Battalion History

“The End of Colonel Gaskins’s War: May-October 1781”

By Richard C. Bush III, PhD.

Originally published in the
Bulletin of the Northumberland County Historical Society
Vol. XXXIII-1996
May 1781 was the worst of times for Virginia-in-Revolution. One British army was already in the state; another under Lord Cornwallis arrived in Petersburg on the 20th. The legislature fled Richmond for the Piedmont, Thomas Jefferson ended his governorship in disgrace, and the state’s apparatus for supplying American forces had collapsed. The Marquis de Lafayette had brought a detachment of northern forces in late April, but he would soon be on the run, trying to avoid capture or destruction at Cornwallis’s hands. No other help was in sight.

In the midst of this dire and chaotic situation, Lt. Col. Thomas Gaskins Jr. made his way up the valley of the James. With him were about 430 recent recruits, unarmed, ill-clothed unequipped, and untrained. And strangely, despite Virginia’s crumbling defenses, the likely destination of this unit was North Carolina and the army of Gen. Nathanael Greene.

Gaskins was now almost 40 years old and a veteran of the anti-British struggle. He started as a company commander in the 5th Virginia Regiment in 1776 and saw action at Brandywine and Germantown. Promoted to major in November 1777, he survived the reduction of the Virginia line the next year and was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He spent 1779 with Washington’s army in New Jersey and the New York highlands, and then he chose not (or was not chosen) to move with the Virginia regiments to South Carolina during the winter of 1779-80. With the fall of Charleston and captivity of most Virginia soldiers, Gaskins became one of the few Continental field officers left in the state to rebuild the Virginia line. After being shot at during the Heathsville draft riot of September 1780, he went to the general rendezvous at Chesterfield Court House where he helped prepare troops for North Carolina and waited for his own regiment. (The rationale for sending Virginians south was that the stronger Greene’s army; the less likely the British would attack Virginia.) Twice, once in late 1780 and in March-April 1781,he was assigned to help lead the militia force that sought to contain British armies at Portsmouth. (1)

Creating a regiment in May 1781 posed serious challenges to Gaskins’s-or any officer’s sense of duty. First, because the British had recently destroyed Chesterfield Barracks, it was necessary to train regiments on the run.

Second, Gaskins’s new unit regiment was socially more complex than the company of poor young Northumberlanders he had mobilized in 1776. More than half of the men were from the Piedmont and the frontier. Two-thirds were over 20 years old. More than half of the farmers owned their own land. (2)

Third, Gaskins’s immediate commander was Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Augustus von Steuben, the Prussian taskmaster of Valley Forge and now commander of military effort in Virginia. He was, in one critic’s view, petulant, malicious, rash, and inclined to “fits of execrating every body and every thing.” Accustomed by character and profession to being obeyed, he was increasingly frustrated by the more consultative and legalistic style of Virginia’s political leadership and to local society’s growing resistance to the revolutionary struggle. He wanted badly to leave the state. (3)

Finally, Gaskins had probably heard that in mid-April raiders had burned two of his clan’s houses to the ground. Not only had his family lost much property and been placed in personal danger, but the heavy burden that his father bore as county lieutenant and chief justice grew even heavier. (4)

Still, Gaskins continued up the James. By mid-month, he and his soldiers were at Carter’s Ferry in Cumberland County.

Retreat from Point of Fork

On May 16 or 17, Steuben received orders from Greene that answered his prayers: “It is my wish that you should march with all the Virginia drafts that are fit to take the field as soon as you can.” With that summons in hand, Steuben accelerated the building of Gaskins’s regiment. (5)

  • To Gaskins and his subordinate officers, he repeated his orders for them “to lose not a moment in Disciplining the men and Equipping them with every necessary for the March.
  • To officers in charge of the rendezvous points elsewhere in the state, he urged that new levies be sent on as soon as possible.
  • To those in charge of supplies, he sent a long list of items to be provided by June 1, including “rents, Camp kettles, Axes, Hatchets, 10 wagons, with four horses each, and drive drivers, 1,000 wooden Canteens, Knapsacks, Havresacks, Bags, and Portmanteaus.”

Of one item at least there would be no shortage: 1,100 arms from Philadelphia had arrived in Charlottesville. (6)

From Carter’s Perry, Gaskins and his now five hundred recruits marched first to Point of Fork, the confluence of the Fluvanna and Rivanna Rivers, then on to the general rendezvous at Albemarle Court House. They were joined there by Steuben on the 24th. Then, on the 28th, Steuben and Gaskins learned startling news. Cornwallis had entered Virginia and joined his army to the one already at Petersburg. The larger force then marched north, forcing LaFayette to abandon Richmond. Virginia’s strategic situation had changed completely. First, because Cornwallis had been Greene’s main adversary in the Carolinas, did not his arrival in Virginia remove the reason for Gaskins’s regiment to go south? Second, what responsibility did the regiment have for protecting the state’s scarce military stores at Point of Fork? (7)

Steuben’s initial response was cautious. He would wait a few days for another letter from Greene, an inevitable delay because the men were “Neither Cloathed nor Equipped.” Also, he ordered Gaskins to march his men on the evening of May 28 to Point of Fork to guard the stores. By the 30th, Steuben was at Point of Fork and more inclined to head for Carolina. His rationale was that his southern movement might draw away some of Cornwallis’s troops and so reduce the threat to LaFayette. (8)

Still, the regiment was hardly ready to march. In early June, Steuben sought the aid of Archibald Cary, the speaker of the Senate: “There is this poor battalion camped in the forest, perishing without the power to employ it in the service, without even the power to drill the men, because they lack shoes and shirts. I implore you Sir to indicate to whom I should address myself in order to remedy this ad situation.” To equip the 645 men now present would require 523 half shirts, 491 shirts, 311 overalls, 596 pairs of shoes, 499 hats, and 299 blankets. Illness was also taking a toll. Gaskins had to leave twenty-five sick soldiers—“two thirds of them very bad cases…[and] some of them without Blankets” at Albemarle, housed in “two very bad Negro Quarters.” (9)

The relationship between the regiment and local society was ambivalent. At Point of Fork, Gaskins’s troops pitched camp on the plantation of David Ross, the state’s commercial agent. Based on Ross’s later report, they “subsisted upon [my Estate] whilst here, besides this they destroyed everything in their power…. I have suffered greatly.” (10)

Then there was the case of the well-dressed colonel of a local militia who rode into camp and announced to Steuben that he had brought a recruit (which made the colonel eligible for a bounty). Steuben expressed initial gratitude for a timely contribution to his forces, but was surprised to find that the “recruit was a mere boy whose shoes had somehow exaggerated his height.” Trembling with rage, Steuben asked the colonel, “Sir,….you think me a rascal?” “Oh, no, Baron, I don’t,” replied the colonel. Steuben retorted: “Then, Sir, I think you are one, an infamous scoundrel, thus to attempt to cheat your country.” Turning to Gaskins, Steuben ordered, “Take off this fellow’s spurs. Place him in the ranks and tell General Greene from me … that I have sent him a man able to serve, instead of an infant whom he would basely have made his substitute.” He then told the boy to return home and to deliver the colonel’s horse and spurs to his wife with word “that her husband has gone to fight as an honest citizen should, for the liberty of his country.” (11)

Then, on the evening of June 3, warning flags began to wave. Steuben and Gaskins received a report that an enemy column was moving up the James from Goochland Court House. Early the next morning (June 4), a cavalry officer brought word that the previous day enemy cavalry had been at Goochland and. a second party of about one thousand led by Lieutenant Colonel Simcoe was at Louisa Court House. A cavalry unit under Tarleton was moving toward Charlottesville to capture Jefferson, after which he was to move to Point of Fork. Cornwallis himself moved to Goochland Court House, a day away from Point of Fork. (12)

