George Washington Papers
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From George Washington to Major General Benjamin Lincoln, 12 December 1779

To Major General Benjamin Lincoln

Head Quarters Morris Town 12th Decemr 1779.

My dear Sir

I had the pleasure of receiving yours of the 22d October by Colo. Laurens, to whose information, I am indebted for a very particular account of the situation of affairs to the southward.1 I had, previous to his arrival, been furnished by Congress with Copies of your dispatches by Major Clarkson, who came forward himself to Head Quarters.2 By him, I had the mortification of hearing of the ill success of the allied Arms before Savannah. While I regret the misfortune, I feel a very sensible pleasure in contemplating the gallant behaviour of the Officers and Men of the French and American Army, and it adds not a little to my consolation, in learning, that, instead of the mutual reproaches which too often follow the failure of enterprizes depending upon the cooperation of troops of different nations, their confidence in and esteem for each other is increased. I am happy in beleiving that the delicacy and propriety of your conduct, upon every occasion, has contributed much to this agreeable circumstance.

Before Colo. Laurens’s arrival, the two Regiments of North Carolina had marched,3 and immediately upon finding, from your letters and from him, the reduced state of your Continental force, and the little dependance to be put upon the precarious supplies of Militia, I submitted to Congress, the propriety of detaching the whole of the Virginia line, expressing, at the same time, my willingness to part with them, illy as they could be spared, should they judge it expedient after a full consideration of all circumstances—Congress having determined upon the propriety of the measure, the troops began to move the day before yesterday, and I hope the whole will be under march this day, should not the weather prevent them.

I have strongly recommended the transportation of them by Water, if Vessels can be procured and a Convoy ensured—The advantages of this over a march by land are too obvious to need mentioning.4

The unhappy System of short inlistments operates just now most forcibly upon the troops in question, as well as upon the whole line of the Army. Altho’ the total amount of the Virginians is at present upwards of 2500, I do not imagine it will be practicable to move more than [ ] Rank and file to South Carolina, as the times of the remainder would expire by their arrival at Charlestown. About 150 of the two State Regiments had been reinlisted last Winter upon promise of a furlough this, which must be complied with.5

I shall take the liberty, in my turn, of referring you to Colo. Laurens for a minute account of our circumstances and situation, and I am happy in having the testimony of so able a judge and so good a man to witness, that the utmost has been done by me, to afford relief to the Quarter, which so loudly and with so much reason calls for assistance.6 I am with sincere Esteem My dear Sir Your most obt and hble Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, NjMoHP; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Lincoln’s letter to GW of 22 Oct. has not been found. For the return of Lt. Col. John Laurens, GW’s former aide-de-camp, from service in the southern department, see GW to Henry Laurens, 5 Nov., and n.8.

2See Samuel Huntington to GW, 10 Nov., and notes 1 and 2 to that document; see also Huntington to GW, 11 Nov., and GW to Huntington, 20 and 24 November.

3For the march of the North Carolina brigade to the southern department, see GW to Thomas Clark, 19 Nov., and notes 2 and 4 to that document.

4Frigid weather and a lack of ships compelled the Virginia line to march south (see GW to Huntington, 29 Nov., and the source note to that document).

6Laurens departed Philadelphia for the southern department on 18 December. Riding on horseback, he reached Charleston, S.C., on 11 Jan. 1780 (see Massey, John Laurens, description begins Gregory D. Massey. John Laurens and the American Revolution. Columbia, S.C., 2000. description ends 152–54). Lincoln replied to GW on 23–24 Jan. (DLC:GW).

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