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To George Washington from Major General Benjamin Lincoln, 11–12 February 1780

From Major General Benjamin Lincoln

Chas Town [S.C.] February [11–]12th 1780

My Dear General

I have1 received information that on the 3rd instant the enemy landed2 about 8000 troops commanded by Sir Hy Clinton—if this is true, we may soon expect them before this town—for they probably know that we3 soon expect reinforcements.

2 o’clock P.M. I have just received information that a large fleet is off—matters are fast ripening, and will, I think, soon become very serious.

8 o’clock, I am told that fifty sail of vessels got into North Edisto this day.

Feby 12. 3 o’clock morning—By a person just from Edisto I learn that the number of vessels in at the harbour there is a little short of fifty.4

I am collecting the Troops, and posting them in and near this town, saving the light Horse, and 200 light troops—those are in the southern part of the State; left with a view to hang on the enemy’s left flank, should they attempt to march across land, and prevent the small parties strolling into the country—plundering, and distressing the inhabitants. I am My dear Genel with the highest esteem your most obedie[n]t servant

B. Lincoln

LS, DLC:GW. The closing is in Lincoln’s writing. A transcript by Jared Sparks of what may have been a draft of the first two paragraphs of this letter is in MH. It is dated 11 Feb. at Charleston, and the text is generally similar to the LS; the variations from the LS are noted below.

1The transcript adds the words “this morning.”

2The transcript adds the words “in Savannah.”

3On the transcript, the remainder of this paragraph reads: “have reenforcements on the road from the main army. The works here are by no means completed. It has not been in my power to effect this most desirable purpose.”

4For the departure of this expeditionary force from New York City on 26 Dec. 1779, see Anthony Wayne to GW, 26 Dec., and the source note to that document. The 7,500-man expeditionary army consisted of the British light infantry and grenadier brigades; the 7th, 23d, 33d, 63d, and 64th Regiments of Foot; a detachment of the 17th Light Dragoons; a Hessian grenadier brigade; the Hessian Regiment von Huyn; 280 Hessian and Anspach jägers; the British Legion; the American Volunteers; and two companies of artillery. The dozens of transports and store ships of the expeditionary fleet were convoyed by ten warships, including five ships of the line. The fleet encountered heavy storms at sea. An ordnance store ship with heavy artillery and ammunition was lost, and a leaking transport had to be abandoned. Another transport was dismasted and blown off course, finally arriving in Cornwall, England. Some transports were, for a time, separated from the fleet, and several small vessels were captured by American privateers. All the ships were driven far out in the Atlantic by the storms and the Gulf Stream, and most of the expedition’s horses died. Only by the end of January did the first transports begin to arrive at Tybee Island, Ga., at the mouth of the Savannah River, and begin disembarking their troops.

Gen. Henry Clinton desired to march overland to Charleston but accepted the decision of a council of war to move the army by sea to a point closer to the city. After detaching 1,400 infantry under the command of Brig. Gen. James Paterson to Augusta, Ga., as a diversion, Clinton re-embarked his army, sailed up the coast, and entered North Edisto Inlet on 11 February. He disembarked most of his light infantry and grenadiers that evening on Wadmalaw Island (see Map 7), and the rest of the army the following day. In the next few days, Clinton pushed his army across Wadmalaw Island and took control of Johns Island. Between 23 and 27 Feb., the army crossed over Stono River and captured James Island without opposition. For Lincoln’s explanation of his reasons for not challenging Clinton’s crossing of the Stono, see Lincoln to GW, 22 February. Clinton spent the next month in setting up batteries on James Island and making preparations to cross Wapoo Creek and the Ashley River. After being joined by Paterson, whom he had recalled from Augusta, Clinton moved his army across the Ashley on 29 March, and on the next day he arrived in front of Lincoln’s lines across Charleston Neck in front of the city. Clinton began constructing his trenches on 1 April and opened his first batteries on 13 April. After a siege of forty-two days, Lincoln surrendered the garrison and city on 12 May. For more on Clinton’s expedition and the siege of Charleston, see Davies, Documents of the American Revolution, description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends 18:53–55, 86–89; Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries, description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends 206–29; Willcox, American Rebellion, description begins William B. Willcox, ed. The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton’s Narrative of His Campaigns, 1775–1782, with an Appendix of Original Documents. New Haven, 1954. description ends 157–72; Willcox, Henry Clinton, description begins William B. Willcox. Portrait of a General: Sir Henry Clinton in the War of Independence. New York, 1964. description ends 300–10; and Mattern, Benjamin Lincoln, description begins David B. Mattern. Benjamin Lincoln and the American Revolution. Columbia, S.C., 1995. description ends 88–109.

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