James Madison Papers

To James Madison from David Jameson, 4 November 1780

From David Jameson

RC (LC: Rives Collection of Madison Papers).

Richmond Nov. 4. 1780

Dr Sir

I was not favoured with any letter from you by this weeks post. the post from the Northward now comes in on thursday & goes out on this day which is the reason Dixon & Co have altered their day for publishing the paper. Clarkson has not sent me a paper for two or three weeks past nor is it material whether he ever does, it is so trifling1

Since my last some of the Enemys Vessels run up Nansemond River & landed some Men who took possession of Suffolk, & roamed at large in that neighbourhood. Our last advices from Gen Muhlenberg were from the neighbourhood of Smithfield. He had sent down a party in hope of preventing the mischiefs the Enemy were doing about Suffolk2

The report of yesterday was that the Men had again embarked, and that the Ships were moving down. It is said they are fortifying Portsmouth—what may be their intentions is still a mystery—the general opinion is, that they are waiting for orders—that they expected to meet or cooperate with Cornwallis but hearing that Ferguson was defeated & himself obliged to retreat from Charlotte it is said a fast sailing Vessel was immediately sent out—supposed to be for fresh orders3

By a sensible deserter we are informed their land force is from 2500 to 3000 foot & abt. 70 horse. Their Convoy—the Romulus of 44 Guns, the Blond of 32, the delight of 16, a ship belongg. to Goodrich of 20, and two Gallies—the land forces commanded by Genl. Leslie and the Naval by Com. Gayton—that they have heavy Cannon on board and plenty of Military Stores.4 What pity it is we cannot be aided by a few good Ships—the whole Naval & land force would fall an easy prey. The deserter says that they expected our whole force would be sent down to Suffolk & the lower parts and that they then intended to run up to Baltimore. he heard Col Fanning (his Col) say he did not doubt but he should eat his Christmas dinner in Baltimore. This Man is a native of New York—was taken at Fort Montgomery—after sometime of painful captivity inlisted in hope of finding an opporty to escape—was made a Sarjeant—escaped the next day after he was landed5

It is said the Vessel is taken in wch Mr Dunlap sent his printing materials.6 There are not yet Members enough to hold an Assembly.7 We have for two days been amused with a report that Cornwallis and his whole Army were taken—had there been truth in the report we shd ere this have had an express from that quarter

I am with esteem & respect dr Sir Yr obedt Servt

David Jameson

1Beginning on 4 November 1780, the weekly Virginia Gazette of John Dixon and Thomas Nicolson was issued on Saturdays rather than Wednesdays, as theretofore. John Clarkson (ca. 1753–ca. 1783) and Augustine Davis’ Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg) wilted under the competition of its rival and succumbed early in December 1780 (Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, II, 1162).

2See Jones to JM, 24 October 1780, nn. 2 and 3.

3See Pendleton to JM, 30 October 1780, n. 1. Although General Leslie re-embarked most of his troops by 15 November, he did not sail from Chesapeake Bay until a week later. His original destination was Cape Fear, N.C., but Cornwallis soon bade him proceed from there to Charleston. Leslie arrived in Charleston harbor on 14 December (Benjamin F. Stevens, ed., The Campaign in Virginia, I, 285–313, passim).

4Commodore George Gayton (d. 1796), the senior officer of the fleet, used the “Romulus” as his flagship. The “Blond” should be the “Blonde.” John Goodrich, Sr. (ca. 1720–1785), and his four sons were prominent Tories of Suffolk, Nansemond County. They owned a number of merchant ships as well as a considerable acreage of land. Virginia confiscated the latter and offered it for sale in March 1780. Which of their vessels was a unit of Gayton’s fleet is not known, but it may have been the twenty-gun ship commanded by John Goodrich’s son Bridger, or Bridgen (Virginia Gazette [Richmond, Dixon and Nicolson], 4 March 1780; Lorenzo Sabine, Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution, with an Historical Essay [2 vols.; Boston, 1864], I, 480–82). Major General Alexander Leslie (1731–1794) had commanded the light infantry at the Battle of Long Island in August 1776 and would be in command at Charleston from 1781 until its evacuation the next year (Benjamin F. Stevens, ed., The Campaign in Virginia, II, 442).

5Colonel Edmund Fanning (1737–1818), a New York Tory, commanded the King’s American Regiment. Governor Jefferson’s dispatch of 2 November 1780 to Maryland’s Governor Thomas S. Lee closely resembles the present letter in its contents and identifies the deserter as Peter Christian (d. 1791) of New York. Christian enlisted as a private in the 3d Company of the New York line on 1 January 1777 but was listed missing on 6 October 1777, the day on which Fort Montgomery, about forty miles north of New York City on the Hudson River, fell to the British. He rejoined his former regiment on 1 November 1781 (Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (16 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , IV, 89–90; Berthold Fernow, ed., Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New York, XV [Albany, 1887], 223).

6See Jefferson to Virginia Delegates, 31 August 1780, n. 3. A storm drove the vessel carrying Dunlap’s press aground in Chesapeake Bay. There it was captured by the British (Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held At the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg.Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used, unless otherwise noted, is the one in which the journals for 1777–1781 are brought together in one volume, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , October 1780, p. 28).

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