George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Richard Henry Lee, 28 April 1779

From Richard Henry Lee

Philadelphia April 28th 1779


The inclosed letter from the Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina, committed by Congress to the consideration of a committee of three, and which, in the name of the committee I have now the honor to inclose your Excellency, will shew you the extremity to which our affairs in that quarter are driving.1 The Committee find a choice of difficulties in this business, because the reliance on Militia from Virginia having in great degree failed, there appears no remedy but such as will lessen the force you had a right to expect from Virginia for reenforcing the main army. We have no reason to suppose that a greater force than 1400 militia, perhaps not more than 1000 will go from North Carolina, and of the 1000 ordered by the government of Virginia, we learn that not more than 350 have been obtained. In this state of things, the Committee submit to your Excellencies wisdom, and better knowledge of military affairs and intended operations, the following measures.

That the 2000 new recruits now in Virginia be forthwith regimented and ordered to join the Southern Army. That a sum of money be sent to Colo. Bland, with orders to reinlist the men of his regiment, and proceed without delay to the same destination. If Sir, this plan should meet your approbation, the Committee are of opinion that the sooner it were carried into execution the better.

Your Excellency will be pleased to return the inclosed letter, and the Committee wish to be favored with your opinion of the eligibility of this measure, and if there is a probability of its being soon executed; or what additional or other method may occur to your Excellency for relief of the southern States, which we find by conversing with General Howe (who is just arrived here) demands speedy and powerful assistance. I have the honor to be, with the highest sentiments of esteem and regard, Sir your Excellencies most obedient and very humble servant

Richard Henry Lee


1Lee enclosed a long, bitter letter of 5 April from Lt. Gov. Thomas Bee of South Carolina to delegate William Henry Drayton. In it, Bee complained that Virginia had committed to send to South Carolina “at some Distant Period one Thousand Men only... & most of those without Arms, at a time when this State hitherto thought of some consequence in the Confederacy is like to become a Province again to Great Britain,” a reinforcement that he considered paltry compared to what other states had received under similar circumstances. “If,” Bee continued, “Congress mean we should make the best [peace] Terms for ourselves we can—I wish they would be Explicit” (DNA:PCC, item 72). Congress read Bee’s letter on 26 April and referred it to a committee of three chaired by Lee, otherwise known as the committee on southern affairs (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 14:512). For the measures that GW adopted in response to Lee’s letter, including the formation of a brigade of Virginia levies, see his letter to Lee of 30 April.

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