<br /> Lee Letter: b248

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Thomas Nelson


Immediately upon receiving your Excellencies letter of the 12th instant by express I put the two warrants of impress inclosed in your favor of Septr. 18th into the hands of discreet active men to proceed along the shores of Potomac & Rappahanock rivers as high as Leeds on the latter and upper Matchodique on the former, to impress all the old corn and fodder that could be spared convenient to navigation for the purpose of forage so much wanted by the army. these gentlemen have already secured upon Potomac 600 barrels of old corn & 31500 bundles of blades; upon Rappahanock 765 barrels of corn, 60 bushels of oats, 87000 bundles of blades, & 30,000 pounds wt. of hay – all which remains yet with the respective owners, except a small quantity of the late impressed corn on Potomac that will be added to the specific corn & meal now loading on board a vessel sent up for forage. The capitulation of York has occasioned me to desire that this business shal stop until I hear further from your excellency. By the removal of the army from York I suppose that forage is not wanted there, and the Squire tells me that for the purpose of supplying the wants of the ravaged counties near York, that the abundant crops up James and York rivers will furnish plenty at much less expence of carriage being nearer. As this business of pressing does give great and general uneasiness, I have thought it most advisable to desist from the further impressing of forage and from the execution of that part of your letter of the 12th which directed that all the corn hay & fodder might be collected for public use that this part of the country can spare. If it shall be your opinion that it is unnecessary to proceed under the present circumstances, and that the articles already impressed may be disposed of by their owners you will please to inform me by the first opportunity – but if no opportunity occurs that will certainly deliver your letter, to avoid the expence of an Express, I will if you please, consider it as your desire that the impressing shall be discontinued and that the articles already impressed & remaining with the Owners shall be given up if I do not hear anything to the contrary from you in ten days from the date of this letter.

Since my arrival from Congress in 1779 I have used every possible means to get the militia of Westmoreland well armed, as the people were exposed for 40 miles along the shores of Potomac to be plundered and injured by the small piratical vessels of the enemy & of the Tories – This was happily effected, and the militia was well armed when the orders of government lately came to detach a part for the Gloucester camp. Two hundred men were ordered from this country, and our best arms were put into their hands – they were directed to serve two months, and consequently remained in Gloucester until the siege of York was ended. It therefore became unnecessary to disarm them, and yet under pretence of executing an order of government for stopping the public arms of returning militia, which was plainly designed only to apply where the men were departing before the siege ended, our militia have been disarmed; at least such as have already come home, and thus the labor of more than two years has been frustrated, and the people here left exposed upon the water in a defenceless condition! I hope Sir that you will have the goodness to order this matter to be rectified, and to direct that we may have a like number of good arms returned to us for those that have been taken from us. It evidently must operate to the discouragement of Officers and men, if the former who take pains to get their men armed, and the soldiers who keep their arms in order, shall find them taken away, and perhaps left at last in the possession of negligent officers and careless men – Besides, the exposed state of our shores demands the security of arms, as I apprehend there will be much ravage and distress. Militia commissions are and have been long wanted in this county, perhaps the press may now be in condition to furnish them, if so, I shall be thankful if your excellency will send me some blanks to be filled up with the names of Officers nominated by the Court. I am Sir

your Excellencies most obedient and very humble Servant.

Richard Henry Lee


Dree CollectionHistorical Society of Pennsylvania

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, pp. 262 – 64.