Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from George Weedon, 8 April 1781

From George Weedon

Williamsburg 8 Ap. 1781.

Dr. Sir

I am honor’d with a resolution of Council of 4th Inst. and your previous Letter directing the disposal of the Militia, and have lodged orders at Hanover Court for the Commanding Officers who are directed to cross James River at Sandy Point and join Genl. Muhlenburg. The Men from Frederick and Berkely have ordered to join me, as from frequent application have been obliged to discharge those Men drawn out from this part of the Country, as also those from Gloster. I have the Honor to enclose your Excellency General Returns by which you will see the Counties that make my defences on this side James River.

When I wrote the British General at Portsmouth on the subject of an exchange, I did not particularize, or even communicate a Wish in favor of any Individual, as your Board may see by my Letter 2nd Inst. Copy of which is enclosed, leaving the List for exchange entirely to the Executive, nor can I with any propriety ask an enlargement for any particular person without incurring the displeasure of those who would remain, as a request of that sort would not only carry marks of partiality with it, but might if granted be considered by the British Commander as an obligation. I therefore in my Letter 6th Inst. which accompanied Armistead’s Flag only hinted at the justness of such a favor, it having been in many instances granted the British Prisoners, leaving Mr. Armstead to mention Col. Curie as the object of the Hint, nor could I dictate a parole to Col. Curie. I am persuaded he will sign nothing derogatory to his Honor, or the Laws of the State. I yesterday received from Major Genl. Phillips, answer to my Letter of 2nd by Major Callis, Copy of which have the Honor to enclose. It would seem by Genl. Phillips Letter, as well as by the resolution of the Executive, that I had officially proposed Col. Curie against Col. Allegood. I beg your Excellency however to be satisfied, this was not the case and further that I have not, nor will I concern with matters of this sort, but on a just and liberal Scale first authorized by the Executive or Commanding Officer. I would wish at the same time to encourage the reciprocal advantages arising to each Side in Liberal exchanges. It also seems to be the desire of Genl. Phillips, and as the List sent in by Mr. Armstead will not liberate the whole of our prisoners in their Hands, can I not be authorized to assure the British General that on sending the whole of them out that were taken in Arms, an equal Number shall be sent him as soon as they can be marched from the Back Country.

The Enemy are making the greatest preparations for a Move. It is said a Junction with Ld. Cornwallis is the Object. If so the doubt is whether they will attempt it by the Great Bridge, Cape Fear or up James River and by Petersburg.

All their ships are gone out except a few that lay in Elizabeth River.

I have the Honor to be with [high?] Esteem Yr. Excellencies Most obt. Servt,

G Weedon

P S I beg your Excellencies Answer immediately. It was a doubt with me whether I should send your Letter back that is wrote by Genl. Phillips or whether I should forward it. It being received by the officer at Hampton Determined me in the latter.


RC (Vi); in a clerk’s hand, with postscript and signature by Weedon; endorsed in two different hands: “Genl Weeden’s Letter inclosg Sundrie fm Genl Phillips recd Apl 81. Genl Weedon’s Letter inclosing Letters from and to General Phillips April 10th 1781.” Enclosures: (1) Returns of militia serving with Weedon; not found. (2) Copy of Weedon’s letter to Phillips, Williamsburg, 2 Apr., requesting that “the Ship sailing for New York with American Prisoners may be detained a few days in which time expect to be Authorised to Exchange part of them.” (3) Copy of Weedon to Phillips, Williamsburg, 6 Apr., transmitting the list of British prisoners at Richmond that TJ had sent to Weedon in his letter of 4 Apr. (see below). (4) Copy of Phillips to Weedon, Portsmouth, 6 Apr., printed above under its date. Enclosures (2), (3), and (4) are all in Vi and are copies in Weedon’s hand.

Weedon’s statement that when he proposed an exchange to Phillips he did not particularize or express a preference for any individual may be technically correct, but there is no doubt that the exchange in view was largely if not wholly determined by the apparently concerted effort to liberate Col. Curie, as is made explicit in Weedon’s letter to TJ of 2 Apr., in Moss Armistead’s journey to Richmond with Innes’ letter of 30 Mch., and in Armistead’s conducting a flag with Weedon’s letter to Phillips of 6 Apr. In the last letter Weedon wrote: “I had the honor of addressing you the 2d. Inst. since which have been furnished with a list of British Prisoners now in Richmond who I would willingly exchange for an equal Number of Americans—Soldier for Soldier—Seaman for Seaman—and Citizen for Citizen. Mr. Moss Armistead who will deliver you this is Authorised to ratify on my part, the Exchange of any Number on said list you may please to agree to”; from this it is apparent that Weedon had received the list of prisoners and the authorization for an exchange of them as set forth in TJ’s letter to him of 4 Apr. Weedon also, without mentioning Curle, restated in his letter to Phillips of 6 Apr. the wish TJ had expressed for an enlargement of captive officers on parole: “The Executive of the State have in many instances granted great indulgences to the Captive officers of the British Army, And I would wish favours of a Similar Nature might be extended to such as are Objects of enlargement, on Parole, I mean those who are infirm and by the chance of war now Seperated from their Families” (Vi; CVSP description begins Calendar of Virginia State Papers … Preserved in the Capitol at Richmond description ends , ii, 17). This, as Weedon pointed out, left Armistead free “to mention Col. Curle as the object of the Hint.” Weedon had reason to believe that “the Hint” would be effective, since Phillips had already declared it would be his policy to agree to a mutual parole of all captive officers (Phillips to Weedon, 6 Apr.). That “the Hint” took effect is proved by the fact that Col. Curle arrived in Richmond probably by the time Weedon’s present explanation of his conduct came to TJ (see note to Prentis’ letter to TJ of this date). Your letter … wrote by Genl. Phillips: This indubitably refers to Phillips’ letter of 6 Apr. addressed “To Thos. Jefferson Esqr. American Governor of Virginia.” Weedon’s uncertainty as to whether to send this letter back to Phillips or forward it to TJ may be explained in one of two ways: (1) that Weedon himself felt the style of address improper, or (2) that he knew TJ would resent it. The former seems more probable, since, as an American officer at Hampton had already accepted the letter, its return would not have served the same purpose as an original rejection.

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