Thomas Jefferson Papers

Notes concerning Preparations for the Expedition against Portsmouth, [ca. 3 March 1781]

Notes concerning Preparations for the Expedition against Portsmouth

[ca. 3 March 1781]

The Commissary undertakes with confidence that the number of rations required shall be in readiness at Wmsburg. and Suffolk by the time required. Capt. Irish is about the mortars. Capt. Bohannan with four carpenters are engaged in making cannon carriages: we are setting Capt. Roane with some others about others of the cannon. The Smith thinks his part will be in readiness by the 7th. inst. Vessels we are assured will be1 ready to transport the whole when prepared.

The assembly shall be instantly applied to for authority to impress vessels.

The orders for the 1100 militia went out on the evening of the 1st. inst. to the counties of Pr. George 125, Sussex 175, Southampton 219, I. of Wight 150, Nansemond 161, Surry 95, Charles City 71, New Kent 104, to be at Genl. Muhlenberg’s camp by the 5th. or at furthest the 6th. inst.

The transportation of the shells from Newcastle is in the hands of the Continental Q. M.

Militia are ordered from James City, Wmsburg, York, Warwick and Elizabeth city to guard the neck with the arms from Gloucester.

Cartouch boxes are in Capt. Irishe’s possession.

MS (NHi); entirely in TJ’s hand, except for last line. Endorsed: “Preparations by Government.”

This undated memorandum was prepared after the evening of 1 Mch. when the orders for militia were sent out and not later than 3 Mch. when TJ requested the Assembly to grant authority to impress vessels (see below); it was probably written early on 3 Mch. Its presence in the Steuben Papers and its endorsement indicate that it was sent or handed to Steuben. TJ received Washington’s and Lafayette’s letters of 21 Feb. outlining the proposed expedition against Portsmouth on 28 Feb. (see TJ to Lafayette, 2 Mch. 1781). On 2 Mch. George Muter wrote to Capt. Roane “requesting him to take charge of the mounting some Cannon” (War Office Journal, Vi); on the same day he wrote James Anderson, “The carriages now in hand are immediately wanted, and I expect will be ready for some of the Iron work (perhaps) to-day. ’Tis necessary the Iron work should be got ready for them as quickly as possible, and his Excellency proposes to go himself to procure forges in town (if yours is not sufficient) and to impress them, if ’tis absolutely necessary to do so” (same); Muter also wrote on the same day to the state commissary of military stores that “Capn. Irish’s Clerk informed me last evening that he had part of the Cartouch boxes, and perhaps might be able to supply the whole” (same).

1Instead of the phrase “Vessels … will be,” the sentence originally read: “A vessel is lying here ready” &c.

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