Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from George Washington, 16 May 1781

From George Washington

Head Quarters New Windsor 16th: May 1781.

Dear Sir

I have been honored with your Excellency’s favor of the 23d. ulto. I have since seen by the prints that the enemy had reached Petersburgh after being opposed in a spirited manner by the Militia under the command of the Baron Steuben. I hope the advance of the Marquis de la Fayette with the choice Body of Continental troops under his command will check the progress of General Phillips.

A variety of circumstances retarded the march of the 1st. division of the Pennsylvania line much beyond the time expected. I however hope that they have moved from the place of rendezvous before this day.

I have very good reason to beleive that another detachment of between 1500 and 2000 Men sailed from New York last Week. Their particular destination I have not yet learned. I should suppose it is for Virginia or Carolina, tho’ they have industriously reported in New York that it is for Delaware.

I shall set out in a day or two to meet Count de Rochambeau who has received late despatches from the Court of France. At that interview I shall be informed of the expectations from Europe, and we shall then probably settle a plan of Campaign. I can only assure you at present that every attention shall be paid to the relief and support of the southern States.

I have the honor to be &c.

Dft (DLC: Washington Papers); in the hand of Tench Tilghman; endorsed.

On the night of 13 May, at New Windsor, Washington received dispatches from Rochambeau and the Count de Barras requesting an interview as soon as possible; Washington responded the next day and designated 21 May as the date and Wethersfield, Conn., as the place for the fateful conference at which the American and French commanders agreed on plans that led ultimately to the shifting of both armies from the north to Virginia and to the surrender of the forces of Cornwallis (Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, xxii, 86–7). In the present letter Washington gives TJ one of the earliest intimations, though veiled, of his intentions. See also Washington to TJ, 8 June 1781.

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