Virginia Delegates to Thomas Jefferson
RC (Historical Society of Pennsylvania). Addressed to “His Excelly. Thos. Jefferson Esqr. Govr. of Virginia.” Except for Meriwether Smith’s signature, the entire letter is in Theodorick Bland’s hand. In the editors’ opinion, this dispatch was from JM as well as his two colleagues, and the omission of his signature reflects merely his momentary absence at the time the letter was sealed.
Philadelphia May 8th. 1781
Having so lately and so often wrote to your Excellency we have little new to Communicate at present; the confusion respecting money still continues in this City, tho with less commotion than could be expected as in a few days the old Continental money has depreciated from two hundred to seven, eight, and some say nine Hundred for one, the new money has of course sufferd in proportion. what this Convulsion will end in, it is difficult to Surmise. in the mean time we are in infinite distress as may be easily supposed; the Currency of the old money has been stoppd for some days past and it is said to day that the new is about to share the same fate.1 In the midst of these misfortunes we have the pleasure to transmit to Yr. Excelly a Copy of a letter from Genl. Cornell one of the members of the board of War, who has been directed by Congress to visit the Magazines, and if possible to Send to the Southward Such Arms Cloathing and Military stores as we are in want of.2 the Extract is as follows
“Inclosed is a return of Clothing now on the Road and ordered to be sent immediately from this Place to the care of the board of War, for the Use of the Marquises detachment and the Southern Army, to which may be added one thousand Stand of good Small arms orderd forward immediately by the Commander in Chief for the use of the Militia of the Southern States as the board of War shall direct.3 Early to Morrow morning I shall go to fish Kill with General Knox4 from which Place the Genl. thinks two or three thousand Cartouch Boxes can be movd[;] if so they will be forwarded Immediately to the southward. I Expect to be able to forward for the same Purpose two thousand Small Arms from Springfield5 exclusive of the Rampart Muskets, my Prospects at present are better than I Expected.
New Windsor6 April 30th 1780[”]
We have also the pleasure to acquaint your Excellency that about three thousand Suits of Cloathing are safely arrived at Boston from Spain, which our Friend the King of Spain has Enabled our Minister at that Court to procure,7 we are with the greatest respect
Yr. Excelly’s most obedt. Sets
N.B. about 400 of the Rampart arms to be made into good Muskets and fixd with Bayonettes for the State as advised in ours of last week are finishd and will be sent forward immediately and the others are finishing with all possible Expedition8
1. See Virginia Delegates to Jefferson, 5 May 1781, and nn. 2–4. Bland apparently was in more need of money than JM or Smith. On 3 June Bland wrote to Jefferson that he did not have a shilling, that he had borrowed in Philadelphia to the limit of his credit, that he had tried in vain to sell his horses, that his property in Virginia was overrun by the enemy, and that he lacked the means to buy a dinner for his family or a “bait of oats” for his horses (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 , VI, 73). On 21 June the Virginia General Assembly instructed the Governor in Council to try to help the delegates by sending them tobacco or hemp to sell (Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, March 1781 Session in Bulletin of the Virginia State Library, XVII, No. 1 (January 1928). description ends , May 1781, pp. 23, 28).
2. Ezekiel Cornell (1732–1800), a Rhode Island delegate to Congress from 1780 to 1782 and a member of the Board of War, had been a brigadier general of state troops from 1776 to 1780. Congress granted him six weeks’ leave of absence on 21 April 1781 to return to Rhode Island and directed him, while there, to “visit the military stores and elaboratory to the eastward, in the department of the commissary of military stores, and to take measures for removing arms, ammunition and stores from thence to the main army, or to the southward; and to correct abuses in the said department” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XIX, 434). Cornell’s original letter, probably addressed to the Board of War, appears to be no longer extant.
3. On 18 April 1781 Lafayette wrote Washington that the troops in Virginia were in such a desperate plight for clothing that he had pledged his own credit to Baltimore merchants for shoes, hats, and cloth for shirts and “over alls.” “The ladies,” he added, “will make up the Shirts and the over alls will Be made By the detachment.” Before receiving this letter, Washington wrote Lafayette that, on 20 April, shirts, overalls, shoes, and socks to the number of twelve hundred pairs each, and “100 Hunting Shirts” had left New Windsor for his detachment. On 8 May, having conferred with “Mr. Cornel,” Washington assured the Board of War by letter that he had ordered as much more “Cloathing as could possibly be spared … to be immediately forwarded to the southward with one thousand Muskets and one thousand Cartouch Boxes.… Our prospects on account of lead are alarming indeed” (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXI, 494; XXII, 34 n., 62).
4. Fishkill, near the east bank of the Hudson River, nearly forty-five miles due north of New York City, served as a concentration point of military matériel, largely drawn from New England. Brigadier General Henry Knox (1750–1806), once a Boston bookseller and later the Secretary of War in President Washington’s administrations, had been chief of artillery, continental army, since 27 December 1776 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , VI, 1043).
5. In Massachusetts, where an “Elaboratory and Cannon Foundery” had been established early in 1777 (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , VIII, 139, 146).
6. Washington’s headquarters were at New Windsor, N.Y., about ten miles south of Newburgh and about three miles west of the Hudson River.