Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from David Ross, 23 May 1781

From David Ross

Point of Fork 23d May 1781


I am just now favoured with your Letter of the 21st. I expected the waggons would have come to this place in consequence of what your Excellency mentioned to me, and the instructions which I had lodged at Fredericksburg for the Waggoners. Orders had been given by the Baron to deliver the Arms at the barracks, other orders to deliver them at the Town, and lastly to deliver them at the old Courthouse. This latter station he fixes upon, and has given orders accordingly for the arms to be carried there to-morrow. The cloathing and other stores I think had better be stored here, and I have directed the bearer to do so, unless you order it otherwise. I have engaged a Mr. Richard Mathies to inspect, pack and prize the hemp in the several Counties and to employ waggons [that it] may be forwarded to Philadelphia immediately. The inspecting and prizing the hemp is very necessary and can only be done by people of some experience in the business, wherefore I think it will [be] best to load those waggons with the rope yarns and hemp, which I saved from the works at Warwick before the Enemy got there. I dont know but there is a sufficient quantity to load the whole of them with the hemp in this county. If so it will be best not to interfere with the operations of Mr. Mathies.

I expect to engage all those waggons to return here again with the other arms which are now ready.

Inclosed I send you a short state of the case relative to the stores lost at Petersburg. This is a most provoking transaction, and I hope the several persons concerned in it will be punished for their conduct. I have this moment received your letter by Col. Sinf, I shall send to the most likely places for procuring Saddles immediately but am apprehensive it will take some time to procure any considerable number of them.

I do not know where Mr. Armistead has carried his Stores. I wish some place was appointed where things should be collected. I fear [there are] many things lost, and others [much] wanted and not known that they are on hand.

The Baron wants Blankets and many other articles for the equipment of the new recruits. I have advised him to obtain your order and they shall be furnished. He also wants some Stores for himself, which he begs me to procure for him. I hinted that your order should be obtained for them. He said he would give a warrant for the money, and seemed much hurt at my requiring any other security. His demands are moderate and I believe it will be best to comply with them. I am Sir With great respect Your very humble Servant,

David Ross

RC (Vi); addressed to TJ in “Albemarle”; endorsed. Enclosure (missing): See below.

your letter of the 21st: Evidently a letter from TJ concerning the arms received from Philadelphia, and not the letter to Ross printed above under 21 May which Ross acknowledges as YOUR LETTER BY COL. SINF. The following letters in Vi are concerned with the confusion in the INSTRUCTIONS for the delivery of arms from Philadelphia: On 18 May Samuel Patteson wrote to William Davies that the arms had arrived in Charlottesville “last night” and that the “Wagoners say they will not move any further because they are greatly injured by the depreciation of continental money to the Northward on which was their agreement.” On the same day Reuben Lindsay wrote to Davies that Col. Febiger’s orders were to carry the arms to Richmond, but that Gen. Weedon, at Fredericksburg, had given verbal orders to carry them to Charlottesville; not knowing where to store them in the latter place, Lindsay requested further orders. On 21 May Ross wrote to Lindsay from Point of Fork, instructing him to have the wagons proceed to that place and receive loads of hemp to carry to Philadelphia, and also to send the wagons loaded with clothing. On 22 May Steuben’s aide-de-camp instructed the “Conductor of the waggons which brought the arms on from Philadelphia” to return at once to the place where the arms had been unloaded and “immediately … have the arms … reloaded and carried on to Albemarle old Court house with the greatest haste.” Such orders and counter-orders enabled the irrepressible Henry Young to coin a phrase: writing to Davies from Richmond on 23 May, Young said that “One day I receive orders from ten persons, the next day they are countermanded by twenty. I fear this regular confusion (if I may be allow’d the expression) will end in our total ruin” (Vi). Two days earlier Young had called to Davies’ attention a new factor in the confused situation: “The people in this country dont like people that they cant understand so well as they uster to do. I fear the Marquis may loos his Credit; Deserters, British—Cringing Duchmen and busy little French men swarm about Head Quarters. The people do not love French men, every person they cant understand they take for a French man” (Young to Davies, 21 May 1781, Vi). THE INCLOSED STATE OF THE CASE RELATIVE TO THE STORES: Ross wrote to Davies on the same day, addressing him at Albemarle old Courthos,” enclosing a similar statement (Vi, enclosure missing) and adding: “I think Benjamin Baker of Nansemond is [also very] reprehensible, he engaged to Mr. Crew (who I sent to examine and pack up the goods) that agreeable to my desire, he would send an Officer and 12 men as a guard, and never sent a man. Col. Walker in Dinwiddie also refused to furnish Baird with the assistance of a guard.” See also David Ross to TJ, 16 May and enclosure.

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