James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Pendleton, 19 December 1780

To Edmund Pendleton

RC (LC: Madison Papers).

Philada. Decr. 19th. 1780

Dear Sir

You preserve your character for punctuality so well that I always have the pleasure to begin with acknowledging the receipt of a favor from you. That of the 11 instant came to hand yesterday. As the sufferings of your Militia are ascribed to the conduct of their Commanding Officer, I hope the disgust will be only local.1 A general disgust would be a very serious misfortune.

We are informed from good authority that an embarkation is taking place at N. York. From the number of Regiments & Corps mentioned, it probably consists of about 4000 troops. Knyphausen & Philips it is said are to have the command of them. Their course will without doubt be directed to the Southern States.2

We have a probable story from the Southward, corroborated by a paper from N. York, that Tarlton has had an encounter with Sumpter, in which he lost upwards of 100 men including the wounded, & received a mortal wound himself. Sumpter is said to have been wounded but slightly and to have lost one man only. The personal wound of Tarlton is omitted in the N. Y. Paper, but his loss otherwise is represented as greater than our own account makes it.3

I am Dr Sr. Yrs. sincerely

J. Madison Junr.

2The source of JM’s information was probably Washington’s letter of 13 December to President Samuel Huntington, read in Congress on 18 December 1780 (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, 468–69; Journals of the Continental Congress, XVIII, 1156). On Lieutenant General Baron Wilhelm von Knyphausen, see JM to Jefferson, 23 June 1780, n. 1; on Major General William Phillips, see JM to Jones, 21 November 1780, n. 13. The troop embarkation was the outset of the British expedition, led by Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, to Virginia late in December. Knyphausen remained in New York, and Phillips did not reach Virginia to supersede Arnold in command until late March 1781 (Benjamin F. Stevens, ed., The Campaign in Virginia, I, 310–11, 375).

3The engagement between Tarleton and Sumter occurred on 20 November at Blackstock’s Plantation, S.C. Tarleton emerged unscathed; Sumter with a bullet in his right shoulder. The exact number of casualties cannot be ascertained. The patriots apparently lost three killed and four wounded; the British, about fifty (Christopher Ward, War of the Revolution, II, 746–47; Pendleton to JM, 27 November 1780, n. 2). The New York Gazette, and Weekly Mercury of 18 December 1780 carried a report of the battle by “Lieutenant McLeod of the Royal Artillery.”

Index Entries