George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 7 June 1781]

7th. A Letter from the Govr. of Virginia dated at Charlottesville the 28th. Ulto. representing the distressed State of Virginia & pressing my repairng thither, was received1—other letters (but not official) speak of Lord Cornwallis’s advance to Hanover Court House—that the Marquis was retreating before him towards Fredericksburg and that General Leslie2 was embarked in James River with about 1200 Men destined, as was supposed, to Alexandria whither it was conjectured by the letter writers Lord Cornwallis was pointing his March.

Accts. from Pittsburg were expressive of much apprehension for that quarter as a force from Canada was expected thither by way of the Lakes and the Alligany River.

A Letter from the Executive of Pennsylvania afforded little hope of assistance in the article of Provision or other things from that State and was more productive of what they had done, than what they meant to do.3

1Thomas Jefferson’s letter to GW, 28 May 1781, is in DLC:GW. Jefferson joined other southerners in pressing for a summer campaign in the South. In May 1781 Cornwallis had moved north from the Carolinas to reinforce Gen. William Phillips and Benedict Arnold in Virginia. Jefferson now informed GW that Cornwallis’s army had joined forces with troops under Arnold at Petersburg, Va. The combined force had evacuated Petersburg and, with reinforcements sent by Sir Henry Clinton from New York, marched on Richmond, then held by Lafayette with 3,000 regulars and militia. Jefferson’s intelligence reports estimated that some 7,000 British troops were operating in Virginia. On 8 June, GW wrote to Jefferson, giving his reasons for remaining in the North to direct an attack on New York City, in expectation that such an attack would compel the British to recall at least part of their forces in the South (PHi: Gratz Collection).

2Maj. Gen. Alexander Leslie (1740–1794) was active in British campaigns in the South in 1780 and 1781 and was in command at Charleston at the end of the war.

3Joseph Reed, president of Pennsylvania, to GW, 17 May 1781 (MH: Jared Sparks Collection).

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