<br /> Lee Letter: b243

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: William Davies

Sir,

My son will have the honor of delivering you this letter – he comes to Richmond upon some business of his Uncles, and by him I take an opportunity of paying my respects to you. The ideas that I had the honor of suggesting to you in my letter by your return Express relative to the security of our Bay shores and navigation, as well as the means of retrieving our ruined finances, I beg leave again to press upon your mind, that they may in time be considered by the Executive. It seem very probable that many Vessels will be captured from the enemy by the french fleet that may be purchased from them, and which will suit admirably for cruising in the Bay and within the mouths of our rivers to suppress the piratical practices that will undoubtedly commence again so soon as the French fleet goes away. I am well informed that several companies are forming on the eastern Shores of this State & Maryland & on the Tangiers to carry on this infamous and distressing plan of plunder. And they will certainly do great injury in this way before our State can build & equip vessels to suppress them – And by building alone it can be done, if this opportunity of getting captured vessels from our Ally should be lost – I think there are two or three very handsome Vessels ready armed for the purpose at Frazers ferry that were captured by the French 74 gun ship in the winter. I pray you Sir to press this business upon the government with all the earnestness that a plan deserves which must secure our extensive shores from endless plunder, our trade from molestation, and the public from the great constant expence of Militia guards along the Shores of the Bay & rivers. In fact it is for the honor of government as well as greatly for the interest of the people. I am not aware of any sound objection to the plan proposed for retrieving our finances, unless it shall be said that Seamen cannot be got for the purpose – But I should suppose that an active, intelligent person in this way, going to Baltimore & Philadelphia, might procure Seamen enough for the purpose – Can no method be fallen upon to introduce a cautious, checked system for granting discharges to Soldiers from the army. And this system printed & sent to the different County Lieutenants, that they may be able to judge properly when discharges are rightly given? From my own experience I know that the difficulty at present is so great that I am frequently perplexed to determine what judgement to form in cases that come before me – I have been informed that in the European armies, systems of this sort have been carefully introduced from the numberless abuses that had there taken place – And that besides numerous checks, none but high officers are permitted to grant discharges. It seems to be very necessary here where we get men at so great expence and with so much difficulty – There was lately a deserter brought before me who will be sent immediately to the army, and who informed me that he certainly knew one William Perry to be a deserter – that he had enlisted for the war, and that he now keeps Tavern at Rocky Ridge – Perry belonged to Capt. Fitzgeralds company the 5th. Regiment of our Continentals – Will it not be well to enquire into this, as the man lives near you – I had lately the honor to inform you that I was in great want of blank Militia Commissions, their being many Officers lately Nominated by the Court & who are now going to the Gloucester Camp witht. Commissions & who complain heavily that they have them not. – You Sir will know the propriety of having them, for many reasons, but especially in case of captivity. Be so kind Sir, if it be possible, to let me have some by the return of My Son, who will take charge of any commands you may have for me – I am, with much esteem, Sir

your most obedient and very humble Servant.

Richard Henry Lee

Three companies of 68 men each rank & file well armed will march from hence next Friday morn for the Gloucester camp – The Marquis sent me a verbal message by a Gentleman the other day, desiring that all the Flour that could be got might be sent round to James river for the Army, as the mills in that part were stopt for want of water – I fear that this article may be wanted, and I think that a few hundred bushels of wheat might be quickly put into flour here and sent round, if I had Government powers to impress wheat, Mills, & Vessels to transport it.

R.H.L.

I have not the Continental Articles of War nor do I know the present legal Ration for the Militia.

Notes:

Dreer CollectionHistorical Society of Pennsylvania

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, pp. 250 – 53.