James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Pendleton, 11 February 1782

From Edmund Pendleton

Tr (LC: Force Transcripts). Addressed to “The Honble James Madison Esqr Philada.” Another copy of the original is in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2d ser., XIX (1905), 147.

Virga Feby 11. 1782

Dear Sir

I have missed two Posts to get a letter from you, which proceeds from the Susquehanah being frozen which stopd the passage of the Post;1 the Mail however came to Fredg. but only brought an old letter from Mr Jones.2

We have been amused with contrary Reports concerning the arrival of a large reinforcement to the British Army at Charles Town. Genl Green’s account of their amount, near 5000, has since been contradicted by officers from his camp, who say [no]3 Troops came from Ireland, & all who got there were the 3 Regiments from New York. I yet think these Gentn were under a mistake, and that Green’s relation was too well founded.4 We are just now told by a Gentn. from Phila. that the Enemy had certainly evacuated New York.5 I am impatient to have a confirmation of this, & to hear their destination which I suppose is6 either to the Southern States, or to the West Indies. We are just going to celebrate this anniversary of the General’s birth,7 & I cannot but add8 that I am

Dr Sr Yr mo. affe friend

Edmd Pendleton

1See Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 2 February 1782, n. 1. On his way from Philadelphia to Baltimore, the postrider crossed the Susquehanna River opposite Havre de Grace, Md. From Baltimore he proceeded by way of Annapolis, Alexandria, and Fredericksburg to Richmond and Petersburg, Va.

2Joseph Jones. The letter has not been identified.

3Although the Force transcript shows this word as “the,” Pendleton almost certainly wrote, or intended to write, “no,” as appears in the version printed in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

4For Greene’s dispatch telling of the expected reinforcements, see Jameson to JM, 26 January 1782, n. 1. According to a letter of that date from Washington to Greene, the British in Charleston had been strengthened from New York City by merely “five to seven hundred” German troops rather than by three regiments of the royal army (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 , XXIII, 465). Writing on 18 February 1782, Washington assured Greene that the Charleston garrison was unlikely to be reinforced with troops from Ireland in the near future (ibid., XXIV, 2). Who these “Gentn” were is not known to the editors, but one of them was likely Lieutenant Colonel John Eager Howard (1752–1827) of the Maryland line, who was at this time returning from the southern army to his home in Baltimore County (Maryland Historical Records Survey Project, Works Progress Administration, comp., “Calendar of the General Otho Holland Williams Papers in the Maryland Historical Society” [mimeographed, Baltimore, 1940], p. 60). On 23 February the Richmond Virginia Gazette, and Weekly Advertiser, after mentioning a rumor which had “been prevailing here for several days past” of about 8,000 enemy troops in Charleston, added that the number was “generally thought” to be “exaggerated.”

5In his reply to Pendleton on 25 February (q.v.), JM called the unknown purveyor of this story “an impudent liar.” Perhaps, however, the informant had heard in Philadelphia that nineteen transports were in New York Harbor preparing to sail. On 25 February Washington wrote to President John Hanson that these empty troopships had almost certainly gone to sea on the eighteenth for the not unlikely purpose of bringing the Charleston garrison back to New York (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 , XXIV, 20). Their real mission was to transfer about one thousand British soldiers from the coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia to the West Indies (Theodore Thayer, Nathanael Greene: Strategist of the American Revolution [New York, 1960], p. 395; William B. Willcox, ed., American Rebellion, p. 594).

6The copy in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society omits “is.”

7Washington was born on 11 February, old style, but most “Almanack-makers” as late as 1780, even though they used the new-style calendar in their almanacs, still showed his birthday opposite that date rather than that of 22 February (Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, XLIII [1919], 146–47; Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , I, 3). The first public recognition of the anniversary appears to have been accorded, not on the eleventh but on the twenty-second, by Washington’s troops at Valley Forge in 1778. Three years later the Comte de Rochambeau designated 12 February as a holiday for the French troops to honor Washington, since the day before had fallen on Sunday (John C. Fitzpatrick, The Spirit of the Revolution: New Light from Some of the Original Sources of American History [Boston, 1924], pp. 94–95). In Richmond the celebration to which Pendleton alludes was such that “the gratitude of the People towards their Great Deliverer could not be restrained.” There were bonfires, illuminations, and cannon salutes. Governor Harrison entertained at dinner a “number of officers of the army and other Gentlemen” who drank many toasts “expressive of the warmest attachment to our illustrious Commander.” These festivities culminated with an “elegant Ball” (Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends , 16 February 1782).

8The version in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society reads, “add but.”

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