George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 29 July 1781]

29th. A Letter from the Marqs. de la Fayette (commanding in Virginia) 1 informed me that after Lord Cornwallis had crossed James River he detached Tarlton with a body of horse into Amelia County with a view, as was supposed, to destroy some Stores which had been deposited there but which had been previously removed—that after this the enemys whole force removed to Portsmouth with a design it was said to embark part of them and that he had detached Generl. Wayne to the South side of James River to cover the Country, while the enemy lay in it, & to March Southerly if they did not—he himself with the Main body of his Army having taken a position at a place called Malvin hill not far from Shirley.2

Part of the Second York Regiment came down from Albany with such of the Boats as had been undertaken by Gen. Schuyler, & were finished. The light Infantry Company of the Regiment were ordered down with the next Boats & the remainder of the Regiment to bring down the rest when done.3

About this time, the discontents in the Connecticut State line, occasioned by some disappointment of a Committee sent from it to the Assembly, in settling an Acct. of Subsistence &ca. began to increase, & put on a more serious face; which induced me to write a second letter to the Govr. of that State. The distress of the Line for want of a small portion of the pay due it contributed not a little to irritate them.4

1Lafayette to GW, 20 July 1781 (DLC:GW). This is one of two letters written by Lafayette on this date.

2Banastre Tarleton (1754–1833) was lieutenant colonel of the British Legion, composed primarily of Loyalists. In 1779 the legion served in the North but was transferred to the southern theater in 1780, and it was here that Tarleton’s ability as a cavalry leader and raider rendered him indispensable to Cornwallis. Lafayette was referring to the raids carried out by Tarleton between 9 and 24 July to destroy public and private stores in the area between Prince Edward Court House and New London, Va. (see BASS description begins Robert D. Bass. The Green Dragoon: The Lives of Banastre Tarleton and Mary Robinson. New York, 1957. description ends , 180–81; TARLETON description begins Banastre Tarleton. A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781, in the Southern Provinces of North America. 1787. Reprint. Spartanburg, S.C., 1967. description ends , 358–59).

By 16 July, Lafayette had received intelligence reports that Tarleton and some 900 men were moving toward South Carolina, presumably to attack Greene. Lafayette then ordered Maj. Gen. Anthony Wayne and the Pennsylvania and Virginia troops under his command to march south (Wayne to Joseph Reed, 16 July 1781, MH: Jared Sparks Collection).

Malvern Hill was a plantation on the James River in Henrico County, Va. Shirley plantation, also near the James, was in Charles City County.

3See entry for 10 July 1781. Schuyler wrote GW from Albany, 21 July, that 84 bateaux were virtually completed and at least half were ready to be sent forward to the army (DLC:GW).

4This is probably the letter to Trumbull which GW dated 3 Aug. 1781, suggesting that the “Money for the Pay of The Troops of your Line will be exceedingly welcome—the sooner it arrives the more salutary will be its Consequences” (Ct: Trumbull Papers). Governor Trumbull’s son, Jonathan Trumbull, Jr., who was GW’s aide, had urged his father as early as 13 July to send “a sum of money for our poor suffering Connecticut lads, who are in want beyond your or any other man’s conception who have not seen them” (TRUMBULL PAPERS description begins The Trumbull Papers. 4 vols. Boston, 1885-1902. In Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 5th ser., vols. 9–10; 7th ser., vols. 2–3. description ends , 3:247–48).

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