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To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 28 November 1779

From Thomas Jefferson

Williamsburgh Nov. 28. 1779.


Your Excellency’s letter on the discriminations which have been heretofore made between the troops raised within this state and considered as part of our quota, & those not so considered, was delivered me four days ago.1 I immediately laid it before the Assembly, who thereupon came to the resolution I now do myself the honor of inclosing you.2 the resolution of Congress of Mar. 15. 1779 which you were so kind as to inclose was never known in this state till a few weeks ago when we received printed copies of the journals of Congress. it would be a great satisfaction to us to receive an exact return of all the men we have in Continental service who come within the descriptions of the resolution, together with our state troops in Continental service. Colonel Cabell3 was so kind as to send me a return of Octob. 1779. of the Continental regiments commanded by Lord Sterling, of the 1st & 2d Virginia state regiments, and of Colonel Gist’s regiment. besides these there are the following[:] Colonel Harrison’s regiment of artillery: Colonel Baylor’s horse: Colonel Bland’s horse: General Scott’s new levies, part of which are gone to S. Carolina, & part are here: Colonel Gibson’s regiment stationed on the Ohio: Heath’s & O’Hara’s independent companies at the same stations: Colonel Taylor’s regiment of guards to the Convention troops: of these we have a return. there may possibly be others not occurring to me. a return of all these would enable us to see what proportion of the Continental army is contributed by us.4 we have at present very pressing calls to send additional numbers of men to the Southward. no inclination is wanting in either the legislative or Executive powers to aid them, or to strengthen you: but we find it very difficult to procure men. I herewith transmit to your Excellency some recruiting commissions5 to be put into such hands as you may think proper for re-enlisting such of our souldiery as are not engaged already for the war. the act of assembly authorising these instructions6 requires that the men enlisted should be reviewed & received by an officer to be appointed for that purpose; a caution less necessary in the case of men now actually in service, & therefore doubtless able bodied, than in the raising new recruits. the direction however goes to all cases, and therefore we must trouble your Excellency with the appointment of one or more officers of review. mister Moss our agent receives orders, which accompany this, to pay the bounty money, & recruiting money, & to deliver the clothing.7 we have however certain reason to fear he has not any great sum of money on hand: and it is absolutely out of our power at this time to supply him, or to say with certainty when we shall be able to do it. he is instructed to note his acceptances under the draughts and to assure payment as soon as we shall have it in our power to furnish him, as the only substitute for money. your Excellency’s directions to the officer of review will probably procure us the satisfaction of being informed from time to time how many men shall be re-enlisted.

By Colonel Matthews I informed your Excellency fully of the situation of Governour Hamiltoun & his companions.8 La Mothe, & Dejean have given their paroles, and are at Hanover court house⟨:⟩ Hamiltoun, Hay,9 and four others are still obstinate. they therefore are still in close confinement; tho their irons have never been on since your second letter on the subject.10 I wrote full information of this matter to General Philips also, from whom I had received letters on the subject.11 I cannot in reason beleive that the enemy, on receiving this information either from yourself or General Philips, will venture to impose any new distresses on our officers in captivity with them. yet their conduct hitherto has been most succesfully prognosticated by reversing the conclusions of right reason. it is therefore my duty, as well as it was my promise, to the Virginia captives to take measures for discovering any change which may be made in their situation. for this purpose I must apply for your Excellency’s interposition. I doubt not but you have an established mode of knowing at all times through your commissary of prisoners, the precise state of those in the power of the enemy. I must therefore pray you to put into motion any such means you may have of obtaining knowledge of the situation of the Virginia officers in captivity. if you shall think proper, as I could wish, to take upon yourself to retaliate, any new sufferings which may be imposed on them, it will be more likely to have due weight, and to restore the unhappy on both sides to that benevolent treatment for which all should wish. I have the honour to be with the most perfect esteem & respect Your Excellency’s Most obedient & most humble servt

Th: Jefferson

ALS, DLC:GW. GW replied to Jefferson on 26 Dec.; see also GW to William Washington and to William Woodford, both 14 December.

