Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Tatham, 29 July 1807

July 29th. 1807.—Lynhaven
Wednesday, 3. O.Clock

Dr. Sir.

My Whale Boat returned last night, from Smiths Island & the Eastern Shore at Cape Charles.—

From the account given by them, & the guard near Cape Henry, signals were given (in vain) for Her capture.

My Men report as follows.—

On Saterday evening they left me (say 4 to 5, O.Clock at Lynhaven Inlet; & that night at Ten O.Clock, anchord in “Fisherman’s” Northampton)—At Daylight on Sunday Morning they got under-weigh, & stood over to Smiths Island: Here they landed & found that (last friday was a week) the British landed there & plundered Stock, quantity & quality unknown. On Saterday they returned in the Evening, & after much firing at the Cattle carried off 4 Sheep, 1 Hog, Ten Fowls, & other matters uncertain; These things, this party paid for, & said they should return on Tuesday following for Water; but did not come.

They said they know the way up to Norfolk better than the Pilots; should carry up a Ship of Eighty guns; & that they were Equally neutral & entitled to supplies, as the French, who were faver’d; on account of which they would burn the Town. The People here suspect that they get both Cattle, & Water, from an uninhabited Island near Rack Island, called Sprouts’ Island. The boat found the People preparing to resist them. The Negroes (in three or four Canoes) ran from my boat; & Spread information that the Brittish had landed. The People on Cape Charles appear to be firm—Those on Smith’s Isld are supposed to encourage the Brittish; & recieved pay for supplies. As the Boat passed the British Ships last night, about nine o Clock, they fired three signal guns: the guard coroberate this Account; & suppose the boat to have been chased (per Signal).—

I have this moment returned from Cape Henry L. House.—The Ships (within the Cape to day) are—The Triumph, The Leopard, The Patriot, or a Smaller Frigate, & a Brig—I think the same Gun Brig (the larger) which I reported some days ago. Boats have been perpetually passing between the Triumph & The Brig: several officers were seen in the Stern of the First Boat from the Brig; & loaded boats have been passing from her all day: I left them at twelve O’Clock—The Tenders are continually under Sail; & though more Ships & other Vessels have arrived to day than any other day I recollect, & all passed unmolested, I think there is a more devilish, & warlike appearance than heretofore. They appear to me to be ready for mischief; & it will not surprize me if they are followed by a greater force.

Disliking the exposed route which both our Horce & foot march to the [. . . .] & still more, the unmilitary [position?] they occupy, I have, this day, gone through the Desart to their Station; & I will, in a few days, cut a good road through that little known place, & point out strong holds in abundance, with the help of my own people only.—In the event of disaster, & continued warfare, this precaution will be found worthy of notice.

I have the honor to be, in haste, dr. Sir Yrs.

Wm Tatham

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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