Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Nathanael Greene, 1 April 1781

To Nathanael Greene

Richmond April 1st. 1781


I am honoured with your Favor of the 27th. by Mr. Daniel. I informed you by Colo. Morris of the reinforcement of Militia ordered to you, but they will not be in Time to supply the place of those now with you, if they leave you so early.

Certainly the knowledge that a Relief is coming in will induce them not to leave you in a State which may soon give us all to do over again. A Part of these Militia went under the regular orders of Government, and will be deemed Deserters if they withdraw without orders. The whole of them I presume went under orders from their County Lieutenants which are as obligatory as those of the Executive; how far particular stipulations may have been made with them I am uninformed. None could be made with those we ordered out. I shall use every exertion in my Power to forward on the New Levies to you, as I am sensible it is much more practicable to carry on a war with Militia within our own Country than out of it. I wrote you by Colo. Morris on the Subject of Beeves. He will have given you full information of the Issue of our preparations against Arnold.

An Enemy 3,000 strong, not a regular within our State, nor Arms to put into the Hands of the Militia are Circumstances which promise Difficulties. Yet I shall think it essential to do every Thing we can for you to prevent the Return of Cornwallis’s Army. I am &c,

T. J.

FC (Vi).

It is significant that TJ made no comment on Greene’s sarcastic reference in his letter of 27 Mch. to an “Army on paper” and to his truculent assumption that it was a matter of indifference to the Virginia government that Greene had committed his “life and reputation to your service”; instead he summarized in extreme brevity the capital facts that had altered the strategic situation in Virginia. I wrote you by Colo. Morris: Morris had attended the Council meeting on 29 Mch. in company with Steuben (TJ to the county lieutenants of Montgomery, &c., 29 Mch., note) and had returned with TJ’s letter to Greene of 30 Mch. The new levies: On 1 Apr. 1781 Lt. Col. Oliver Towles wrote to Steuben from Fredericksburg: “Agreeably to my instructions [from Steuben] I applied to the Governor for a List of the Counties assigned to my Rendezvous. He returned me for answer that no Counties in particular were or could be assigned to it, that the several County Lieutenants throughout the State were at liberty to send their respective recruits to such rendezvous’s as they might think best; from this I judged it unnecessary for me to apply to the commanding officer of any County in particular for his Quota of Recruits. However, finding that so few came in I have applied to several County Lieutenants, requesting their best exertions on the occasion and shall continue to use every means in my power to enforce a compliance with the law”; Towles reported that only 23 recruits had come in, due to a postponement of the draft in different counties (Towles to Steuben, 1 Apr. 1781, NHi).

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