George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Patrick Henry, 5 March 1778

From Patrick Henry

Wmsburgh, March 5th, 1778.

Dear Sir

By an Express which Colo. Finnie sent to Camp, I inclosed you an Anonymous Letter, which I hope got safe to Hand. I am anxious to hear something that will serve to explain the strange Affair which I am now informed is taken up respecting you.1 Mr Custis has just paid us a Visit, & by him I learn sundry particulars concerning Genl Mifflin, that much surprize me. ’Tis very hard to trace the Schemes & windings of the Enemys to America. I really thought that Man—its friend; However I’m too far from him to judge of his present Temper.

While you face the armed Enemys of our Liberty in the Field, & by the Favor of God have been kept unhurt, I trust your Country will never harbour in her Bosom the Miscreant who would ruin her best Supporter. I wish not to flatter; but when Acts unworthy honest men are used to defame & traduce you, I think it not amiss but a Duty to assure you of that Estimation in which the public hold you. Not that I think any Testimony I can bear, is necessary for your Support, or Private Satisfaction, for a bare Recollection of what is past must give you sufficient pleasure in every Circumstance of Life. But I cannot help assuring you on this Occasion of the high Sense of Gratitude, which all Ranks of Men in this your Native Country, bear to you. It will give me sincere pleasure to manifest my Regards & render my best Services to you or yours. I don’t like to make a parade of these Things, & I know you are not fond of it; However I hope the Occasion will plead my Excuse.

The Assembly have at length empowered the Executive here to provide for the Virga Troops serving with you with Clothes &c.2 I am making provision accordingly & hope to do something towards it. Every possible Assistance from Goverment is afforded the Commissary of provisions, whose Department has not been attended to. ’Twas taken up by me too late to do much.3 Indeed the Load of Business devolved on me is too great to be managed well. A French Ship mounting Thirty Guns that has been long chased by the English Cruizers has got into Carolina as I hear last Night.4 Wishing you all possible Felicity I am my dear Sir your ever affectionate friend & very humble Servant

P. Henry

ALS, PHi: Dreer Collection.

1See Henry to GW, 20 Feb., and note 1. Henry apparently is referring to the so-called Conway Cabal, for a discussion of which, see GW to Horatio Gates, 4 Jan., n.3.

2On 20 Jan. the Virginia house of delegates resolved “that each regular soldier, belonging either to the continent, or this Commonwealth, who shall be ordered to join the grand army the next campaign, shall be furnished with a suit of clothes ready made, out of the public store, at the expense of the Commonwealth,” and the senate concurred on 21 January. On 24 Jan., Henry, “with the Advice of the Council,” directed the state commissary of stores William Armistead to comply with the resolution and “to set the Taylors to work as he may be possessed of the Materials by Importations or such purchases as he may be entitled to make by a close attention to the Subject” (Va. House of Delegates Journal description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg, on Monday, the Twentieth Day of October, in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-Seven. Richmond, 1827. description ends , Oct. 1777–Jan. 1778 sess., 123, 125; Va. Senate Journal description begins Journal of the Senate. Williamsburg, Va., 1777. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records.) description ends , Oct. 1777–Jan. 1778 sess., 49; Va. State Council Journals description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia. 5 vols. Richmond, 1931–82. description ends , 2:74).

3On 14 Jan., Henry presented to the Virginia council “a Letter from a Commee of Congress, of the 31st December last, representing the alarming accounts of the Distresses of the American Army for the Want of Provisions.” At the council’s suggestion Henry directed Commissary William Aylett to send an agent to the northwestern parts of the state to procure provisions. The next day the council agreed that Henry should employ Abraham and Thomas Hite and James Barbour as special agents in the northwest “for the purchasing Provisions & forwarding it without delay to Head Quarters” (Va. State Council Journals description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia. 5 vols. Richmond, 1931–82. description ends , 2:64–66). On 28 Jan. the council further advised Henry “to give Directions to the Navy Board to afford the said Commissary every possible Assistance in transporting provisions up the Bay or Rivers” (ibid., 76–77).

4News of the arrival of the French frigate Ferdinand was printed in Purdie’s Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg) of 6 Mar. and the North-Carolina Gazette (New Bern) of the same date. The Ferdinand’s commander, Denis-Nicolas Cottineau de Kerloguen, wrote GW from Cape Lookout on 26 February.

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