I. Alexandria to Edenton, North Carolina, May 22–June 13, 1777
[May] 22d. Left the Woodyard [estate of Stephen West] & went to Alexandria the first Town, upon my Road, in Virginia: it is situated upon the Bank of Patowmack [Potomac], a very large River which divides Maryland & Virginia, & is navigable for large Vessels above 200 Miles: At Alexandria it is 1¾ Miles wide: large Vessels can go as high as George Town about 10 Miles above Alexandria. The Wind was so high that my Horse could not be brought across the River before Evening. Lodged at Lomax’s midling House. Alexandria the County Town of Fairfax is a small Town of about 20 years Standing, at which a large Trade has been carried on; it was encreasing very rapidly, before the Commencement of the present War, but is at a Stand now: the Houses are mostly wooden, & small, but there are here some Brick Buildings, the principal of which are an episcopal [Christ Church, Alexandria] & a presbyterian Church [Old Presbyterian Meeting House], both which are large neat Buildings. Some Tories lately formed a Plan for burning Alexandria & murdering the Inhabitants, & then seizing a Gondalow which lies in the River & going with her to the Enemy; but their Plan was discovered, & they are now in Gaol here. Genl. Washington‘s Seat, called Mount Vernon, is about 8 Miles from Alexandria, & [Thomas Fairfax, sixth] Lord Fairfax’s [Greenway Court] about 90 but as they both lay out of my Road, I had not an Opportunity of seeing either of them.
[May] 23d. Passed through Colchester, (a paltry Village in Fairfax County, situated on a small River called Occaquam) to Dumfries. The Tories who intended to destroy Alexandria are sent off today, in Irons, to Williamsburgh, to be tried. Two of them whose names are Wales & Hepburn, are Men of some Property:—there are seven in all;—no Americans amongst them. Dumfries is the County Town of Prince William, a very small Place, of considerable Trade, situate on a small River or Creek called Quantico. Rode in Company with Mr. [Reverend John] Carrol [also Carroll], a Priest who went to Canada last Year with the Commissioner from Congress,—a polite, sensible Gentleman. Met with Col. [William] Grayson at Dumfries, & was introduced to Col. [George] Mason of Virginia who politely invited me to his House Gunston Hall on my Return. There are at present 2000 North Carolina, & some Virginia Troops at Alexandria and George Town, on their Way to Camp. Most of them are under Inoculation. General [Francis] Nash is with the No. Carolina Troops at Alexandria. The Road between that Place & Dumfries is hilly, & Parts of it, at Times, very muddy. The Country along the Post Road is in general very poor, & but thinly settled, which is the Case throughout all the southern States, except in the Towns. The large landed Estates possessed by the wealthy Farmers I believe are the Occasion of it. One Seton keeps the Tavern at Dumfries; an ill-furnished, dirty House; very little in or about it for either Man or Beast; I could not get even clean Sheets to sleep in, & the dirty ones were very ragged.
[May] 24th. At Dumfries. This Town contains about 100 Houses & 6oo Inhabitants. The Court House is small, but a neat tasty Brick Building, rusticated with Stone. Col. Grayson has lately purchased a Hill at the Back of Dumfries, on which he intends to build; it commands a fine Prospect of the Town, Quantico & its Shores, Part of Patowmack, adjacent Fields, Woods, etc. There are a Number of Hessian Officers (taken at Trenton) Prisoners at Dumfries. The Alexandria Tories went from hence to Williamsburgh.
[May] 25th. Left Dumfries, & went to Fredericksburgh. In my Way crossed Aquia & several other Creeks; these are low now & appear small, but I am informed a heavy Rain very suddenly raises them so much as to render them Impassable, & that the Post is frequently obstructed by them. Fredericksburgh is the Capital of Spotsylvania County, a neat small Town, pleasantly situated on the south Bank of the Rappahannock River, which is here about half a Quarter of a Mile in Width; from hence to the Mouth of the River, by Water, is 150 Miles; the Falls lie about 1½ Miles above Fredericksburgh; the River is navigable only by Flats above the Town. Vessels carrying 7000 Bushels may go down to Port Royal, which lies 22 Miles below it, & from thence to the Mouth of the River, it is navigable by Vessels of almost any Burthen. The Falls of Rappahannock, I am told, are small. The Houses in Fredericksburgh are built some of Wood & some of Brick, the former are the most numerous. The Town Spot is lower than the adjacent Country. The River here sometimes rises18 Feet perpendicular. Lodged at Mr. Smith’s a good House formerly kept by General Weedon.
[May] 26th. At Fredericksburgh. Even this small Town affords a Proof of the Luxury & Extravagance of its Inhabitants, for a House has been erected by private Subscription, which is entirely devoted to Dissipation. It is of Brick (not elegant) & contains a Room for Dancing & two for Retirement and Cards. A Tomb Stone in the Church Yard has this Inscription “Joseph Gibson & his Posterity.”
[May] 27th. Dined with Charles Dick Esqr. He has near his House about ½ an Acre of Lucerne [alfalfa],which he informs me feeds 4 Horses & four Cows. It is sown in Drills at 3 Feet Distance from each other, & is cut nine Times in a Season. It was sown 20 Years ago. Mr. Dick has a small Vineyard. After Dinner went to view a Manufactory belonging to James Mercer Esqr. It is something similar to Mr. [Stephen] Wests but not quite so extensive. Saw the Machine (with 22 Spindles) for spinning Cotton at Work; it is useful & Cotton may be more expeditiously spun with it than with a single Spindle, but I observed that the Threads very frequently broke, which occasioned a great Deal of Trouble.
