Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Lafayette, 29 May 1781

From Lafayette

Head Quarters May 29h: 1781


The Enemy’s Movements into the Country, and our great deficiency in Cavalry, makes it absolutely necessary that two hundred dismounted Dragoons, under the Command of Col: White are immediately furnished with Horses. For this purpose I have directed Col: White to fix upon some Place of safety to equip his Men, and send them to the Feild; to accomplish which I must request the favor of your Excellency to Order all the accutrements, and arms in the possession of the Militia, and in the different parts of this State to be sent to Col: White and he impowered to employ Persons to impress two hundred Horses fit for the Dragoon Service, on the South side of James River and in any other part of the State your Excellency may please to direct. I flatter myself the adopting this mode, without loss of time, will meet with your Excellencys approbation, as I can assure you nothing else will put it in my power to prevent the Enemy from raveging the Country in small Parties. I have the honor to be your Excellencys Most obedt: & very H: Sevt.,


RC (Vi); it is a significant fact that this letter is in the handwriting of Col. Anthony Walton White, who must in fact have composed it (see note to preceding letter from TJ to Lafayette); signed by Lafayette; endorsed. Gottschalk, Lafayette and the Close of the American Revolution, Chicago, 1942, p. 241, misinterprets this letter as evidence that Lafayette had “on his own responsibility … issued orders to Colonel White to impress two hundred horses.”

For TJ’s action on this letter, see his orders to the county lieutenants of Powhatan and certain other counties, 31 May, and his letter to Lafayette of 31 May. It is to be noted that TJ did not empower Col. White “to employ Persons” to impress horses or agree to issue a warrant to him, but that he referred the latter decision back to Lafayette and avoided the former altogether by suggesting that White be given one of the impress warrants that TJ had sent to Lafayette; by this action he was assured that impresses made by White would be in accord with the resolution of the House, a copy of which was attached to each warrant.

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