Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Harrison, 22 April 1781

To Benjamin Harrison

In Council April 22d. 1781.


We thought it best as I informed you in a former letter to call into Service on this occasion the Militia whose families and property were not immediately exposed. Being circumscribed in our number of Arms it still appears best, that what we have should be put into the hands of those Militia. Were we to send any to Charles City, we must dismiss so many Militia now collected here, and at Manchester; Experience has also shewn it preferable for another Reason to put your Arms into the hands of those not exposed, because on the Enemy’s coming into the exposed parts of the Country, the Militia of the Neighbourhood will desert, carry off their Arms, and perhaps suffer them to be taken off by the Enemy. We therefore think to retain the Militia collected and collecting here, who we expect every moment will receive marching Orders from Baron Steuben, and that yours should be permitted to take Care of their families and property.

I am informed the Enemy have got possession of the Shipyard and that by the most unaccountable Inattention the Lewis and Safeguard Gallies have withdrawn up Chickahominy instead of James River. I am &c,

T. J.

FC (Vi).

TJ’s former letter appears to be missing, as is Harrison’s letter appealing for arms and ammunition; the latter is obviously not one of the letters he wrote to TJ on 21 Apr. 1781, as indicated by the following reference to it in proceedings of Council for this date: “A letter was written to Colo. Harrison, of Charles City, in answer to his application for arms and ammunition for his Militia” (Va. Council Jour. description begins Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia, ed. H. R. McIlwaine description ends , ii, 339). James Innes some months earlier had suggested the kind of policy for calling out militia that would place most reliance on those from a distance; see Innes to TJ, 21? Oct. 1780, Vol. 4:55–7.

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