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To James Madison from Joseph Jones, 3 April 1781

From Joseph Jones

RC (LC: Madison Papers).

Fredericksburg 3d. April. 1781

Dr. Sr.

I arrived here the 7th. day after my departure from Philadelphia.1 the sanguine hopes entertained before I set out of taking Arnold and his party at Portsmouth, lessened as I advanced and at length were entirely lost by certain information that the British Fleet were in the Bay after engaging that of the French off the Capes. The issue of the conflict has been variously reported. the accot. wch. obtains most credit is that the French disabled one of the British 74’s but as the Fleet left the Bay in two days after the[y] entered it in quest as it is said of the French Fleet the presumption is they were not much injured.2 a Report prevails that a second engagement took place the 24th. near the Capes as a heavy Cannonade was then heard in that quarter. of this, as well as the first engagement it is probable you are better informed than we are as I met two expresses with Despatches for Congress and Govr. Lee giving an accot. it was said of the above transactions and of the Battle between Generals Greene & Cornwallis.3 I bespoke a pair of leather Breeches of a Breeches maker whose name I have forgot but who lives on the right hand side of Market Street as you go to the Market and the Corner of 4th. street; they are for Col. Taliaferro4 and the price 600 dolls. be pleased to get them and deliver them to the late Genl. Woodfords5 Servt. Daniel when he calls for th[em.]

Mrs. Woodford as well as myself will tha[nk] you for information where she is to apply for payment of the allowance made the widows of deceased officers, what the allow[ance] is and at what periods payable.

Since writing the above I have your Letter by the Post and find my conjectures true—that yo[u] knew more of the above transactions than we did.6 [A] Letter from Weedon informs that 23 transports with Troops commanded by Genl. Philips arrived Sunday week (the 25th. ult.) at Lynhaven Bay convoyed by the Chatham, Roebuck Rainbow—the Hancock & 4 other Frigates.7 Weedon further writes that a Letter from Greene of the 23d. ult. mentions that his Army [is] in high spirits and ready for another Action, the Enemy retreating and his army advancing. They left our wounded & 70 of their own.8 Complts to the Family9 Ys. aff.

J. Jones

1Before beginning his leave of absence to return to Virginia, Jones was last recorded as voting in Congress on 22 March (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XIX, 293). See Pendleton to JM, 2 April 1781, n. 1.

2See Pendleton to JM, 19 March, n. 9, and 2 April 1781, n. 2.

3The dispatches must have been those of 21 March from Thomas Jefferson to the president of Congress and to Governor Thomas Sim Lee of Maryland. The former of these letters gave Congress on 27 March the first news of the Battle of Guilford Court House twelve days before. Nathanael Greene’s report of this engagement was laid before Congress on 31 March. In his dispatch, Jefferson also informed President Samuel Huntington “of the arrival of a British fleet in Chesapeake Bay.” Jefferson evidently did not hear until 24 March of the check given by this fleet on 16 March to Destouches’ French men-of-war. Reports of a second engagement on 24 March between these two squadrons appear to have been false. Destouches and his ships were in the Delaware River at Chester, Pa., by 26 March (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 , V, 198–200, 235; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XIX, 313, 335; Pennsylvania Journal, 28 March 1781).

4Probably either Mrs. Jones’s brother, William Taliaferro (1726–1798), or her first cousin once removed, Francis Taliaferro (1743–1815). The former had been a lieutenant colonel of militia and the latter was a colonel of militia. William’s plantation, Newington, was about twelve miles southeast of Orange Court House, while Francis’ plantation, Epsom, was in Spotsylvania County about four miles from Fredericksburg (Nell Watson Sherman, comp., Taliaferro-Toliver Family Records [n.p., 1961], p. 23; William and Mary Quarterly, 2d ser., I [1920], 146, 149; 2d ser., VII [1927], 272).

5Brigadier General William Woodford, Jr., had died in captivity on 13 November 1780.

6JM’s letter not found. Since he usually wrote on Tuesdays, it is likely that he had sent a letter to Jones on 27 March, the day that news of the British fleet and the Battle of Guilford Court House arrived in Philadelphia (above, n. 3). JM obviously had mentioned these events in the missing letter and also enclosed in it Washington’s letter of 24 March to Jones (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 , XXI, 371–74; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 90).

7Brigadier General George Weedon, commanding Virginia militia at this time, apparently had communicated to one of his fellow townsmen of Fredericksburg the same information about the British fleet which he had sent to Governor Jefferson on 29 March (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 , V, 283–84). Except for the “Chatham” of fifty guns, Weedon’s list of the men-of-war which convoyed Major General Phillips’ expeditionary force from Sandy Hook to the Chesapeake capes between 20 and 25 March does not agree with the ships named by William Laird Clowes in The Royal Navy, IV, 61. In his dispatch of 26 March to General Clinton, Phillips stated that he had been brought in the thirty-two-gun “Orpheus” from the capes to Admiral Arbuthnot’s flagship, the seventy-four-gun “Royal Oak” (Benjamin F. Stevens, ed., Campaign in Virginia, I, 375). Lynnhaven Bay, in Princess Anne County, is an anchorage south of Chesapeake Bay and a few miles southwest of Cape Henry. A dispatch, dated 30 March, from Arbuthnot to “Mr Stephens” of the Board of Admiralty in London, stated that the reinforcements arrived in the “Orpheus,” “Chatham,” “Savage,” “Halifax,” “Bonnetta,” and “Vulcan,” under escort of Captain Nelson of the “Richmond” (Pennsylvania Packet, 28 July 1781).

8General Nathanael Greene’s brief letter, requesting fifteen hundred militia from Virginia and giving an optimistic report of the aftermath of the Battle of Guilford Court House, was directed to Governor Jefferson (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 , V, 215).

9Jones, like JM, was a member of the “Family” at Mrs. Mary House’s boarding house at Fifth and Market streets, Philadelphia (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (2 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 92, n. 8; 123, n. 6).

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