George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Presly Thornton, 16 September 1799

From Presly Thornton

Fredericksburg Septr 16th 1799

Dear Sir

It is with inexpressible concern I communicate to you that I last Post recieved a letter from Genl Pinkney informing that the alarming state of Mrs Pinkney’s health was at such heighth that her Physicians recommended a sea trip to Rhode Island, as the only probable means of saving her life, that he had consequently availed himself of leave granted him by the Secretary at War, & requests all letters may be addressed to him at Newport, till the 1st of October & after that period to the Care of the Secretary at War1—I am confident this event will give Mrs Washington great uneasiness, but sincerely hope we shall soon hear that the healthy air of Rhode Island has been beneficial to Mrs Pinkney’s health—The letter for Brigadier Genl Washington forwarded to my Care, will be presented him, as we expect him to pass thro’ this Town to day.2

The recruiting service on this station, I am sorry to inform you has progressed very slowly, we have only enlisted thirteen men; It is with concern that I find many respectable & influential Citizens in this part of the Country obstinately averse to, & tho’ not oppenly yet I believe secretly, as much as in their power, opposing the raising of the Army, but it gives me pleasure to hear that those sentiments do not generally pervade the minds of the citizens of other parts of the state; the 8th Regt has recruited by the last accounts I recieved upwards of 400 men, all the companies except Capt. Chinn’s at Charlottesville & mine have been ordered to the General rendevous,3 & the Colo. writes his intentions of removing mine to some more favorable station, anxious as I am for promoting the recruiting service, I am at loss to determine whether I ought to move with them, as I may probably shortly expect Genl Pinkney will be coming on or to recieve Orders to join him, this place lying immediately on the Main Post road being also most favorable for recieving his correspondencies & distributing his Orders, should he have any to communicate, your opinion on this subject, will be esteemed a great favor.

I am extremely sorry to hear of the return of Mr Lear’s indisposition, but hope he will recieve benefit from the trip he has taken over the mountains.4 Please present Mrs Thornton’s & my united respects & best wishes for the welfare of Mrs Washington & yourself.5 I have the honor to be, Sir, With the greatest Esteem Your most obliged hble Servt

Presly Thornton
Capt. 8th U.S. Regt
Aid of Division


1The Pinckneys arrived in Newport, R.I., by ship on 13 Sept. and remained until 22 Oct., when they left for Trenton and Philadelphia. Pinckney departed from Philadelphia in the middle of November and was with the troops in winter quarters when GW died on 14 Dec. (Zahniser, Pinckney, description begins Marvin R. Zahniser. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney: Founding Father. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1967. description ends 211–12).

2William Washington left Mount Vernon and headed back to South Carolina on 8 September.

3Richard Chinn of Loudoun County, like Thornton, was a captain in the 8th Infantry Regiment in the New Army.

4Lear wrote William Thornton on 12 Sept.: “The General has enjoyed his health tolerably well of late; but your humble servant has had an attack of the fever. It was however of short duration, and he is now about to take a trip over the mountains for a few weeks . . .” (Harris, Thornton Papers, description begins C. M. Harris, ed. Papers of William Thornton: Volume One, 1781-1802. Charlottesville, Va., 1995. description ends 1:508–9). GW informed Presly Thornton on 22 Sept. (see note 5) that Lear had left “a few days ago to try the Air of the Mountains,” and on 13 Oct. GW reported that Lear had “returned from Berkley” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:370).

5GW wrote Presly Thornton on 22 Sept.: “Dear Sir, Your letter of the 16th Instant came to my hands by the last Post. I learnt with regret, the cause of General Pinckney’s visit to Rhode Island. From the account given of his Lady’s health by Brigr Genl Washington, it is to be feared her case is dangerous.

“I am sorry to hear that the Recruiting Service, in the District to which you were assigned, progresses so slowly. It was conjectured beforehand that you would have many difficulties to encounter therein. The result therefore, is not a matter of surprise.

“Until you are requ⟨est⟩ed to join the General Officer to whose person you are attached, or directed by him to remain Stationary for the purpose of receiving, & executing his orders, I conceive it will be incumbent on you to obey the orders of your Colonel.

“Mr Lear left this a few days ago to try the Air of the Mountains. Mrs Washington has been much indisposed—but joins in ⟨love illegible⟩ with—Dr Sir—Yr Obedt Hle Servant Go: Washington” (letterpress copy, NN: Washington Papers).

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