virginia Line on the Continental Establishment, to be carried out in accordance with the resolution of Congress of 21 Nov., had been ordered by Steuben on 20 Dec. to take place at Chesterfield court house on 10 Feb. (broadside, NHi, “By the General’s Command P. S. Du Ponceau. Aide-de-Camp”). Most of the officers assembled on the date specified, but Steuben remained in Richmond until 11 Feb. and then adjourned the meeting to Petersburg for the 18th. On top of this he insisted on returning Weedon to service despite the fact that Weedon had been in retirement for three years. This move was strongly protested by the Board of Virginia Field Officers on 18 Feb., who pointed out that “confusion, disgust, and resignations … followed such irregularities” and threatened to send their protests to Congress, to Washington, and to Greene (Board of Virginia Field Officers to Steuben, 18 Feb.; two letters from Davies to Steuben on 10 Feb. and one on 11 Feb.; Steuben to Davies, 11 Feb., all in NHi). This arrangement of the Virginia Line, as well as the animosities engendered by Steuben’s inept handling of “The Affair of Westover” (see Appendix i, Vol. 5), must have been in large part responsible for the feeling against Steuben that caused Davies to write Greene somewhat later: “The Baron has unfortunately become universally unpopular, and all ranks of people seem to have taken the greatest disgust at him, and carry it to such a length as to talk of applying to Congress for his recall. A very little, however, has raised all this clamour; but at all events his usefulness here is entirely over” (Davies to Greene, 17 June, NHi). It should be noted that Davies was head of the Board of Virginia Field Officers that had protested Weedon’s return and that he enjoyed Steuben’s confidence probably as much as any other Virginia officer.

Index Entries