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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette to Jethro Sumner
Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier, marquis de, 1757-1834
May 07, 1781
Volume 15, Page 454


Richmond, May the 7th, 1781.


Your letter to Major General Baron de Steuben Has Been Communicated to me. I Have Now the Command of the Troops in this State, and think it is my duty to Make an Immediate Answer.

Having for a long time Expected to Hear from General Greene, I Apprehend some Accident Happened to His dispatches. I am for the present opposed to General Phillips whose army while acting here exclusive of a Sufficient Garrison at Portsmouth is about 2300 Rank and file. He Has Made an Expedition Against Richmond But the timely arrival of the Continental detachment Has defeated His plans, and Since their arrival He Has Retreated By water down James River. He is much stronger than I am, Commands every River, and of Course will be an offensive and dangerous Enemy.

Arms are absolutely wanting in this quarter, and the few Militia we Have with us Can Hardly secure any whatever. Should we Spare any there Can Be no opposition in this Quarter, and the Reconnoitering (?) British as well as other R     in this State will Be as    . After a Strict Enquiry I Have However found that Some Arms Could be Repaired and Have Immediately Set at work every man I could muster for that Business. In the Course of ten days I think 400 Can Be Collected.

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Cartridges are very Scarce and the Commissary of Military Stores tells me He Cannot furnish more than forty thousand. Expecting to be Hard pushed by General Phillips I must procure some Ammunition for our Militia. But the Best Arrangement I can Make is to divide Equally and with 20,000 Cartridges Shall Set out to Morrow to join you.

Our Business is, I think, to divide the Enemy and prevent a junction of Phillips and Cornwallis. Should the Latter Advance this Way and Should it Be possible to Meet Him at a distance from Phillips I will be glad to Concert with you what Can Be done on this matter. It is Highly Important that We Acquaint each other of the Enemy's and our Own Motions. I Request you will write me What Number of Men Cornwallis Has with Him and what Scheme he is likely to follow.

To Morrow Morning I will send on officer to you and give him orders to procure you a Minuted State of our Circumstances as well as of the few Means we Have to afford you Some Side Assistance.

With the Most Sincere Regard I have the Honour to Be Sir
Your Most obedient Humble Servant