James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Pendleton, 6 August 1781

From Edmund Pendleton

Tr (LC: Force Transcripts). Addressed to “The Honble James Maddison, Esqr Philadelphia.” A copy, also made from the original manuscript, is in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2d ser., IX (1905), 138–39.

Edmundsbury, Augt 6th. 1781

My Dear Sir

Judge of my Anxiety at having pass’d two Long-Long weeks without a line from you or my friend Jones at so critical a juncture, when we hear a busy & importt scene has Opened to the North; The disappointment one week has been accounted for by the loss of the Mail in or near Wilmington,1 the other, I hope did not proceed from your sickness, as I recollect it was your turn, since I would rather it should have any other cause. perhaps the danger of the Mail may make it improper to communicate any Intelligence at such a time, if so, continue yr silence, as I would foregoe that or any other pleasure rather than risque the smallest Injury to the Cause.

The Enemy we are told remain here, their Vessels some in York River & others in Mock-Jack Bay.2 they have landed in York & Gloucester & are plundering; whether that, or a more extensive plan, be their design we are yet to learn, In the mean time the Marquis is on the branches of York River, Watching their motions, expecting for some time past, they intended up Potowmack, or up the Bay to Baltimore or the head of Elk, & inclining his March Northward on that Account, to divert which may be the design of the Enemy in this3 last landing.4

Nothing to be depended on hath been handed Us from General Green since the collecting his scattered Detachments had enabled him to look the Enemy in the face.5 You have probably better Intelligence of him than we. Our Militia keep the field & perform their regular tours of duty with Alacrity, & I fancy the Enemy find recruiting, a dull business here.6 Our crops are promising, and I hope we shall be able to feed the Army & those who have met devastion from the enemy. I am

Dr Sr Yr mo. Affe

Edmd. Pendleton.

1See Virginia Delegates to Nelson, 31 July 1781; and JM to Pendleton, 31 July, and n. 2. The intercepted letter from Joseph Jones is probably the one printed in Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 153–54. A copy in the William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan, is endorsed, “Copy Intercepted Jos. Jones—Supposed to be to the late Governor Jefferson of Virginia.” However, when it was printed in Rivington’s Royal Gazette on 15 September 1781, it was listed as a letter either to Jefferson or Pendleton.

2Mobjack Bay, an arm of the Chesapeake, lies between Mathews and Gloucester counties at the eastern end of the peninsula formed by the Rappahannock and York rivers.

3This word is “their” in the version printed in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

4See Nelson to Virginia Delegates, 26 July, and n. 5, and 3 August 1781, and n. 2. Writing on 6 August, Lafayette assured Washington: “We shall act agreably to circumstances but avoid drawing ourselves into a false movement which for want of cavalry and command of the rivers would give the ennemy the advantage of us. His Lordship [Cornwallis] plays so well that no blunder can be hoped from him to recover a bad step of ours.… Their vessels the biggest of whom is a 44 are betwen the two towns [Yorktown and Gloucester]. Should a fleet come in at this moment our affairs would take a very happy turn” (Louis Gottschalk, ed., Letters of Lafayette to Washington, p. 215).

5At this time there was a lull in the fighting in South Carolina. The British were confined to Charleston and its immediate vicinity. Greene’s headquarters were at the High Hills of Santee on the Wateree River about ninety miles northwest of Charleston. There Greene was seeking to refresh and refit his troops, to enforce strict discipline so as to restrain them from plundering or deserting, to repress marauding bands of Tories, and to induce the civil and military authorities to the northward to send him reinforcements (Theodore Thayer, Nathanael Greene, pp. 364–72).

6Clinton had warned Cornwallis on 11 June 1781 not to expect much support from Loyalists in Virginia: “experience ought to convince us, that there is no possibility of re-establishing order in any rebellious province on this continent without the hearty assistance of numerous friends. These, my Lord, are not, I think, to be found in Virginia; nor dare I positively assert, that under our present circumstances they are to be found in great numbers any where else, or that their exertions when found will answer our expectations” (Benjamin F. Stevens, ed., Campaign in Virginia, II, 21–22).

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