George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Lachlan McIntosh, 16 February 1776

From Colonel Lachlan McIntosh

Savannah in Georgia 16th Feby 1776


My Country having Honor’d me with the Command of the Continental Battalion ordered to be raised by the General Congress for the Protection and Defence of this Colony (tho’ I fear too partial to my poor Abilitys) it becomes my duty to inform your Excely of the State of our Province as far as it concerns the Service, as well as of the Troops to be immediately under my Command.

Our Province has a front along the Sea Coast of above One hundred Miles, covered by a Range of Islands, divided from each other by eight Rivers from the Main Land, which makes as many good Inlets & Harbours, most of them capable of receiving any Frigate, & as some say much Larger ships. Our settlements extend back to the Northwest above two hundred Miles in other parts to the southward not above Ten, and very thinly Inhabited, indeed this large Space of Land altogether has not more than three thousand Men, chiefly in the back Country, and many disafected & doubtful in our Cause, especialy the Men of the greatest property among us. Our slaves will be above Fifteen thousand1 Souls, mostly within Twenty Miles of the Sea Coast, and makes above 35 m Teirces of Rice Annualy besides many other Articles of Provision which with our fine harbours makes the Security of this Colony tho’ weak in itself of the Utmost Consequence to the whole Continent of America. And we have every reason to think our Enemys intend to make it a place of general Rendezvous & Supplys. We are bounded south by the Garrisoned Province of East Florida who have now as I am well informed five hundred regulars in ste Augustine & 1000 more expected there daily from Europe. On the West of us is the Province of West Florida, the Numerous Nations of the Creek, Chactaw & Cherokee Indians besides lesser Tribes Supposed to have at least Ten thousand Gun men, brave, intrepid & eager for war, whom we will have the Utmost difficulty to keep at peace with us, as we want every Article of their usual supplys and now furnished them in great plenty from the two Floridas. Our Metropolis is Situated in the North Corner of the Province upon a Bluff or sand Hill thirty feet high or more above the Water and fifteen Miles up the River Savannah from the Inlet of Tybee where five ships of warr the Syren the Scarborough, the Raven the Tamar & Cherokee besides Tenders are now Lying & two large Transports having it is Said above 300 Men on board & expecting more in daily, with what design, whether for this Colony only, or Carolina or both together, we are not yet informed.2 Our Province has declared itself in a State of Alarm and resolved not to Supply the Men of warr with Provision, and ordered a draft of half the Militia to the Town of Savannah to oppose the Landing of any Troops.3

Our Provincial Congress having accepted the Battalion ordered for their Protection & defence, Chose the Officers the 29th & 30th Ulto (a return of whom shall accompany this) and made them Sign the Inclosed Test before their Commissions were deliverd4 and I have this Day Issued General Orders for Recruiting, which has been hitherto Prevented by many obstacles in Providing Money for that and other necessary Services, and I fear will yet be attended with some difficulty. We expect very few in our own Province, that of So. Carolina is said to be already drained of such People as will inlist by their Provincial Regiments, besides their bounty, Subsistence &ca is so much better than ours. therefore I expect we must have recourse distant as it is to No. Carolina, with this additional disadvantage that our Currency passes in no other Colony but our own. & we have received very little Continental Money yet.

I have received no kind of Orders or Instructions from the general Congress or your Excely nor have I yet been able to obtain even a Copy of the American Articles of warr, which makes me at a Loss how to Act in many Cases, therefore I shall wish any Orders or directions your Excely will please to Send me to be as full & frequent as possible, also to be informed how far we are under the Controul of the Provincial Congress &ca of this or any other province where we are upon Duty, & what Rank we hold when Acting with Militia or Provincial Troops.

I shall take the Liberty of appointing Surgeons to the Battalion which are so indispensibly necessary that I Suppose the Neglect of not naming any must be owing to our Delegates, and also make Captain Colson’s a Riffle Company when raised, which I think will be useful,5 & hope will meet with your Excely’s approbation, & I doubt we will be obliged to arm more with such Guns for want of others which are very Scarce. I have the Honor to be Your Excelys most obedt and most Hble servt

Lachn McIntosh

ALS, DLC:GW. GW did not receive this letter until 3 June. See GW to McIntosh, 4 June 1776.

Lachlan McIntosh (1727–1806) was brought to America at the age of eight in 1735 by his father, the captain of a company of Scottish Highlanders sent to Georgia to defend its borders from the Spanish in Florida. As a young man McIntosh became a protégé of the South Carolina merchant Henry Laurens, and by 1776 he was the leading planter on Georgia’s southern frontier. The Georgia provincial congress that met in Savannah in January 1776 chose the radical Button Gwinnett to be colonel of a Continental battalion authorized by the Continental Congress, but when Gwinnett stepped aside to mollify the conservative Whigs, the provincial congress elected the more moderate McIntosh in his place. Promoted to brigadier general in September 1776, McIntosh commanded the Continental forces in Georgia until after he killed Gwinnett in a duel in May 1777. In late 1777 McIntosh joined GW at Valley Forge, and he held several commands under GW before returning south to take part in the unsuccessful siege of Savannah in 1779. His capture at the fall of Charleston in 1780 effectively ended his military career.

1McIntosh here wrote “15 m” above the line.

2The ships Scarborough and Syren, the sloops Tamar (Tamer) and Raven, and the armed vessel Cherokee had been off Tybee Island at the mouth of the Savannah River since mid-January. The Scarborough and the two transports had come to Georgia to obtain provisions for the British army in Boston. See GW to Hancock, 4 Jan. 1776, n.4.

3On 18 Jan. 1776 after learning of the arrival of the British warships, the Georgia council of safety ordered the arrest of Gov. James Wright and the members of his council and the assembling at Savannah “of at least one-third of the Militia” from nearby parishes (Journal of Council of Safety in Candler, Revolutionary Records of Georgia description begins Allen D. Candler, comp. The Revolutionary Records of the State of Georgia. 3 vols. Atlanta, 1908. description ends , 1:101–2).

4Following McIntosh’s letter of this date, White prints in his Collections description begins George White. Historical Collections of Georgia: Containing the Most Interesting Facts, Traditions, Biographical Sketches, Anecdotes, Etc . . .. New York, 1855. description ends (p. 94) “A Return of the Officers chosen for the Battalion, ordered to be raised for the protection and defence of the Colony of Georgia, Feb. 16, 1776” and a resolution of the provincial congress dated 10 Feb. 1776 which required the officers of the battalion to acknowledge that they and their men were “subject and subservient to such supreme and civil power of this Province as are or shall be erected for the purpose of defending our rights and liberties.” The return listed Col. Lachlan McIntosh, Lt. Col. Samuel Elbert, and Maj. Joseph Habersham as the field officers and gave the names of four men as officers of each of the eight companies.

5Capt. Joseph Colson’s 8th company was listed as a rifle company in the return of 16 Feb. 1776 referred to in note 4.

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