<br /> Lee Letter: n385

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Patrick Henry

My dear Sir,

I am just favored with yours of the 14th and thank you for
it.1 Every attempt to clothe the army is
commendable, upon principles both of humanity and policy. As there is
great Trade at Charles Town you have some chance for the woolens you
want, altho this is the worst season for application on account of the
many negroes they have to clothe in that Country. Either the Havannah
or New Orleans are places where you may surely get Woolens and military
Stores. Doctor Lee’s letters have repeatedly assured us that at these
places would be lodged the above articles for N America in general, and
Virginia in particular. Small swift sailing Vessels sent to the former
of these places from Virginia or North Carolina freighted with fine
flour or Tobacco would not fail to return loaded with necessaries, and
by pushing into some of the inlets on the Sea Cost of North Carolina
might avoid the British Cruisers that infest our Bay and the goods be
safely brot overland. This appears to me the most expeditious and the
most certain way. By this method, the blankets & cloaths might yet
be in Season to help the Soldiers before the winter is over. With
respect to the loan of money at the Havannah or N. Orleans, I am not
able to form a judgement whether it can be effected or not, the latter
most probably, because Dr. Lee was able to get but a small sum
immediately from Spain for Congress, altho he expected a larger credit
from Holland thro the mediation and security of Spain. Add to this the
great probability of immediate war in Europe, from which Spain will not
be detached. I remember Dr. Lee in many of his letters to me previaus
to his visit to Spain said he should endeavor to negotiate a loan from
that Court for Virginia & (Maryland) South Carolina to support (as
he said) the credit of our paper money. Since his return from Spain he
only mentions Cloaths & military Stores that wd. be lodged at
Havannah & Orleans for our use. For the purpose of securing the
credit of our money on a great emergence it were to be wished a credit
could be obtained as you propose, and therefore I think it will not be
amiss to make the experiment. As for goods they may be had in the way
of Barter. Indeed, I understood Dr. Lee, that the military Stores and
Cloathing would be delivered without immediate pay of any kind. We
formerly sent you the <extract> of a letter on this subject to
Congress, which is all that <has> been received, unless it be a Spanish
letter from the Governor of N. Orleans which Mr. Morris took away to
get translated, and it has not yet been
returned.2 You shall have it when we get it.
Monsr. Loyeaute declines the Directorship of the Academy. He is a young
Gentleman of high family, of fortune, and ardent in pursuit of military
glory. His father, who is a general in the Artillery of France has
taken pains to instruct this his Son from his earliest youth, and he
is, you may be assured, a Proficient. He is sober, temperate as a
Soldier should be, and seems to have none of the fashionable vices. He
says he came not here for Money, but to search for military honor, to
assist America in establishing her freedom, but since he cannot be
employed on that way, he shall return to his own Country, the business
of an Acadenuecian better suiting Age & infirmity with views of
distant good, than youth, strength, and prospect of present action and
immediate benefit to the public. I am concerned we <have> lost this
Gentleman in many accounts. I am sure my Country will suffer for want
of the knowledge he possesses and the rejection of him happened at an
unlucky Crisis. All the rest of his Corps had just set out on their
return to France because Congress would not comply with the Contact Mr
Deane had firmly made with them in France and which had disgusted them
greatly. This Gentleman remained at our request, and altho our
engagement was not absolute, it was very strong, kept him from
returning with his companions, and will I fear impress on all their
minds bad ideas of the Americans and do us no service in France. This
is well known here & the Delegates look rather small in the eyes of
their brethren. I am sure we acted for the best, well knowing the utter
deficiency of knowledge in this branch with us, its necessity, and
having the best grounds for believing this Gentleman an Adept. It is
certain we went rather too far, I am sorry for it, but we shall be less
forward in future. Since I last wrote, the enemy have taken Fort
Island, after a most gallant defence on the part of the Garrison, which
retreated from the Island in the Night after all but two of their Guns
were dismounted, and not <more than> a rod & an half of the works
left. The enemy brought <up> their Cutdown Indiaman between Province
Island & the <fort> from which they poured a most dreadful
Cannonade from 24 & 32 pounders, and from their Tops the fire of
Cohorns & Musketry drove the Men from their guns in the Fort. The
better opinion yet is, that the Enemy cannot get ther Fleet up to the
City until they first remove the Gallies, the Chevaux de Frize, and
reduce Red Bank. To effect this latter purpose, we hear that Cornwallis
with <3000> Men has crossed into the Jersies, and that our Army is gone
down to attack their lines now weakened by such a powerful
reenforcement sent away. If so, we may expect important news in a day
or two. One Brigade from the Eastern Army, with Morgans Corps have
lately joined Gen. Washington. 20 Regiments are ordered from Gate’s
Army. The Rhode Island Expedition went no further than Providence by
the Misconduct, ’tis said, of old Spencer. There will be an enquiry.
Our last intelligence from the West Indies which covers news from
France the 4th of Septr. gives us abundant reason to think that a War
between France and G. Britain is on the verge of taking place if it has
not already done so. The Fr. Amb<assado>r is ordered to demand all F.
Vessels taken by England without the limits prescribed by Treaty, and
to retire from the Court if the demand was not complied with. The
Governors in the F. Islands are ordered to be in readiness for war and
to lay an Embargo on all Vessels bound to Europe to prevent their
falling into the enemies hands. 5000 additional Troops are to be
immediately sent to Martinique & Guadaloupe. Portugal has acceeded
to the Family Compact. Dr. Lee is returning from Prussia havg. finished
his business successfully at that Court. The King of Prussia has opened
his Ports to the Vessels of the United States, and Mr. Carmichael
writes that a ship loaded with Tobacco to Embden would be attended with
<salutary> consequences. The Cargo would be returned in <manu>factures
very usefull to us, and 15 or 20 per cent cheaper than from France.
Cant we try this experiment at the proper Season which may be known by
the Commercial Dictionaries. We expect daily to receive important news
from Europe. My ill state of health, produced by bad water, bad air and
excessive business will compel me to return home in a few days for the
severity of the winter Season.

I am, with sentiments of affectionate <esteem and> regard, dear Sir
yours,

Richard Henry Lee

Notes:

Receiver’s copy, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. Printed in the Calendar of Virginia State Papers, 1:294. Printed also in William Wirt Henry, Patrick Henry, 3:124. Printed also in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 – 1778, pp. 362 – 66.

1 The contents of this letter indicate that Lee was responding to a letter
from Henry dated 10 November 1777, which is in Henry, Patrick Henry,
3:115 – 16.

2 Henry had requested a “copy of a letter rec’d from Orleans by the committee
(I believe) of secret correspondence” and may have been referring to
the Oliver Pollock letter received by Congress in October. See
Committee of Commerce to Oliver Pollock, 24 October 1777, note 1.