Steuben and Gaskins therefore contemplated British forces coming toward them from at least two and possibly three directions. Forced to choose between protecting the potential war-fighting capability of the Gaskins regiment and securing the stores at Point of Fork, Steuben decided to protect the regiment. He ordered the withdrawal of the battalion, plus a militia force of at least three hundred men under General Lawson that had arrived the previous day, across the James (Fluvanna). He did leave a fifty-man detachment to patrol near the fords of the Rivanna where the enemy would probably cross. He also moved all of his boats to the south shore of the James. Then and only then did he resume help to state authorities in dispersing state stores, for example by lending his wagons. (13)

Early on the 5th, Steuben sent a detachment of dragoons to reconnoiter up the Rivanna. It was captured by Simcoe, and it was not until 10 a.m. that the baron learned that the British were marching down the south bank of the upper stream. Steuben decided that it would soon be time to move out. Although the troops were ill-clothed and shoeless, he decided to depart in the evening toward the mouth of Willis Creek, about seven miles below the fork. He also ordered Lieutenant Fairlie to call in the pickets. He did so but was captured himself. Simcoe’s force arrived at Point of Fork at noon, and Steuben watched them from the opposite shore. The removal and concealment of the state’s military property continued, but was not completed by dusk, at which point the Virginians withdrew. (14)

Also on the 5th, Steuben sent Captain Kirkpatrick to Governor Nash of North Carolina. Kirkpatrick was to convey Steuben’s message that “In the present situation of affairs here and by orders from General Greene to me, I find it expedient to march directly for North Carolina.” He also asked Nash to provide shirts, overalls, and shoes for the Virginia troops, and pledged that Virginia would replace the items. (15)

At dawn on June 6, Steuben’s force, now composed of Gaskins’s regiment and Lawson’s militia, set out toward the south. Its probable route was to move up Willis Creek, cross the Appomattox above its confluence with the Buffalo River, follow the latter stream until it ended, and then go over the watershed and into Charlotte County and down the valley of the Little Roanoke. It reached Charlotte County Court House just west of the Roanoke River on June 9. Along the way, the supply situation had eased somewhat. The column encountered a man transporting 547 shirts that belonged to the state of Maryland but Steuben made the property of the Virginia line. Also, a shipment of shoes arrived from Virginia’s war department; with them came orders to Gaskins to prevent his men from throwing away half-worn shoes in order to get new ones. While in the wilderness, Gaskins allowed the militia colonel whom Steuben had impressed to escape because he feared the consequences of holding him. (16)

Yet the march had taken its toll on discipline and morale. By June 10, when the army was at Cole’s Ferry on the Staunton River, sixty men had deserted. In addition to the obvious reasons, there was Steuben’s taste for black snakes. He would order Gaskins’s men to search for the reptiles in the forest so that he could enjoy them with his dinner. (17)

Still, Steuben was intent on taking the Virginians to North Carolina. Then on the 10th he and Gaskins received startling news from Captain Kirkpatrick in North Carolina. He had arrived in Granville on the 8th and learned from Gen. Jethro Sumner that Greene preferred the Virginia regiment to stay in the state. Indeed, Greene had decided as early as May 23 that Steuben should remain in Virginia, but his orders to that effect had been intercepted by the British. (18)

The next day, therefore, the Gaskins regiment began a march back toward the heart of Virginia. It reached Charlotte County Court House the evening of the 13th and Prince Edward on the 14th. Steuben’s plan was to position the Continentals and about five hundred militiamen at Nicholas, on the south bank of the Fluvanna, a few miles from Point of Fork. But heading toward Carter’s Ferry on the 15th, he received orders from Lafayette to join him. By the 16th, Gaskins’s unit had arrived at Carter’s Ferry, where it crossed the James and proceeded across Goochland County. It was on June 19, after marching for two weeks in the wilderness, that Steuben, Gaskins, and the depleted regiment arrived at Lafayette’s headquarters at Colonel Dandridge’s plantation in Hanover County, about twenty-two miles northwest of Richmond. (19)
On his arrival, Steuben met questions and growing hostility. Lafayette was concerned about the loss of the stores at Point of Fork and why the baron had headed for North Carolina. He also had the impression that “every officer and Soldier Both in the Regulars and Militia are … much exasperated against the baron and cover him with so many ridicules.” Civilians in the state were less charitable. They had not understood why the Baron had not helped in the state’s defense.

When the stores were lost at Point of Fork, the Virginia House called for an investigation. Some members of the Council of State even thought that Steuben should be hung. In his own defense, Steuben felt that he was trying to balance two priorities at once: obeying what he believed to be his orders from Greene and trying to help Lafayette by drawing off part of Cornwallis’s army. He complained that it was “the fate of a Genl in a republic … to have his actions judged of by every person without their knowing either his reasons, or Orders.” And once Lafayette learned that Greene’s and his own orders had gone astray and that the losses at Point of Fork were far less than was originally thought, he was far less critical of Steuben’s actions. (20)

For Thomas Gaskins, the junction at Dandridge’s proved to be a personal setback. The cause was Colonel Febiger, a Danish-born member of the Virginia line who was Gaskins’s superior in the most recent arrangement of officers. For the past nine months, the rather irascible Febiger had been in Philadelphia trying to secure supplies for the army. He was now back in Virginia and was present when the Gaskins regiment, now 425 to 450 men strong, joined Lafayette’s force. In spite of the fact that Gaskins had been the unit commander, Febiger proceeded to pull rank on his junior officer. There was probably an intense argument over Febiger’s claim, for it was “with much ado” that the Dane obtained command of the regiment. (21)

All in all, Point of Fork was an unfortunate beginning for Gaskins’s regiment. Although the unit was preserved to fight another day, retreat-the inevitable result of Steuben’s person-ality, meager supplies, poor communications, and superior British numbers-was hardly honor-able warfare. To add insult to injury, Gaskins had lost his command, the victim of an obsession with rank that had afflicted the Virginia line since the beginning of the Revolution. (22)

Under Anthony Wayne; Return to the Southside

By late June, the arrival of Anthony Wayne’s forces from Pennsylvania brought an improvement in both the balance of forces and the mood of public opinion. Lafayette now had more than four thousand Continental and militia forces troops at his disposal. Cornwallis’s army was now the pursued, moving toward Williamsburg after four days of destruction in Richmond; the Americans were in pursuit. The forces under Lafayette’s command moved down the York-James peninsula and were arrayed fifteen to twenty-five miles northwest of Williamsburg. (The 425 men of the Febiger-Gaskins regiment were in the second echelon.) Still, Lafayette was reluctant to attack. The two armies were about equal and Lafayette feared a “general defeat.” Moreover, with the harvest coming, desertion was a growing problem. Pockets of smallpox had to be located and avoided. The supply situation was as bad as ever, and Lafayette swore daily that the head of the commissary department should be hung. (23)

Then on July 5, intelligence revealed that Cornwallis’s troops were evacuating Williamsburg Lafayette suspected that “a Good Number of them Must be destined” to the Carolinas, where the balance officers had temporarily shifted against Nathanael Greene (Portsmouth was Cornwallis’s actual destination). Partly out of concern for Greene and partly because he thought control of the Carolinas would affect negotiations on a peace treaty, Lafayette decided on the 5th that he would forward to Greene “the Pennsylvanians Virginia Continentals and if possible Some Militia.” To justify his actions to Virginians, Lafayette used the same rationale that Steuben had relied on. “Whether [the enemy] continues his present situation, or commences fresh ravages in the State, . . . to succor General Greene is our best relief It is a maxim with me, that the more troops we send him, the less we shall want them here.” As a first step, Wayne’s Pennsylvanians were sent to pursue the British before they could cross the James into Surry County (they were almost captured in the Green Springs engagement of the 6th). (24)

Before the Virginians marched, however, Lafayette reversed himself on who should command the regiment. He and Muhlenberg decided that Gaskins was more suited for the Carolina mission and that Christian Febiger should work under Steuben to build up the Virginia Continental Line. Febiger was of two minds. He resented being “ordered away from the [Virginia] Detachment” even though he had had second thoughts (the state of the troops was appalling and “there were not above three Officers in whom I could place any Degree of Confidence” [no details provided]). He also complained that a hundred of his men had been transferred to a cavalry unit. (25)

