Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Steuben, 21 February [1781]

From Steuben

Chesterfield Court House 21st feby [1781]


As the Detachment of Continental Troops will march from Chesterfield on the 25th Inst. I wish to Join to them the Militia of this County and Dinwiddie. For this purpose they must be assembled at Dinwiddie Court house, and there wait my Orders. If you have no Objection to this Plan, an Express must immediately be dispatch[ed] to inform them, as part of the Chesterfd. Militia are on their march to Goods Bridge.

Excepting the two Regiments I have Ordered Gen. Weedon to form, and march to Williamsbg. I think the Militia1 on the North Side James River should not be call’d out ’though they may be ordered to hold themselves in Readiness.

In addition to the Papers You inclosed me relative to Mr. Hare, I last night received a letter from him, and an other from Major Tuberville.

As the Circumstances attending the affair may not be known to Your Excellency a detail of them may be necessary.2 Soon after the fleet left Westover, and previous to the Order of Goverment that no partial requisitions should be made for Property taken by the Enemy; I granted Mrs. Byrd a flag for the purpose of receiving her Negro’s &c.3

I informed the person who went with the flag, that if Arnold would not send them,4 he might send a flag when he pleased, with Mrs. Byrds Property, and that I would give his flag a pasport.

It seems Mr. Hare has come on that Business. From all the Papers,5 and from evry Circumstance relating to the Affair: I find Mr. Hare has acted with the greatest impropriety, though he has not given sufficient Warrant for making him a Prisoner:6 his Pasport Copy of which is inclosed, is from the Commanding Officer of the Navy on this Station, and perfectly Proper.7

As he has not brought all the Property which was taken from Mrs. Byrd doubtless he has Goods, or something else on board his Vessell as a Compensation for what still is in the hands of the Enemy belonging to Mrs. Byrd. [Whether those Goods shall be received by her, or not, I conceive to be a matter only to be determined by Government.8 Was the same case to happen in Europe, the Suffering person; especially as she is a female and a widow, would be allowed to receive them.

If leave shall be Given to land what Mr. Hare may have brought, I shall Order his Vessell to Westover. If not she will be Ordered down the river immediately.]9

I beg Your Excellencys Answer as an Express must be sent the moment I receive it.

I am with respect Your Excellencys Most Obedient

Steuben Maj. Gen.

RC (Lloyd W. Smith, Madison, N.J., 1946); addressed; endorsed. The enclosed copy of Lt. Hare’s passport has not been found. Dft (NHi); in an aide’s hand and with numerous deletions and interlineations, the more important of which are noted below. Dft is headed: “Ampthill 21 Feby 1 o’clock AM.”

Concerning Mrs. Byrd and the Flag, see Turberville to TJ, 15 Feb. and references there. For the order that No partial requisitions should be made for property taken by the enemy, see TJ’s letter to Nicholas, 10 Jan. Subsequent to this, the Council had issued the following order, which is probably the one to which Steuben referred: “The Enemy in the detention or restitution of Slaves having been governed by a distinction between such proprietors as have borne arms or otherwise been active, and those who have not; and the practice leading to the most dangerous and fatal consequences; it is the unanimous determination of the board that no flag for the purpose of solliciting a restitution of plundered property from the enemy, shall be again permitted” (Va. Council Jour., ii, 285; 3 Feb. 1781). For Steuben’s orders of 1 Feb. and 1 Mch. forbidding flags to be sent in to the enemy, see Appendix i, Vol. 5: “The Affair of Westover.” Even as late as 23 Feb., however, Arnold felt it necessary to write to Muhlenberg as follows: “To prevent unnecessary applications for Negroes in future, I beg leave to observe, that none will be returned to persons in Arms, or Office, in which class I consider all persons in the Militia liable to be called forth to Arms. When Widows, Orphans, or persons not under the above description, wish to have their Negroes returned, it will be necessary for them to have their property ascertained (as mentioned above) under oath, which authenticated Certificate being sent in by any person with a Flag, who can fix upon the Negroes claimed, they shall be immediately delivered up” (Arnold to Muhlenberg, Portsmouth, 23 Feb., NHi).

1Dft reads: “I think with you that the Militia” &c.

2This sentence does not appear in Dft.

3Dft reads: “a few days after Arnold left Mrs. Byrds, she applyed to me for a Flagg to go down the river if Possible to recover the Property which Arnold had taken from her. Previous to the Resolution of Govt that no flagg should be sent, I gave her a Flagg.” (The words “Previous to the Resolution … should be sent” are interlined.)

4Dft reads: “would not return Mrs. Byrd’s Property.”

5Dft adds at this point: “now before me.”

6Dft reads: “I find Mr. Hare to have acted with great impropriety, though he has not gone so far as to do any thing which may justify us in making him a prisoner.”

7Instead of the preceding three words, Dft has the following: “of which I send a Copy, & in every respect he is a Flagg of truce.”

8The following was deleted in Dft: “though as an American war is carried on very different from one in Europe, I can be no judge in the affair.”

9There is in NHi a one-page sheet with various extracts of letters, of which the part in brackets (supplied) is one; others were from letters of Steuben to TJ, 25 Feb., and TJ to Steuben, 20 and 22 Feb., qq.v.

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