Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Richard Claiborne, enclosing a List of Articles to be Furnished to Steuben and Lafayette, 18 May 1781

From Richard Claiborne, enclosing a List of Articles to be Furnished to Steuben and Lafayette

Richmond 18th May 1781


I inclose to your Excellency a Memorandum of what Major General the Marquis de la Fayette and Major General the Baron de Steuben have required of me and the Stated periods for their delivery.

As the resource from which I have derived my support ever since I have been in the department is the only one to which I can have recourse in this matter I beg leave to trouble your Excellency for the aid of Government again.

It is with much satisfaction I acknowledge the receipt of the several Warrants for money from the Executive; but as I have been disappointed in obtaining the cash from the Treasury in the ample manner which the exigencies of the service required, owing to the manner in which that Office with all others in the lowers parts have been drove about, I am fearful that it will still be deficient from the large draughts that will be made by the several different departments, and therefore am induced to propose that the Wagons, horses, gears, drivers and oarsmen be procured in some manner different from purchasing or hiring for immediate Payment as your Excellency thinks best. With respect to the Boats, Carriages, Oars, Horse accoutrements and Camp equipage I Shall endeavour to furnish them with what money I may get from the treasury upon the Warrants which I have already in possession, and when they are out shall beg leave to ask for others.

As your Excellency must be well inform’d of the necessity of dispatch in what I am directed to do, I beg leave to ask for an answer of precision, that I may report accordingly but should it be too tedious to adopt a mode other than by purchasing will your Excellency direct that money shall be immediately advanced to enable me to comply with the requisitions? I have had no Assistance but from the Government of Virginia neither do I expect any thing shortly. I have the honor to be with the highest esteem & respect Your Excellency’s Most Obedient Humble Servant,

Rd. Claiborne DQMr


Memorandum of articles to be furnished by the Deputy Qu. Master
for the State of Virginia.

By whose order. Articles. At what time £
Majr. General the
Marquis de
70 Wagons, with four good
horses, & gears, and a
Driver to each
50 Good draught horses for
25 Boats to be built &
mounted on Carriages
100 Good draught horses for
the Boats
25 Sets of gears complete for
25 Drivers to be engaged for
150 Oarsmen to be engaged
for ditto
150 Oars with stuff to muffle
25 Carriages, with four
wheels, for ditto, to be
Majr. General the
Baron Steuben
100 dragoons horses to be
purchased & completely
accoutred with saddles,
By the 1st. of
100 ditto . . . . . ditto By the 1st. of
Tents, Camp kettles, Axes,
Hatchets, 10 wagons, with
four horses each, and drivers,
1,000 wooden Canteens,
Knapsacks, Havresacks,
Bags, and Portmanteaus
for a detachment to
be equiped at Albemarle
old Courthouse for the
Southern army.
By the 1st. of

RC (Vi); addressed; endorsed in part: “recd June 81.” Tr (NHi). Enclosure (Vi); in an unidentified hand, endorsed by Claiborne.

On this date Claiborne wrote Steuben enclosing “No. 5” which, he said, “contains a memorandum which I shall lay before the Governor and request him for the aid of Government, as it would be Chimerical in me to attempt to execute it without. I have made every tryal in my power to procure horses and everything else by Certificates and employing Gentlemen of interest and influence, but they assure me that there is such a General dissatisfaction and Suspicion among the people that they are determined not to suffer themselves to be deceived any longer, by being connected with contracts on public account. I can assure you, Sir, that faith in general among the people towards the Public is totally lost and that nothing is to be had unless necessity obliges them to it, without the cash or some personal private obligation is rendered to them” (Claiborne to Steuben, 18 May 1781, NHi). Steuben’s pressure on the Virginia government to provide arms and supplies for the recruits being assembled was increased rather than diminished with the news that Cornwallis had turned back northward and was about to effect a junction with the British forces in Virginia. For he had just received Greene’s letter of 1 May 1781 ordering him southward: “… it is my wish that you should march with all the Virginia drafts that are fit to take the field as soon as you can. … Our situation requires immediate support. I beg you to get the best state of the stores you can and bring with you, and write to the board of war our deplorable condition respecting arms. Unless a new supply can be had, or larger Armories established for their repairs, we cannot keep the field. I beg you to take every possible measure to improve both. Bring forward all the Cavalry with you, that is fit for duty, ours being much broke down and the Enemy having two to our one. … I find myself so beset with difficulties that I need the Council and assistance of an officer educated in the Prussian school, and persuade myself that I shall have in you both the friend and the General I want” (Greene to Steuben, 1 May 1781, NHi). But the officer of the Prussian school was having his own difficulties in Virginia. In order to facilitate the equipment of the recruits preparatory to their march to join Greene, Steuben moved his headquarters to Charlottesville (Claiborne, circular to deputy quartermasters, 10 May 1781, NHi; it may have been at this time that TJ made the following note in DLC: TJ Papers, 7: 1195: “6. chairs, 2. dining tables lent to Q.M. (Southall) for Baron Steuben”; this memorandum is on the verso of the end of an otherwise missing letter from James Madison which, in addition to the signature and complimentary close, contains only these words: “than by employing them there”). Steuben had also, with Lafayette’s approval, fixed the general rendezvous at Albemarle Barracks. “Against this,” he reported to Greene, “the wise men of this state have cried out loudly. … We have as yet only 440 Recruits assembled, unarmed, unequipped, and without cloaths. … In fact if with our greatest efforts we get a Thousand men from Virginia, it will be the utmost. Notwithstanding this, my care to keep together and Equip the few we have got, has not failed to draw on me the censure of many of the great men here, who pretend that these Recruits ought to be sent immediately into the Field and relieve so many of the Militia. Other wise ones ridicule the distance from the Enemy to which I have sent them. … I must give you this notice, my dear General, that from the many Difficulties which daily occur and of which I have only mentioned part, my presence in this state has become useless. I shall with pleasure fly to put myself under your orders and I beseech you … to call me as soon as possible, for be assured I am heartily disgusted at the Conduct and proceedings in this Quarter” (Steuben to Greene, 14 May 1781, NHi). On this same day Greene was writing to Steuben expressing the belief that Cornwallis would turn southward again, in which case Steuben was ordered to bring the Virginia recruits to join Greene (Greene to Steuben, 14 May 1781, NHi). But by the present date Steuben had received Greene’s letter of 1 May and his spirits rose at once in anticipation of leaving Virginia: “Immediately on receipt of your Letter,” he wrote Greene, “I repeated my former orders for them [the officers under Col. Gaskins, who was in charge of the new recruits] to lose not a moment in Disciplining the men and Equipping them with every necessary for the March. I at the same time dispatched Expresses to all the Rendezvous to forward on immediately all the Recruits they had. Tomorrow I shall set out myself in order to expedite matters. … I have consulted with the Marquis and it is agreed that I shall march the moment I can equip the recruits we have and this I am in hopes will be in about 8 or 10 days” (Steuben to Greene, 18 Apr. 1781, NHi). There is no evidence that Steuben wrote directly to TJ at this time, but he did press Claiborne to write the present and following letters and he also wrote Davies: “I have received letters from Genl. Greene beging in the most earnest manner that the recruits may be armed immediately. To a person of Colonel Davis’ enlarged ideas, the good of the country is the good of this state. I therefore request in the most pressing terms that you will collect all and every persons that can be of any service in repairing the arms” (Steuben to Davies, 17 May 1781, NHi); but see TJ to Davies, 25 May 1781.

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