With Gaskins restored, the Virginia regiment, now only three hundred strong, marched to the James on July 13 along with about five hundred of Wayne’s Pennsylvanians and five hundred of General Morgan’s riflemen. The column crossed over to Chesterfield County on the 15th and on the 18th moved up the Appomattox River as far as Goode’s Bridge, on the border of Chesterfield and Amelia Counties. For the next ten days, it made forays into Amelia County but, consistent with Lafayette’s orders, went no farther south until enemy intentions became clear. On the one hand, Lafayette knew that Greene needed aid and that control of the Carolinas was important. On the other, he wanted to be certain of the destination of Cornwallis’s army, now waiting at Portsmouth, before he made an irreversible commitment. (26)

As he had with Steuben, Gaskins had to adjust to anew superior. At 36 years old, Anthony Wayne was younger by about six years. He had a reputation for daring, courage, gaudiness, arrogance, harshness, and constant attention to the soldiers’ physical welfare and professional pride. During their time together, Wayne no doubt told Gaskins of the resentment that Pennsylvanians felt toward inept civilian authority (deeper than that of their Virginia counter-parts). More than a year before, in April 1780, Wayne and some of his officers had drawn up a manifesto to energize the government behind the war and “curb the spirit of insolence and audacity, manifested by the deluded and disaffected.” Having received no response, 1,300 of Wayne’s frustrated troops mutinied on New Year’s Day 1781. Their grievances would have been familiar to the Virginians-food, clothing, back pay, and housing-and it was only after several tense days that the mutiny ended by addressing some of the soldiers’ complaints. (27)

Now, in late July, it was the Virginians turn to be mutinous. Their lack of clothing had been vividly described by Febiger. “But Lord have mercy upon us, a modest army of Women on examining Any Thing lower than the navel, would instantly take to their Scrapers [kitchens?] on the Appearance of so many naked Clubs in . The fact is the men are literally naked, shirts and Blanketts excepted.” Some soldiers had been left elsewhere “with their Feet half worn off,” and there were no more than twenty good pairs of shoes in the whole regiment. There was also “murmuring and discontent” about “arrearages of pay.” (28)

The very possibility of a Carolina deployment brought matters to ahead. Around the 23d, Gaskins’s soldiers threatened not to march until they received what was due them. They cited the precedent of the previous two detachments, which, they said, refused to cross state lines until they were satisfied. To make matters worse, the soldiers’ sentiment was “countenanced too much among officers”(no names given), some of whom insisted on “Justice.” In reporting the problem, Wayne expressed understanding that the demands for clothes and cash were occasioned by the “heated zeal and the [ ___] of the Moment” and would have to be met. Yet given the history of his army, Wayne feared that the Virginians ”infection” would spread to the Pennsylvanians, who, he felt, were no better off than their southern comrades. (29)

Clearly, Gaskins was having problems with his subordinates. To bring the situation under control, Wayne made “the Gentlemen” [i.e., the officers] “fully acquainted with My sentiments.” As a result, he had some confidence that they would “in future be more circumspect.” In order to avoid more trouble, he asked Governor Nelson for an immediate supply of “shoes, shirts, overalls, . . . with some cash.” Wayne also took matters into his own hands. Around the 24th, he sent one of his lieutenants into Chesterfield County to seize some supplies belonging to the state of Virginia. Taken were 173 pairs of shoes, 11 pairs of boots, and 20 pieces of coarse linen Osnaburg cloth. The action was consistent with Wayne’s views about supplies: “We shall be like Mahomet and the Mountain-if the Clothing won’t come to us-we will go to the clothing.” It also provoked cries of outrage from the Virginia authorities, who appealed to Lafayette to redress the situation. (30)

At midnight on August 1/2, the Wayne detachment, now in Dinwiddie County, received orders from Lafayette to return to the James. The reason: the British fleet had sailed up the bay rather than leaving for New York as expected. Lafayette himself was moving toward Fredericksburg and he wanted Wayne to reinforce him. Over the next four days, Wayne’s troops marched through Dinwiddie and Chesterfield Counties. On one day, they covered twenty-one miles, which left them “much fatigued.” The James was crossed on the 5th and camp pitched on Westham Heights. By then, however, it was becoming clear that Cornwallis’s destination was not the Potomac or Baltimore but Yorktown (he was to wait therefor ships to return him to New York). Early on the morning of the 8th, therefore, Wayne’s army left Westham, marched through Richmond, and set up camp on the Chickahominy at Bottom’s Bridge. (31)

That evening, violence erupted in the officers’ area of the Virginia regiment. Between 9 and 10 p.m., Pvt. James Grant of the Virginia line walked into the tent of Capt. Abraham Kirkpatrick and shot him in the area of his left eye and temple because he believed that Kirkpatrick had been having an affair with his wife. Kirkpatrick screamed, and a Sergeant Bradshaw hurried to the scene. He came upon Grant and asked him who had fired the shot. Grant acknowledged that it was he, and that he wished he had shot his wife as well. Bradshaw led Grant toward Kirkpatrick’s tent, and they ran into the captain between his tent and “Col. Gaskins’s Marquee.” Grant acknowledged to Kirkpatrick that he had fired the shot and why. Kirkpatrick claimed that “he and his Wife had parted that morning.” Grant was taken to the guardhouse and court-martialed the next day. He pleaded guilty to the shooting, but was found not guilty of mutiny. On August 12, “a wet day,” Grant was hanged. In the view of at least one Pennsylvania officer, however, Grant was “certainly justified” in the shooting. (32)

On the return of Gaskins’s troops to the Tidewater, Lafayette took note of their distressed situation. His aide wrote Governor Nelson that “the General would also beg leave to mention to your Excellency, the situation of the Virginia levies for clothing. These are almost naked, and he wishes ardently, that the Executive would take up the matter.” William Davies, the commissioner of war, felt otherwise-that Wayne should be responsible for Gaskins’s needs. “I indulge the warmest hope that the distresses of Colo. Gaskins’s detachment, now serving under the orders of General Wayne, cannot be so unnoticed by him [Wayne], as not to secure to them the shoes that were intended for them.” He did agree to have his tailors make the linen into overalls “if you will be pleased to direct it to be subjected to my orders.” (33)

This disagreement was only symptomatic of a deeper conflict between Wayne and the Virginia authorities. Like Steuben before him, “Mad Anthony,” a general from out of state, had a different vision of how to prosecute the war effort than did the civilian government. Lafayette wrote Washington on August 11 that “the Pennsylvanians and Virginians have never agreed but at the present time, it is worse than ever. I receive Every day Complaints…. The Governor and Council Have told me they Would Insist upon Having justice By me from General Waine’s proceedings. Gen. Waine thinks He and His people Have not Been well used. In a Word, I perceive the Seeds of a future Dispute Between States-and Every day the troops remain here adds to the danger.” The situation was so serious that Lafayette had all but decided to send the Pennsylva-nians south (and keep in Virginia six hundred Maryland troops intended for the Carolinas as replacements). For his part, Wayne issued something of an ultimatum to Lafayette. Writing on the 16th from the Newcastle vicinity, where his forces had moved from Bottom’s Bridge, he asked whether he was to stay in Virginia. If Lafayette wanted him to stay, there would have to be supplies for his troops. (34)

Tensions within Wayne’s army between his Pennsylvanians and Gaskins’s Virginians must have been growing, for Wayne indicated a desire to dispose of Gaskins’s unit. In his letter of the 16th, he said: “I will send the Virginia troops to any place you think proper to direct.” A few days later, Wayne ordered the Virginians to march to the James because of “political” reasons (a desire to separate the two groups?). Lafayette’s initial inclination was that Wayne keep the Virginians and that Gaskins exercise his troops regularly-“exercised in detail and well con-firmed in the principles.” (35)

On August 22, the strategic situation was transformed. Lafayette wrote Wayne crypti-cally: “The long expected letter from General Washington is at length arrived.” Wayne was therefore to march on the 23d to Westover on the James and wait for orders to make a crossing. As the Marquis would inform Wayne on the 25th, a French fleet under the command of Admiral de Grasse was headed for Chesapeake and so could prevent a seaward escape by Cornwallis. Lafayette was particularly concerned that Cornwallis not escape to the Carolinas; hence his desire that Wayne be in a position to block a British retreat. As a further precaution, Lafayette called out the militia south of the James. (What even Lafayette did not know at that point was that Washington’s army itself was on the move.) (36)

