James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Nathanael Greene, 1 April 1781

From Nathanael Greene

Draft (William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan). With the exception of a few corrections by General Greene, the text of the letter was penned by his aide-de-camp, Captain Nathaniel Pendleton.

Head Quarters. confluence of Deep &
Haw Rivers.1 April 1st. 1781.


I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt, & to thank you, for your Obliging Letter of January 13th.2

I am uncertain whether I have not done this before,3 but am fearfull thro’ the hurry of a variously active Campaign it was put up without being answered, as the Copy cannot now be found. Sh[oul]d I h[ave] neglected to have given it an answer before as I fear is the case my situation must plea[d] my apology.

I am Sir with the most perfect respect Your most Obedient & Humble Servant

Nath Greene4

1The Haw and Deep rivers join nearly sixty miles southeast of Guilford Court House to form the Cape Fear River. For about two weeks after the battle of 15 March, Greene hoped to draw Cornwallis into another engagement. With this purpose in mind, he followed the British as they withdrew in the direction of Wilmington. Four days before this note was written, Greene reluctantly abandoned his plan, because the term of enlistment of most of the militiamen who remained with him was to expire on 31 March, and they refused to serve longer. With his force much depleted in size and much in need of food, arms, and other necessities, Greene rested his troops until 6 April and then led them southwestward on the long two weeks’ march to Camden, S.C. (George W. Greene, Life of Nathanael Greene, III, 209–17, 230–35; Madison, Letters [Cong. ed.] description begins [William C. Rives and Philip R. Fendall, eds.], Letters and Other Writings of James Madison (published by order of Congress; 4 vols.; Philadelphia, 1865). description ends , III, 480).

2Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (2 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 283–84. It was as a member of the standing committee of Congress “to correspond with the commanding officer of the southern department” that JM had written to Greene.

3“But as the Copy if it is the case, is lost” is crossed out after the comma.

4Greene signed this letter and made the following changes in its text: in the second paragraph near the end of the first sentence he inserted “now,” and in the second sentence “given it an” and “as I fear is the case.”

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