Below are transcriptions of three letters between President Thomas Jefferson and Nicholas Fitzhugh that arranged Jefferson’s April 1-2, 1804 visit to Ravensworth. The second letter encloses a map outlining a route leading into and part way through Ravensworth. Indecipherable words are in brackets [ ]; “?” indicates indecipherable letter.

President Thomas Jefferson to Nicholas Fitzhugh

Washington Mar. 25.04
Dear Sir
I propose to set out on Thursday or Friday for Monticello and being afraid to touch the great market roads at this season, I propose to go through Ravensworth. I think you told me there was a better way through that tract than the one I went. Will you be so good as to drop me a line of direction how to find it? I am determined also to find some road from Sangster’s to the Redhouse1 without going by Centreville, or touching the public road more than is unavoidable. I have heard there is such a road. perhaps in Alexandria you may meet with somebody who can give me the outlines of it. any information on this subject which you can add to your letter will be thankfully received. accept my salutations & assurances of esteem.


Nicholas Fitzhugh to President Thomas Jefferson

See Map Interpreted for an interpretation of the map enclosed in this letter, which Fitzhugh calls “a little platt of the Road.”

(page 1)
Alexandria March 27 1804
I was yesterday honored with your favor of the 25th instant & agreeable to your desire, endeavored to collect information respecting a way from Sangster’s to the Red-house avoiding Centreville. I am pleased to find that the rout is not only practicable but there will be a saving of distance to the amount of 7 miles as you will discover from the [melofed] Memo- [?andum] The rout through Ravensworth is about half a mile [??aser] than the one you have heretofore used; but the principal advantage contemplated is that you miss a bad Bridge and a steep Hill near my Brother Cooke’s Meadow. After passing Minors Lane, you cross a Run; then ascend a Hill & passing through a short lane of Mr Whiting, you enter an old field, a Barn & several houses on the left a short distance off & a fence to the right. After passing the Barn, you enter the first Gate on the right, passing a Road, not much beaten, through my Brother Cooke’s Quarter to the Alexandria or Court house Road opposite my Brother Giles’s where you cross it nearly at right angles going through a Gate on each side of the Alexandria Road. The way is then the one to which you have been accustomed – I have taken the liberty of sketching off a little platt of the Road – The dotted way is the one you have used which falls into the Alexandria or Court house road in a wood near a pond & forms a junction with the [prop???] (See link to map near bottom of this page.)

(page 2)
Road nearly opposite to my Brother Giles, which is a small white House surrounded by trees – I would have answered you sooner had not my attendance at our Court prevented my getting the necessary information regarding Sangsters Road –

If Mr Kelly can be prevailed to relieve me in my session at Court, I will do myself the pleasure to wait on you early on Friday Morning or Thursday Evening and accompany you as far as the Red-House. The Court will certainly [rise?] at the End of week & if it will not be any inconvenient to you to postpone your journey until [S??] there can be no obstacle in the way of my waiting on you Saturday Evening or Sunday Morning – My Brother Richard (who lives near the Road on Ravensworth) desires me to present his Respects to you & request that you will dine with him and spend the evening with him.

The Court while sitting in Washington made a Representation to you of the Case of John Duffy who had been convicted on an Indictment for keeping a disorderely house in this place – The [L????] assessed him in [so?] [large?] a [??????] that the Court being satisfied from Evidence exhibited that he was not [?????] property enough to pay it, granted a new trial; but Duffy not being able to give Security to comply with the Terms, was committed to prison [where?] he now is – the object of this inquiry is not to add any thing to the official statement of the court or to represent Duffy in having any particular Claim on your indulgence; but only to know whether this paper reached you. If it has been mislaid by those who ought to have transmitted it to you, the Court may [now?] be able to represent the Circumstances again – The extreme [imposition?] of his wife for his situation & the dependence of a family (as I am told) on his Executions for their support will be I hope the best apology for the trouble [In????] give you.

I have the Honor to be with sincere Esteem
Your mo obiedient
N Fitzhugh

President Thomas Jefferson to Nicholas Fitzhugh, March 30, 1804

Washington Mar. 30. 1804. Friday
Dear Sir
Your favor of the 27th came to hand last night. I could by no means consent to your taking the trouble of riding with me. The paper you were so kind as to send me will enable me to find my way through Ravensworth, and I have no fear of doing the same from Songster’s. I am trying hard to get off tomorrow evening, but doubt whether it will not be Sunday morning or perhaps Sunday evening, but whenever I set off it will be either in the morning early or in the afternoon, & will accept Mr Richard Fitzhugh’s friendly offer of a breakfast or a bed, as the case may be.

Duffey’s pardon was signed yesterday, so far as related to the case stated to me by the judges. They seemed to think there was a second indictment against him for receiving stolen goods. The pardon does not touch that. accept my salutations and respects


Original letters

The Library of Congress, American Memory, The Thomas Jefferson Papers:


  1. Sangster’s (also Songster’s) likely refers to Thomas Sangster’s blacksmith and/or ordinary on or near today’s Ox Road close to today’s Burke Lake Park. The Redhouse was an early name for Warrenton, Virginia.