Affiliate Link

Jefferson to His Excellency Gen Washington

Richmond, April 23, 1781.


On the 18th instant, the enemy came from Portsmouth up James river, in considerable force, though their numbers are not yet precisely known to us. They landed at Burwell’s Ferry, below Williamsburg, and also a short distance above the mouth of Chickahominy. This latter circumstance obliged Colonel Innis, who commanded a body of militia, stationed on that side the river to cover the country from depredation, to retire upwards, lest he should be placed between their two bodies. One of these entered Williamsburg on the 20th, and the other proceeded to a ship-yard we had on Chickahominy. What injury they did there, I am not yet informed. I take for granted, they have burned an unfinished twenty-gun ship we had there. Such of the stores belonging to the yard as were moveable, had been carried some miles higher up the river. Two small galleys also retired up the river. Whether by this, either the stores or galleys were saved, is yet unknown. I am just informed from a private hand, that they left Williamsburg early yesterday morning. If this sudden departure was not in consequence of some circumstance of alarm unknown to us, their expedition to Williamsburg has been unaccountable. There were no public stores at that place, but those which were necessary for the daily subsistence of the men there. Where they mean to descend next, the event alone can determine. Besides harassing our militia with this kind of war, the taking them from their farms at the interesting season of planting their corn, will have an unfortunate effect on the crop of the ensuing year.

I have heard nothing certain of General Greene since the 6th instant, except that his head-quarters were on Little river on the 11th.

I have the honor to be, with the highest respect and esteem,

your Excellency’s most obedient
and most humble servant,
Th: Jefferson.