[May] 28th.Went to see the Gunnery, as it is called, of which Mr. Dick is one of the Overseers. About 20 Musquets, complete with Bayonets, are made here in a Week. About 60 persons are employed, who have made all their own Tools, & do their Business with great Regularity & Expedition. They labour under some Difficulty for Want of proper Streams of Water, which encreases manual Labour & makes the Manufactory more expensive. The Musquets made here are excellent, lighter than the English, carry an Ounce Ball, & cost the Manufacturer about £4.10—Virga. Curry. or 15 Dollars. The Bayonets are 20 Ins. in Length.
Saw a Piece of figured Cotton in the Loom at Mr. Mercer’s yesterday. It will be very handsome: this is the only Piece of figured Work I have seen making in this Part of the World. Cotton is planted in many Parts of Virginia. The Seeds are taken out with an Instrument called a Gin; but though this is a more expeditious Way than Hand-picking, it is not so good, as it does not clean the Cotton so well. The Leachery of a french Sea Captain afforded us no small Diversion.
Set out for Port Royal (the Capital of Caroline County) a small wooden Town on the southern Shore of Rappahannock, 22 Miles nearer the mouth of it than Fredericksburgh. Lodged with Mr. Robert Jonhson [sic] an old Schoolmate.
[May] 29th. Left Port Royal & rode through a piny, sandy Country to Aylett’s Warehouse. Last Sunday and Monday the Weather was almost intolerably hot. Tuesday was a raw, cold Day; such was yesterday; we had a Fire both Evenings: last Night there was a Frost which had done great Injury to the indian Corn; this Day is very warm.
Vast Numbers of Laurels grow by the Road Side, which, being in full Bloom, look beautifully. Crossed Tuckahoe Creek, and another the Name of which is pronounced Matt-upon-I [Mattaponi River]. Rode Through King & Queen’s County into King William’s. The Evening is very cool. Lodged at Byrd’s Tavern at Aylett’s Warehouse. A good House.
[May] 30th. Before Sun-rise there was a very thick Fog & the Air was very raw. At Noon the Heat was great. Rode through large Tracts of piny Lands; the Road sandy & in many Places very deep. Saw several Pieces of Land which would make a good Meadow, but the Virginians do not appear to know the Use of Meadow. Hay is not to be met with, & Oats are very scarce. The Food now given to Horses is Corn Blades (called Fodder) and Indian Corn. The Woods through which I have rode today swarm with Locusts: saw great Numbers of Lizards, Squirrels and Rabbits. King William Court House is a neat Brick Building surrounded with Outhouses; among others are two with Iron Grates at the Windows which I take to be Prisons. Crosses Pamunkey River: it is about 300 Yards wide,—the Water 42 Feet deep; it separates & bounds King William & New Kent Counties. The Cattle in Virginia are generally small. My Horse fell with me & hurt my right Knee, but not much. Lodged at Cartwright’s [belonging to Thomas Cartwright], a good House, 16 Miles from Williamsburgh.
[May] 31st. Breakfasted at Williamsburgh. The road from Cartwright’s is very sandy & deep. Williamsburgh is the Capital of Virginia, situated partly in York & partly in James City Counties. It is but small; I think not larger than Wilmington in Pennsylvania [Delaware]. The Houses are chiefly framed; the Streets are straight. The Principal Buildings are the College, the Mad-House, the Palace & the Capitol, all of Brick. The first is badly contrived, and the Inside of it is shabby; it is 2½ Stories high, has Wings & dormer Windows. At each End of the East Front is a two Story brick House, one for the President, the other is for an Indian School; this was built by voluntary Contributions in England, and is supported by the Produce of some Lands there which have been set apart for that Purpose. At this Front of the College is a large Court Yard, ornamented with Gravel Walks, Trees cut into different Forms, & Grass. The Wings are on the West Front, between them is a covered Parade, which reaches from the one to the other; the Portico is supported by Stone Pillars: opposite to this Parade is a Court Yard & a large Kitchen Garden:—There is also the Foundation of a new Building which was intended for an Addition to the College, but has been discontinued on Account of the present Troubles; the American Revolution—at the South End of the Parade is a small Chapel for the Use of the Students; Sir John Randolph, [Norborne Berkeley] Lord Bottetourt, & Peyton Randolph Esqr. late President of the Congress, are buried here:—at the North End is a Room alloted for a Divinity-School, but there have been no Students in it for several Years; there are but 18 Students belonging to the College, & about 30 Grammar Scholars: the College has been on the Decline for some Years. The Top of this Building affords a beautiful Prospect of the City & the adjacent Country; James River may be seen from it, as may York River in a clear Day.—
The Mad-House is a three Story Building, but I did not choose to have my Humanity shocked by a Sight of its wretched Inhabitants, I did not go into it.
I have not yet had an Opportunity of particularly examining the Palace & Capitol.—
There are 40 Cherokee Indians in Town, among which at Attakullakulla, Aucanestota or the Little Carpenter, & the Pidgeon. Went to see them, shook Hands & smoaked Part of a Pipe with them. They are painted & ornamented with Feathers, & their Ears are cut. It is said their Business here is to clear the Path between their Country & this, which they say has been obstructed by Weeds growing in it. Saw Col. [William] Christian who subdued the Cherokees last Summer; he appears to be about 40 Years of Age. I cannot learn that the Hostages he was to receive from the Cherokees were ever delivered, but am informed that he withdrew his Army upon their promising Hostages, & when the Army was gone they refused or neglected to send them. Lodged at [Robert] Anderson’s. A good House.
