George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Theodorick Bland, 23 April 1779

From Colonel Theodorick Bland

Charlotteville [Va.] April 23d 1779


Not untill now has it been in my power to Acquaint Your Excellency that I received your Commands to take Charge of this post on the 27th Ultimo, wherein as I was referred by Yr Excellency to the Governor and Council of this State, who were Authorized by Congress to take upon them the General Superintendancy of the Officer Commanding here & to grant him their Assistance if necessary,1 I immediately repaird to Wmsburgh & laid your letter before that Board; by whom I was informed that they had written to Congress on the Subject,2 & declined the Management of the affairs respecting this post, but nevertheless promised me every assistance in their power, shd any Sinister occasion render it necessary to call in, the Military aid of this Country. With this Answer I immediately return’d home, and as soon as I could adjust a few private affairs and Pack up my Baggage, Set out for this place where I arrived the 15th inst. but had previous to my setting off from home given directions to the Dy Qr Mr Genl the Dy Commy Genl and the Director Genl of the Hospitals in this district, to repair here, to receive such orders as might be found necessary for Arranging and putting into some order their respective departments which seem’d from the Resolution of the Congress and the Sentiments of the Gor & Council to want some alterations.3 I waited some days in hopes that my Summons wd have been Complied with but finding it otherwise, and instead of personal attendance that I received a letter from Col: Aylett Dy C.G.P: wherein he tells me, “that he does not consider himself as Subject in his own person to the Command of any officer, commanding at any particular post or place in this state because his is an office of General Duty” And another from Col: Finnie excusing himself from immediate attendance on account of an expectation he had of receiving a Large Supply of money & some other Business he had on hand. The Affairs of the post requiring as I conceived after visiting & examining them some immediate Salutary arrangements; I took the Liberty of Commiting the Charge of those two departments to Capt. Rice & Mr Tate who I found Acting under those Gentn as far as concerned this post untill the pleasure of Congress shd be known, the first as Dy Qr Mr G. the second as D.C.G.P. and the Hospital department to Dr George Gilmer who resides at this place and appears to me fully Competent to the business.4 I have given those Gentn full instructions with regard to the management of their several departments & immediately informed the Govr & Council of the steps I have taken; hoping that through them my conduct might be represented to the Congress. I find the Garrison in a very feeble state scarcely exceeding two Hundred Men Badly armed, worse clothed & scarcely at all disciplined. And indeed, fully convinced am I of the necessity there was shd any force become necessary at any time, Of the precaution I took in requesting the Gor & Council to Arm the Militia of the Several Counties adjacent & give them orders to hold themselves in readiness at the Shortest warning in case of necessity. I shall be as carefull as possible (in giving directions for Supplying this post) that provisions and forage may be drawn as much as possible out of the line of Communication from whence our Armies are Supplied. and that water Carriage in the Upper parts of James River shall be instituted & used as much as possible that there may be as small a Consumption of forage as this post will allow. I am Happy to find the Situation of the Barracks much more Comfortable and the Officers & Soldiers in Genl of the Convention troops much better satisfied, than formerly, there being a plentifull supply of water, at present a sufficient Quantity of wholesome Provision, and the Barracks tight & comfortable. Majr Genl Phillips I have found from his letters apparently disposed to pacific Measures, & to lend his aid in keeping good order & regularity, and except in a few matters of punctilio, which as long as they do not affect, the Honor & true Interests of the United states, I shall pass over as ⟨ligh⟩tly as possible, I beleive will do tolerably well.5 I shall enclose Yr Excellency returns from the Several departments belonging to this post if they can be got ready before this goes, for yr Satisfaction.6 I have the Honor to be with the most perfect esteem & respect Yr Excy’s Most obedt & very Humb. Set

Theok Bland

P.S. I had Inadvertently neglected in the letter to Acquaint yr Excelly, that I had with the advice and the Approbation of the Council, orderd a Serjt & ten or twelve Lt Dragoons from my Regt at Winchester to do duty at this post which from the Extent of the limits, the excessive weakness of the Garrison, and the Lax discipline that has been introduced there hitherto by having nothing but Militia at first, and now very little more than two Hundred Raw Recruits, seemd to me absolutely necessary, altho I am not insensible how Illy they can be spared from the Regt, as well as how much they may be wantg at Camp. Yr Excelly will be pleased if this Step is not agreeable to you to acquaint me with yr pleasure on that head, and if they shd be recalled how their place may be supplied.7


2John Page, the lieutenant governor of Virginia, wrote to Congress on 29 March “Reccomending Coll Bland to be allowd a Table”; Congress read the letter on 15 April and referred it to the delegates from that state (Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 12:335; 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 , 13:455).

3Bland probably was referring to a congressional resolution of 20 Feb. that was passed in response to letters from Gov. Patrick Henry and deputy quartermaster general William Finnie concerning the supply of the Convention Army prisoners at Charlottesville; 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 , 13:216–17.

4George Rice (c.1748–c.1800), a native of Ireland who had served as a captain in the 11th Virginia Regiment from January 1777 until September 1778, was awarded the contract to build the barracks for the Convention Army near Charlottesville, Va., in late 1778, and in January 1779 Congress paid him $23,000 “in full” for their construction (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 , 13:39). Francis Tate continued serving as a deputy commissary general of purchases at Albemarle barracks at least until September 1781. George Gilmer (1743–1795) attended the College of William and Mary and studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh before establishing a medical practice in Williamsburg in 1766. He moved to Albemarle County near Charlottesville in the early 1770s and became Thomas Jefferson’s friend and attending physician; the two men shared interests in botany, chemistry, and the fine arts. Gilmer served in Jefferson’s place as a delegate to the Fifth Virginia Convention in 1776, and during the war he occupied a number of posts in Albemarle County, including as a militia officer and military surgeon.

5For the correspondence between Bland and British Gen. William Phillips concerning the establishment of the Albemarle barracks for holding Convention Army prisoners, see Campbell, Bland Papers description begins Charles Campbell, ed. The Bland Papers: Being a Selection from the Manuscripts of Colonel Theodorick Bland, Jr., of Prince George County, Virginia. 2 vols. Petersburg, Va., 1840-43. description ends , 1:116–22.

6Bland enclosed “A Weekley return of Volunteears & Militia Guarding the Convention Troops at albemarle Barracks Apl 17. 1779,” signed by Capt. Garland Burnley, and an “Account of Provisions in Store at The Continental Station in Albemarle April 19th 1779,” signed by assistant commissary of issues John Allen (both DLC:GW).

7The Virginia Council had resolved on 29 March to recommend that Bland “send for 15 Dragoons from his own Regt to serve at the barracks” (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 , 1:363). GW replied on 28 June approving Bland’s actions. For more on the establishment of the Convention Army at barracks near Charlottesville, see Chase, “Years of Hardships,” description begins Philander D. Chase. “‘Years of Hardships and Revelations’: The Convention Army at the Albemarle Barracks, 1779-1781.” Magazine of Albemarle County History 41 (1983):9-53. description ends 9–53.

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