Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Isaac Avery, 21 March 1781

To Isaac Avery

Richmond March 21st. 1781


The arrival of a powerful British fleet in Chesapeake Bay renders me extremely apprehensive that a French fleet expected here not apprized of this Circumstance may run into the mouths of the Enemy. I must therefore beg of you to procure immediately two good Boats to go out and keep a constant Lookout for the French fleet and to deliver to the Commanding Officer, should they meet with him, the inclosed Letter communicating to him the State of Things in the Bay. This I think should be continued to the 9th. or 10th. of April, the expences of which shall be paid by Government.

The Importance of this Caution, and the dreadful Change which would be produced in the aspect of the War by the Capture of a whole fleet and Army will I hope add to that promptness with which you have ever aided the public Operations. You will no doubt caution the masters of the vessels to destroy the Letters in Case of inevitable Capture. I am &c.,

T. J.

FC (Vi); at head of text: “Colo Avery.” Enclosure (Vi): TJ to the officer commanding the French naval force, following.

Isaac Avery, county lieutenant of Northampton, had sent TJ his resignation on 16 Mch., q.v., but that communication probably had not been received when TJ sent the present urgent letter. The Council minutes for 21 Mch. contain the following authorization: “the Governor is advised to order two good boats to go from the Eastern Shore, and keep a constant lookout for the french fleet & give them this information [of the arrival of the British fleet in the bay]: the Board also advise that the vessels, stores, and public property be removed from the Shipyard, and that fifty men be ordered from the County of Charles City to assist in this important work” (Va. Council Jour. description begins Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia, ed. H. R. McIlwaine description ends , ii, 314).

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