June 1st. Heard a Mr. [John] Bracken preach. The [Bruton Parish] Church at Williamsburgh is a small neat Brick Building, with a Steeple: there is a very good Organ in it. The Assembly was large & plainly dressed; his Excellency Patrick Henry Esqr. the Govr. was present; he appears to be between 40 & 50 Years of Age, & is very swarthy. The Govrs. Pew is elegant, & elevated above the rest: a silk Curtain hangs on each Side & in Front of it from a Canopy supported by two fluted, gilt Pillars. The Ladies here are not handsome. The Govrs. Salary is £1000.—
[June] 2d. Presented a Memorial to the Assembly who are now sitting in the Capitol. I understand the propose to pass a Law for taxing Bachelors. One Murphy has lately been detected forging Drafts on the Treasury; it is said they have been paid to the Amot. Of £5000 Virga. Money.—
The Capitol is a large two Story Brick Building in the Form of an H: it is surrounded with a Brick Wall; you enter the Court Yard by an elegant Iron Gate. In the Front of the Building is a Portico & Balcony, each supported by four Pillars; above these the King’s Arms (elegantly carved & gilt) were formerly placed, but upon Independence being declared they were taken down & burned. Upon entering the Capitol you get into a Room in which the Courts of Justice are held; it is large & convenient; here is a fine whole Length Picture of Queen Anne by Van Dyck. Opposite to the Door by which you enter this Room (in another Apartment, which is a Kind of Hall) is an elegant white marble pedestrian Statue of Lord Botetourt in his Robes, made by Richard Hayward, London, 1773. On the Front of it is this Inscription,
Baron de Bottetourt
Late Lieutenant and
Governor General of the
Colony and Dominion
His Lordship’s Arms, the Motto
Redurgo Rege Travente
On the Right (North) Side
Deeply impress’d with the warmest Sense
of Gratitude for his Excellency the
Right Honble. Lord Bottetourt’s prudent and
Wise Administration, and that the
Remembrance of those many public and
Social Virtues, which so eminently
Adorn’d his illustrious Character, might
Be transmitted to latest Posterity,
The General Assembly of Virginia
On the XXth. Day of July Ann. Dom. M,DCC,LXXI
Resolved with one united Voice to erect
This Statue to his Lordship’s Memory.
Let Wisdom and Justice preside in any Country,
The People will rejoice and must be happy.
At the back, or East Side of the Pedestal is
An Altar from which a Flame arises: on the left of the Altar, Britannia holding an Olive Branch in her left Hand;—on the right America (represented by an Indian with a Bow and Quiver) holding an Olive Branch in her right Hand. The Olive Branches unite above the Altar, & below it is this Inscription in an Oval.
On the left (South) Side of the Pedestal, is the following Inscription:
America! behold your Friend!
Who, leaving his native Country,
Declin’d those additional Honours, which
Were there in Store for him, that
He might heal your Wounds, and restore
Tranquility and Happiness to this
Extensive Continent, with what Zeal
and Anxiety he pursued these glorious
Objects, Virginia thus bears her
The Inscriptions are entirely in Capitals, and the Workmanship of the Statue is exquisitely fine. The whole is placed upon a Free-Stone Foundation, & surrounded with a neat Iron Railing.
From the Hall where this Statue is placed you go into the Lobby of the House of Burgesses, & from thence into the Room where they sit; the latter is large, convenient, & plain: the Speaker’s Chair & a large Iron Stove are at the upper End, on Each Side the Seats for the Members, & at the lower End a Gallery for the use of Spectators
Form of the [sketch of chair] Speaker’s Chair
On one Side of this Room hangs a whole Length of King George the 2d. & on the other another of Queen Caroline. The other Rooms in the Capitol are large but contain nothing worthy of Observation. On the Top of the Capitol is a Cupola, & a Clock with four Dials.
[June] 3d. No remarkable Occurrence.
[June] 4th. There is to be a musical Entertainment & Ball at the Capitol this Evening for the Benefit of Mr. [Peter] Pelham, the Organist of the Church.
[June] 5th. The Entertainment last Night was very fine, the Music excellent, the Assembly large & polite, & the Ladies made a brilliant Appearance. A Mr. Blagrave [probably Reverend Benjamin Blagrove] (a Clergyman, his Lady, & a Mrs. Neal, performed the vocal Parts; His Lady played excellently on the Harpsichord. After the Entertainment was over, the Company went up Stairs to dance. I think a Mrs. [Catherine Blair] Cuthbert (formerly Mrs. Blair, a Daughter of Dr. Eustis of New York) made the best Appearance as a Dancer.
[June] 6th. It is found out that the Virginia fifteen & eight Dollar Bills have been counterfeited.
The Water at Williamsburgh is very bad; no Beer or Cyder in Town—Grod or Toddy, or Sangaree, made with vile Water is the only Drink to be had, which, with the Heat of the Weather is sufficient to keep a Man in a continual Fever: Grog & Toddy 3/ Virga. Money a Bowl; Sangaree 10/ Claret 8/ a Bottle. The Virginia Money, supposed to be counterfeit is, so well done as to induce a general Doubt whether it is counterfeit or not.
My Memorial has been read & ordered to lie on the Table for the Perusal of the Members.
The Assembly of Virginia observe great Decorum in their Conduct, & keep up the Dignity of the House.
[June] 7th. Williamsburgh is situated upon a Ridge between the Rivers York on the North & James on the South, about 3 Miles from each of them, & 60 from the Capes of Virginia, called Henry and Charles.
The Capitol is at one End of, & across the main Street, & the College at & across the other, exactly a Mile distant.
