Philaa 16th May 1781
Having returned to Congress a few days only and private matters requiring my attention for great part of the time I have not been able regularly to attend to Business or to acknowledge the receipt of your favour transmitted to Philadelphia after my leaving it and sent after me to Virginia by Mr Madison. The moment for successfull operations agt our Enemies was certainly immediately after the disaster in Gardners Bay when had it been embraced the Port at Portsmouth and the Troops under Arnold as well as the British Ships then in Virginia must have fallen an easy conquest to our united efforts for which purpose the state was I believe in readiness. Abortive as the project has proven we yet hope for the best and that still it may be in the Power of our Ally to give us effectual aid in Chesapeake and believe me at no time was it more necessary then at present when all the lower Country of our state from its great navigable waters are exposed to the ravage and rapine not only of British Ships of War but of vessels employed by the Board of Refugee Commissioners in New York. To you it is unnecessary to describe the distress of the inhabitants upon the Navigable waters of Virginia—your knowledge of the Country enables you sufficiently to judge of it exclusive of such informations as I doubt not you receive from that quarter. Had we a sufficient stock of Arms distressing as it is to our Militia to be so generally out on Duty as it must be to them at this season of the year[,] I think they wod do much in opposition to the Enemy supported even by no considerable Body of Regulars but wanting arms, their Negroes flying from them and their prospects of making little or nothing from their Estates to support the[ir] families and bear the burdens of the war may shake their fidelity and attachment to the cause so far as to slacken their exertions if some succor is not afforded them by water to restrain the Ravage of these plunderers. I mention these things as facts falling under my own observation before I left the State that if they have not been more particularly communicated by others you might have some intimation of them. The late movements of Cornwallis and Philips indicate a junction of their Armies on the Roanoke from whence they may direct their operations North or South as they shall see best without the fear of successfull opposition, or may, it wod seem, cut [off] all communication between Virga and the other Southern States and reduce Genl Greene to the greatest extremity. From these dangers that at present threaten us a Naval Force sent to the Chesapeake wod at once relieve us and admit Virga to afford that succor to the southern States they so much need—The great object of the enemy is undoubtedly the southern states and it [is] submitted to your reflection how far you can support them by your influence in the destination of such aids as may arrive from Europe or the operation of that Force now here. We are told all the Ships of war have left New York with abt 2000 Troops after having once put back. Adieu pardon the haste of this Letter wch is written in Congress in consequence of the Presidents information an Express was going off for Head Quarters. Yr aff. Sert
DLC: Papers of George Washington.