Instruction to Virginia Delegates
MS (NA: PCC, No. 75, fol. 351). There is a second copy on fol. 353.
In the House of Delegates. Commonwealth of Virginia
Thursday the 29 of Novr. 1781
Resolved That provisions ought not to be impressed for the support of the british prisoners after the first day of January next.
Resolved That the delegates of this state in Congress ought to be directed to represent to that body the inability of this country in the present exhausted state of its treasury to furnish those supplies.1
Teste John Beckley C. h. D.
Agreed to by the Senate
Will Drew C. S.
John Beckley C. h. D.
1. These resolutions, adopted by the Virginia General Assembly to quiet the many protests against the impressment of food for the use of British soldiers who, for the most part, had been in Cornwallis’ army, were enclosed by Governor Harrison in his letter of 1 December to the Virginia Delegates. See McIlwaine, Official Letters description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia (3 vols.; Richmond, 1926–29). description ends , III, 88–89, 92, 118; Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, March 1781 Session in Bulletin of the Virginia State Library, XVII, No. 1 (January 1928). description ends , October 1781, pp. 21–22. A week earlier Congress had directed the superintendent of finance and the Board of War to provide immediately for the security and needs of enemy prisoners of war, mainly “Convention troops,” so as “to render their support less burthensome to the finances of” Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXI, 1132–34). On 12 December 1781, the day after Congress referred the resolutions from Virginia to Superintendent of Finance Robert Morris and Secretary at War Benjamin Lincoln, the latter wrote on the back of the manuscript: “The prisoners will, in a few days, be removed from Winchester to Frederick [Md.]. I am authorized to assure Congress that contracts will be made for their supply.” See also JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXI, 1164, 1165 n.
As soon as “the Inhabitants of Winchester & the Counties in its neighborhood” heard that their surplus grain and meat might hereafter be purchased rather than impressed, they reversed their position and unavailingly importuned Governor Harrison and the secretary at war to let the prisoners remain. About the middle of January Virginia militia escorted the prisoners to the border of Maryland, where a guard from that state took them in charge. Lincoln arranged to have most of the prisoners transferred to cantonments at York and Lancaster, Pa., under the custody of the continental army (McIlwaine, Official Letters description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia (3 vols.; Richmond, 1926–29). description ends , III, 123–25; NA: PCC, No. 149, I, 19, 23, 121–22, 125–34).