Murphy, who forged Drafts on the Treasury is brought to Town; on the Way he attempted to make his Escape & was shot in the Shoulder by the Sergeant of the Guard, upon which, he turned around & fired a Pistol which he had concealed at the Sergeant, but missed him. The Ball which wounded Murphy went quite through, & I think as he is rather plethoric & the Weather hot, the Wound will prove mortal. I went to see him; he appears to be uneasy in Mind, but affects an Air of Unconcern. The Magazine in Williamsburgh (in which [John Murray] Lord Dunmore villainously fixed Spring Guns with a Design to kill any Person who should enter the Door) is a small, circular, Brick Building; it is at present surrounded with Chevaux de Frize, made by Col. [Thomas] Bullit.
A fine refreshing Rain, & a great Deal of it, fell today. It was much wanted as the Grain &c. have suffered greatly by the late extraordinary Drowth.
[June] 8th. Went to what is called Queen Anne’s Port; it is a landing Place about a Mile from Williamsburgh, upon a Creek called Queen’s Creek which empties itself into York River. A Mile on the other Side of the City is Archer’s Hope, another Creek, which empties into James River.
The Virginians, even in the City, do not pay proper Attention to Decency in the Appearance of their Negroes; I have seen Boys of 10 & 12 Years of Age going through the Streets quite naked, & others with only Part of a Shirt hanging Part of the Way down their Backs. This is so common a sight that even the Ladies do not appear to be shocked at it.
A great Deal of Rain fell this Afternoon & Evening, accompanied with Thunder & Lightning.
[June] 9th. More Rain today, with more severe Thunder & Lightning than yesterday. Williamsburgh, in a few Words is a small, regular, sandy, dusty, wooden, unpaved City.
[June] 10th. Left Williamsburgh. Went to James Town, a very small, deserted Village, in a ruinous State, which is situated on James River, which is here there Miles wide. The Enemy formerly came to James Town, & the Men of War’s Tenders did it some Damage; a Guard of 12 Men is now kept there. A little above the Town is a small Battery with Embrasures for six Guns, but only two are mounted. The Ferry is dangerous when the Wind blows hard, but the Boats are pretty good. Directly opposite to James Town is Cobham, a paltry shabby Village, consisting of about a dozen Houses. Went from thence by Nelson’s Ordinary (a good House) and the Bay Church to Smithfield. Cobham is in Surry County & Smithfield in the Isle of Wight County. The latter is a small Village on Pegging Creek, which I crossed by a wooden Bridge 173 Yards in Length. I crossed another Creek too today, the Name of which I have forgot, it lies about a Mille from Cobham; this I forded. This day has been very sultry; I do not recollect that I ever suffered so much by Heat in a Day before. At Nelson’s (where I dined) a Cock Match is to be fought next Thursday: great Betts are depending. Met some Men who were just going to race their Horses. Horse-racing & Cock-fighting seem to be the principal Objects of Attention between Williamsburgh & Smithfield at present. Lodged at [John] Taylor’s, where the People speak very civilly, but the white People are too proud to do any Thing for a Traveller, & the Blacks so lazy, & slow in their Motions that he would have less Trouble in doing what he wanted done than in getting them to do it. I find that the Cock Match is between the Counties of the Isle of Wight & Surry.
June 11th. Breakfasted at one Howel’s upon Bacon, Eggs & Milk. This is a poor House in the Eating & Drinking Way, but the People are remarkably civil, & seem to study an obliging Behavior. There has fell a great Deal of Rain today attended with sharp Lightning & Thunder. Got to Suffolk a small Town in Nansemond County, situate upon Nansemond River which I crossed by a Bridge: it is very narrow: there is a Court House at Suffolk, & one at Smithfield; both small Brick Buildings. Lodged at [Thomas] Langston’s, a tolerable House, where I met with an episcopal Clergyman of the Name of [Reverend Patrick] Lunen; he was excessively drunk (I am informed he is never sober) and swore very much. This Man was formerly the Minister of Suffolk, but his Conduct was so infamous that the People hired him to resign his Living. Such was the ecclesiastical Constitution of Virginia that he could not be turned out; the Govr. had the Right of Induction, but no Power of Expulsion: the Bishop of London’s Commissary who resided at Wmsburgh could suspend the Clergy for bad Conduct, but seldom did it; the Bishop only had the Power of Expulsion, & a Clergyman however infamous, could always procure Certificates in his Favor. It is thought the present Government will make an Alteration in this Matter. They certainly ought: an irreligious Clergyman is the most contemptible of all Characters. The Country between Wmsburgh & Suffolk is very poor; the Timber principally pine; that I have rode through today is low & swampy.
June 12. Intended setting out for Edenton, but being informed that some Swamps through which I must ride are probably rendered impassable by the late heavy Rains, I think it advisable to stay till Tomorrow. Saw Mr. Lunen early this Morning: he is as drunk as ever. One Purcel is in Confinement in this Town, upon Suspicion of being concerned with Murphy in forging Drafts on the Treasury. There is a great Deal of Tar & Turpentine here; I am told it is made a few Miles off, & that very large Quantities are annually made in this Part of Virginia. It sells today for 9/6 [per] Bibl. Yesterday was very sultry before the Rain; this Day is almost intolerably hot. Lodged, by Invitation, at Col. Wills Riddick’s.
