James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Pendleton, 1 October 1780

From Edmund Pendleton

Tr (LC: Force Transcripts).

Edmundsbury, October 1, 1780

Dear Sir:

Since my last I have yr favr of the 19th & can’t conceive where the great Fleet of our Allies are? they must have left the Windward Islands, & Rodney have been deceived by them if they did not come to America, As he would not otherwise have ventured to leave those seas: We hear nothing further of them to the Southward.1

I hope they are not in a state of such perfect security at New York, as to induce them to spare 5 or 6000 men to invade us. Our people, however, promise if they should pay Us such a Visit, to fight them hard,2 I hope at least they will do better than those who met Ld. Cornwallis, at Cambden, I mean the Militia, for the Maryland Regulars did Honr to themselves & countrey.

I am sorry to hear of the Mortality which rages in yr city. it is pretty General & might indeed be expected after so very hot a summer, even our healthy Forrests are not exempt from the Ague & fever, tho’ scarce ever known in them before. I hope you & my other friends from Virginia escape the Contagion, which low habits have generally the best chance to do.3

We have just received an Account that Colo. Clarke has had a battle with the Indians at one of their Towns about 170 miles from the falls of Ohio—he had 16 killed & 12 wounded—& found abt 15 of their dead—he made them run, burnt up two Towns & destroyed all their corn there about 300 acres of very fine, my Informant who was in the action thinks it would have made 20 Barrels to the Acre. Colo Clarke did not pursue them, having intelligence that the Indians had somehow got notice of his Attack, & had sent to Detroit for a powerful reinforcement which they daily expected.4 I am

My Dr Sr Yr very afft & obt Servt

Edmd Pendleton

I have taken the liberty to inclose a letter for my Nephew. if he should have left Phila. pray return it.5

3The meaning of “low habits” in this connection is doubtful. Perhaps he intended to signify the opposite of “high living” or that persons accustomed to living on low ground, as along one of the many rivers in Virginia, gained an immunity from malaria.

4A letter of Colonel George Rogers Clark to Governor Jefferson on 22 August 1780, published in the Virginia Gazette (Richmond, Dixon and Nicolson) of 4 October 1780, stated that, after destroying crops and buildings at Chillicothe, Ohio, he and his men on 8 August fought the Indians at their Pickaway settlements on the Great Miami River. In the battle Clark lost “about 14 killed and thirteen wounded, theirs at least tripple that number.” Before returning to Louisville, Clark destroyed the Indians’ vegetable gardens and “upward of 800 acres” of their corn.

5This postscript is omitted in the version printed in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2d ser., XIX (1905), 115. In his reply on 10 October, JM remarked that he had delivered this inclosure to “Mr. Pendleton.” Edmund Pendleton had many nephews, but the one in question was Judge Henry Pendleton of South Carolina (1750–1789), a son of Edmund’s brother Nathaniel. On 6 October 1780 Judge Pendleton presented a memorial to Congress, asking for an advance of money as a charge against his state, because the occupancy of South Carolina by the British had cut off his salary and other sources of income and thereby threatened him with “distress little better than a prison ship or a dungeon.” On 23 October Congress tabled his memorial but, on the application of South Carolina delegates the same day, may have heeded his plea by granting to them “a warrant … for twenty thousand dollars for the special and particular use of the said State, which is to be accountable” (NA: PCC, No. 41, VIII, 136; Journals of the Continental Congress, XVIII, 908, 965). In the Pennsylvania Packet (Philadelphia) of 2 September 1780 is Judge Pendleton’s letter of 20 July to Cornwallis, explaining why he had felt justified in leaving Charleston, thereby breaking his parole given at the time of the surrender of that city to the British.

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