George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 12 February 1781

From Thomas Jefferson

Richmond Feby 12. 1781.


The inclosed extract of a Letter from Governor Nash which I received this Day being a confirmation of the intelligence I transmitted in a former Letter I take the liberty of handing it forward to your Excellency.1 I am informed through a private channel on which I have considerable reliance that the enemy had landed 500 troops under the command of a Major Craig who were joined by a number of disaffected, that they had penetrated 40 miles: that their aim appeared to be the Magazine at Kingston from which place they were about 20 Miles distant.2

Baron Steuben transmits to your Excellency a Copy of a Letter from General Greene by which you will learn the events which have taken place in that quarter since the defeat of Colo. Tarlton by General Morgan.3 These events speak best for themselves & no doubt will suggest what is necessary to be done to prevent the successive losses of State after State to which the want of arms & of a regular Soldiery seem more especially to expose those in the South—I have the honor to be with every sentiment of respect Your Excellency’s mo. ob. & mo. hble Servant

Th: Jefferson

LS, DLC:GW; LB, Vi. GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman wrote on the docket: “recd 28th Ansd 21st March” (see GW to Jefferson, 21 March, Vi). On this date, Jefferson sent a nearly identical letter to Samuel Huntington, president of Congress (see Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 4:590–91). A copy of that letter, sent to GW by Huntington on 20 Feb. (second letter), is in DLC:GW.

1See Jefferson to GW, 8 February.

The enclosed “Extract of a Letter from Governor [Abner] Nash of N. Carolina to Govr Jefferson of Virga,” dated 2 Feb., reads: “I am now sir to acquaint you that I have just recd an acct of the arrival of a British Fleet in Cape Fear river—The acct says 8 large Ships had got over the bar & a considerable number in the offing. This invasion will I fear distress us very greatly—our men in the lower parts of the Country being by frequent drafts almost entirely exhausted of arms—this invasion in another respect affects us greatly because if we shall not be able to check them in a short time they no Doubt will open a Com[municatio]n with the Highland Settlement about 100 miles up Cape Fear river—these men are at heart all enemies. in short Sir there remains no doubt but that the reduction of this State is the immediate object of the British & I fear we shall be exposed to very great distress before we get rid of them—the regulars in this department are inconsiderable—they with the western Militia I have no Doubt will be able to repel any advances of Lord Cornwallis—but how the poor unpractised & unarmed Militia of the lower parts without the aid of one regular will be able to restrain the progress of the enemy lately arrived I cannot foresee” (DLC:GW).

2James Henry Craig (1748–1812) joined the Royal Army as an ensign in the 30th Regiment of Foot in 1763 and in March 1771 became a captain in the 47th Regiment of Foot, which was sent to America in 1773. Craig avoided capture with his regiment at Saratoga in October 1777 because Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne had sent him to England with dispatches after the Battle of Freeman’s Farm. Craig soon returned to America as major of the 82d Regiment of Foot. Commanding the British expedition to Wilmington, N.C., in February 1781, he became commandant of the city until the British evacuated it in November 1781. During a distinguished career in the army, Craig rose to colonel in 1790, major general in 1794, lieutenant general in 1801, and full general shortly before his death in 1812. He served as governor general of Canada from 1807 to 1811.

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