James Madison Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Virginia Delegates in Congress, 27 October 1780

Thomas Jefferson
to Virginia Delegates in Congress

RC (NA: PCC, No. 71, I, 495–96). Only the complimentary close and signature are in Jefferson’s hand.

Richmond Octo. 27. 17801


I must beg the favor of you to Solicit the sending on to us immediately a good supply of Cartridge Paper & Cartouch Boxes. Nearly the whole of the former Article which we had bought at Alexandria, Baltimore &Ca. and what the Board of War sent from Philadelphia has been made up and forwarded to the Southern Army: there remains now but a few Ream to make up. I fear we have lost 2000 cartouch Boxes on the Bay which we had had made at Baltimore Our distress for these is also very great[,] muskets being really useless without them. I must entreat the greatest dispatch in forwarding these Articles

A very dangerous Insurrection in Pittsylvania was prevented a few days ago by being discovered three days before it was to take place. The Ring-leaders were seized in their Beds. This dangerous fire is only smothered: when it will break out seems to depend altogether on events. It extends from Montgomery County along our Southern boundary to Pittsylvania and Eastward as far as James River: Indeed some suspicions have been raised of it’s having crept as far as Culpepper.2 The rest of the State turns out with a Spirit and alacrity which makes me perfectly happy. If they had arms there is no effort either of public or private Enemies in this State which would give any Apprehensions[.] Our whole arms are or will be in the hands of the force now assembling.3 Were any disaster to befall these, We have no other resource but a few scattered Squirrel Guns, Rifles &C. in the Hands of the western People.

I am with the greatest esteem Gentlemen Your most obedt. humble sert

Th: Jefferson

1This letter was read in Congress on 2 November 1780 together with one of 26 October from Jefferson to President Samuel Huntington. Both letters were “referred to the Board of War, to take order.” A note to this effect by Charles Thomson on the letter of 27 October is followed by the words “Acted upon.” Probably this action did not take the form of sending the supplies requested (Journals of the Continental Congress, XVIII, 1004; Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (16 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , IV, 69, 77).

2Although trouble with Tories in the southwestern counties of Virginia had been endemic since early 1779, their disaffection was especially serious and widespread between March and October of the next year. British agents assisted the Tory leaders to enlarge the unrest in the Virginia and North Carolina back country into a full-scale uprising and possibly to draw in Cherokees as allies. An immediate objective was to gain possession of the patriots’ valuable lead mines in Montgomery County, Va. Colonels William Preston, William Campbell, and Charles Lynch, aided by Colonel Benjamin Cleveland of North Carolina, the victory at King’s Mountain in early October, and harsh punishment meted out to captured Tories, ended most of the overt disloyalty by mid-autumn (Louise Phelps Kellogg, ed., Frontier Retreat on the Upper Ohio, 1779–1781 [Madison, Wis., 1917], pp. 23–26; Maud Carter Clement, The History of Pittsylvania County, Virginia [Lynchburg, Va., 1929], pp. 178–79; Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , X, 324–26; Jameson to JM, 25 November 1780).

3That is, militia to oppose the British under General Leslie in the Portsmouth neighborhood and to aid Gates’s army in North Carolina.

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