Again Wayne asked whether the Virginians were to stay with his army. If they were to be sent back, Wayne wrote Lafayette, “it will be done.” Wayne may have wanted to transfer Gaskins’s men because of interstate tensions or the Virginians’ previous resistance to going out of state-sensitivity would only be compounded by a rumor that ran through Wayne’s camp on August 22 that the detachment was headed for North Carolina. Lafayette’s reply was the same as before: for the time being Gaskins’s regiment was to stay with Wayne, who was to “pay attention to the Improvement of that Battallion.” To “add to the discipline and Instruction of the New levies,” Lafayette ordered one hundred recently exchanged Virginians to join the unit. (37)

Lafayette also expressed the hope that the state government would ease the Virginians’ clothing shortage, but that proved to be an intractable problem. On the 19th, William Davies had written Gaskins to inform him that Wayne had shoes to be turned over to the Virginians, and that the linen he had seized was to be transported by wagon to tailors who would make it up according to Gaskins’s needs. But Gaskins did not receive the letter, probably because his unit was already marching toward the James. Asa result, he would write, “the greatest part of the Regiment was so ragged that many of the soldiers are almost reduced to a state of nature.” When Davies didn’t hear from Gaskins, he wrote again, on the 29th. After telling Gaskins to send up the linen in the wagon sent for the “express purpose” of bringing it up “agreeable to the Governor’s orders.” Davies continued in a snide and annoyed vein: “If you will be kind enough to inform me occasionally of the wants of your men, I shall be happy to afford you every assistance. Favor me with a frequent line and you will be much obliged.” Gaskins replied on the 3 1st. He had received only 106 pair of shoes, and the wagon had been taken by a Doctor Monro to move the sick left at Malvern Hill to Hanover. Thus there was no way to transport linen, which had been left at Ryland Randolph’s plantation. Gaskins acknowledged that he “should have represented this state of things long ago.” His excuse was that he had depended on Colonel Febiger’s “promises to give him relief”-which is odd because Febiger had left the regiment six weeks before. (38)

By the end of August, Gaskins was probably in Prince George County across the James. Wayne had received orders from Lafayette on the 29th to get across the James as soon as possible. His troops reached the river by sunset and the crossing quickly began. “By persevering night & day, with a few bad boats, without any hands but soldiers unacquainted with water-we have effected this fatiguing business.” Over the next few days, the column, joined by the one hundred exchanged Virginia troops, moved down the south bank of the James. On September 1, the march was to Surry Court House, where the army learned that French vessels had entered the Chesapeake Bay (that had occurred on August 29). Early on the 2d, Wayne learned that three thousand French troops had landed at Jamestown and that several French vessels had taken up a position off the town. He then moved his detachment to Cobham, across from Jamestown, and the men had “the pleasure of beholding 3000 of our allies, who came up in boats, a twenty gun frigate and a twelve accompanying them.” Around the same time, Wayne received Lafayette’s summary of the strategic situation: “Lord Cornwallis Must then Either Resolve to a Siege or this Very Night Endeavour to Gain the South Side of James River. . . .” The Marquis promised that “The Moment Every door By water is Shut,”Wayne’s force would be transported across the river. (39)

The crossing occurred on the 3d. Tents were left on the south bank and troops started boarding the French boats at 9 a.m. They spent the day “lay[ing] on James town plains,” and marched in the afternoon to Green Springs in the midst of a heavy rain. At daybreak on the 4th, the detachment marched to Williamsburg. The next day, de Grasse bested the British fleet in an engagement off the Virginia capes. Strategically, this was the beginning of the end. With Cornwallis’s army stuck at Yorktown, Britain’s southern strategy had become a trap. The French had swung the balance of forces and the advantage of mobility in the allies’ favor, and the scale of the war had shrunk from a continental chessboard to a narrow Virginia neck. (40)

Yet the situation in Thomas Gaskins’s regiment remained bleak. The previous two months had been spent marching on both sides of the James. The state had been so negligent in providing clothing and other necessities for his men that a mutiny was barely avoided. As had been the case with Steuben, he had been caught in the middle of a conflict between Virginia’s leaders and a headstrong general from outside the state-. Defeat of Cornwallis might be near, but it would be bittersweet.

Concentration of Forces, Fights over Clothing

On September 8, Lafayette arranged the forces that had converged on Williamsburg. The advanced corps under Muhlenberg’s command was composed of Virginians: Gaskins’s regiment, a regiment of riflemen, and detachments drawn from Steven’s and Lawson’s militia brigades. It guarded the roads and passes between York to Williamsburg. The French formed the left wing, the Pennsylvania troops were in the center, and Lafayette’s light infantry from the north were on the right. (41)

Old faces were appearing at camp. On the 10th, Baron von Steuben arrived, having been summoned by Lafayette. Gaskins, had not seen him since midsummer. Then on September 14, George Washington arrived at Lafayette’s headquarters in Williamsburg, giving “new hopes & Spirits to the Army.” Soldiers turned out on their parade grounds, and a twenty-one gun salute was fired. Marquis St. Simon gave a banquet in the late afternoon, which all officers attended. A band played an overture from a French opera. “At ten o’clock the company rose up, and after mutual congratulations and the greatest expressions of joy, they separated.” (42)

Wherever he went, Washington set a farsighted tone that negated petty rivalries affecting the army. He was, first of all, a national leader who muted state loyalties and won the confidence of allies. He was by nature conservative in the use of the forces at his disposal but willing to take risks when opportunities arose. And he promoted the idea of exemplary leadership, wherein every officer was to evoke by his own actions proper behavior by his subordinates.

On the morning of the 15th, Washington reviewed the Virginia line and saw soldiers “totally destitute of Cloathing that is even necessary for the present season [,] in consequence of which upwards of one third of them are rendered at present unfit for service.” The commander -in chief wrote the Virginia Board of War on the 16th and asked that it “oblige me by forwarding to your troops every supply that is within your power.” He was aware that uniforms were available in Richmond for recruits and thought that troops in service should get priority. Gaskins was apparently emboldened by Washington’s concern, for he wrote Governor Nelson two days later to appeal for clothing and shoes. He noted that some of his ragged troops were “falling sick daily for want of cloaths sufficient to keep them warm whilst on duty in the night or in wet weather.” Confronted by these requests, Nelson turned on Davies, writing on the 19th: “The Troops under Colonel Gaskins are so shamefully deficient in clothing, that I must request of you to have any clothes where are ready immediately sent on.” He said that an officer would go to Richmond to get the clothes. (43)

William Davies, who had done little since late August, responded to Washington on the 19th and provided a catalog of reasons why it had not been possible to clothe the troops: transportation difficulties, Point of Fork, unauthorized seizures (a reference to Wayne), fear of British attack in the Richmond area, and a need to ration supplies with winter coming. He also suggested that officers were not diligent in preserving the clothing that soldiers already had. Davies did say that once clothes were available, “they will be issued without concern for future needs.” To the governor, Davies responded in a somewhat officious tone, pledging that he would “pay particular attention to every requisition.”44

The next round began on September 27, when Governor Nelson wrote William Davies to urge him to “use your utmost Efforts for furnishing the Virginia Troops with Cloathing.” Because they were to be on the army’s right wing, the place of honor in a siege, Nelson thought it was necessary that the Virginians “make a decent if not a respectable Figure.” He also stressed the need for shoes. Davies responded the next day and said that he had distributed what was available, and overalls and shoes did not fall in that category. For the first time, he suggested that the lack of clothing was the result of corruption on the part of officers in Gaskins’s regiment. “[T]here are Officers of our line who have got a considerable quantity of cloth by them, the property of the public, which they hold up from their men, under the pretence of its being due to them for former deficiencies.” Whatever the truth of his accusations, the problem remained unsolved for the rest of the year. The troops did not get the clothes they needed and their superiors engaged in periodic finger-pointing over who was to blame (Christian Febiger would later point a finger at Gaskins). The running battle no doubt did little to lessen line officers’ resentment about the failure of civilian government to satisfy the army’s needs. (45)

