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Benjamin Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 31 May 1783

Benjamin Harrison to Virginia Delegates

RC (Virginia Historical Society). In the hand of Archibald Blair but signed by Harrison. The cover, enveloping several enclosures, is missing. The verso of the present letter is docketed in an unknown hand, “Gov: Harrisons Letter May 31st. 1783.” The original text, clipped on the edges, is internally mutilated or has deteriorated. Obliterated words or letters are supplied, as shown in brackets, from the file copy (Va. State Library) in the hand of Thomas Meriwether. Exceptions are letters bracketed in the postscript, written by the governor. These have been taken from Charles Campbell, ed., The Bland Papers (2 vols. in 1; Petersburg, Va., 1840), II, 109.

Virginia in Council May 31st. [1783].

Gentlemen

A few days ago an Express from Baylors Regiment delivered the enclosed by which you will [find] they have mutinied and the [Cause] they assign for their conduct. General Morgan & two of the Supernumerary Officers of the Corps were sent the n[e]xt Day to meet them & carry them to Winchester, which [w]e understand from Doctor L[e]e was agreeable to the determination of Congress who proposed to order th[em into t]he State to be [dis]banded; you will please [to la]y the Letter before them for their Directions. I wrote to the Mutineers and sharply reprimande[d] them for their conduct but promised in consideration of their past Services to overlook it as far as it related to me. They are really a band of heroes who have performed great & meritorious Services, and I am Satisfied would not have taken this rash Step if their Sufferings had not been very great.1 [En]closed you have an open Letter [to] Coulougnac & co. in answer to one [wro]te to you which youl please to forward2 with the one to Mr. Mazzie.3

I am with great respect Gentlemen Your mo: ob: Humble Servant

Benj: Harrison

P. S. You have inclosed a resolve of the Genl Ass[embly app]roving of a Tre[aty of Com]merce4 N. C.5

1On 29 May the governor and Council deliberated on a memorial signed seven days earlier at Moravian Town (now Winston-Salem), N.C., on behalf of about one hundred troopers of the consolidated First and Third Continental Dragoons (“Baylor’s Regiment”) by Sergeant Major William Daingerfield, four sergeants, and five corporals. They frankly admitted that although their corps had received “the greatest Aplause of Any men that Belong’d to the Southering Army,” they had been obliged to desert their post on the Congaree River in South Carolina because of hunger, lack of money, and a rumor that General Nathanael Greene “Intended to Dismount Us and Leave us to Shift for Our Selves.” The memorial added that their slow march would enable the state government to have food and pay ready for them on their arrival in Richmond. By addressing their plea to Thomas Nelson, who had not been governor since 30 November 1781, the malcontents revealed how completely out of touch they were with affairs in their native state (NA: PCC, No. 18, XVII, 357–60).

William Daingerfield (ca. 1759–1826), a native of Fredericksburg, Va., returned after the war to South Carolina, where from 1811 until his death he was “manager of the planting interest upon and in the neighborhood” of St. John’s Parish, Berkeley County. In the War of 1812 he was captain of a cavalry troop and subsequently lieutenant colonel of the Eighth South Carolina Regiment of Cavalry until “old age” forced his retirement (Louis A. Burgess, comp. and ed., Virginia Soldiers of 1776 [3 vols.; Richmond, 1927–29], III, 1222; City Gazette [Charleston, S.C.], 2 June 1826; reprinted in South Carolina Historical Magazine, LXII [1961], 55).

