Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Tatham, 20 July 1807

Lynhaven 20th. July 1807.
10. O.Clock (Morning)

Dr. Sir.

I have just this moment returned from the Coast & Inlet, where I have been my usual reconoitering rounds.

Two Ships of the British force, & two of their tenders, under-sail, as usual, (the Ships remaining at Anchor in this Bay) are all that I have discovered. The Schooner lays still at the Cape which was there two nights ago, with her boat along side; & has much the appearance of a Carolina Coaster, waiting for a wind.

I have seen a Moses Williams a fine old Continental Soldier, who farms a large plantation joining the Inlet: he relates (which I have not been told before) that the next morning after Capturing the Boat & Officers I have mentioned in my late communications, a tender came near the shore, & that a Lieutenant of the British Navy got into her boat, & came within about two hundred & fifty yards of the beach, shewing a desire to speak with the party.—He (Williams) undertook to go down, & hear what he wanted. He demanded whether the Boat Officers & Men were to be released from their Captivity; alledging that the two nations were not at war; & asked why our people fired on their boat. Williams asked him why they fired upon the Chesapeake, did he call that an Act of War; or by what name did he distinguish it?

He replied that we detained their men, & they had used force. Williams urged that they had detained ten of ours for every one we had of theirs, if that had been the fact; and yet we had not used force to take them away. The Officer said that our men had enlisted; to which Williams replied in that particular we were at least equal, for none of theirs were impressed or forced into their Service, and that he wished to know what business any of them could have on shore, when they had seen the Presidents proclamation, ordering them out of our Waters.—He assured them, also, that there was not an old Planter in the Country that would not enforce that proclamation by putting a ball through any of them who set a foot on shore. That, as to their boat (then in his possession) on their officers and men he could only act as the Commanding Officer directed & that they had best send to General Mathews at Norfolk.

I have the honor to be &c,

Wm Tatham

P.S.—I shall set out to Norfolk immediately, to confer with Commodore Decatur touching the expediency of sending my Whale Boat toward Smiths Island: I am not informed whether Government have any one they can depend on at lake Charles. I shall return to my duty on this Station, as speedily as possible.


DNA: RG 59—ML—Miscellaneous Letters.

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