The dispute over clothing for Gaskins’s troops was only one example of the strain that the growing number of troops placed on the weak supply system. Lafayette was laid low by a migraine and fever “by dint of acting as quartermaster and commissary.” There were almost daily demands from military leaders to Virginia authorities that they provide more flour for bread. Washington would later plead for rum, on the grounds that the health of the men “depends upon a liberal use of Spirits in the judgment of the most Skilful Physicians, who are best acquainted with the Climate.” The supply of beef was somewhat better, but still uncertain. Once French troops arrived, the job of state commissaries was complicated because the French could pay in gold whereas they only had worthless paper money. (46)

The Siege

Clothing for the Virginia line and supplying the army at large were at best subplots in the much larger drama: the siege of Yorktown. The eighteenth-century script for such an operation called for the offensive force first to surround the objective, cutting off escape. It was then to dig a series of parallel trenches that closed in on the objective. These were linked by connecting trenches called saps and punctuated with redoubts. As each new “parallel” was finished, artillery was moved up from the trench behind in order to put heightened pressure on the defenders. The defenders sought to use artillery barrages and sorties to interrupt the work of those digging trenches and redoubts. If, with the construction of the final parallel there were no surrender, the attackers would combine artillery, sappers, and infantrymen in a final charge. (47)

On September 24, Washington issued general orders from Williamsburg that delineated the brigades of the American forces that would march to surround Yorktown. The brigade commanders would be Mublenberg, Hazen, Wayne, Gist, Dayton, and Clinton. Wayne’s brigade included “Col. Gaskins Virginia Regiment” and two battalions of Pennsylvania troops-a return to the arrangement of July and August. Wayne’s brigade and Gist’s Maryland brigade were commanded by Baron von Steuben, who again became one of Gaskins’s superiors. (48)

Steuben inspected Gaskins’s regiment on the 25th. The regiment now had a nominal strength of 580 men, but more than one-third of the men were ill, Gaskins, among them. There were 282 rank and file present and fit for duty and 85 men on command. The regiment had onl 330 arms, and was said to be “wanting every article of cloathing, Muskets, Bayonets… Cartouche boxes very indifferent. 400 flints wanting.” (49)

At 8 a.m. on the 27th, Wayne’s brigade marched to an encampment outside Williamsburg. The next day, at 5 a.m., 16,000 allied troops began the march toward Yorktown. The French force took the left side of the arc and the Americans the right. Steuben’s division was assigned to the left side of the American wing. It camped between two streams that formed the Warwick Rive and in front of a road that ran between Williamsburg and Hampton. Gaskins’s regiment was the center, with Gist’s two Maryland regiments on its left and two Pennsylvania units on its right. Yorktown was almost due north, approached by a road that ran to the right of the encampment. To the right of Steuben’s unit, in the center of the American wing, was Lincoln’s division, which was made up of the troops from New York, Rhode Island, and New Jersey that had come south with Washington. On the right side, closest to the water, was Lafayette’s light infantry division, which was backed up by militia under Thomas Nelson’s command. Around the time of the movement toward York, Gaskins’s regiment, still short of clothes, received new muskets from shipment that had just arrived from the north. (50)

The allies’ task was eased on the night of September 29/30, when the British abandoned their forward defenses. The Americans and French quickly moved up to take the positions. Amid British bombardment, they also began to build redoubts. In his after-orders of September 3 Washington urged rapid and vigorous action: “The present moment offers in prospect the epoch which will decide American Independence and the Glory and superiority of the Allies.” Around October 3, two redoubts were completed at the site of the abandoned British position. Gaskins’s regiment was on duty on the 4th digging the approaches to the site of the first parallel. And digging was hard work. William Candler, a 30-year-old draftee from Bedford County who served under “Col. Gascoyne,” said later that he “worked harder in the trenches at Yorktown than he eve did anywhere else during the same length of time in his life.” When the regiment was relieved on the 5th, it was warned “to hold … in readiness for immediate duty and be furnished with Provisions agreeable to General orders. Throughout the first ten days of October, British artillery batteries kept up a heavy barrage. (51)

By early October, Gaskins had recovered from his illness, but general health and sanitation problems persisted with such a large concentration of troops. Because there had bee smallpox in the Williamsburg area during the summer, Washington forbid soldiers from having contact with the houses or inhabitants of the neighborhood and from borrowing utensils. H ordered officers to ensure that their men not straggle out of camp and surgeons to remove from camp anyone with smallpox symptoms. (Of interest, Washington thought that the British were responsible for propagating the smallpox.) Concerned about the soldiers’ general health, Wash-ington also ordered that they have straw to sleep on, a constant supply of rum, and good bread. He was also bothered to find a quantity of “Offal and other offensive matter at the different slaughter yards … [and) a number of dead Horses and other putred bodies about the Camp.” (52)

On the 6th, everything was ready for the opening of the regular approaches up to the point where digging on the first parallel would begin. Regulations for the conduct of the siege were included in Washington’s general orders of that day. In the evening, under a dark, cloudy sky and gentle rain, 4,300 French and American soldiers marched forward. On the left wing, six American regiments were involved, but Gaskins’s unit remained in the rear. Some 1,500 troops served as the fatigue party that dug the first parallel, which was 550 yards from the enemy positions. The remainder were under arms to repel attacks. After a night of digging, the trench was complete and protected from the British artillery by an earthen barrier. (53)

Beginning on the 7th, the three American divisions rotated duty in the first parallel, where work continued on trenches plus four palisaded redoubts and five batteries. The first turn was taken by Lafayette’s division, and Steuben’s followed the next day. He ordered his officers to stay with their commands and keep their men together. In the event of an enemy attack to block the encroaching siege, the troops defending the parallel were to rely on a bayonet charge. By the afternoon of the 9th, enough batteries had been constructed to begin bombardment of Yorktown. (54)

As the digging continued in the trenches, there was a steady demand for materials to build the siege-works. These were:

  • Gabions: cylinders of wicker filled with earth, two and a half feet wide and three feet high
  • Fascines: six-foot-long bundles of sticks used in building earthworks and batteries
  • Saucissons: nine-to-eighteen-foot-long fascines
  • Pickets: to stake up the saucissons.

Units not on duty in the trenches were expected to prepare these aad always have a specified number on hand. The quota for Gaskins’s unit was 32 saucissons, 320 pickets, 32 gabions, and 107 fascines.55

Midday on October 11 began the second turn in the trenches for Gaskins’s regiment and the rest of Steuben’s division. Before entering, the baron issued orders demanding the highest vigilance: “Soldiers are not allowed to lay down in the night but [should] remain as in the daytime with their arms in their hands. Officers are to remain at the Respective posts.” Enemy artillery still posed a danger to soldiers and officers alike. Atone point on the 11th, an incoming shell came dangerously close to the baron and he threw himself into the trench. Anthony Wayne also took cover and fell on Steuben. The latter turned and said to Wayne, “I always knew you were a brave general, but I did not know you were so perfect in every point of duty. You cover your generals retreat in the best manner possible.” Yet despite the enemy shelling, significant progress was made: the second parallel was opened on the night of the 1lth, and the American front lines were now only 350 yards from the enemy. (56)

The Steuben division was in the trenches again on the 14th, the night that a party from Lafayette’s division led by Alexander Hamilton attacked and captured British redoubts 9 and 10. The second parallel could now be extended to the river. Three days later, the end was obviously near. Steuben had to prohibit spectators or officers not on duty from bothering his troops in the trenches. As it happened, that was the day that Lord Cornwallis sent word that he was prepared to surrender. Following European tradition, Steuben insisted on keeping his division in the trenches until the terms were settled. On the 19th, the British army marched out of Yorktown with flags encased, past the officers and men of the allied forces. Three days later, a divine service was held to give thanks for the long-awaited victory. (57)

