James Madison Papers

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison, 15 February 1782

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison

RC (Virginia State Library). Written by Joseph Jones. Docketed, “Virga. Delegates Letters, Feby. 15th. 1782. inclosg. resolution of Congress respectg Beef & men.”

Phila: 15th. Febry 1782.


We have your favor of the 2d. with the inclosures. those for Monsr. Mazzei shall be delivered to the minister of foreign affairs with request to forward them in the manner desired.1

Although general Greenes information of the number of Men reported to reinforce general Lessly at Charles Town may be exagerated,2 yet it cannot be doubted the Enemy intend to prosecute the ensuing Campaign with all the vigor in their Power, and should considerable reinforcemts. get to Charles Town before general Greene is properly supported, we fear he will be obliged to abandon his present position and the blame fall chiefly on Virginia, whose line that should be first on the list of the southern Army for Numbers, is, we are informed, greatly short of that of Maryland.3 Duty as a Member of the foederal union and interest as more intimately involved in the fate of the southern States, cannot fail to operate as powerfull incentives to Virginia to use every means in her power to recruit her continental line and afford every other reasonable support to the southern Army. As we are unacquainted with the supplies of Beef furnished by the State upon former requisitions we are at a loss to know how far it wod. be necessary to ascertain the terms of the supply now called for to enable the State to charge it in acct. with the united States in part of the quota of the present year. If therefore any thing further is necessary to be done You will please to communicate your desires and they shall be attended to.4

The Chevr. Luzerne has received intelligence from the Wt. Indies that the Count de Grasse with the fleet under his command and a large body of Troops commanded by the Governor of Martinique had invested the Island of St. Kitts, landed the Troops on the 7th. of last month and in ten days subdued the whole Island except the Fortress on brimstone Hill, to which place part of the British troops and some Militia had retired—that this place was closely invested and it was thought could not long withstand the force of the assailants—about one hundred Merchant Ships and Vessells with a large quantity of naval and military stores had fallen into the Counts hands—that Adml. Hood with nineteen Sail of the line lay at Barbadoes but hearing of the Counts movements had quited that place and gone to Antigua.5

Mr. Randolph intends shortly to Virginia[.] by him we will endeavour to send the journals you wrote for and also the Cypher so long promised.6 we are with great respect

Sr. yr. obed. hum. servs.

J. Madison Jr.

Edmd. Randolph

Jos: Jones

1See Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 2 February 1782, and n. 7. Robert R. Livingston was secretary for foreign affairs.

2See Jameson to JM, 26 January 1782, n. 1; and Pendleton to JM, 11 February 1782, nn. 4, 5. General Leslie commanded the British southern army, which at this time probably numbered about thirty-five hundred men fit for duty (William B. Willcox, ed., American Rebellion, p. 588).

3On 7 December 1781 Greene had established his headquarters at Round O, about thirty-five miles from Charleston and athwart Leslie’s most feasible line of communication between that city and Savannah—a line rendered more precarious for the British about six weeks later when Greene’s pressure obliged them to evacuate James and Johns islands. By then, although the enlistment period of the Virginia troops had expired and most of them were on their way home, Greene’s army was approximately as large as the enemy’s, because he had been reinforced by a contingent led by Anthony Wayne and by weary and discontented Maryland and Delaware troops commanded by Major General Arthur St. Clair (Theodore Thayer, Nathanael Greene, pp. 387–90; George W. Greene, Life of Nathanael Greene, III, 421–22, 428–29, 430–32, 445–46). Thus the Virginia delegates had been correctly informed about the few soldiers from their state in Greene’s army as compared with those from Maryland. See Jameson to JM, 26 January 1782, n. 3.

4Congress on 6 February, upon receiving Harrison’s letter of 21 January to President Hanson enclosing a copy of Greene’s letter of 27 December 1781 to the governor, referred the two dispatches to a committee of which Joseph Jones was a member and the draftsman of its report. This report, adopted by Congress on 13 February, not only directed Robert Morris “to take immediate measures” to send salt and rum to Greene and to expedite for service with him whatever troops Washington felt able to detach from his own army, but also “earnestly recommended to the executive authority of the State of Virginia to take decisive and effective measures to furnish the men and beef required by General Greene in his letter of 27 of December last” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 67 n., 74). A copy of this latter recommendation was enclosed by the delegates in the present dispatch. See Harrison’s reply of 1 March.

Before receiving the present dispatch, Harrison and the Council of State had been embarrassed by the failure of some county courts to appoint commissioners of taxation and by the negligence of the commissioners in other counties to report collections of beeves (Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (3 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 46, 48). Probably adding to the confusion was the act of the General Assembly on 5 January 1782, directing the executive, where “necessary,” to discontinue the “state quarter-masters and commissaries, and put into the hands of the continental staff officers the disbursement of the state resources” (Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , X, 415). On 18 February the resignation of William Armistead, Jr., was accepted, after he had pointed out that his role as state commissary of stores had become superfluous, the public stores being “almost destitute of every necessary Supply for the Army” (Calendar of Virginia State Papers description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts (11 vols.; Richmond, 1875–93). description ends , III, 66; Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (3 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 47).

5Disembarked on St. Kitts (St. Christopher) from Grasse’s ships on 11 January, the Marquis de Bouillé, governor of Martinique, and his troops soon had the much smaller British force confined to Brimstone Hill. In a sharp engagement on 25–26 January, Rear Admiral Sir Samuel Hood’s twenty-two ships forced the twenty-nine of Grasse to abandon the anchorage of Basseterre Roads, about twelve miles from the hill, but Hood was unable to prevent the surrender of the garrison on 12 February, along with ten pieces of artillery, six thousand cannon balls, and fifteen hundred mortar shells. Having sailed from St. Kitts the next day, Hood effected a junction about two weeks later near Antigua with Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney’s fleet, recently arrived from Great Britain (Karl Gustaf Tornquist, The Naval Campaigns of Count de Grasse during the American Revolution, 1781–1783, trans. and ed. by Amandus Johnson [Philadelphia, 1942], pp. 81–82). On 20 March the Pennsylvania Journal, which had reported Bouillé’s victory in its issue of 27 February, printed the Articles of Capitulation, dated fifteen days earlier at St. Kitts.

6The sending of the cipher would be a tardy fulfillment of the intention expressed by the delegates to Governor Thomas Nelson, Jr., in their letter of 23 October 1781 (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 , III, 293). Harrison had requested the journals in his dispatch of 11 January 1782 to the delegates (q.v.).

Index Entries