On 29 May Harrison addressed the ailing Colonel George Baylor at Fredericksburg, requesting that he resume active command of his regiment (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 320, n. 9; Cal. of Va. State Papers description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts (11 vols.; Richmond, 1875–93). description ends , III, 417; Executive Letter Book, 1783–1786, p. 140, MS in Va. State Library). On the same day the governor informed the House of Delegates of the crisis and of his dispatch by “express” to the mutineers urging them to proceed to Winchester, a continental depot that could quarter and victual them. He recommended that the General Assembly immediately authorize Jacquelin Ambler to provide enough money for a commissary, so that the dragoons would not resort to impressing food from farmers before reaching their destination. On 30 May the Assembly complied, but instead of imposing on Baylor, instructed Harrison to request Brigadier General Daniel Morgan, then in Richmond, to take command of the dragoons, “attended by such officers as he may think necessary, and a commissary” (Executive Letter Book, 1783–1786, p. 139; JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , May 1783, pp. 25, 26; JCSV description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (4 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 263; Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 95, n. 4).

With the approval of the Council, Harrison later in the day wrote to the mutineers, acknowledging that their sufferings had been “great,” regretting that they had felt impelled to “tarnish all their glorious Actions,” and promising, “I shall send an officer that you love and respect who has fought and conquer’d with you and who will conduct you to Winchester” (Executive Letter Book, 1783–1786, p. 142). The fact that on this same day the governor wrote to General Greene on an unrelated subject (ibid., pp. 144–45) is convincing evidence that he had not received the southern commander’s letter penned at Charleston nine days before. In that dispatch Greene denounced the mutineers, denying that they lacked food and charging that their “principal object” was to sell their stolen mounts. Greene warned Harrison that if the ringleaders should not be punished “capitally,” it would be impossible in the future “ever to keep an Army from mutiny” (Cal. of Va. State Papers description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts (11 vols.; Richmond, 1875–93). description ends , III, 486, 493–94).

Arthur Lee evidently reminded Harrison of what neither Greene nor the dragoons seem to have heard, that Congress on 24 April had instructed Benjamin Lincoln, secretary at war, and Robert Morris, superintendent of finance, to “take immediate measures” for moving the Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania continental lines, “together with the corps of artillery and cavalry,” back “within their respective states” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 275; Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 486, n. 3; JM Notes, 26 May 1783, n. 2). See also 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 , XXVI, 441–44. On 10 June Congress referred the dragoons’ memorial to Lincoln and Morris. Six days later they advised that Lincoln be empowered either to pardon the troopers if they would surrender themselves and “deliver up” their horses by an unspecified date, or if they refused, to deal with them as “the articles of war prescribe.” Charles Thomson noted that the recommendation was “obsolete” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 389, n. 2, 400–401; NA: PCC, No. 137, II, 557).

2Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 412; 414, n. 7; Delegates to Harrison, 6 May 1783, and n. 4. In his letter of 29 May to Coulignac et Cie of Nantes in regard to its controversial bill of £85 14s. 9d. for goods shipped to Virginia in 1781, Harrison asked the firm to supply a duplicate invoice to replace the one destroyed by the British. He added that if the claim was found to be valid, it would be honored as soon “as the exhausted Situation of the State will admit” (Executive Letter Book, 1783–1786, pp. 139–41; Cal. of Va. State Papers description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts (11 vols.; Richmond, 1875–93). description ends , III, 260).

3On 8 January 1779 Philip Mazzei had been appointed Virginia’s commercial agent in Tuscany (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , I, 287, n. 2). On 31 August 1782 Mazzei received Governor Harrison’s letter of 31 January in that year terminating the assignment (Howard R. Marraro, ed., Philip Mazzei, Virginia’s Agent in Europe [New York, 1935], p. 101). In his dispatch of 31 May 1783, enclosed in the present letter, the governor reminded Mazzei that his commission had expired three months after the notification of recall reached him, that is, on 30 November 1783. Regretting Mazzei’s distressed situation, as described in his letter of 31 December 1782, Harrison assured him that a warrant for £200 sterling had been drawn in his favor and urged him to return to Virginia as soon as possible (JCSV description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (4 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 252; Executive Letter Book, 1783–1786, pp. 146–47). See also Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 243; 244, n. 5.

5Nemine Contradicente, or, unanimously.

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