James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Pendleton, 23 October 1780

From Edmund Pendleton

Tr (LC: Force Transcripts).

Virga. Octr. 23d. 1780

Dr Sir:

Since my last I have not only received yr favr. of the 10th but that of the 3d, when I supposed you had not written, also reached me after a Circuitous trip to Richmond, & removed my fears for yr want of health. I have no particulars of the Affair at Charlotte, mentioned in my former, but its authenticity seems confirm’d, & as our recruits are March’d that way, I hope we may soon have an Army in that quarter to Improve this beginning of Good fortune.1 It will be the fault of Virginia if she is surprized by the Enemy in case they Intend an Invasion here, since they have been for some time past in daily expectation of such a Visit; how they may be prepared for it I know not, as I have not been lately from home.2

How do Congress bear the horid confinement of Govr. Gadsden & Cos. do they mean to retaliate, or suffer the convention troops to Riot in ease, plenty, & breathe a free & healthy Air whilst our friends are stiffled & suffocated with the stench of a prison ship, or a dungeon in St. Augustine? It is horrible to think of; unless indeed it be true that in breach of their Parole & all good faith, they had really plotted the recapture of the Town & Garrison, which cannot3 be credited.4

The motions of our good Allies are Mysterious, but I yet hope may produce something beneficial before the end of the Campaign; We have a loose report that they have given the British Fleet a great wound in the West Indies, but it is too vague to be relied on. I am

Dr Sir Yr Affe & Obt Servt

Edmd. Pendleton

50 Sail of ships are in the Bay.

2The postscript shows that Pendleton heard, before completing this letter, that the British expeditionary force under General Leslie had arrived in Chesapeake Bay.

3Judging from the version of this letter in Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2d ser., XIX (1905), 117, Peter Force’s copyist overlooked the word “easily” after “cannot” in the now missing original.

4In May 1780 Lieutenant Governor Christopher Gadsden (1724–1805) and other prominent South Carolinians who had been captured when Charleston fell to the British were released on parole. In midsummer, prior to the defeat of the patriot army in the Battle of Camden, Cornwallis suspected that some of them were breaking their parole by plotting an insurrection and sending military information to General Gates. Cornwallis thereupon imprisoned Gadsden and seventy-eight others in St. Augustine, Fla., under rigorous conditions. Gadsden’s exchange was not effected until June 1781. Pendleton contrasts their hard lot with that of General John Burgoyne’s troops, surrendered at Saratoga in October 1777 and interned late in 1778 in Virginia for the rest of the war (William B. Willcox, ed., The American Rebellion, pp. 171, 181, 183, 226, 459; Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1931–44). description ends , XX, 128; Christopher Ward, War of the Revolution, II, 540–42).

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