Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Syme, 21 April 1781

From John Syme

New Castle 21st April 1781.


I am to Ask Your pardon for Omitting the Return I mention’d; I now inclose it. You Will Observe, it falls greatly short of two Battalions. Your Excellency does not Direct me, How I am to Act in that Case; I did take notice of it Yesterday; We think Here, the Court ought to Make the Arrangements, Accordingly, but I Wait Your Determination.

Yesterday Noon I Received Yours, Ordering out my Militia; I Have been as Quick as I Could. Part Will be with you this Day. I Have a Troublesome Job on my Hands again, as to the Artillery &cra. which Colo. Davies and Self, Have Concluded to send up the River, as High as Possible. I shall Want some Men About it; How many I can’t Exactly say. You tell me Every Able Man of the Militia, but Yet suppose, the few Wanted Here will Scarcely make any Odds; I shall not intrude farther, on Your Excellency’s time, & Have the Honor to be, Sir, Your Mo: Obedt. Servt.,

J Syme

NB. While I am folding this Letter, The Postmaster informs me, the Enemy are at Wmsburg.

RC (Vi); addressed (in part): “By Frank”; endorsed. The enclosed return of militia (omitted from Syme’s letter of the previous day, q.v.) is missing.

The plan Davies and Syme had agreed upon to send the artillery up the river is set forth in letters from Syme to Davies of 20, 21, 22, and 23 Apr. 1781 (Vi). The first of these may help to explain Davies’ comment in his letter of 21 Apr. to TJ concerning transportation of Continental stores, for in it Syme said: “I could wish with all my Heart, the Continental and State Waggons might take up this Business, which seems totally at a stand and Certainly this Train of Artillery is an Object of much importance at any time, more especially at this Crisis of Affairs. … If the Artillery is not to be carried up James River by Water, from Westham, would it not answer to drop it somewhere in the Neighborhood of Richmond, the Shells and Shott still nearer this place; or could they not be sent up this River by Water to the Fork.” Davies replied the same day, to which Syme responded on 21 Apr.: “Yours of yesterday is before me, and am pushing my first Plan of sending the Cannon at least, up the River; the Shott and Shells, &cra. I do not think so very material. Mason is now out after Flat Bottom’d Boats. If they Can’t be Had, will it not be best, to Run the Flatts as High up as possible, and let them remain on Board, or Land them in Different and Obscure places. … Have mention’d the Artillery Buisness to the Governor.” Other difficulties appeared. On 22 Apr. Syme reported to Davies: “Your Superintendent and myself dont understand Each Other by any means. You tell me you Rely altogether on me. … Therefore you’ll be pleas’d to save the publick the Expence of Mr. [Capt. Henry] Dudley, as he is dissatisfied with my orders, and totally unacquainted with things here &cra &cra.” And again on the next day (after returning to Davies an evidently misdirected and unidentified letter from TJ to Davies): “I am told Capt. Dudley is gone to you with Complaints. The Bearer Capt. Stanley will inform you of some particulars relative to him, but the Truth is he wants to Command me &cra &cra.” Finally, on 23 Apr.: “I have written you so often of Late, that I am asham’d of it. Nothing but the Salvation of the stores, could induce me to be thus Troublesome. Capt. Dudley will by no means answer this Business, for reasons inumerable and too Tedious to mention. For particulars I refer you to this Gentleman Wm. Bradford Esq., who comes Express to inform you of it. I can Get Men here acquainted with the River, the people, and that can Write. I beg my Dear Sir, you Let me Conduct this Matter. I am with Great Regard, & much Haste & Perplexity,” &c. (see note to Davies to TJ, 21 Apr.).

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