George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Thomas Nelson, Jr., 5 May 1778

From Brigadier General Thomas Nelson, Jr.

Chatham [Va.] May 5th 1778.

My dear General,

Finding that there was no probability of raising any number of voluntiers upon the plan adopted by our Assembly, I have given over that, & am endeavoring to promote the scheme proposed by Congress, of raising Volunteer cavalry, in which I have the highest expectations of succeeding,1 several of the first gentleman in the country having engaged as privates, who will equip themselves, and others, not able to support the expence have entered, upon being furnished by subscriptions in their respective counties. The numbers that will join me, I am not able to ascertain, but I have no doubt, but they will be considerable; & altho’ we shall not take the field so soon as could be wished, yet we may be a seasonable reinforcement when the other Cavalry are much fatigued. I shall use all the dispatch possible to get them equipt & trained, & will march with the first Squadron that shall be fit for duty. I am at a loss to know in what manner it would be best to have this Corps equipt. Colonel Bayler tells me that Carbines are by no means necessary, if they can be dispensed with, we shall be ready for the field much sooner, than if we are to wait for them—Your instructions upon this point, as well as our route to Camp will greatly oblige, dear Sir, your obedient Servt

Thos Nelson Jun.

Copy, DLC:GW.

1“An Act for speedily recruiting the Virginia Regiments on the continental establishment, and for raising additional troops of Volunteers,” passed in amended form by the Virginia assembly on 9 Jan., had provided for, among other things, the raising of 5,000 volunteers from that state (see GW to James Innes, 2 Jan., n.1). Nelson was one of the two brigadier generals expected to command the volunteer corps, but as GW predicted in a letter to Nelson on 8 Feb., recruiting that many men proved to be impracticable. Nelson’s dream of commanding a volunteer corps then rested on a resolution of Congress of 2 Mar. 1778: “That it be earnestly recommended to the young gentlemen of property and spirit … forthwith to constitute, within their respective states, a troop or troops of light cavalry, to serve at their own expence (except in the article of provisions for themselves and forage for their horses,) until the 31 December next” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 10:214). Although he was eventually able to raise a volunteer cavalry troop, when he brought the volunteers to Philadelphia during the first week of August, Congress sent them home, claiming their services were no longer needed.

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