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Thomas Jefferson to General Horatio Gates

Richmond, February 17, 1781.

Dear General,

The situation of affairs here and in Carolina is such as must shortly turn up important events, one way or the other. By letter from General Greene, dated Guilford Court House, February the 10th, I learn that Lord Cornwallis, rendered furious by the affair of the Cowpens and the surprise of Georgetown, had burned his own wagons, to enable himself to move with facility, had pressed on to the vicinity of the Moravian towns, and was still advancing: The prisoners taken at the Cowpens were saved by a hair’s-breadth accident, and Greene was retreating. His force, two thousand regulars, and no militia; Cornwallis, three thousand. General Davidson was killed in a skirmish. Arnold lies still at Portsmouth with fifteen hundred men. A French sixty-four gun ship and two frigates, of thirty-six each, arrived in our bay three days ago. They would suffice to destroy the British shipping here (a forty, four frigates, and a twenty), could they get at them. But these are withdrawn up Elizabeth river, which the sixty-four cannot enter. We have ordered about seven hundred riflemen from Washington, Montgomery, and Bedford, and five hundred common militia from Pittsylvania and Henry, to reinforce General Greene; and five hundred new levies will march from Chesterfield Court House in a few days. I have no doubt, however, that the southwestern counties will have turned out in greater numbers before our orders reach them.

I have been knocking at the door of Congress for aids of all kinds, but especially of arms, ever since the middle of summer. The speaker, Harrison, is gone to be heard on that subject. Justice, indeed, requires that we should be aided powerfully. Yet if they would repay us the arms we have lent them, we should give the enemy trouble, though abandoned to ourselves.

After repeated applications, I have obtained a warrant for your advance money, £18,000, which I have put into the hands of Mr. McAlister, to receive the money from the Treasurer, and carry it to you.

I am, with very sincere esteem,
Dear Sir, your friend and servant,
Th: Jefferson.