Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to the County Lieutenants of Henrico and Certain Other Counties, 19 April 1781

To the County Lieutenants of Henrico and Certain Other Counties

Richmond April 19th. 1781.


Having received Intelligence that the Enemy are in Motion up James River and that their vessels were in sight of Burwells ferry yesterday afternoon and their destination as yet being unknown we think it necessary to require you to assemble every man of your County able to bear Arms immediately to repair with proper officers and the best Arms he has to and that they do not wait to come altogether, but repair here in parties as they can be collected. Former experience will I hope induce a more prompt Attendance on this Occasion.1 I am &c,

T. J.

FC (Vi); caption at head of text: “County Lieutenants of Henrico, Prince George & Dinwiddie.” This is the master text of several orders calling out militia this day; three others appear in the Executive Letter Book with the following captions: (1) “County Lieutenants of Goochland, Hanover & Powhatan”; (2) “County Lieutenants of Cumberland & Amelia”; (3) “County Lieutenant of Chesterfield.” These three letters and their prototype contained at the foot of each text an indication of the place of rendezvous for each county. These were as follows:

Henrico Richmond
Prince George Petersburg
Dinwiddie Petersburg
Goochland Richmond
Hanover Richmond
Powhatan Manchester
Cumberland Manchester
Amelia Petersburg
Chesterfield Petersburg or Manchester.

1The three additional letters were identical with the master text except in the following particulars: (1) The letter to Goochland, Hanover, and Powhatan contained the following addition: “Should a very rapid movement of the enemy render this place unsafe as a Rendezvous, you will then consider the Manakin ferry as the place of Rendezvous.” (2) The letter to Cumberland and Amelia called for one-half instead of the whole of their militia and contained the same additional sentence as in the preceding but with the alternative rendezvous omitted and supplied at foot of text: “lower Part of the County on Appomattox river.” (3) The letter to Chesterfield is entered separately in the Executive Letter Book, but it contains no indicated designation of an alternative rendezvous, nor indeed any other variation between it and its prototype; it is, however, clear from TJ’s letter to Steuben of this date that the militia of that county were permitted to rendezvous either at Manchester or Petersburg, and it was no doubt this fact that caused Chesterfield to be entered separately from the master text (Chesterfield was grouped with Henrico, Prince George, and Dinwiddie in the resolution of Council of this day; Va. Council Jour. description begins Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia, ed. H. R. McIlwaine description ends , ii, 337).

Since this call was authorized by the Council and since TJ received Innes’ first communication at 6:30 A.M. (see Innes to TJ, 18 Apr. 1781), TJ must have called the Council together at once and without waiting for the scheduled meeting at 10:00 A.M., for, as he later told Innes, the call for the militia was issued “within an hour after receiving your first Notification that the enemy were in movement” (TJ to Innes, 21 Apr. 1781). The county lieutenant of Powhatan received TJ’s orders on the evening of the same day they were issued-certainly an indication of prompt action on TJ’s part (Littleberry Mosby to TJ, 20 Apr. 1781).

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