[June] 13th. I find that Tar & Turpentine are the Staple of the South Parts of Virginia. Set out early in the Company with Col. Morgan [probably Haynes Morgan], [Continental Navy] Capt. Chas. Biddle & a Mr. Shoemaker of Phila. After riding about 6 or 7 Miles from Suffolk we came to one of the Swamps mentioned yesterday; the Water, in the Post Road was up to my Horse’s Knees; this Place was about 150 Yards in Length. About 3 Miles farther we came to another of these Swamps, in which the Water on the Post Road extended, as near as I could judge, a Quarter of a Mile, & for about half that Distance it was with Difficulty I could keep my Knees out of it; had I came to this Place yesterday I certainly could not have crossed it. It is a fortunate Circumstance for Travellers that the Bottoms of these Places consist of Sand which being wet is very firm, & as there are no Stumps or Roots in the Road there is no Danger of the Horses Stumbling: it is, however, a scandalous Thing that the Legislature do not order Bridges to be built there. This last mentioned Swamp empties into another called the Dismal Swamp which is about 50 Miles in Length, & 15 Miles in Breadth: in this is a Lake 5 Miles long & from 3 to 4 Broad, which was first discovered about 20 Years ago, as I am informed. About six Miles from the second Swamp I rode through is the Line between Virginia and North Carolina. Saw great Numbers of Pines which were out to get Turpentine: a large Notch is cut in the Trees cross-wise, the lower Part of which is hollowed to receive the Turpentine; a pretty large Slip is cut off the Tree on the upper Part of the Notch. Tar is made by taking a Parcel of Pine Knots or other Parts of the Trees which contain a large Quantity of Turpentine, & piling them up, covering & burning them in the same Manner as Blacksmiths in the Country usually do their Wood which they intend for Charcoal: A Trough is dug all round the Pile, with Drains communicating with both, which all empty themselves into a large Hole, from which the Tar is taken out & put into Barrels. The Coals serve for the same Purposes with other Charcoal. In one Part of the Road met with large Quantities of a fine, light, soft Kind of Grass which had been blown by the Wind out of an adjoining Field: it was the Color of Flax, & branched in a very singular Manner. Breakfasted at an House called the Folly in North Carolina. I forgot to mention that in crossing the second Swamp all Capt. Biddles Cloaths &c in his Chair Box got wet: when I overtook him I found him drying them on the Bushes. Dined at a Capt. Sumner’s [probably Jethro Sumner], 21 Miles from Edenton, a tolerably good House where we met with civil Usuage. At 6 OClock in the Evening my Company (among whom was a Mr. Vashon [probably Charles Vashon] of Baltimore, whom I forgot to mention) determined to set out for Edenton; but as the Distance was great, & I was informed there were more Swamps & a very dangerous Bridge to be passed, & no House on the Road where it was probable we could lodge, I thought it best to stay at Sumner’s, & they went off & left me. The Road today excepting the Swamps has been exceeding good. The Land in the Part of North Carolina I have passed through appears to be better than that in the lower Parts of Virginia, & produces good Oak & other Timber; the Farming looks much like that in Pennsylvania, but I meet with no Meadow yet. At Sumner’s is a large Cypress (white Cedar) Swamp. Though there has been a fine Air today, the Heat has been so great as to give me a violent Head-Ach.
The Virginians who are rich, are in general sensible, polite, hospitable, & of an independent Spirit, the poor are ignorant & abject; all are of an inquisitive Turn, & in many other Instances very much resemble the People of Connecticut, but differ widely from them in their Morals; the former being much addicted to Gaming, drinking, swearing, horse-racing, Cock-fighting, & most Kinds of Dissipation. There is a much greater Disparity between the Rich & Poor in Virginia than in any of the Northern States. Lodged at Capt. Sumner’s who keeps as good an House as the Times will admit of. Variety of Provision must not be expected in this Country at this Time of Year; Bacon is almost the only Dish to be had, & I do not recollect that I have dined any where since I first entered Maryland but Bacon was upon the Table.
II. Edenton to George Town, Maryland, June 20–July 3, 1777
[June] 20th. Set out, in Company with Capt. Fairchild for Williamsburgh. There is a large Quantity of Moss on many of the Trees: some of it is above four Feet in Length. I am told that the North Carolina People frequently stuff the Seats of their Chairs, & Mattrasses with it. Lodged at the Folly.
[June] 21st. Road as far as Smithfield, here we lodged. Saw some Rice growing. House has a Daughter whose Christian Name is Mourning.
[June] 22d. Got to Williamsburgh. The Creek we forded about a Mile beyond Cobham is called Lyon’s Creek, & that on which Cobham stands, Gray’s Creek. The Depth of Water in a small Inlet at James Town delayed us there for several Hours, which gave us an Opportunity of examining the Town. It was formerly the County Town & had a Court House in it, & though small, was in a flourishing State; it is pleasantly situated, but only one Family at present lives in it. The Church, of which the Ruins only remain, I am informed, was the first Church built in Virginia: near it are six elegant Tombs of Free Stone & Marble, two of which are in Ruins. On a Grave Stone here is this Inscription:
Here lyeth William Sherwood
That was born In the parish
Of Whi[t]e Chapppell Near
London. A Great Sinner
Waiting For A Joyfull
There is no Enclosure near the Church & very few near the Town. Some tall Trees grow in the Church Yard, which serve as a Haunt for Blackbirds & Crows, & add to the Gloom of the Prospect. The next Object which attracts Attention is a fine Orchard of Apple Trees, Cherries, & Apricots, which is at present full of Fruit, but unenclosed, & the Trees untrimmed. A wild Grass, & Weeds grow in great Abundance, but there is no Wheat, Rice, Corn, Flax, &c to be seen; in short, the Land is totally uncultivated. In the Midst of this Desolation appears a large Brick House (delightfully situated, with large Rooms, well papered, lofty Ceiling, Marble Hearths, & other Indications of Elegance & Taste; but this is decaying fast, & serves only to excite more gloomy Ideas in the Mind of the Beholder. This is the property of a Mrs. [Richard] Ambler (who has fled from James Town) & is now the Ferry House. The other Houses in Town are wooden, and all in Ruins. At the Back of Mrs. Ambler’s House are the Remains of an Instrument for Threshing, wch. is drawn round by two Horses, and I am told will thresh 50 or 60 Bushels [per] Day with Ease. The following is the Form of it as nearly as I can give it.