Afterword

With the Yorktown surrender, Thomas Gaskins returned to Northumberland County. Although the war did not officially end until the next year, the fighting was all but over and he resigned his commission on January 1, 1783. He no doubt sought to take some of the burden of local leadership from his aging father and to help the family rebuild after the destruction of the spring. Gradually, he would assume key positions in court, vestry, and militia muster and become, as a descendant put it, “the autocrat of Northumberland County.” (58)

As for his regiment, Washington initially tried to send it to join Greene, but some of the officers appealed that the soldiers were still not properly equipped or paid and the unit went into winter quarters, the Cumberland Old Court-House. In February 1782, when it was to march south under the command of Thomas Posey, a collection of specie was necessary in Richmond and Petersburg to payoff the officers, who found the certificates with which they had been paid to have little value. Thus repeated was the resistance of the previous July. (59)

Thomas Gaskins did not, as far as we know, leave for posterity his thoughts on his military career and particularly the last tumultuous five months. From the historical record, we see Gaskins’s need to cope from his position in the middle of the military hierarchy with headstrong commanders on the one hand and alienated soldiers on the other. We see that his regiment spent most of its time marching or sitting, either to avoid being trapped by the enemy or to prevent the enemy from eluding a trap. And, in the end, the remnant American army depended on French ships and French soldiers to secure the decisive victory.

Most of all, the end of Gaskins’s war demonstrates the difficulties that an agrarian nation composed of sovereign states with weak governments faced in maintaining a military challenge to the great power of the late eighteenth century:

  • Neither the Continental Congress nor Virginia’s government could conscript an ad-equate number of soldiers (the voluntarism of 1775-1776 was a thing of the past).
  • Neither was able to secure clothing for the mere five hundred soldiers who at the end of the war constituted the Virginia Continental Line.
  • Virginia’s government was unable to meet its responsibility to pay its soldiers in a currency that had any value.
  • As the siege of Yorktown approached, it was hard-pressed to meet the minimal needs of the various armies for food.
  • Rivalries between officers and men from different states hampered their war effort.

Indeed, until late August 178 1, the outcome in Virginia was very much in doubt. It was only the subsequent combination of luck, French naval and infantry power, and Washington’s leadership that turned the tide.
So we should not be surprised by the stance that Thomas Gaskins took several years later when the American nation considered its political future and the meaning of its recent Revolution. On one side of the debate were those who hewed to the Whig ideal that had inspired the anti–British struggle. They favored some form of confederation to minimize the dangers that stemmed from the concentration of power. On the other side were those who believed the war and its aftermath demonstrated that America could not survive unless it had a stronger national government. America, they believed, needed a government with the power to mobilize financial and human resources even if that put at risk liberty as Whigs defined it. When in June 1788 it came time for Virginia to choose whether to ratify the constitution drafted in Philadelphia the previous summer, Gaskins stood as a delegate from Northumberland County and, along with the majority of former officers attending, voted in favor of ratification.

 

FOOTNOTES

A contributor to The Bulletin since 1992, Dr. Bush is a national intelligence officer for East Asia on the National Intelligence Council and resides in Cheverly, Maryland, with his wife, Marty. A direct descendant of the Thomas Gaskins discussed in this article, he does family and local history as an avocation. Of particular interest to him is the Revolutionary War period.

