Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Robert Bolling and Others, 12 April 1781

To Robert Bolling and Others

In Council April 12. 1781.


Reasons to believe that the enemy intend a movement across the Country towards Carolina have induced Majr. General Baron Steuben to desire anxiously to have made up of a sudden a body of 200 cavalry. It is probable they will not be wanting a fortnight, but in any event they shall be discharged at the end of one month from their rendezvousing at Petersburg. Supposing it would be in your power to raise a number suddenly I take the liberty of troubling you as I do several other Gentlemen with the proposition. It will be necessary for the troopers to mount and equip themselves. Some good Swords it will be in our power to furnish and all of them with a shorter kind. So that the want of that article need not keep them from the field. Their horses and accoutrements shall be ensured by the public against every thing but negligence, and the service shall be counted in lieu of a tour of Militia duty. We wish them to rendezvous as they are raised at Petersburg, as the call, should it happen, will happen in a few days. The Commands shall be arranged at the rendezvous. For so short a service it is hoped that no difficulties will arise on that head.

I am with great respect Sir Your mo. ob. Servt.,

Th: Jefferson

RC (DNA: RG 15, Revolutionary War Pension Files); in a clerk’s hand, signed by TJ and with his notation at foot of first page: “Capt. Robt. Bolling.” FC (Vi); at head of text: “Colo. Meade, Colo. Griffin, Colo. Mosby, Mr. Smith, Colo. Goode, Colo. Pleasants, Mr. Bolling, Colo. Southall, & Colo. Dixon.”

On 12 Apr. the Council took under consideration Steuben’s representation of the “necessity of strengthening our army below” and also his “anxious desire to have made up of a sudden two hundred Cavalry.” Being “very unwilling to harass the Militia more than shall be absolutely unavoidable,” the Council advised TJ to write to all county lieutenants requiring recruiting officers (those appointed in consequence of TJ’s letter to the county lieutenants of 30 Mch.) to receive “the Delinquents of whatever denomination who have been sentenced to serve in the army, and march them to Richmond and Williamsburg without delay.” At the same time the Council advised TJ “to write to Colo. Everard Meade and some other gentlemen of activity and influence requesting them to raise a body of volunteer Cavalry agreeable to the Baron’s request” (Va. Council Jour. description begins Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia, ed. H. R. McIlwaine description ends , ii, 333). Steuben was in Richmond on Wednesday, 11 Apr. 1781, and attended Council that day. At any rate several important decisions were taken at this time and it is possible that all were done at Steuben’s insistence, as one undoubtedly was: (1) the attempt to raise an emergency body of cavalry; (2) the renewal of efforts to complete the defenses at Hood’s; (3) the order to enforce the law against militia delinquents; and (4) the removal of the suspension of the draft law in those counties whose militia were not in the field (see TJ to Steuben, 19 Apr. 1781).

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