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Jefferson to the Virginia Delegates in Congress

Richmond, January 18, 1781.


I enclose you a Resolution of Assembly, directing your conduct as to the navigation of the Mississippi.

The loss of powder lately sustained by us (about five tons), together with the quantities sent on to the southward, have reduced our stock very low indeed. We lent to Congress, in the course of the last year (previous to our issues for the southern army), about ten tons of powder. I shall be obliged to you to procure an order from the board of war, for any quantity from five to ten tons, to be sent us immediately from Philadelphia or Baltimore, and to inquire into and hasten, from time to time, the execution of it. The stock of cartridge-paper is nearly exhausted. I do not know whether Captain Irish, or what other officer, should apply for this. It is essential that a good stock should be forwarded, and without a moment’s delay. If there be a rock on which we are to split, it is the want of muskets, bayonets, and cartouch-boxes.

The occurrences, since my last to the President, are not of any magnitude. Three little rencounters have happened with the enemy. In the first, General Smallwood led on a party of two or three hundred militia, and obliged some armed vessels of the enemy to retire from a prize they had taken at Broadway’s, and renewing his attack the next day with a four-pounder or two (for on the first day he had only muskets), he obliged some of their vessels to fall down from City Point to their main fleet at Westover. The enemy’s loss is not known; ours was four men wounded. One of the evenings, during their encampment at Westover and Berkeley, their light-horse surprised a party of about one hundred or one hundred and fifty militia at Charles City Court House, killed and wounded four, and took, as has been generally said, about seven or eight. On Baron Steuben’s approach towards Hood’s, they embarked at Westover; the wind, which, till then, had set directly up the river from the time of their leaving Jamestown, shifted in the moment to the opposite point. Baron Steuben had not reached Hood’s by eight or ten miles, when they arrived there. They landed their whole army in the night, Arnold attending in person. Colonel Clarke (of Kaskaskias) had been sent on with two hundred and forty men by Baron Steuben, and having properly disposed of them in ambuscade, gave them a deliberate fire, which killed seventeen on the spot, and wounded thirteen. They returned it in confusion, by which we had three or four wounded, and our party being so small and without bayonets, were obliged to retire on the enemy’s charging with bayonets. They fell down to Cobham, whence they carried all the tobacco there (about sixty hogsheads); and the last intelligence was, that on the 16th they were standing for New-ports-news. Baron Steuben is of opinion, they are proceeding to fix a post in some of the lower counties. Later information has given no reason to believe their force more considerable than we at first supposed. I think, since the arrival of the three transports which had been separated in a storm, they may be considered as about two thousand strong. Their naval force, according to the best intelligence, is the Charon, of forty-four guns, Commodore Symmonds, the Amphitrite, Iris, Thames, and Charlestown frigates, the Forvey, of twenty guns, two sloops of war, a privateer ship, and two brigs. We have about thirty-seven hundred militia embodied, but at present they are divided into three distant encampments: one under General Weeden, at Fredericksburg, for the protection of the important works there; another under General Nelson, at and near Williamsburg; and a third under Baron Steuben, at Cabin Point. As soon as the enemy fix themselves, these will be brought to a point.

I have the honor to be, with very great respect, gentlemen,
your most obedient servant,
Th: Jefferson.