A is the Axis upon which the whole turns; BB two Cylinders stuck full of strong wooden Teeth for the Purpose of beating the Grain out of the Ears; the Teeth near the Horse are the Longest, the rest shorten gradually as they approach the other End of the Cylinder. CC are two Peices [pieces] of Wood in which the Axes of the Cylinder are fixed; they move upon Iron Pins at DD; these Pins are fixed in the Cross Piece. E is intended to represent a wooden Floor (which should be made of stout Plank) upon which the Wheat &c is to be laid: the Floor must be circular, & the Wheat laid pretty thick upon it. The whole Machine is to be drawn round by two Horses fixed to the long Beam of the Frame at F where a Chair is also fixed for the Driver to sit in. One Person is sufficient to tend the Wheat on the Floor.
[June] 23d. I am informed that the Assembly of Virginia have received satisfactory Evidence of Richard Henry’s Lee‘s [sic] Innocence, respecting the Charge against him (see June 15) & have voted him the Thanks of the House for the Services he had rendered the Country. Hot Weather.
[June] 24th. The Assembly voted the public Printer an annual Salary of £600 Virginia Money. In Consequence of my Memorial Post Masters have been exempted from military Duties. Very hot Weather.
[June] 26th. This, I think, is by much the hottest Day we have had yet: in walking about 50 Yards I could perceive my Feet were warmed by the Heat of the Sand.
[June] 27th. Left Williamsburgh & set out on my Return to Phila. Breakfasted at Cartwright’s, where I fell into Company with a Major Butler [possibly Pierce Butler, of South Carolina] (formerly in the British Army) from Georgia. He travelled in a Post Chaise & four with two Postillions, & a Servant on Horse-Back. A Mr. [James] Hunter of Fredericksburgh (who carries on a very large Manufactory of Iron) overtook us at Cartwright’s. As it was very warm after Breakfast, the Major politely offered me a Seat in his Carriage, which I accepted; his Servant led my Horse. Dined at Ruffin’s (Pamunkey) Ferry. Lodged at Aylett’s Ware House, having rode fifty Miles today; Was much fatigued.
[June] 28th. Both myself & Horse have suffered much by travelling so far through the Heat yesterday. Major Butler parted from us at Ruffin’s Ferry.
Rode in Company with Mr. Hunter to Hubbard’s, where we breakfasted; he rides too fast for me. I propose going only to the Bowling Green to-night, Mr. Hunter will go home, so that he will ride 55 Miles today. There was some Rain in the Night which has cooled the Air a little, but it is very warm yet. Stayed at Hubbard’s (a good House) till 5 OClock P.M. when I set out for Curl’s at the Bowling Green, where I lodged. This is a very indifferent House, & Curl is a surly Fellow.
[June] 29th. Rode in Company with a Mr. Alexander [possibly John Alexander] to Fredericksburgh, where we arrived about Noon. This Day has been cloudy & cool. Lodged at Smith’s.
[June] 30th. Cool, cloudy Weather & a drizzling Rain. Crossed Rappahannock in Company with Mr. Smith & rode with him to see some Works erected by James & Adam Hunter: in our Way we passed through a small Village called Falmouth, situated on the North Side of Rappahannock, about 1½ or 2 Miles higher up than Fredericksburgh. The Falls of the River are so trifling as not to be worth mentioning. A little above Falmouth are Mr. Hunter’s Works which, with the Dwelling Houses for the Workmen, form a small Village. He is now erecting a Mill for slitting & plating Iron, & is about building a Furnace for melting Iron Ore. At present he makes (from Pig Iron) Bar Iron, Anchors, all Kinds of common Blacksmith’s Work, Small Arms, Pistols, Swords, Files, Fuller’s Shears, & Nails. He has a Grist Mill & Saw Mill, a Cooper’s Shop, a Saddler’s Shop, a Shoemaker’s Shop, a Brass Founder’s Shop, & a Wheel-Wright’s Shop. All these, except the Grist Mill are constantly employed in his own Business, & not to supply the Wants of other People. Besides all these Mr. Hunter has erected Works for making Steel, (this Business he is just beginning upon) & raises large Quantities of Wheat, Corn, Oats, Hay, &c: in short he is a great Farmer. He informs me that his different Works, & the Negroes he employes cost him £40,000 Virginia Currency. He has cut a Canal, ¾ of a Mile in Length by which the Water is conveyed (Part of the Way through Rocks) from the River to his Mills &c, & wherever Water can be used he takes the Advantage of it, which saves a vast Deal of manual Labor. There is always Plenty of Water, & he has Flood-gates, fixed in the Rocks, which are used in the Case of Freshes, to carry off the superfluous Water. Mr. Hunter has hitherto imported the Pig Iron he used from Maryland, but as the Navigation is now obstructed, he proposes to collect Ore in Virginia and making Pigs at his own Works.
Saw at Mr. Hunter’s Gunnery two Rifles, which carry a four Ounce Ball, they are to be fixed in the same Manner with a Swivel Gun, & are made for the Congress: several of them have been already sent to the Camp. The Steel Manufactory is situate on a high Hill which commands a beautiful & extensive Prospect. Dined at Mr. Hunter’s. The Post arrived, & brought us the agreeable intelligence of the Enemy’s having evacuated Brunswick, & our being in Possession of it.
