Virginia Delegates in Congress
to Thomas Jefferson
RC (Virginia State Library). Written by Theodorick Bland and signed by Bland and Joseph Jones.
Philadelphia Feby. 13 1781
We are Just informd from Genl. Varnum a Member now in Congress from Rhode Island that he has received Certain Intelligence that the Culloden of 74 Guns is drove on Shore and all her Crew except 17 men Perishd. the London of 90 Guns is driven out to Sea dismasted and two other 64 Gun Men of War Were dismasted entirely and all their Guns thrown over board in the late Storm.1 Since writing the above We have procured the acct. from Genl. Varnum in his own hand, which We have the Honor to Enclose.2 it is moreover added that on hearing the above the Enemy at N. York sent orders to Arnold to retreat from Virginia.3 Heavenly Storm[.] we are Yr. Exclys Most obedt. Serts
1. James Mitchell Varnum (1748–1789), a continental officer on active service, 1775–1780, but a delegate in Congress from Rhode Island at the time of this letter. The source of Varnum’s information about the gale on 22 January, which scattered and damaged the British blockading fleet in Long Island Sound, is unknown. As early as 31 January the Pennsylvania Journal (Philadelphia) carried a rumor about the havoc wrought by the storm. The Journal of 14 February reported that “a gentleman arrived yesterday from Rhode Island” with news of the wrecked ships (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1921–36). description ends , V, 567 and n. 3). The present letter exaggerates the extent of the loss in ships. The “Culloden” was wrecked, but its crew and stores were saved; the “Bedford” and “America,” although severely damaged, managed to limp back to port (William B. Willcox, ed., The American Rebellion, pp. 249–50 and n. 2). Jefferson probably heard the news from Washington before the delegates’ letter arrived (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1931–44). description ends , XXI, 191–92).
2. Inclosure not found.
3. The delegates were reporting a false rumor which appeared in the Pennsylvania Packet (Philadelphia) of 13 February.