George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Fitzhugh, 16 November 1780

From William Fitzhugh

Low’r Marlbro Maryland Novr 16th 1780

Dear General

I had the Honor to receive your very Acceptable fav’r of the 22d ulto by Major General Green whom I had the Pleasure to meet at Annapolis—Colo. Morris His Aid, & Majr Claiburne a Gentleman of the Generals retinue, had Honor’d me with their Company the Preceeding Night at Marlbro’ on their way to Mont Vernon, & the General set out from Annapolis for the Same Place on Saturday Morning the 11th Inst.1 The Baron De Stuben—Having Gone on the Day before—Had General Greens Stay been Longer with Us, I Shou’d have had an Oppertunity And much Pleasure, in Shewing Him every Civility Due not only to Your Excellency’s recommendation But to His Great Merrit And Distinguish’d Character—I Believe the Generals Hasty Departure proceeded as well from His Anxiety to be with the Army which he is to Command, As from the Disagreeable And Confus’d State in which He found Our Assembly, Wrangleing Amongst themselves, & Spending their time in Debates, Deriv’d from Personal Peake, & Diffirences with One another, Which must have been truly Disgustful, at a Crisis, When the Common Cause Crys aloud for their utmost Exertions—I Stay’d only two Days in Annapolis, which time I Employ’d Amongst my friends and Acquaintance, & I hope not without Effect, to facilitate Your Wishes for the Publick Good, & to Spur them on As much as in My Power to an Immediate & Vigorous Exertion, Tho Messrs Chace & Hall with their Partizans, Seem so Determin’d on Silenceing their Opponants, That I wish the Publick And Absolutely necessary Business of this Session, may not fall a Sacrifice to their Private Quarrels, & resentment; However, it is to be Hoped, that the Gentlemen will in Due time See the folly & Danger of such Conduct, & proceed wth Calmness, & resolution to Dispatch the Important Business Before them2—I am so Very Blind and Infirm, That I was Constrain’d to Decline the Publick Service, & am now Out of the Legislature.

I thank Your Excellency for the Kind Mention You are Pleas’d to make of my Son—My Wishes to have Him restor’d to the Service of His Country, Flatter Me with the Hope of His releasement. When at the same time, I cannot restrain my fears That the Number to be Exchang’d will not reach the Date of His Captivity—He is now with Me & presents His respectful Complts to You & Your Family.3

The Pirates in Our Bay tho’ but a few Small Vessells have become very troublesome to Our Settlements on the Water Having taken a Great Many Vessells with Tobo & Many Hundred Slaves from Different Places. They have now begun to Burn Houses, amongst which are Mine at Rousby Hall, with a Good deal of Furniture & other Valuable Effects, besides having recd 8 of my Men Slaves four of them Carpenters—On the 7th Inst in the Presence of 70 Militia, I had the Mortification to See my Buildings Consum’d, by 20 or 30 Ruffians, Part of them Black who were Landed from two Small Schooners, not Larger than Common Pilot Boats, Set Fire to my Houses & Immediately went off in Exultation, Without a Single Shot being fir’d at them—The Enemy had Denounc’d their Intention, & came on Deliberately, Whilst the Militia might have taken Possession of the House, & Even with 15 Men, Defended it against a Hundred—But such was their Consternation, at least their Principal Officers, that no Advice, or Importunity cou’d Move them—Our Militia are Dastardly, will not Fight, & are not Worth a Farthing—The Piratical Vessells in Our Bay are Cheifly, nay I believe Intirely Man’d with Tories & Negro’s, & Commanded by the most Notorious Traitors of this State, who have Escap’d from Justice, & their Spies, are both by Land & Water in every Part of the Country Passing under Diferent Characters & pretences4—Our Governor is a Gentleman of Spirrit & Vigilance, & Has This Week In Confidence of the Approbation of the Legislature, Stir’d & Sent Down the Bay, two Vessells of Force, & fitted out a Large Barge which was taken from the Enemy. This Force wou’d be Sufficent, were it to Continue, but I Suppose After a Short Cruise they will return, & the Pirates resume their former Station, And As their Daily Acquisitions will Increase their Strength, I Apprehend they will become Powerful, & Dangerous, to Such a Degree, As to break up all our Settlements on the Water—Shame to Maryland & Virginia for Suffering such a Little Band of Pirates to Remain in Our Bay & Ruin its Adjacent Inhabitants.

Mrs Fitzhugh Joins with Me in respectful Complts & best Wishes to You & Your Family, We presume Your Lady is not yet With You.5 I have the Honor to be with sincere Affection & Esteem Your Excellencys Most Obedt & Oblig’d Humle Servt

Willm Fitzhugh


2Fitzhugh presumably refers to Jeremiah Townley Chase, who joined the “Council to the Governor” in November, and John Hall (Md. Archives description begins Archives of Maryland. 72 vols. Baltimore, 1883–1972. description ends , 45:213; see also Mordecai Gist to GW, 24 Nov.). He also may refer to Samuel Chase, who became a longstanding controversial figure in Maryland politics. For a broad overview of political divisions in Maryland, see Main, Parties before the Constitution description begins Jackson Turner Main. Political Parties before the Constitution. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1973. description ends , 212–43.

John Hall (1729–1797) lived in Anne Arundel County and served in the Maryland legislature for several decades.

3Lt. Peregrine Fitzhugh already had been involved in a prisoner exchange (see GW to William Fitzhugh, 8 Nov., and n.1 to that document). He became one of GW’s aides-de-camp in July 1781.

4Joseph Wilkinson had written Maryland governor Thomas Sim Lee from the mouth of the Potomac River on Thursday night, 9 Nov.: “The enemy came into Patuxent River on Sunday evening last in force, from the best Intelligence I can collect, three arm’d Schooners one with 8 and 6 & one 4 Guns supposed to be 3 & 4 Pounders Swivells & small arms.” After ransacking one property, “they proceeded down the River opposite to Col Fitzhughs, where they sent a flagg on shore requesting a supply of fresh Provisions, that they meant to do no damage on shore if comply’d with, their request was rejected, upon which they immediately Cannonaded the House & in a short time sent two Barges on Shore with about forty men under their Cannon & Burnt the Colonels House. they then proceeded a few miles out of the River where they still continue. I have appointed Guards both on the Bay & River & have taken every precaution I can to prevent their Landing & doing further mischief. I wou’d on their landing advised you but Colonel Fitzhugh informed me he had sent an express for that purpose” (Md. Archives description begins Archives of Maryland. 72 vols. Baltimore, 1883–1972. description ends , 45:173).

5For Martha Washington’s travel north to join GW, see Robert Hanson Harrison to GW, 28 Nov., and n.15.

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