As I rode through Virginia, in my Way to the Southward, I was informed that a Number of scotch Tory Merchants who had refused to take the Oath of Fidelity to the State & were ordered to depart from it, had purchased a Ship, which they called the Albion, & having laid in a suitable Quantity of Stores, set sail for great Britain; but upon their getting near the Capes, where some British Men of War were stationed, they were brought to, their Vessel detained & they sent on Shore again, by Capt. Parker of the Phoenix, who commanded on that Station. The Albion was afterwards sent to New York (I suppose as a Prize) & has never since returned. I met with one of these Merchants at Smithfield; he informed me that Capt. Parker had lately sent them a Letter in which he told them he expected either that the Albion, or some other Vessel, would soon arrive from New York to transport them to Great Britain & he was going to Sleepy Hole in Expectation of such an Arrival. Since my Return from Edenton I am told that the Assembly of Virginia, considering these Men, (who, by refusing to take the Oath, had declared themselves inimical) as dangerous Inhabitants of the State, had ordered them to depart in seven Days, on Pain of Imprisonment. As they could not, in that Time, procure a Vessel & fit her for Sea, they sold some of the Stores they had purchased on the joint Accott. of the whole, & hired Boats to carry them on board the Man of War. Upon their Arrival along-side they were told that Capt. Parker, who commanded on that Station, had gone out to Sea & the Capt. of the Man of War which was there could do nothing in the Matter, & they were refused Admittance on board the Ship. Some of them have since declared a Willingness to take the Oath, but as I am informed, they will not be permitted to do it, having once already refused, & chosen rather to put themselves under the Protection of our Enemies. These unhappy Men are now reduced to a most disagreeable Situation, through the Perfidy & Inhumanity of the King’s Officers, upon whom they had every Claim to Protection & Kindness. This is but one of many Instances in which “Friends to Government” as they have been called, have suffered, through a foolish Attachment to the Tyranny, or a ridiculous Fear of the Power of G. Britain.
Since writing the above I have been informed that the Capt. fo the Man of War, being made more fully acquainted with their Situation, had consented to taken them on board, & it is supposed they have sailed for Great Britain.
July 1st. Went to see a Galley built by the State of Virginia; she is called the Dragon, has three Masts, is to be rigged in the Manner of a Schooner, & to mount two 18 Pounders forward, two 12 Pounders aft, & 16 double fortified 4 Pounders amid-ship. I think her too narrow for her Length, & her Masts are too taunt. Cloudy in the Morning, but cleared up warm afterwards.
July 2d. Left Fredericksburgh, after having seen the Hill upon which Genl. Washington was born [Ferry Farm, where Washington was raised]: it is pleasantly situated on the north Bank of the River, a little below Fredericksburgh. Rode in Company with a Mr. Mills of South Carolina & a Mr. Appleton Junr. of Boston. Lodged at Dumfries, where I saw Mr. Carrol (the Priest) who kindly invited me to his House; he lives near George Town.
[July] 3d. Went to Alexandria where my Companions staid; I proceeded to George Town on Patowmack, a small Town in Maryland, built on a Hill.
III. Alexandria to Edenton, November 11–December 17, 1777
[November] 11th. So intense was the Cold last Night that the Ground froze excessively hard & the Rivulets are covered with Ice. The Air is remarkably keen this morning. Rode to Alexandria and lodged at Mr. Watson’s.
[November] 12th. Went to Dumfries. Paid no Ferriage at Colchester. Lodged at McDaniel’s; a vile House.
Nov. 13. Went to Fredericksburgh by Way of Falmouth. I was told this was the shortest Road, but I think it the worst I ever travelled; nothing but Mountains for 10 Miles.
Very windy but not cold.
[November] 14th. At Fredericksburgh. Windy, very cold & like for Snow. I am told the Mountains about 40 Miles from hence are covered with Snow.
[November] 15th. Clear, cold Weather. Some of the Virginians have very odd Names; among the rest I find Pleasant Cock & Wm. Bumpass. Mr. Cock is a Church Warden.
[November] 16th. Cloudy & cold, a little Snow.
[November] 17th. Weather as yesterday, except the Snow. I find from Conversation with a Number of Gentlemen, & indeed from my own Observation that Education has been much neglected in the southern States in general, & I think it not improbable that they will, e’er long, be obliged to the northern States, even for their Legislators, in Consequence of it. The People appear to be apprehensive of something like this, & I am informed that some public Schools have already been instituted, particularly one in Virginia, called Hampden-Sidney Academy, under the Care of the Revd. Mr. [John Blair] Smith (Dr. Witherspoon’s Son in Law) & another in Mechlinburgh County North Carolina, under the Care of a Mr. Alexander.
[November] 18th. No remarkable Occurrence.
[November] 19th. Set out in Company with Col. Fielding Lewis, & Chas. Dick Esqr. for Williamsburg. The Col. rode too fast for us & we lost our Way. Lodged at a Mr. Roy’s near the Bowling Green. There are amazing Quantities of Persimons all along the Road. The Virginians make Beer of them. The Gum of the Trees answers all the Purposes of Gum Arabic, & is equally valuable in England. The small black winter Grape makes an excellent Liquor much of the Taste & Flavor of good Brandy & a good Wine. Peach Brandy is made by putting the Peaches in a Trough and bruising them with a Pestle, so as not to break the Stones. They are then thrown (thus bruised) into a Hopper, or a Hogshead with a Hole in it (& a Vessel put under it) & suffered to drip: The Drippings are distilled into Brandy.
Sassafras Tea of the Blossoms has cured an obstinate Asthma of long standing.
Cloudy & very cold in the Morning; cleared up & grew warmer towards Noon.
[November] 20th. Weather as yesterday. Mr. Dick & I lost our Way again. The Persimon Trees will very well bear to be planted with a Rail’s Length of each other & may serve for Posts for Fences; we saw many very thrifty Trees growing much nearer. Lodged at Aylett’s.
[November] 21st. Moderate Weather, but windy. Rode near two Hours after Dark. Lodged at Cartwright’s.
