James Madison Papers

To James Madison from David Jameson, 14 April 1781

From David Jameson

RC (LC: Rives Collection of Madison Papers). Endorsed by JM, “Apl. 14. 1781.”

Richmond April 14. 1781

Dr. Sir

I am very glad you have determined to send on the Stores &ca. that came from Rhode Island We are much in want of them. Steps are taking to pay the transportation.1 The British Vessels left in the Bay are now taking the most effectual measures to distress us—one of them has run up to Burwells ferry,2 one lies in York River just below the Town3 and several are in Potowmack where they have done much damage to Some of the inhabitants. their principal business there is to intercept the Marquis Fayettes troops should they attempt to Cross and every where to prevent any Vessels going in or out.4 We are in daily expectn. Gen Phillips will move out of Portsmouth but with what view, or in what direction, we are at a loss to know.5 Most of the Militia that were under Gen. Muhlenberg have left him and those long ago called for their relief are so very tardy that I fear he must move his quarters higher up.6 The Militia throughout the Country have been so frequently called of late and the service become so very disagreable to them, that I fear it will be very difficult to keep a number in the field sufft. to make head even against small parties of the Enemy. Shall we not have the Marquis’s troops to aid us, or to go to the Southward & relieve our Militia ordered from time to time to the aid of Gen. Greene.7 We want Arms & accoutrements & shall soon want lead pray keep these wants always in mind. Clothing too we begin to be much in want of. I am with great respect & esteem Yr ob. st

David Jameson

Is it possible that Clinton will or can send forces up the Delawar[e?]8

1See Virginia Delegates to Jefferson, 27 March, and 3 April 1781; Jefferson to Virginia Delegates, 6 April 1781, n. 2.

2Burwell’s Ferry, on the James River, was near the old Burwell estate, Carter’s Grove, in James City County, about six miles southeast of Williamsburg.


6That is, farther inland along the James River toward Richmond. General Muhlenberg, later the vice-president of Pennsylvania and a Jeffersonian congressman, was second in command in Virginia under General Steuben. Muhlenberg’s headquarters at this time was at Broadwater on the Blackwater River, about twenty-five miles southwest of Portsmouth. Although his force had suffered severe attrition in recent weeks from desertion and expiration of enlistments, he still had about two thousand militia under his command on 17 April (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 , V, 479). The following day twenty-five hundred British troops under Benedict Arnold began to move up the James River. A week later they were before Petersburg. Muhlenberg reached there first, but, his force having dwindled by nearly half, he was obliged after a sharp fight to withdraw to Chesterfield Court House, north of the Appomattox River and about halfway between Petersburg and Richmond. Unopposed, the British occupied Chesterfield Court House on 27 April. During these two critical weeks, Jefferson had bent every effort to recruit, especially in the Piedmont and mountain areas of Virginia, continental troops and militia for the defense of the state and the reinforcement of General Greene’s army in the Carolinas (ibid., V, passim, esp. pp. 453 and 501; Pendleton to JM, 30 April 1781; Christopher Ward, War of the Revolution, II, 871).

7See Pendleton to JM, 19 March, n. 9, and 30 April 1781. Lafayette and his twelve hundred continental-line troops left Baltimore on 19 April and arrived at Alexandria on 21 April and Richmond eight days later (Louis Gottschalk, ed., Letters of Lafayette to Washington, pp. 186–88).

8At this time General Clinton had no intention to stir far from his headquarters in New York City, where the protection of the British fleet left him with “no apprehensions” about the safety of the six thousand troops under his immediate command (Benjamin F. Stevens, ed., Campaign in Virginia, I, 386–87).

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