Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Beesly Edgar Joel, 14 March 1781

From Beesly Edgar Joel

State Yard March 14th. 1781.


I have the honor to inform you, I have for this three Weeks past, been cruising in the Louis Galley From Newport News to Warresqueak Bay. By carrying away my fore yard I was obliged to run up to Chicohomini but shall tomorrow resume my station; on which I have reason to expect I have allready prevented many slaves from forming a Junction with the Enemy.

You will see the propriety of my requesting an order from you to command the Galley pro tempora as it is impossible to forsee what accident may befall me in the Execution of my duty. Do not immagine by this I either request rank, or Pay for my service. It is only to secure me should any misfortune happen. And now Sir, my duty to this Country, my wish for its good, and my respect for you, enduces me to point out a circumstance which is highly prejudicial to the public service. At this time when men are of such importance I could undertake to raise many men for the navy was I not discouraged by the situation in which I find those allready in it. I have now men on board who have neither cloaths to cover them, or even the necessaries of Life, alltho 7 And more months pay due. Believe me Sir this information proceeds from my anxiety for the public good, and I am informed by an officer that a certain person, has at this instant a large sum of money in his hands for the purpose of paying off the Navy, while the Men are labouring under circumstances truly shocking.

I am with the highest respect your Obedient

B. Edgar. Joel

RC (Vi); addressed and endorsed.

Shortly after this the adventurer Joel was given his majority. The effect that this had upon some of the Virginia officers may be indicated by the mordant comment of that extraordinarily graphic commentator, Capt. Henry Young: “A little fellow by name Joell, and a deserter from the British with a full stock of impudence and with some little knowledge in drawing like Coll. Senf has procured himself the command of the first Troop in Brents Corps. I dont know what they call them, perhaps waisters of the public stores. This Joell will have the rank of Majr. I think the time will shortly come when it will be disgraceful to rank above a Captain” (Henry Young to William Davies, 21 May 1781, Vi).

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