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Virginia Delegates to Thomas Jefferson, [ca. 3 June] 1781

Virginia Delegates to Thomas Jefferson

Printed text (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 110). Written by Joseph Jones and signed by Jones and Theodorick Bland. JM most probably agreed with what his colleagues reported. For this reason the absence of his signature should not bar this extract from inclusion in his correspondence as a delegate.

[ca. 3 June 1781]1

D’r S’r,

… The delegates have done all they could to hasten Wayne as well as to forward other assistance to our State foreseeing what occasion you would have for aid but could only get the Pen[nsy]lvanians under March very lately2 and a Resolution a few days past to send forward some Militia from this State and our Neighbour Maryland.3 Your situation no doubt you have occasionally communicated to the Comr. in Chief and must refer you to him for such consolation as he has in prospect. The Delegates endeavours to second your efforts in that quarter have not been wanting and we have no doubt the General will do all in his Power.4

[P.S.] 7 Battalions of Milita-Infantry in the whole and 1 Do Horse.…5

1Though undated, this was probably the delegates’ dispatch referred to in Theodorick Bland’s letter of 3 June to 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 , VI, 72–73).

2Jefferson sent Congress a letter on 28 May, telling of Virginia’s great need for assistance. President Samuel Huntington replied on 3 June with about the same information that is in the present extract (ibid., VI, 25, 32–33, 73–74). For Anthony Wayne’s Pennsylvania continentals, see Pendleton to JM, 26 March 1781, n. 11, and 28 May 1781, n. 6; JM to Pendleton, 29 May 1781, and n. 7.

3On 31 May Congress adopted the report of a committee (appointed two days earlier upon Bland’s motions) earnestly recommending that Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland “raise, arm, equip and accoutre” for three months’ service a total of seven militia infantry battalions and a total of 160 “troopers,” to be embodied in three “corps of horse.” In mentioning only one corps of horse in the postscript, the delegates probably had in mind the decision of Congress on 21 October 1780 to make a corps of horse consist of 387, counting officers and the rank and file. In other words, the 160 to be raised by the three states would be less than half the complement of a single corps at authorized strength. Assuming that Congress intended the infantry battalions to conform in size with that stipulated in the organization table of continental troops adopted on 21 October 1780, each would have a complement of 648, for a total of 4,536. These, with the cavalry “corps,” would bring the grand total to 4,923. In the light of experience neither Congress nor the Virginia delegates could have expected this number actually to be recruited (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XVIII, 959–60; XX, 574, 582–84; below, Motion on Enlistment of Militia, 12 June 1781).

4On the same day that Jefferson informed Washington of Virginia’s plight, he also described it to Congress (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 , VI, 25, 32–33). See also Joseph Jones’s letter of 31 May 1781 to Washington, portraying the desperate condition of their state (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 105–6).

5Above, n. 3. The Henkels sales catalogue entitled The Collection of Autographs of Honorable James T. Mitchell, in which appeared this extract from the three-page letter, also mentioned that the delegates reported “the arrival of French fleet.” This must have been the news that the Comte de Grasse and his fleet had reached the West Indies. The Pennsylvania Packet of 5 June 1781 listed all the ships under Grasse’s command.

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