James Madison Papers

Session of Virginia Council of State, 25 May 1778

Session of Virginia Council of State

MS (Virginia State Library).

Monday May 25th 1778.

His Excellency;
John Page Nathaniel Harrison
Dudley Digges David Jameson &
Thomas Walker James Madison jr

The Board being informed that the Barracks at York Town were lately burnt by some unknown accident & it being absolutely necessary that the same should be rebuilt as speedily as possible they do advise the Governor to empower & direct Mr James Taylor to purchase Timber & Materials upon the best Terms they can be had, for rebuilding the said Barracks so soon as proper persons shall be employed for that purpose.1

Report being made by the assistant Engineer respecting the Situation of York & the additional Fortifications necessary for that place as a protection to our Allies; and the Board taking the same under their consideration they do advise the Governor to direct Colonel Marshall to consult with Captain Fourneer the assistant Engineer2 & take the proper Steps for extending the Works at that place & for fortifying the Gloster Shore so as to cooperate with York, and to encrease the number of Labourers for the purpose upon the best Terms possible. And the Governor is also advised to desire the Navy Board to direct that two Gun Boats be immediately built according to a plan to be furnished by Captain Fourneer.

Adjourned till tomorrow 10 oClock

Signed  John Page
Dudley Digges
Thomas Walker3
Nathaniel Harrison
David Jameson
James Madison

1The barracks at Yorktown could barely have been completed before they were burned. Barracks sufficient to hold 250 men had been ordered by the Council of State on 25 July 1777, but two months later no progress had been made because no contractor wanted to undertake the project. On 22 August, Charles Minnis offered “his Service, as far as he is able,” but he died six months later, and on 3 March his commission was transferred to James Taylor (Journals of the Council of State, I, 457, 462, 472–73; II, 96). Taylor may have been the James Taylor (ca. 1731–1786) who was a carpenter-joiner and moved his business from Yorktown to Surry County by 1758. In 1759 he was a constable in that county (Virginia Gazette [Williamsburg, Hunter], 17 April 1752; Surry County Court Records, Order Book, 1757–1763, p. 175; Order Book, 1775–1785, p. 395; Order Book, 1786–1789, pp. 86, 137; and Surry County Will Book, No. 12, pp. 142–43, all on microfilm in the Virginia State Library).

2Colonel Thomas Marshall. J. F. (F. I.) Fournier (Fourneer, Fornier), a self-styled teacher of mathematics and military science, was appointed on 18 October 1777 as assistant engineer for Virginia. Shortly after beginning work on the York-town fortifications, he was promoted in consideration of his “Abilities & Services” to “Second Engineer for this State with the Rank & pay of Major.” The purpose of the defensive works had been described two weeks earlier by Governor Henry. They were “for protecting against a Superior Fleet of our Enemy, any Ships of War as well as Merchantmen belonging to our Allies that may have occasion to come to this State.” The council then asked the inspector general and Fournier to report on the advisability of locating these fortifications at Yorktown, “which is supposed to be preferable to any other Place in the Country” (Journals of the Council of State, II, 12, 132, 147; Virginia Gazette [Williamsburg, Purdie], 22 August 1777).

3Thomas Walker (1715–1794) of Castle Hill, Albemarle County. For a summary of his notable career as a physician, soldier, explorer, land speculator, commissioner to make treaties with Indians and to extend westward the boundary line between North Carolina and Virginia, and as a burgess, member of the House of Delegates, and privy councilor, see Thomas Perkins Abernethy’s article in the Dictionary of American Biography, XIX, 360–61.

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