[November] 22d. Fine, clear, pleasant Weather. Got to Williamsburgh by Noon. Lodged at [the printer Alexander] Purdie’s. At Richmond in Virga. are some valuable Coal Pitts from which Williamsburgh is supplied with that Article.
[November] 23d. Very pleasant Weather. Rode to York, a small Town agreeably situated on York River; there are some good Houses here but the Town has been much damaged by the Licentiousness of our own Soldiers. It is defended by a Battery, & some armed Vessels at present.
Directly opposite to York[town] is Glocester, a small Town.
York River is about ¾ of a Mile wide, & navigable by Ships of the greatest Burthen. Returned to Williamsburgh. 6 m. 27 m. The Assembly is now sitting.
[November] 24th. Clear Weather, & rather cool. No remarkable Occurrence from 24. to
[November] 27th. when we recd. Information [by] Post that For Mifflin (on Delaware) had been evacuated. The Garrison of this Fort under the Command of Col. [Christopher] Green of Rhode Island, have acquired immortal Honor by their spirited Defence of it.
The Assembly of Virginia have voted that 5000 Volunteers be raised & equipped, & sent to join Genl. Washington. A Bill is depending & will probably pass for impressing Necessaries for the Army.
At Night there was an extraordinary luminous Appearance in the northern Sky; it was of a dusky, red, much like the Reflection of a large Fire from the Sky; its Extent was great. I suspect it to have been an unusual Aurora Borealis, but many People are of a different Opinion.
[November] 28th. Dull, cloudy Weather. Rain & Snow in the Afternoon & Evening.
[November] 29th. Snow & a Thaw all Day.
[November] 30th. A thaw all Day. Streets very sloppy.
Decr. 1. Intended setting out for Edenton, but am told I cannot get to James’ Town on Accott. of the Badness of the Road. Fine clear Weather, but Streets very sloppy.
Decr. 2d. Weather as yesterday. Froze last night. I find the Assembly have given up the Project of Volunteers mentioned Novr. 27th. & prefer a Draft which is to be confined to Bachelors, & Widowers who have no Children. The Law for impressing Necessaries for the Army was printed (very secretly) on Saturday Night, & some Goods were seized in Town (Wmsbg) today in Consequence of it. Only such Things are to be taken as People have for Sale, for which a reasonable Price is to be paid.
[December] 3d. Cloudy moderate Weather; rained a little in the Evening. Froze last Night.
[December] 4th. Froze last Night. Clear, cool Weather—moderate after Noon. Went to hear the Debates in the House of Delegates (Assembly) but was not much entertained, having no Interest in the Subjects of them, which were rather local. The following are the Market Prices, Beef 1/ Mutton 1/ [per] lb [per] Quarter, Pork 75/@ 80/ [per] ct. Turkies 10/ @ 15/ each. Flour 13/6 [per] 100 lb. [per] Bbl.
[December] 8th. Set out for Edenton, but being unable to cross James River was obliged to return to Williamsburgh. In my way to James Town I purchased a black Horse of Mr. Harrison Randolph for which I paid £65 Virginia Currency. Mr. Randolph says he is nine Years old. The Weather, which has been cold & cool for several Days past is now remarkably sultry; the Wind high.
[December] 9th. Very disagreeable Weather: Rain Hail, & Snow, the most of the Day.
[December] 10th. Very cold Weather, & cloudy.
[December] 11. Sold my Sorrel Horse for £40 Virginia Currency. Clear, cold Weather.
[December] 12th. Cold, cloudy Weather. The Governors of William & Mary College have advertised some of their Lands to be lett, & some of their Negroes & farming Utensils for Sale. Their Revenues are much impaired by the present Troubles which prevent the Exportation of Tobacco, upon each Hhd of which they were formerly allowed a Duty by Act of Assembly.
[December] 13th. There is a severe Act of Assembly against Gaming, but I observe the Members of that House are as much addicted to it as other Men, & as frequently transgress the Law: I have known one of them bett 30 Dollars upon an odd Trick at Whist. Gaming is amazingly prevalent in Wmsburg.
The Legislature are at present engaged upon the Subject of Taxation: I find their Conduct gives great Uneasiness. I am told their present House is by no Means as respectable as the former ones. Clear, cold Weather & very windy.
[December] 14th. Moderate Weather. A Methodist of the Name of Hill preached in the Capitol; he appears to be an honest man, but does not shine as a Preacher. Nine french Soldiers deserted last Night.
[December] 15th. Cloudy all Day, & was rather sultry towards Noon. Set out for Edenton. Got safe over Sandy Bay (a narrow, deep Gut, washed through the Sand near James Town, by the Tide, which is very dangerous at high water) & James River & rode to Nelson’s where I lodged. Rain at Night.
[December] 16th. Very foggy in the Morning, but cleared up warm afterwards. Rode to Suffolk, where I lodged at Whitefield’s who keeps the only Tavern now in the Town, which is a bad one. He at first denied me Admittance on Accott. of his House being full, but after enquiring for Londging’s at five private Houses, I was obliged to return to Whitefield’s & coax him to take me in. Met with a young married Woman who disliked her Husband.
[December] 17th. Rode to Sumners where I lodged. The old Woman at the Folly was so drunk that she would not cook me any Dinner, & I was forced to go without. There was a very heavy Fog this Morning; the Remainder of the Day was clear & moderate; some Parts of it rather wearin. Suffolk is crowded at present by People who have come there to purchase Salt &c lately arrived at South Quay. Met with Capt. Fairchild. The Chevalier de la Roche lodged with us at Sumner’s. He described the Heat of Charlestown by saying, “between Sharles-Town & Hell is no more as one Sheet Papier, & dat is very tin too.”