1. For Gaskins’s company, see my article ‘Awake, Rouse Your Courage, Americans Brave’: Companies Raised in Northumberland County For the Virginia Continental Line, 1776 and 1777,” The Bulletin of the Northumberland County Historical Society (hereafter Bulletin) 29 (1992):3-25. For the Heathsville riot, see my “Revolution and Community in Northumberland County, Virginia, 1776-1782,” Bulletin 30 (1993):14-37. The rest of the discussion of Gaskins’s career is drawn from my draft biography of him.
2. Friedrich von Steuben to Greene, 5/14/81, Papers of Baron Friedrich von Steuben, New York Historical Society; Joseph A. Goldenberg, Eddie D. Nelson, and Rita Y. Fletcher, ‘Revolutionary Ranks: An Analysis Of the Chesterfield Supplement,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 87 (April 1979):182-89. For the comparison to Gaskins’s company, see Bush, ‘Awake, Rouse Your Courage, Americans Brave.”‘
3. Richard Claiborne to Greene, 5/2181, Steuben Papers; Claiborne to Pickering, 5/30/81, Steuben Papers; Steuben wrote Greene, ‘I shall with pleasure fly to put myself under your orders and I beseech you … to call me as soon as possible … my presence in this state has become useless”; Stsuben to Greene, 2127/81, Steuben Papers.
4. Bush, ‘Revolution and Community,* 30-31.
5. Steuben to Greene, 5/14/81, Steuben Papers; Greene to Steuben, 5/1/81, Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 5, 25 February 1781 to 20 May 1781 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1952), 667 (hereafter PTJ 5).
6. Steuben to Greene, 5118/81, PTJ 5:668; Steuben to Oliver Towles, et al., 5/17/81, Steuben Papers; Richard Claiborne to Jefferson, 5/18/81, PTJ 5:665-66; Davies to Steuben, 5/22/8l, Steuben Papers.
7. Steuben to Greene, 5/14/81, Steuben Papers; Steuben to Greene, 5/18/81, PTJ 5:668; Davies to Steuben, 5/12/81, Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 6, 21 May 1781 to 1 March 1784 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1952), 631-32 (hereafter PTJ 6); John Peyton to Davies, 5/25/81, Steuben Papers, Steuben to Greene, 5/26/81, Steuben Papers, Steuben to Robert Lawson, 5/28/81, Steuben Papers (in which he summarizes a May 26 letter from LaFayette); John McAuley Palmer, General Von Steuben (Port Washington, NY; Kennikat Press, 1941), 273-74.
8. Steuben to LaFayette, 5/28/81, Steuben Papers; Steuben to John Walker, 5/28/81, PTJ 6:24; Steuben to LaFayette, 5/30/81, Steuben Papers.
9. Steuben to Archibald Cary, 6/3/81, PTJ 6:75-76, translated from the French original; Capt. Arthur Lind to William Davies, 5/31/81, PTJ 6:54-55. The return is in the Steuben papers. The figure of 645 men is either a mistake or an exaggeration designed to secure more supplies.
10. David Ross to Patrick Henry, 6/18/81, William Palmer et al. Eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers, vol. 2 (Richmond, 1875), 172 (hereafter CVSP 2).
11. Palmer, General Von Steuben, 280. The incident reportedly occurred “as the corps was on the point of marching to Carolina.”
12. Ibid., 276-77; Mark M. Boatner III, The Encyclopedia of the American Revolution (New York: David McKay Co., 1974),1153.
13. Palmer, General Von Steuben, 277; Steuben to Lafayette, 6/5/81, Stanley J. Idzerda, ed., Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776-1790, vol. 4, April 1, 1781 to December 23, 1781 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1981), 170 (hereafter Lafayette 4).
14. Steuben to Lafayette, 6/5/81, Lafayette 4:170; “Steuben’s Narrative of His Movements on Leaving Point of Fork,” PTJ 6:634.
15. PTJ 6:627.
16. Palmer, General Von Steuben, 278, 280; Receipt, 6/8/81, Steuben Papers; Davies to Steuben, 6/9/81, Steuben Papers. .
17. Palmer, General Von Steuben, 281; “List of Deserters,” 6/12/81, Steuben Papers; Pension application of David Buffington, John Frederick Dorman, comp., Virginia Revolutionary Pension Applications (Washington, DQ 1958), 12:61.
18. Steuben to Greene, 6/9/81, Steuben Papers; Kirkpatrick to Steuben, 6/10/81, PTJ 6:627-28; Greene to Steuben, 5/23/81, Steuben Papers. Until he received Greene’s new orders, Lafayette still believed that Steuben should join Greene, in part because ‘the Hatred of the Virginians [toward Steuben] was truly Hurtfull to the Service.” Then he tried to infom Greene that he should stay, but his letter was also captured by the British. See Lafayette to Steuben, 5/29/81, Steuben Papers; Lafayette to Alexander Hamilton, 5/23/81, Steuben Papers; Lafayette to Steuben, 5131/81, Steuben Papers; Lafayette to Jefferson, 5/3 V8 1, PTJ 6:52.
19. Steuben to Lafayette, 6/13/81, Lafayette 4:182-83; Palmer, General Von Steuben, 282; Priederick Kapp, The Life of Frederick William Von Steuben (New York: Mason Brothers, 1859), 451-52; Lafayette to Steuben, 6/13/81, Lafayette 4:179; Palmer, General Von 9teuben, 285-86.
20. Palmer, General Von Steuben, 275; PTJ 6:98, fh.; Cary to Jefferson, 6/30/81, PTJ 6:97; Lafayette to Washington, 6/18/81, Lafayette 4:194-95; Steuben to Kirkpatrick, 6/12/81, PTJ 6:628; Palmer, General Von Steuben, 285-86; Kapp, Life of Friederick William Von Steuben, 452.
21. Henry P. Johnston, “Christian Febiger,” Magazine of American History 6 (1881):55; Febiger to Washington 9/7/81, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.
22. It is likely that after the flight from Point of Fork, Gaskins’s family back in Northumberland County became extremely concerned about him. Gaskins’s brother-in-law Richard Henry Lee, then in Westmoreland County, had received reports about the desperate situation facing Steuben’s force. Lee felt that because it was caught between two British forces, “it remains extremely probable that the Barons force and the Stores are one or both e’er now destroyed.” There is no reason to believe that Thomas Gaskins Sr. did not have the same, inaccurate information. By the 14th, however, word was spreading through the state that Steuben’s force had only had to flee Point of Fork and was then on the way to join Lafayette’s army; see Lee to Virginia!s Delegates in Congress, 6/12/81, PTJ 6:91; Richard K MacMaster, ed., “News of the Yorktown Campaign: The Journal of Dr. Robert Honyman, April 17-November 25, 1781 (hereafter “Honyman Journal”), Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 79 (1971):403.
23. Boatner, Encyclopedia of the American Revolution, 1154-55. Lafayette to Washington, 6/18/81, Lafayette 4:194-95; Lafayette to Nelson, 7/1/81, Lafayette 4:228-30; Febiger to Theodorick Bland, 7/3/81, Charles Campbell, ed., The Bland Papers, Being a Selection of the Manuscripts of Colonel Theodorick Bland, Jr. (Petersburg, VA: E. & J. C. Ruffin, 1840-43) vol. 2, 71-72; Lafayette to Greene, 7/4/81 with postscript on 7/5, Lafayette’4:234-35. In the letter to Washington, Lafayette gave the following elements of his force:’ 800 light infantry, 700 Pennsylvanians, 50 dragoons, 900 riflemen, 2,000 militia, and 400 new levies.
24. John E. Selby, Revolution in Virginia, 1775-1783 (Williamsburg, VA: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1988), 90; Lafayette to Greene, 7/4/81 with postscript on 7/5, Lafayette 4:234; Lafayette to Greene, 6/21/81, Lafayette 4:203-04; Boatner, Encyclopedia of the American Revolution, 1155; Henry P. Johnston, The Yorktown Campaign and the Surrender of Cornwallis, 1781 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1881), 60-68; Lafayette to Nelson, 7/12/81, Lafayette 4:243. On July 8, Lafayette wrote Washington: “Should, as I presume it will, a detachment be sent to General Greene I shall move the Pennsylvanians and Virginians first.” (See Lafayette to Washington, 7/8/81, Lafayette 4:239.)
25. Febiger to Davies, 6/30/81, CVSP 2:193-94; Steuben to Washington, 5/23/81, Steuben Papers; Febiger to Washington,qn/8 1, Washington Papers; Pebiger to Davies 11/6/8 1, CVSP 2:583; Lafayette to Nelson, 7/12/81, Lafayette 4:243. That Muhlenberg intervened in the matter seems significant, because he appears to have acted previously as Gaskins’s patron.
26. Lafayette to Nelson, 7/13/8 1, Lafayette 4:244-45, 249; John Davis, ‘Me Yorktown Campaign: Journal of Captain John Davis of the Pennsylvania Line,” Pennsylvania Magazine offfistory and Biography 5 (1881):296-97 (hereafter Davis, “Journal”); Lafayette to Wayne, 7/15/81, Lafayette 4:249; Lafayette to Thomas Burke, V16181, Lafayette 4:249; Lafayette to Washington, 7/20/81, Lafayette 4:256; Lafayette to Washington, 7/20/81, Lafayette 4:259-61.
27. Charles Royster, A Revolutionary People at War. The Continental Army and the American Character, 1775-1783 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979), 303, 304, 312. The account of the mutiny is drawn from Glenn Tucker, Mad Anthony Wayne, and the New Nation (Harrisburg, PA. Stackpole Books, 1973), 173-89.
28. Wayne to Nelson, 7/23/81, Papers of Anthony Wayne, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
29. Febiger to Davies, 6/30/81, CVSP 2:193-94; Wayne to 7bomas Nelson, 7/23/81, Wayne Papers.
30. Wayne to Nelson, 7/23/81, Wayne Papers; Lafayette 4:309; Harry Emerson Wildes,Anthony Wayne: Trouble Shooter of the American Revolution (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1941), 262; Davies to Nelson, 7/28/81, CVSP 2:263; Nelson to Lafayette, 8/3/81, Lafayette 4:293. The “Mahomet” quotation is cited in E. Wayne Carp, To Starve the Army at Pleasure: Continental Army Administration and American Political Culture, 1775-1783 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984), 111.
