James Madison Papers

To James Madison from David Jameson, 28 April 1781

From David Jameson

RC (LC: Rives Collection of Madison Papers). Endorsed, “Apl. 28. 1781,” by JM.

Richmond Ap. 28 1781

Dr Sir

I have recd your two favours of the 10th. & 17h.1 I have not failed to write by every Post. Friday the 20th. the Enemy entd. Wmsburg & at the same time a party went to York. at the latter place they contd. but a few hours—destroyed the Cannon &ca belonging to the Battery hoisted the British flag & left it flying. two Ships that lay below moved up to the Town. In Wms.burg the Enemy contind. till Sunday morning. they destroyed the few articles of public Stores that were left there—mere trifles—did no damage to the inhabitants. Saturday Evening a party of ours drove in a picket near the College & killed some—we know not how many.2 When they went into Wbg some of their Vessels with the flat Bottomed Boats moved up to Chickahominy—while there they destroyed the Ship Yard, the Thetis,3 the Stores &c. &c. Tuesday the whole were at City point. Wednesday they entered Petersburg. below Blandford our people Skirmished with them & contd. to do so till they passed Pocahontas Bridge4 our Militia behaved very will [well] on this occasion but were much outnumbered. it is supposed the Enemy have somewhere about 2500—both Phillips & Arnold with them. We had at that place not more than half that number—not knowing till Wednesday morng where they intended to make their stroke we could not collect to a point[.] Friday Yesterday they marchd to Osbornes where two public & several private Vessels lay. they have taken some destroyed some & some our own people burnt. the Jefferson was blown up by our own people. it is said they have destroyed the Tobacco at Petersburg and that they have burnt the Barracks &ca at Chesterfield Court house.5 The Marquis will be here to day—his troops not till tomorrow or perhaps Monday Baron Steuben has retreated towards Powhatan Court House to cover some Stores he had ordered there.6 All the pub Stores from this place are gone up the River and indeed very little private property is left in the Town whether the Enemy mean to come here or whether if they attempt it can get here time must shew Oh! for a French Fleet

Adieu Yr obt St

David Jameson

1Both missing.

3The twenty-gun brig “Thetis,” built at the Chickahominy shipyard and launched in August 1778, was one of the few ships in Virginia’s dwindling navy (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (2 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 57; Lower Norfolk County Virginia Antiquary, III [1899–1901], 24; Robert Armistead Stewart, The History of Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution [Richmond, 1934], pp. 83, 87). The Chickahominy River joins the James approximately ten miles west of Jamestown.

4City Point was on the south bank of the James River, at the mouth of the Appomattox. Blandford was a village about a mile east of Petersburg on the Appomattox River. Following the engagement, General Muhlenberg and his Virginia troops delayed the pursuing British by destroying the Pocahontas Bridge, after using it to cross the Appomattox River on their way northwest to Chesterfield Court House.

5Jameson’s reports of British depredations were correct. Osborne’s, on the south side of the James River midway between City Point and Richmond, was where “the Residue of the Public armed Vessels” were docked. On 27 April these nine ships and several private ones were destroyed, and twelve cargo vessels, all loaded, were captured. The “Jefferson” carried fourteen four-pound guns and a complement of seventy men when in service. When Arnold had occupied Richmond in January 1781, it was feared that he would capture this brig (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, 290; V, 344, 557, 558, 623; Christopher Ward, War of the Revolution, II, 871–72; Pendleton to JM, 23 April 1781, n. 2).

6The bulk of the stores and arms evacuated from Prince George Court House, not far east of Petersburg, was temporarily placed at Powhatan Court House, about twenty-five miles west of Richmond. Early in May they were moved thirty miles farther inland (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, 480, 581).

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