James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Pendleton, 5 February 1781

From Edmund Pendleton

Tr (LC: Force Transcripts).

Virga Feby 5th 1781

Dear Sir

I congratulate with you upon the very Agreable Intelligence from the South, of which you will have a full account ere this reaches you.1 I think Ld Cornwallis’s Army must be broken & can only depend for safety upon that at Cambden under Genl Lesly,2 & could we immediately fill up our line for the War, I think the termination of that evil would not be far distant. I have heard Arnold & his crew have left Us, but don’t know the certainty—3 Nor what purpose the Assembly are to meet the 1st. of March—unless it be on the subject of money or that any circumstance respecting the recruiting the men, may make it necessary. perhaps times appointed for measures, may have elapsed during the Invasion & require new directions.4

Our friend Craddock Taylor wishes to know if there are any hopes of his speedy exchange—there are some Seamen at Winchester who would answer the purpose, if they can be applied to it, but that you know best.5 My Nephew Mr Harry Pendleton is here & desires his Complts to you.6 It is said that in Morgan’s engagement the Militia behaved to a Charm—dealing out their Bayonets with all the Spirit & Dexterity of Veterans, let them have credit for it. My Complts to Mr Jones I will be ready to write him next week.7 I am

Dr Sr Yr Affe & Obt

Edmd Pendleton

1Pendleton refers to the severe defeat, inflicted 17 January 1781 by Brigadier General Daniel Morgan’s force, largely made up of southern militiamen, upon Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton’s troops at the Cowpens in western South Carolina. Although each side numbered only about eleven hundred troops, the victory, like that at nearby King’s Mountain in October 1780, came most opportunely to boost patriot morale. Hence its importance cannot be judged merely in statistical terms. Virginians were the more elated by the news because their militia, in contrast to its conduct at the Battle of Camden, fought bravely while two heroes of the battle, Morgan and Lieutenant Colonel William Washington, were fellow citizens. Congress first learned of the victory on 8 February from General Nathanael Greene’s dispatch of 24 January, inclosing Morgan’s report to him of five days earlier (Journals of the Continental Congress, XIX, 129).

2In his report of 17 March 1781 to Lord George Germain (Benjamin F. Stevens, ed., The Campaign in Virginia, I, 355–56), Cornwallis wrote: “The unfortunate Affair of the 17th of January, was a very unexpected and severe blow; for besides reputation, our loss did not fall short of 600 men.… That General Greene might be uncertain of my intended route [into North Carolina], as long as possible, I had left General Leslie at Camden.… I employed the 18th in forming a junction with him, and in collecting the remains of Lieut-Colonel Tarleton’s Corps.…”

3The rumor was false. Arnold and his troops were at Portsmouth in winter quarters. Pendleton may have been misled by a report of 1 February from Fredericksburg to the effect that all the British troops and ships in Chesapeake Bay had been ordered back to New York City. This report was printed in the Pennsylvania Packet of 13 February.

4Pendleton guessed correctly.

5Convention troops were being held at Winchester.

6Judge Henry Pendleton of South Carolina.

7When Joseph Jones resumed his seat in Congress on 29 January, Pendleton began writing one week to Jones and the next to JM (Journals of the Continental Congress, XIX, 94).

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