Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from J. P. G. Muhlenberg, 1 April 1781

From J. P. G. Muhlenberg

Camp near Suffolk April 1st. 1781


Since the arrival of the Fleet on Wednesday last, in Hampton road, and Elisabeth River, The Enemy have continued very quiet in Portsmouth; They have since that time permitted no Person, to go in, or come out of Town, so that I have found it impracticable hitherto, to gain any intelligence, relative to what reinforcements the Fleet has brought. From their care to prevent any thing transpiring out of Turn, I am led to believe they have some Move in contemplation; but as they have given me time to draw off Colo. Parkers Detachment from Princess Ann, I hope I shall have it in my power to counteract any design they may have formd of penetrating into the Country. I must now beg leave to mention to Your Excellency, that the Militia from Augusta, Rockingham, and Rockbridge, expect to be relievd in the 10th. Part of the Sussex and Brunswic claim the same, so that unless these troops are replaced by others my Force will not be adequate to what they were intended for.

I have the Honor to be with great respect Your Excellencys Most Obedt hble. Servt.,

P. Muhlenberg

PS. The enclosd is this moment come to hand.

RC (PHi); addressed and franked by Muhlenberg; endorsed. Enclosure not found.

Muhlenberg’s enclosure in this letter was probably a communication from a spy in Portsmouth, for on this date he wrote Steuben shortly before midnight that he had received his first dependable intelligence from the enemy’s post since the arrival of the fleet (Muhlenberg to Steuben, 1 Apr. 1781, NHi). But the information could not have been very dependable, for a few days later Muhlenberg wrote Weedon: “Reports relative to the Enemy’s present designs are so various that no dependance can be put in them. This much is certain: They are preparing, and nearly ready for a Move; and from the best intelligence I can get, a Junction with Cornwallis is their Main Object, but whether They will attempt it by the way of the Great Bridge, up James River, or round by Cape Fear time only will discover. They insist that but two Regiments came with Genl. Phillips. If this is the case, let them Attempt to March thro’ Virginia if they dare. The position I am in at present suits me to a Hair” (Muhlenberg to Weedon, “Camp near Scotts,” 6 Apr. 1781, PPAP; two days later Weedon transmitted the same information to Steuben: “The enemy are making great preparations for a move. It is conjectured a Junction with Ld. Cornwallis is the object. Whether they will attempt this by the Great Bridge, Cape Fear or up James River and by Petersburg is uncertain. Genl. Phillips is honest enough to confess he is coming out, but leaves us to judge to what Quarter he means to point”; Weedon to Steuben, 8 Apr. 1781, PPAP). But on 3 Apr. John Banister reported to Steuben that “A Friend” in Norfolk who could be absolutely relied on reported that the enemy in Portsmouth had been reinforced by 2500 troops, that more were expected, and that there was talk of pushing on with great vigor to meet Cornwallis (Banister to Steuben, 3 Apr. 1781, NHi). Colo Parkers detachment joined Weedon on the evening of 31 Mch.: “They marched into the Dismal, part of the way on Loggs and sent their baggage by the upper rout” (Muhlenberg to Steuben, 1 Apr. 1781, NHi).

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