Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Steuben, 14 April 1781

To Steuben

Richmond April 14. 1781.


As so much of the subject of Colo. Davies’s letter as relates to the conduct of the Continental Issuing Commissary General in this State lies within your powers of reformation altogether, I take the Liberty of handing on the letter to you. It is very interesting to us that the provisions issued for Continental use be issued to persons authorized to give proper vouchers for debiting the Continent, and we entertain no doubt but that you will be so kind as to have this branch of business so arranged. In the mean time it might have an ill effect to stop the issues at so early a day as the one proposed as within that space it might not perhaps be practicable to have the necessary arrangements made.

I also inclose you Copies of Letters just come to hand from the President of Congress. I wish this intelligence may not stop the Pennsylvania line and leave General Greene to depend still on this State and Maryland alone. As to ourselves it is our wish to act on the defensive only in this State, and not to stop a single regular till General Greene should be made sufficiently superior to his enemy.

I have the honor to be with great respect Sir Your mo: ob. Servt.,

Th: Jefferson

P.S. I think in conversation you mentioned that you should store the spare arms and military stores from Genl. Muhlenberg’s camp at Pr. George Court house. As the depredations of the enemy on Patowmac have stopped a considerable part of the militia we had relied on to reinforce Genl. Muhlenberg so that we are obliged to call on other counties he will probably continue some time too weak to oppose the enemy. This seems to render it essential that the stores above-mentioned be withdrawn out of their reach. Pr. George Court house being but four miles from the river, I submit to you whether, on the prospect of our reinforcements being tardy, a more interior situation would not be better.

RC (NHi); in a clerk’s hand, with signature and postscript in TJ’s hand; endorsed. FC (Vi). Enclosures: (1) Davies to TJ, 12 Apr. 1781 (second letter of that date from Davies, printed above). (2) Copies of unidentified letters transmitted by Pres. Samuel Huntington (see Huntington to TJ, 9 Apr., which, however, was not received until 17 Apr. and was answered on 18 Apr. 1781). Military stores … at Pr. George court house: Steuben acted at once to remove the stores in compliance with TJ’s suggestion. His plans for the disposition of troops and stores directed that all stores at Prince George Courthouse be carried to Petersburg (Dft, dated 17 Apr. 1781, NHi). Almost at the same time that TJ made his suggestion, Greene wisely added a postscript to his letter to Steuben: “Petersburg being so accessible to the enemy, I should not think it advisable to make it a great deposit of Stores: indeed very few should be kept there, unless the means to remove them is always at command” (Greene to Steuben, 15 Apr. 1781, NHi). Steuben took steps to provide such means by writing Claiborne that, as it was necessary immediately to remove all stores from “Petersburg, Chesterfield, Richmond, or other places contiguous to navigation,” wagons for this purpose should be procured (Steuben to Claiborne, 16 Apr. 1781, NHi). The Militia … to reinforce Genl. Muhlenberg: On 8 Apr. Muhlenberg wrote urgently to Steuben pressing for the promised reinforcements and adding: “about 100 deserted within two nights out of my camp and this morning 100 out of Col. Drummons Regt. … Colonel Bowyer and Matthews with the Riflemen will march off on Tuesday.” To this Steuben replied on 11 Apr., promising to “represent the state of your Corps to Government without delay. You will please to order Major Mitchell to loose no time in sending a Return to the Governor of all those Militia, who have left you, as likewise of those who now remain with you.” Two days later Steuben wrote: “I have represented the state of your corps to the Governor. You may expect some reinforcements in a few days. I laid before him also the great necessity of raising some cavalry for the Service of the State without the least delay. He agreed to it, and orders are given for the purpose” (Muhlenberg to Steuben, 8 Apr.; Steuben to Muhlenberg, 11 and 13 Apr. 1781, all in NHi). See also Steuben to TJ, 17 Apr. 1781.

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