From Patrick Henry
Wmsburgh [Va.] March 13th 1779
The Reasons hinted in your Excellencys last Favor, are certainly of such Weight, as to prevent the Flag of Truce Vessells coming with Stores &c. for the convention Troops, from proceeding further than Hampton Road.1 Orders are therefore issued to Day for Vessells of our own, to be ready at that place to convey the Stores upwards to their Destination, under the Superintendance of proper Commissarys.
My last Accounts from the South are unfavorable. Georgia is said to be in full possession of the Enemy, & South-Carolina in great Danger. The Number of disaffected there is said to be formidable, & the Creek Indians inclining against us. One thousand Militia are ordered thither from our southern Countys, but a Doubt is started whether they are by Law obliged to march.2 I’ve also proposed a Scheme to embody Volunteers for this Service, but I fear the Length of the March, & a general Scarcity of Bread which prevails in some parts of No. Carolina, & this State may impede this Service.
about five hundred Militia are ordered down the Tenassee River to chastise some new Settlements of Renegade Cherokees that infest our so. Western Fronteer & prevent our Navigation on that River, from which we began to hope for great Advantages.3 Our Militia have full possession of the Ilinois & the Posts on the Ouabache, & I am not without Hopes that the same party, may over awe the Indians as far as Detroit.4 They are independent of General McIntosh, whose Numbers, altho upwards of 2000 I think, could not make any great progress, on Account it is Said of the Route they took, & the lateness of the Season.5 The Conquest of Ilinois & Ouabache was effected with less than 200 men, who will soon be reinforced, & by holding Posts on the back of the Indians, it is hoped may intimidate them. Fort Natches & Monshac6 are again in the Enemys Hands, & from thence they infest & ruin our Trade on the Mississippi on which River the Spaniards wish to open a very interesting Commerce with us. I have requested Congress to authorize the Conquest of those two posts, as the possession of them will give a Colourable pretence to retain all West Florida when a Treaty may be opened, & in the mean Time ruin our Trade in that Quarter, which would otherwise be so beneficial. I can get no Answer to this Application altho’ it is interesting to our back Settlements, & not more than 400 men required for the Service.
I beg pardon for intruding these several Subjects upon you. If you find Leisure to make any observations upon them, they will be highly acceptable.7 With every Sentiment of Regard & Esteem I am Dear sir your most obedient Servant
2. Congress initially requested 1,000 men from Virginia to defend South Carolina in a resolution of 25 Sept. 1778 (see 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 , 12:950). For the halting response of Henry and the Virginia government to this requisition, see the privy council journal for 8 and 31 Oct., and Henry to Henry Laurens, 9 Nov. 1778, McIlwaine, Letters of the Governors description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed. Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia. 3 vols. Richmond, 1926–29. description ends , 1:313, 319, 321–22. Finally, in a letter of 28 Nov. 1778 to John Jay, president of Congress, Henry explained that although “a good deal of perplexity remains with me on the Subject, I have by advice of the privy Council given Orders for 1,000 Men to be instantly got into readiness to march to Charles Town, and they will march as soon as they are furnished with Tents, Kettles and Waggons. In the mean Time if Intelligence is received, that their March is essential to the preservation of either the states of So. Carolina or Georgia, the men will encounter every difficulty & have Orders to proceed in the best way they can without waiting to be equipped with those Necessaries commonly afforded to Troops even on a Summers march” (McIlwaine, Letters of the Governors description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed. Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia. 3 vols. Richmond, 1926–29. description ends , 1:332–33).
3. For further information on Virginia militia preparing for service along the Tennessee River, see Arthur Campbell to Henry, 15 March, in Henry, Patrick Henry description begins William Wirt Henry, ed. Patrick Henry: Life, Correspondence and Speeches. 3 vols. New York, 1891. description ends , 3:231–32; see also Henry to Richard Caswell, 8 Jan., McIlwaine, Letters of the Governors description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed. Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia. 3 vols. Richmond, 1926–29. description ends , 1:351–52.
4. Henry is referring to the operations of George Rogers Clark’s small force in Illinois and along the Wabash River (see John Parke Custis to GW, 20 Nov. 1778, and n.5 to that document; see also Henry to Virginia delegates in Congress, 14 Nov. 1778, and Henry to Clark, 12 Dec. 1778, and 1 Jan. 1779, McIlwaine, Letters of the Governors description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed. Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia. 3 vols. Richmond, 1926–29. description ends , 1:323–35, 338–40, 350).
5. The Virginia privy council on 7 July 1778 had considered communications from the Board of War and Congress as well as a letter from Brig. Gen. Lachlan McIntosh, then commander at Fort Pitt, that requested militia and supplies for an expedition against Detroit, concluding “that the Expedition is utterly impracticable within the present Campaign” (McIlwaine, Letters of the Governors description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed. Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia. 3 vols. Richmond, 1926–29. description ends , 1:295–96). Henry communicated the council’s views to Congress in a letter of 8 July 1778 to Henry Laurens (see McIlwaine, Letters of the Governors description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed. Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia. 3 vols. Richmond, 1926–29. description ends , 1:296–98). An American attack on Detroit in 1778 or 1779 never materialized despite significant planning and enthusiasm for such a venture.
6. Fort Manchac, also known as Fort St. Gabriel, was erected by the Spanish in 1767 and 1768 just south of where Bayou Manchac (Iberville River) flows into the Mississippi River about fifteen miles below present-day Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Spanish military abandoned the fort as indefensible in December 1769.
7. No reply from GW to Henry has been found.