Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from David Ross, 28 May 1781

From David Ross

Point of Fork 28 May 1781


I Have just now time to advise you that my agent in Philadelphia on the 9th. instant forwarded 275 Stand of arms and 1 ton of Gunpowder, to Fredericksburg, on the 11th. he forwarded a ton of Gunpowder on the 18th. he forwarded 600 Stand of arms and by this date he expected to forward the remainder of the 2000 Stand. This Supply of Arms, the Arms over and above what the Baron has taken for his Men together with the number that Mr. Anderson can repair may I think be reckon’d at 4,000 Stand more than are at present in the hands of our people, so that I think there will not be a want of arms.

Neither our Delegates in Congress, nor the Generosity of our Northern friends have as yet given any assistance to my agent. The repairs of the Arms, the purchase of Bayonets and the advance of Specie to the Waggoners has been done by loans from private people.

The bearer Mr. Maury will give you the News. He thinks there is a fair prospect now of negotiating matters with Lord Cornwallis for sending Tobacco to Charlestown. He wishes to be sent in with a Flag on this business. I am Sir with great respect Yr huml Serv.,

David Ross

RC (Vi); addressed and endorsed.

Assistance to my agent: Either Ross was in error in saying that the Virginia delegates had given no assistance or the delegates themselves were, for in their letter to TJ of 1 May they pointed out that, before Nicolson’s arrival as Ross’ agent, they had already undertaken to have the 2,000 rampart muskets sawn off and made acceptable for infantry. The Board of War, in acknowledging Steuben’s letters of 16 and 21 Apr. 1781, wrote that they had previously “directed two thousand rampart musketts to be delivered to the Delegates of Virginia for the use of that state and which they conceived might be very serviceable to the militia: The Delegates have contracted with a workman to cut them to a proper length and to put them in perfect repair. From the essay which has been made on two of them, the Board have no doubt that they will fully answer the purpose for which they are intended” (Board of War to Steuben, 30 Apr. 1781, NHi). Ross must have meant that the Virginia delegates had not been able to assist Nicolson in financing the purchase of arms and supplies, a fact which they acknowledged in their letter to TJ of 22 May 1781, q.v. William Grayson of the Board of War added the following in a letter to Weedon: “There never was more manoeuvring than to get the rampart arms, and have them repaired. I really now cant tell how it has been effected. I shall consult the Delegates of the state and fall upon all the ways and means upon the face of the earth to get you swords and pistols. As to Musketts I think you are in a pretty good way. Wayne has at last marched. … 600 new levies will shortly join you from Maryland and Delaware. Moylans horse will go in fourteen days amounting to 60 dragoons: Pray with Steubans 1200 and this force canot you look Cornwallis in the face? … Since writing the above, we have screwed out fifty pair of pistols, and a thousand cartridge boxes. Pray inform me what you want. Everything shall be done that can be done” (Grayson to Weedon, 29 May 1781, PPAP). A few days later Grayson wrote: “I am now authorized to tell you you will be supplyed to a much greater extent than I expected. By the first day of July, there shall be a sufficient quantity of arms in Virginia for all your purposes” (same to same, 5 June 1781, PPAP). Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer informed Weedon that Grayson himself was responsible for much of this activity: “The Board of War has promised to have ready in 7 days 1500 stand of arms for our state [Maryland]. Grayson is indefatigable” (Jenifer to Weedon, 5 June, 1781, PPAP). See also TJ to the Virginia delegates, 6 Apr. 1781.

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