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To George Washington from Major General Benjamin Lincoln, 9 April 1780

From Major General Benjamin Lincoln

Chas Town [S.C.] April 9th 1780.

My Dear General,

The enemy crossed the Ashley, in force, near the ferry on the 29th ultimo, and the next day moved down, and encamped about three thousand yards from our Lines—before this they had transported their heavy baggage, Ordnance, and Stores, from out of Wappoo across land about two miles, to Old Town creek on the West side of the river opposite their encampment.1

In the morning of the first instant we discovered that they had opened ground in several places in our front about eleven hundred yards therefrom—the next night they threw up a work on our left distance nine hundred yards—the next which appeared was on Cooper-river six hundred yards from our right—these, and some which they have since raised seem to be closed—they have been some nights perfecting their works, and opening lines of communication—what they have done seems rather calculated to cover their approaches than to annoy us from them.

Seven2 Ships of war passed Fort Moultrie yesterday afternoon, and anchored near where Fort Johnson stood, with no other apparent injury than the loss of one top-mast3—We have been busily employed in throwing obstructions in their passage of the Cooper. I wish they may prove effectual—for it is of the highest importance for us to keep that open—thereby we preserve a communication with the Country, from which we can draw our succours and supplies—In order the more effectually to do this—we mean to throw up a Work on Lempriere’s, one at Cainhoy up Wando, where we shall have our deposite of Stores,4 besides some on the several Landings on the east side of Cooper-river—These things have been some time in contemplation—but the necessary works to be made in Town have prevented their being executed—indeed before the Virginia troops under General Woodford arrived, which was on the 7th we could not man them5—but from the addition of that force, and the No. Carolina militia, who are coming in, we hope to spare some few men for this purpose, and that we shall be able to draw down some of the Militia of this State into these works, who will not come to Town—One of the enemy’s Ships, said to be a Transport, fell to leeward last night (within Fort Moultrie,) which ship they burned this morning.6

I expect soon the remainder of Genl Scott’s troops and some Militia from No. Carolina. I have the honor to be my dear General with the highest esteem & Affection your most Obedient servant

B: Lincoln

ALS, DLC:GW. Samuel Huntington, president of Congress, described the handling of this letter when he wrote the Committee at Headquarters from Philadelphia on 6 May: “My last Letter from Genl. Lincoln is the 9th of April, accompanied with a Letter to His Excellency the Commander in Chief which was immediately forwarded & by which I presume Genl Washington has received as late Intelligence from Genl. Lincoln as I could communicate” (Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 15:91; see also GW to Huntington, 3 April, source note).

Lincoln’s letter of this date to Huntington reads: “The enemy crossed the Ashley in force near the ferry on the 29th ultimo, and the next day moved down, and encamped about three thousand yards from our Lines—before this they had transported their heavy baggage, ordnance, and stores from out of Wappoo across land, about two miles, to Old-Town Creek on the west side of the river opposite their encampment.

“In the morning of the first instant, we discovered that they had opened ground in several places in our front, about eleven hundred yards therefrom—the next night they threw up a work on our left distance nine hundred yards—the next which appeared was on Cooper river six hundred yards from our right, these, and some which they have since raised seem to be closed—they have been some nights perfecting their works and opening lines of communication—what they have done seems rather calculated to cover their approaches than to annoy us from them.

“Seven ships of war passed Fort Moultrie yesterday afternoon, and anchored near where Fort Johnson stood, with no other apparent injury than the loss of one topmast We have been busily employed in throwing obstructions in the passage up the Cooper I wish they prove effectual—for it is of the highest importance for us to keep that open—thereby we preserve a communication with the Country from which we can draw our succours and supplies—In order the more effectually to do this we mean to throw up a work on Lempriere’s, one at Cainhoy up Wando, where we shall have our deposite of Stores, besides some on the several landings on the east side of Cooper river—These things have been some time in contemplation—but the necessary works to be made in Town have prevented their being executed—indeed before the Virginia troops under General Woodford arrived, which was on the 7th, we could not man them—but from the addition of that force, and the No. Carolina militia, who are coming in, we hope to spare some few men for this purpose, and that we shall be able to draw down some of the militia of this State into these Works who will not come to Town. One of the enemy’s ships, said to be a Transport, fell to leeward, last night, (within Fort Moultrie) which ship they have burned this morning.

“I soon expect the remainder of Genl Scott’s troops and some Militia from No. Carolina.” A struck-out postscript on Lincoln’s letter reads: “This will be delivered by Mr Cannon from whom Congress will learn many particulars” (DNA:PCC, item 158; see also James Duane to GW, 4 May). Congress read Lincoln’s letter on 1 May (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 , 16:400).

1In his journal entries for 20–23 March, British engineer Lt. John Wilson reported the movement of “Intrenching Tools & other Stores” (Waring, “Wilson’s Journal,” description begins Joseph Ioor Waring, ed. “Lieutenant John Wilson’s ‘Journal of the Siege of Charleston.’” South Carolina Historical Magazine 66 (1965): 175–82. description ends 177–78). He noted in his entry for 24 March: “Moved the Stores nearer the Creek for the conveniency of immediate Embarkation” (Waring, “Wilson’s Journal,” description begins Joseph Ioor Waring, ed. “Lieutenant John Wilson’s ‘Journal of the Siege of Charleston.’” South Carolina Historical Magazine 66 (1965): 175–82. description ends 178). British captain John Peebles wrote in his diary entry for 28 March: “The flat Boats pass’d out of Waupoo last night into Ashley River & up the little creek where the Artillery & Engrs. stores are collected” (Gruber, Peebles’ American War description begins Ira D. Gruber, ed. John Peebles’ American War: The Diary of a Scottish Grenadier, 1776–1782. Mechanicsburg, Pa., 1998. description ends , 353–54).

Old Town Creek took its name from bordering the original site of Charleston, across the Ashley River from the city’s later permanent location (see Henry A. M. Smith, “Charleston—The Original Plan and the Earliest Settlers,” South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine 9 [1908]: 13).

2Lincoln initially wrote “Nine” at this place. He then struck out that word and wrote “Seven” above the line.

3For commentary on the British movements toward Charleston in late March and early April, see John Laurens to GW, this date; see also Mattern, Benjamin Lincoln description begins David B. Mattern. Benjamin Lincoln and the American Revolution. Columbia, S.C., 1995. description ends , 98–99.

4For Lincoln’s orders to construct these fortifications, see Borick, Siege of Charleston description begins Carl P. Borick. A Gallant Defense: The Siege of Charleston, 1780. Columbia, S.C., 2003. description ends , 144.

French military engineer Ferdinand Joseph Sebastian de Brahm, then in Charleston, recorded in his journal entry for 28 April: “Last night our Fort at Lamprier’s was evacuated, and taken possession of by the enemy to-day. It was not until this moment that Charlestown was completely invested” (Gibbes, Documentary History, 2:127).

Clement Lemprier (Lempriere), who came to South Carolina around 1743 and commanded a state vessel during the Revolutionary War, owned land east of Charleston along Wackindaw (Hobcaw) Creek. Lemprier’s Point nudged into the Cooper River.

Cainhoy was a plantation situated some twelve miles northeast of Charleston along a bluff overlooking the Wando River, a tidal stream that emptied into the Cooper River.

6The burned British transport was the Aeolus (see Laurens to GW, this date, n.10).

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