31. Wayne to Daniel Morgan, 7/29/81, Wayne Papers; Wayne to Lafayette, 7/30/81, Wayne Papers; Lafayette 4:296; James Barron to Lafayette, 7/31/81, Lafayette 4:292; “Extracts from the Journal of Lieutenant John Bell Tilden,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 19 (1895):51-52 (hereafter 711den, “Journal”); Davis, “Journal,” 297-98. While in Richmond, Gaskins may have had an opportunity to see officers of the Virginia line who had been taken captive at Charleston and recently released in a prisoner exchange.
32. Record of Grant’s court-martial, 8/9/81, Lafayette 4:310; Davis, “Journal,” 297-98;’nlden, “Journal,” 52.
33. James McHenry to Nelson, 8/8/81, Lafayette 4:305–06; Davies to Lafayette, 8/15/81, Lafayette 4:327-28.
34. Lafayette to Washington, 8/11/81, Lafayette 4:312; Lafayette to Washington, 8/11/81, Lafayette 4:312; Wayne to Lafayette, 8/16/81, Wayne Papers. Lafayette’s inclination to send Wayne south was reinforced in a July 22d letter from Greene, who raised the possibility of Cornwallis moving into North Carolina (see Greene to Lafayette, 7/22181, Lafayette 4:266-67). The dispute over Wayne’s seizure of Virginia supplies would last into late August, with Lafayette trying to broker a compromise between the two sides. The controversy may be followed in Davies to Wayne, 8/1/81, Wayne Papers; Wayne to Lafayette, 8/9/81, Lafayette 4:307-09; Davies to Lafayette, 8/15/81, Lafayette 4:327-28; Lafayette to Wayne, 8/1V81, Lafayette 4:313; Lafayette to Nelson, 8/12/81, Lafayette 4:313; Lafayette to Davies, 8/13/81, Institute Francais de Washington, Lafayette in Virginia: Unpublished Letters (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press, 1928), 47; Davies to Lafayette, 8/15/81, Lafayette 4:327-28; Lafayette 4:313; Lafayette 4:360; Wayne to Nelson, 8/19/81, Wayne Papers. Generally, the job of providing supplies became increasingly daunting as the number of American forces increased. Lafayette asked Governor Nelson to focus simultaneously on several difficult tasks: forming magazines; collecting arms and accouterments, both State and Continental; ensuring transportation; improving the men already in Continental service; and recruiting enough new ones to fill the state’s quota (see Lafayette to Nelson, 8/7/81, Lafayette 4:302).
35. Wayne to Lafayette, 8/16/81, Wayne Papers; Wayne to Lafayette, 8/23/81, Wayne Papers; Lafayette to Wayne, 8/16/96, Wayne Papers. Lafayette’s inclination to send Wayne south was reinforced in a July 22d letter from Greene, who raised the possibility of Cornwallis moving into North Carolina (see Greene to Lafayette, 7/22/81, Lafayette 4:266-67).
36. Lafayette to Wayne, 8/22/81, Lafayette 4:341; Washington to Lafayette, 8/15/81, Lafayette 4:330;Lafayette to Wayne, 8/25/81, Lafayette 4:359; Lafayette to Nelson, 8/20/81, Lafayette 4:336-37. As early as late July, Lafayette already had an inkling of a turn for the better. He received a cryptic message from Washington that there were in train “matters of very great importance to you” (see Washington to Lafayette, 7/16/81, John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscripts, 1745-1799, vol. 22, April 27, 1781 to August 15, 1781 (Washington, DQ Government Printing Office, 1937), 368 [hereafter WGWI). The suggestion of a march to North Carolina may have been a ruse, designed to mislead spies as to Wayne’s true purpose (see Lafayette to Greene, 8/25/81, Lafayette 4:353).
37. Wayne to Lafayette, 8/23/81, Wayne Papers; Lafayette to Wayne, 8/25/81, Lafayette 4:359-60; Lafayette 4:341. Lafayette had urged Wayne to take the 100 Virginians on the 16th, but Wayne had left them at Newcastle because they had no arms.
38. Davies to Gaskins, 8/29/81, Virginia War Office Letter Book, Virginia State Library; Gaskins to Davies, 8/31/81, CVSP 2:373. Gaskins’s account of the wagon was apparently confirmed in a letter from Davies to Lafayette of September 7 (see Lafayette 4:390).
39. Wayne to Lafayette, 8/31/81, Lafayette 4:380 (including fh.);Tilden, “Journal,” 54. Wayne to Lafayette, 8/31/81, Lafayette 4:380; Tilden, “Journal,” 54-55; Wayne to Lafayette, 9/2/81, Lafayette 4:386; Lafayette to Wayne, 8/31/81, Lafayette 4:378. That Gaskins’s regiment crossed the James is confirmed in the pension application of one of his soldiers, Neilly Bybee, in Dorman, Virginia Pensions 14, 22-23. Surry County was not the safest place in the state, for there had been an outbreak of smallpox (see “Virginia Executive Papers,” Virginia Genealogist 17 (1973):292-93).
40. Davis, “Journal,” 299;Tilden, “Journal,” 55.
41. Edward M. Riley, “St. George Tucker’s Journal of the Siege of Yorktown, 1781,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser. 5 (1948):377.
42. Richard Butler Journal, Steuben papers; Steuben to Nelson, 8/27/81, Steuben Papers; Johnston, The Yorktown Campaign, 102 (based on Richard Butler’s Journal).
43. Douglas Southall Freeman, George Washington: A Biography, vol. 5: Victory with the Help of France (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952), 334; Washington to Board of War, 9/16/81, Fitzpatrick, WGW, vol. 23, August 16, 1781 to February 15, 1782, 121; Gaskins to Nelson, 9/18/81, CVSP 2:462; Nelson to Davies, 9/19/91, H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of Virginia (Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1929), vol. 3, 59; Davies to Washington, 9/19/81, Washington Papers.
44. Davies to Lafayette, 9/7/81, Lafayette 4:390; Davies to Nelson, 9/21/81, CVSP 2:476.
45. Nelson to Davies, 9/27/81, Governors’ Letters 3:72-73; Davies to Nelson, 9/28/81, CVSP 2:503; Davies to Steuben, 9/27/81, Steuben Papers. There were other efforts to secure clothing. On October 5, Governor Nelson asked Virginia’s delegates in Congress to get a proportion of clothing recently imported for the Continental Army. “The few Troops we have now in the Field are not fit to be seen”; see Nelson to Virginia delegates in Congress, 10/5/81, Governors’ Letters 3:79. Throughout September and October, the War Office was trying to move clothing from Boston to Virginia (see, e.g., Richard Peters to Washington, 10/13/81, Washington Papers). On Febiger’s complaints, see Febiger to Davies, 11/6/81 and 11/11/81, CVSP 2:582-84.
46. On the many shortages, see Lafayette to Nelson, 9/6/81, Lafayette 4:388; Lafayette to Luzerne, 9/8/81, Lafayette 4:39; Lafayette to Washington, 9/8/8 1, Lafayette 4:394; Lafayette to Nelson, 9/11/8 1, Lafayette 4:398; Nelson to Jno. Pierce, 9/14/81, Governors’ Letters 3:49; Claiborne to Jamieson, 9/25/81, CVSP 2:487. On rum, see Washington to superintendent of finance, 9/27/81, WGW 23:140-41.
47. Robert MIdiddlekauff, The Glorious Cause: the American Revolution, 1763-1789 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 443-44.
48. General Orders, 9/24181, WGW 23:134; Johnston, The Yorktown Campaign, 112-16.
49. Inspection Return,” 9/25/81, Steuben Papers. Two days after this inspection, Governor Nelson sent another letter to Davies about the Virginians’ clothing shortage; see above.
50. General Orders, 9/26/81, 9/27/81, WGW 23:140, 14″7; Johnston, The Yorktown Campaign, 112-16; John Pryor to William Davies, 9/29/81, CVSP 2:504. Simultaneous with the concentration of Continental and French units and militia forces on the York peninsula, other militia units were moving to surround the British position at Gloucester. Among the local forces were two from Northumberland County (see Bush, “Revolution and Community,” 36).
51. Johnston, The Yorktown Campaign, 119, 120, 124, 126; After Orders, 9/30/81, General Orders, 10/2/81, 10/5/81, WGW 23:154, 167, 175; Dorman, Virginia Pensions 15:43-44; Davis, “Journal,” 303-04; Tilden, “Journal,” 59-60.
52. Return of Steuben’s Division, 10/3/81, Steuben Papers; General Orders, 9/29/81, 10/2/81, 10/5/81, WGW 23:152,167,177. Despite the need for men in the trenches, some officers had more than the authorized two servants without arms (see Division Orders, 10/16/8, Steuben Papers). Discipline was not perfect, as evidenced by a number of courts-martial; there were none for Virginia soldiers.
53. Johnston, The Yorktown Campaign, 131-32; General Orders, 10/6/81, WGW 23:179-85.
54. Johnston, The Yorktown Campaign, 135-36, 138.
55. General Orders, 10/10/8 1, WGW 23:204-05.
56. General Orders, 10/10/81, WGW 23:201; Johnston, The Yorktown Campaign, 140-41; Division orders, 10/11/81, Steuben Papers; Wildes, Anthony Wayne, 266-67; Palmer, General Von Steuben, 291-92. The shelling where Steuben jumped into the trench may have occurred during a breakfast that Steuben gave for several field officers (including Gaskins?). The shell fell when “festivity was at its height.” No one was hurt, but all were covered with mud and dirt (see Ibid., 292).
57. General Orders, 10/13/81, 10/16/81, WGW 23:217, 233; Johnston, The Yorktown Campaign, 142, 155-56; Brigade Orders, Wayne’s Brigade, 10/2V81, Steuben Papers; John Thornton Posey, Thomas Posey: Son of the American Revolution (Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1992), 82-87.
58. Nancy Gaskins Moncure, “Genealogy Connected with the Gascoigne and Moncure Families,” typescript, Virginia Historical Society, 6.
59. General Orders, 10/21/81, WGW 23:25 1; Washington to Greene, 10/6/81, WGW 23:194; Febiger to Steuben, 10/2V81, Christian Febiger Papers, Virginia State Library; Steuben to Washington, 10/22/81, Washington Papers; General Orders, 10/23/81, WGW 23:256-58; John Thornton Posey, Thomas Posey, 82-87; Washington to Febiger, 2/9/82, WGW 23:492; Harrison to Febiger, 2/11/82, Governors’ Letters 3:149; Davies to Harrison (with circular dated 2/10/82 enclosed), 2/28/82, CVSP 3:79-81.

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