Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Lafayette, 31 May 1781

From Lafayette

Davenports Ford 31st. May 1781


I have receiv’d your Excellencys letter enclosing some Resolves respecting the imports1 of Horses, and thought it was my best way to intrust General Nelson with the care of carrying them into execution. Inclosed your Excellency will find the Returns of General Mullenbergs Brigade.

I have the pleasure to inform you that Camden is evacuated, that the posts of fort Motte, Orangeburg, Fort Watson, Fort Granby have surrendered to General Greens Army. The General writes me the 16th. and was then on his way to Ninety Six and Augusta, in these several places 50 Officers, 380 private 375 tories have been captured. The vast superiority the Enemy have acquired in Virginia is not without some loss in other Quarters. Over running a Country is not to conquer it, and if it was construed into a right of possession, the french could claim the whole German Empire.

To my great satisfaction the Virginia Recruits and the Virginia Militia will remain in this State. I was guarding against Motives of self Interest, but am happy to see that the new levies, General Lawsons Men, and the Pensylvanians will cooperate with us against the same Army.

In case the Baron was gone, I request the enclosed may be immediately sent after him. It contains an Order to remain in the State, and cannot be forwarded too soon. I wish the Stores may be carried very high up, as they will the less require our attention.

Lord Cornwallis was this day at little pages Bridge, and it is said busy in repairing of it. We are marching on a parallel with him, and keeping the upper part of the Country. Tomorrow I form a junction with General Weedon at Mattapony Church, and shoud General Waine arrive our inferiority will not be quite so alarming. My Lord is going from his Friends, and we are going to meet ours, with the highest respect I have the honor to be Dear Sir, Your Excellencys Most Obedient Humble Servt,


General Greenes Requests are to impart you the Southern Intelligence. He was engaged in very important business and requests you will excuse his not writing himself.

TR (MiU-C: Clinton Papers); endorsed: “Major General the Marquis Lafayate to Governor Jefferson 31 May 81.” Another Tr (Public Record Office, London), enclosed in a letter from Sir Henry Clinton to Lord George Germain, 13 July 1781.

Since this letter was intercepted by the British, it is very improbable that TJ ever saw it. It is possible that it arrived at Charlottesville (and was taken) at about the same time that Tarleton’s men were there (4 June). If so, the British deprived TJ of what would have been a satisfying communication. In choosing Nelson to supervise the impressment of horses, in expressing the wish that the militia and recruits would remain within the state and operate in conjunction with the forces of Lawson and Wayne, and in ordering Steuben to remain in Virginia, Lafayette acted in marked contrast with the behavior of Steuben at this time, who desired most of all to leave Virginia at the first opportunity and who was endeavoring to carry with him not only Lawson’s men but such arms as he could obtain from Virginia and such men as he could raise in North Carolina.

1Thus in MS, obviously a transcriber’s error for “impress.”

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