Virginia, Gunston-Hall, June 3d. 1781.
Your Brother William writes you by this Opportunity. He returned some time ago, from South Carolina, where he commanded a Company of Voluntiers (75 fine young fellows from this Country). He had rough Campaign of it, and has acquired the Reputation of a vigilant & good officer; and I think is greatly improved by the Expedition. Your Brother Thomson has lately returned from a Tour of Militia-Duty upon James River; He commanded a Platoon, in a pretty close Action at Williamsbourg, & behaved with proper Coolness & Intrepidity. He is now from Home, or wou'd have wrote to you.
I have written you very fully lately upon domestic Subjects; but I am not able to give you any agreeable public News.
Our Affairs have been, for some time, growing from bad to worse. The Enemy's Fleet commands our Rivers, & puts it in their Power to remove their Troops from place to place, when and where they please without Opposition; so that we no sooner collect a Force sufficient to counteract them in one Part of the Country, but they shift to another, ravaging, plundering, and destroying every thing before them. Our Militia turn out with great Spirit & have in several late Actions, behaved bravely; but they are badly armed and appointed. General Green with about 1200 regular Troops & some Militia, is in South Carolina; where he has taken all the Enemy's Posts, except Charlestown. The Enemy's capital Object, at this time, seems to be Virginia. General Philips died lately in Petersburg; upon which the Command of the British Troops there devolved upon Arnold. But Ld. Cornwallis quitting North Carolina, has since join'd Arnold, with about 1200 Infantry & 300 Cavalery & taken the Chief Command of their Army in Virginia, now consisting of about 5000 Men: They have crossed James River and by the latest Accounts were at Westover; their light Horse having advanced as far as Hanover Court House: They have burn'd Pages Warehouses, where the greatest Part of the York River Tobacco was collected; they had before burn'd most of the Tobacco upon James River, and have plunder'd great part of the adjacent Country. The Marquis De La Fayette is abt. twenty Miles below Fredericksburg with about 1200 regulars & 3000 Militia, waiting the arrival of General Waine, with abt. 1500 regular Troops of the Pensylvania Line.
We have had various Accounts of the sailing of a French Fleet, with a Body of Land Forces, for America. Should they really arrive it wou'd quickly change the Face of our Affairs, & infuse fresh Spirits, & Confidence; but it has been so long expected in vain, that little Credit is now given to Reports concerning it.
You know from your own Acquaintance in this Part of Virginia that the Bulk of the People here are staunch Whigs, strongly attached to the American Cause and well affected to the French Alliance; Yet they grow uneasy & restless, and begin to think that our Allies are spinning out the War in order to weaken America, as well as great Britain, and thereby leave us at the End of it, as dependent as possible upon themselves.
However unjust this Opinion may be, it is natural enough for Planters & Farmers, burdened with heavy Taxes, & frequently drag'd from their Familys upon military Duty, on the continual Alarms occasioned by the Superiority of the British Fleet. They see their Property daily exposed to Destruction, they see with what Facility the British Troops are removed from one Part of the Continent to another, and with what infinite Charge & Fatigue ours are, too late, obliged to follow; and they see too very plainly, that a strong French Fleet would have prevented all this.
If our Allies had a superior Fleet here, I Shou'd have no Doubt of a favourable Is[s]ue to the War, but without it, I fear we are deceiving both them & ourselves, in expecting we shall be able to keep our People much longer firm, in so unequal an Opposition to Great Britain.
France surely intends the Separation of these States, for ever, from Great Britain. It is highly her Interest to accomplish this, but by drawing out the Thread too fine & long, it may unexpectedly break in her Hands.
God bless you, my dear Child! and grant that we may again meet, in your native Country, as Freemen; otherwise, that we may never see each other more, is the Prayer of, Your Affectionate Father