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Jefferson to His Excellency Gen Washington

Richmond, October 22, 1780.


I have this morning received certain information of the arrival of a hostile fleet in our bay, of about sixty sail. The debarkation of some light-horse, in the neighborhood of Portsmouth, seems to indicate that as the first scene of action. We are endeavoring to collect as large a body to oppose them as we can arm: this will be lamentably inadequate, if the enemy be in any force. It is mortifying to suppose that a people, able and zealous to contend with their enemy, should be reduced to fold their arms for want of the means of defence. Yet no resources, that we know of, ensure us against this event. It has become necessary to divert to this new object, a considerable part of the aids we had destined for General Gates. We are still, however, sensible of the necessity of supporting him, and have left that part of our country nearest him uncalled on, at present, that they may reinforce him as soon as arms can be received. We have called to the command of our forces, Generals Weeden and Muhlenburg, of the line, and Nelson and Stevens of the militia. You will be pleased to make to these such additions as you may think proper. As to the aids of men, I ask for none, knowing that if the late detachment of the enemy shall have left it safe for you to spare aids of that kind, you will not await my application. Of the troops we shall raise, there is not a single man who ever saw the face of an enemy. Whether the Convention troops will be removed or not, is yet undetermined. This must depend on the force of the enemy, and the aspect of their movements.

I have the honor to be
your Excellency’s most obedient,
humble servant,
Th: Jefferson.