Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thady Kelly to James Innes, [18 April 1781]

Thady Kelly to James Innes

Old Jonsis Wensday [18 Apr. 1781] 10 oClock


There are four Ships now in sight of this post cuming up the river and a small scuner. I believe you may expect the Hole of the fleet. A Signal Gun was fierd this morning I suppose for Saleing. Since I sot down to write one Ship a sloop and a brig has hove in sight under ful sale and a fare wind. I am sir your Humble servant,

Thady Kelly

P.S. Three more has come round the point and [more?] expected.

RC (NHi); addressed and endorsed; enclosed in Innes to Steuben, 18 Apr. 1781 [4 o’clock P.M.].

This letter, apparently the earliest extant report on the start of Phillips’ expedition up the James, was forwarded by Innes to Steuben and was summarized by him in his first letter of this date to TJ, q.v. For a detailed British account of the movements of the invading army up the James and Appomattox during the next two weeks, see John Graves Simcoe, Military Journal description begins John Graves Simcoe, Military Journal, New York, 1844 description ends , p. 189–203, where the objects of the expedition are stated as being threefold: (1) to surprise the Americans at Williamsburg (as Barron surmised; see below) and, in any case, to attack them; (2) to obtain possession of the battery at Hood’s, “to open all obstructions on the James, and to seize the arms said to be at Prince George Court House”; and (3) “to gain Petersburg for the purpose of destroying the enemy’s stores at that place.” Simcoe endeavored to persuade Phillips to undertake a fourth objective—one that TJ and others feared was a primary target of the British: that of assaulting Richmond. Simcoe advised a feint as if Arnold’s old route were being retraced and, “while the advance guard moved on towards Richmond and masked the road, the army might … by falling into the bye path which Gen. Arnold had formerly been advised to proceed on, … arrive on the plain ground on the heights of Richmond, most probably on the left flank, if not the rear, of Fayette, who would, as it was reasonable to presume, expect the British troops by the route which Gen. Arnold had so recently taken, and whose gasconading disposition and military ignorance might possibly tempt him to stay too long in the face of troops, his equal in numbers, and superior in everything else that could form the value of an army” (same, p. 202). Phillips did not follow this plan, in which Simcoe probably overrated his own stratagem as much as he underrated Lafayette’s ability.

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