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the proclamation issued by the English commissioners in October, 1778; "the policy as well as the benevolence of Great Britain has thus far checked the extremes of war, where they tended to distress a people still considered as our fellow-subjects, and to desolate a country shortly to become a source of mutual advantage. But when that country professes the unnatural design of mortgaging herself to our enemies ... the question is how far Great Britain by every means in her power may destroy or render useless a connection contrived for her ruin and for the aggrandizement of France.” Thus the policy of "frightfulness” was announced.
Savannah was taken by the British in December, 1778, and the entire defenseless State of Georgia thereby put at the mercy of the invader. The British moved on to Charleston from the south, while General Clinton detached two thousand men from his army in New Jersey to ravage the coast of Virginia. It was under the shadow of these calamities that Jefferson took the oath as governor of Virginia.
The condition of the State was precarious. Broad rivers running through the flat lands of the tidewater emptied along an extensive coast line in Chesapeake Bay, and offered the opportunity for vessels of several hundred tons to ascend far into the interior of the State. There were no mountain fastnesses, caves, and lairs to offer a small guerilla force the protection whence they could sally forth to harass large numbers of invaders. The State had but four vessels of war. Its militia of fifty thousand men, an average of one man to the square mile, was scattered and ill-equipped. Jefferson doubted if there were more than one gun to every four or five soldiers. The immense region stretching like an opening wedge westward to the Mississippi and northward to Lake Superior was still a part of Virginia according to the interpretation of the royal charter of 1609, and its defense against the Indians incited by the British commander at Detroit was a heavy drain on the resources of the State.
To place the Virginia coast in a state of defense against raids while the British held control of the seas was a task which ten times the resources of the State in men and money would not have been able to accomplish. Nor was it expected. The British landed where they would, from Boston to Savannah. All that could be done was to check their progress inland and to prevent the junction of their forces. The military genius of Washington himself, with the continental army at his back, could do no more; and he knew that the civilian governor of a State, with a scanty militia to rely on, must perforce do even less. All his correspondence with Jefferson during the war shows that he accepted this inevitable menace of invasion with equanimity, or at
egy, in defen with the policy of the been employed.
least with resignation. He only suggested that Jefferson might do something for the defense of the State in constructing boats to prevent the enemy “from being able to move up and down the rivers in small parties."
But even if Jefferson had had the whole body of the militia of Virginia at his disposal on the lower James, these troops could not have been employed, consistently with the policy of the American strategy, in defending Virginia. The common cause demanded the application of such forces as the States could muster to the points of common danger. The descent of a British raiding-party on Portsmouth or Suffolk or Richmond was a slight calamity as compared with the total subjugation of the Carolinas by Cornwallis and his "hunting leopard,” Tarleton. For the loss of the Carolinas meant the invasion of Virginia in force. The Old Dominion fought best for her own life out beyond her borders. “The evils you have to apprehend from these predatory excursions," wrote Washington to Jefferson after the severe raid of 1781, "are not to be compared to the injury to the common cause and with the danger to your own state in particular, from the conquest of the states to the southward of you. I am persuaded that the attention to your immediate safety will not divert you from the measures intended to reinforce the southern army.” Washington was even convinced that the raid on Virginia was only
intended as a diversion to relieve Cornwallis by the withdrawal of Virginia troops from Greene's army in the South. According to the commander-in-chief of the American army, then, Virginia's first duty was to pour her aid into the Carolinas and "keep the weight of war at a distance from her.”
This duty Virginia performed nobly. From her stores of grain, vegetables, pork, wagons, horses, and men she contributed liberally. When Charleston capitulated to the British in May, 1780, the Virginia Legislature sent seven hundred militiamen to strengthen the regular army, established munition works and public stores, and authorized impressments of foodstuffs and military supplies. Jefferson's own horses and wagons were among the first taken. The ill-starred Gates assumed command of the Southern army in the summer of 1780. From his appearance in Richmond early in July to his disastrous defeat at Camden on the 16th of August, he received noble support from Virginia. On August 4 Jefferson wrote him that cartridgeboxes, bayonet-belts, axes, beef, ammunition, and arms were being forwarded to his troops. After the disaster of the 16th (a disaster which was precipitated by the panic of the raw militia from Virginia) Jefferson, though "extremely mortified” by the conduct of the troops, only made the more strenuous efforts to repair the evil. “Instead of considering what is past,” he wrote to the com
mander of the Virginian troops in Gates's army, “we are to look forward and prepare for the future.” To Gates himself he wrote, promising more (and let us hope better) men, “three thousand stand of arms, and military stores.” “Our treasury is utterly exhausted,” he adds, "and cannot be replenished until the assembly meets in October. We might, however, furnish considerable quantities of provisions, were it possible to convey it to you. We shall immediately send an agent into the southern counties to collect and forward all he can.” “It could not be expected," he generously wrote to Madison in the midsummer of 1780, “that North Carolina, which contains but one tenth of the American militia, should be left to support the Southern War alone."
So Virginia sent off her men and supplies to stay the tide of invasion rolling up from the south, well knowing to what peril she was exposing herself in case the invasion could not be checked.
Ten thousand Virginia troops, including regulars and militia, were in the armies north and south of the State. As the year 1780 drew to a close the mind of the governor was fixed, where the commander-in-chief had urged him to fix it, on the war beyond his borders. Jefferson wrote on Christmas eve to the lieutenants of the counties of Hampshire and Berkeley: “A powerful army forming by our enemies in the south, and an extensive combination.