2Jefferson enclosed a copy of a resolution that the Virginia General Assembly had adopted on 27 Nov.: “Resolved that all Officers and Soldiers being Citizens of this Commonwealth, belonging to any Corps on Continental establishment, and not being in the actual service of any other State, shall hereafter be entitled to all State provisions, Cloathing, Bounty, or other emoluments either in Land or Money, which have been or shall be allowed to those belonging to the line of this State, altho such Officers and Soldiers do not immediately serve therein, and also to the six months pay presented to each Officer and Soldier by ‘An Act to enable the Officers of the Virginia line, and to encourage the Soldiers of the same line, to continue in the Continental Service” (DLC:GW; see also Va. Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends [Hening], 9:565–67, 580–81, and Va. House Journal, 4 Oct.–24 Dec. 1779 description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia. Anno Domini, 1779. Williamsburg [1780]. description ends , 88, 90).

3Joseph Cabell (1732–1798) held several offices in Virginia before serving as a militia colonel between 1775 and 1781.

4A “State of the Virginia forces in Continental service, including the rank & file & Non-commissioned officers only,” completed no earlier than 2 May 1780, compiled the desired troop numbers in these commands from various returns and other sources (Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 3:364–65; see also GW to Jefferson, 26 Dec.).

5Jefferson enclosed printed forms of a recruiting warrant. An example with his signature remains in DLC:GW. Jefferson filled in one blank on that form, interlined new material in one place, and struck out the closing two lines except for the first three words of the penultimate line. The form is headed “WILLIAMSBURG, [ ] 1779” and then reads: “To [ ] Gentleman: YOU are appointed, and forthwith are to proceed, to recruit men to serve in the infantry of this commonwealth. Each man is to receive at the time of enlistment a bounty which with that heretofore received shall make seven hundred and fifty dollars to serve during the war, and the following articles of clothing, that is to say: A coat, waistcoat, a pair of overalls, two shirts, a pair of shoes, and a hat; to be delivered at the place of rendezvous, and with the like articles every year after during his service, to be delivered at his station; and wil be entitled to the same pay and rations as are allowed by Congress to the like soldiers in continental service … At the end of the war he will be entitled to one hundred acres of unimproved land, within this commonwealth. All soldiers who may be disabled in the service will be entitled to receive pensions during life. You are to be allowed one hundred and fifty dollars for each able-bodied soldier you shall enlist and pass with the officer of review to be appointed for that purpose” (DLC:GW; see also Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 3:203–4).

6Jefferson is referring to a measure titled “An Act concerning officers, soldiers, sailors, and marines” (Va. Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends [Hening], 10:23–27).

7The enclosed orders have not been identified (see also GW to Woodford, 24 Dec., postscript).

8For Henry Hamilton’s contentious imprisonment since his capture at Vincennes in February, see GW to Jefferson, 10 July, and n.3 to that document, and Jefferson to GW, 17 July; see also GW to Jefferson, 6–10 Aug. and 13 Sept., and Jefferson to GW, 1, 2, and 8 October.

9Jehu Hay (Hayes; d. 1785) purchased an ensign’s commission in the 60th Regiment of Foot in April 1758, became a lieutenant in April 1762, and defended Detroit during Pontiac’s siege in 1763. Hay subsequently transitioned to the Indian department and served in various capacities at Detroit, where he gained the trust of Henry Hamilton upon Hamilton’s arrival as lieutenant governor in 1775. Hay went on Hamilton’s expedition against Vincennes that began in fall 1778 and, like Hamilton, became a prisoner when a force under Lt. Col. George Rogers Clark recaptured that place in February 1779. After giving his parole in October 1780, Hay went to New York City and then sailed to England in May 1781 (see James, Clark Papers, description begins James Alton James, ed. George Rogers Clark Papers, 1771–1781. Springfield, Ill., 1912. In Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library, vol. 8. Virginia Series, vol. 3. description ends 203–6). Hay’s appointment as lieutenant governor of Detroit in April 1782 created political friction that lasted until his death.

10Jefferson probably is alluding to GW’s letter to him dated 6–10 August.

11Jefferson is referring to his letter of 22 July to Maj. Gen. William Phillips, in which he justified “Governor Hamilton’s strict confinement, on the general principle of National retaliation” (Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 3:44–49; see also Phillips to Jefferson, 5 July, printed as an enclosure to Jefferson to GW, 17 July).

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