James Madison Papers

Virginia Delegates to Thomas Nelson, 11 September 1781

Virginia Delegates to Thomas Nelson

RC (Virginia State Library). In JM’s hand, except for the signatures of Jones, Bland, and Randolph. “No. 9.” is written at the top.

Philada. Sepr. 11th. 1781.


Another post has arrived without our being favored with a line from your Excellency.1

A letter has been received by the President of this State from Governor Livingston containing intelligence that General Clinton is preparing to embark a large body of troops at N. York which is to be landed in the Jerseys and to penetrate Southwardly in order to controul the reinforcements going to Virginia. The posture of opposition which we hope will be taken by this State and that of N Jersey, with the force under Genl. Heath on the North River which will be in the rear of such a movement render it very little formidable2

We have had no information since our last either of the British fleet under Admirals Graves & Hood, or of that of the French under Admiral de Barras.3

With sentiments of the highest esteem & respect We have the honor to be Yr. Excellency’s Most Obedt. & humble servants

Jos: Jones.

J Madison Junr

Theok: Bland

Edm: Randolph

1Nelson wrote to the Virginia delegates on 6 September 1781 (Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (Richmond, 1931——). description ends , II, 383), but this letter has not been found.

2The letter of Governor William Livingston of New Jersey on 8 September 1781 to President Joseph Reed of Pennsylvania is in Pennsylvania Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds., Pennsylvania Archives (9 ser., 138 vols.; Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949). description ends , 1st ser., IX, 393. Two days previously Reed had offered to Livingston the assistance of Pennsylvania militia if the British threatened New Jersey (ibid., p. 388). Before beginning his march south with most of his army, Washington named Major General William Heath (1737–1814) of Roxbury, Mass., to command the eighteen continental regiments and other military units remaining in the middle department, including the North (Hudson) River. Though Heath’s “general Rule of Conduct” was “to act on the defensive only,” he was authorized to strike “a Blow at the Enemys Posts or Detachments, should a fair Opportunity present itself” (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXIII, 20–23). After the Revolution, Heath returned to his Roxbury farm and held several political offices in his state prior to 1806, when he declined to be lieutenant governor. For the troops which Clinton by 6 September had already embarked to assist Cornwallis, see Pendleton to JM, 10 September 1781, n. 3).

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