George Washington Papers
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From George Washington to Major General Benjamin Lincoln, 15 April 1780

To Major General Benjamin Lincoln

Head Quarters Morris Town April 15. 1780

My Dear Sir

I have successively received your several letters of the 23d and 28th of January 12th 14th and 23d of February,1 almost all of which were come to hand when I wrote you by General Du Portail,2 but by accident were not acknowleged.

As far as it is possible for me at this Distance, and with a very inconsiderable knowlege of the Country, to judge, your reasonings on the best plan for an expedition against Augustine appear to me well founded. But unfortunately for us, from every present aspect, we shall find ample employment in defending ourselves without meditating conquests.3

Your latter letters announce the arrival and progress of Sir Henry Clinton to Stono—It is of the greatest importance that he met with the disasters which attended his voyage, though they were much smaller than was expected4—This no doubt is the cause of his delay, and I sincerely hope, will give you time to receive the necessary succours and put yourself in an effectual posture of defence. In my letter by General Du Portail, I informed you that my advices from New York indicated a further embarkation supposed to be destined for the Southward—This has actually taken place, and has been for some time on the point of sailing; though it is not yet ascertained that they have sailed. I have had several accounts of the corps composing the detachment, but as they materially differ from each other, I cannot rely sufficiently upon either to transmit it—From every information, the total number will be from 2000 to 2500 men commanded by Lord Rawdon as Brigadier. I do not learn that there are any cavalry or draft horses—more than about fifteen dragoons attached to Simcoes corps5—If this embarkation should be designed as a reinforcement to General Clinton and he should suspend his operations ’till its arrival as is probable, so much time will be exhausted that he will be thrown into the hot season—a circumstance not a little unfavourable to his success—You will easily conceive the degree of our solicitude here for the fate of Charles Town and its garrison. My apprehensions, after all, are principally for the harbour—If this is secured, the operations against you must become critical and arduous. But whatever may be the event, of this we are assured that no exertion—prudence or perseverance on your part—will be wanting to defeat the attempts of the enemy. May the issue be equally conducive to your personal glory and to the advantage of these states.

In consequence of the detachment the enemy are now making it has been determined to march the Maryland division of about 2000 men to your assistance; but our situation here will not permit it to move before it is certain the enemy’s detachment has sailed. Baron De Kalb will command this division.6 This reinforcement in all probability will be too late to have any influence upon the fate of Charles Town; but if that should fall, it may serve to check the progress of the British troops and prevent their getting intire possession of the State. If they succeed against Charles Town, there is much reason to believe, the Southern states will become the principal theatre of the war.

I inclose you sundry resolutions of Congress of the 25th of February for raising specific supplies of provisions and forage on the different states, in which you will find the quantities apportioned on North and South Carolina.7 Congress have left it to me to determine the places of deposit—but my remoteness from those two states and the imperfect knowlege I have of their position and circumstances disqualify me from extending my arrangements to them. These will be much better made by you, and I must request you will as speedily as possible carry into execution that part of the resolutions which depend on me. I have written to the Governors of the two States referring them to you for information on this head, which you will no doubt give without loss of time.8 I am very truly & Affecty &. &.

I have written to the Governor of virginia pressing the supplying the troops of that State with Cloathing agreeable to your request.9

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

GW again wrote Lincoln from Morristown on 18 April: “The Chevalier Du Buisson a Lt Col. in the Army and Aide De Camp to The Baron De Kalb having served three years in this army with reputation & being desirous to embrace every opportunity of distinguishing himself, I shall be glad You will improve any occasion circumstances may offer to employ him in such a manner as will enable him to indulge his ardor—I am aware that it is difficult in our army to find employment of this kind for officers not attached to corps—nor is it my wish by what I have said to give you any embarrassment, but only to signify that it will afford me pleasure to have The Chevalier gratified as far as may be conveniently practicable” (Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW). Maj. Gen. Johann Kalb had been transferred to the southern department (see GW to Samuel Huntington, 6 April, n.2; see also GW to Kalb, 2 April, and the source note to that document).

1GW is referring to Lincoln’s letters to him of 11–12 and 22 February.

3In response to Spanish overtures, Lincoln had outlined a plan for an expedition against St. Augustine, Fla., in his letter to GW of 28–29 January.

4For overviews of the British expedition against Charleston, S.C., see Anthony Wayne to GW, 26 Dec. 1779, source note, and Lincoln to GW, 11–12 Feb. 1780, n.4.

5See Council of War, 1 April, and n.2 to that document, and Elias Dayton to GW, 6 April.

6The reinforcement under Maj. Gen. Johann Kalb began its movement south on 16 April (see Samuel Huntington to GW, 6 April, n.2).

7GW is referring to congressional resolutions that accompanied Samuel Huntington’s letter to the states dated 26 Feb. (see 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 , 14:446–47; see also Huntington to GW, 29 Feb., and n.2 to that document, and 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 , 16:196–201).

8GW’s letters to North Carolina governor Richard Caswell and South Carolina governor John Rutledge followed the structure of his circular letter to the states dated 26 March. GW wrote Caswell from Morristown on 7 April: “Your Excellency will have received I presume before this, a Transcript of an Act of Congress of the 25th of February, calling on the several States for specific quantities of provision—Rum & Forage for the Army—and directing the Articles of Supplies to be collected and deposited at such places in each of them, as should be judged most convenient by me. With respect to the places of deposit for the Supplies to be furnished by your State, I beg leave to acquaint Your Excellency, that I have not such a competent knowledge of the Country—nor indeed of the dependence there may be on the State by that of South Carolina as to undertake to fix them myself. I shall therefore write to the Commanding Officer in the Southern department on the subject and desire him to determine on the places, which appear to him most eligible relatively to the present & probable train of Southern operations and to make the earliest communication on the point to Your Excellency. In the mean time the supplies may be providing—and although I cannot undertake to fix on the general places of deposit for the reasons I have mentioned—I beg leave to add that it appears to me essential—that a part of The flour & forage should be collected as soon as it can be done, at proper Stages on the usual route through the State for the marching of Troops to or from the more Northern Ones—as it may be wanted for the Succours going & which may occasionally move to the southward. I mention nothing with respect to beef—as Cattle I presume can be easily furnished to answer every occasional demand of this sort” (Df, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

GW’s letter to Rutledge, written on this date, followed the same draft as the one to Caswell. GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison supplied the date of GW’s letter to Rutledge in a note after that draft: “The whole of this Letter except the parts included in Brackets—formed into One of the 15. Instant to His Excellency Govr Rutledge—with the addition in the Margin after the asterisk—which was no part of the Letter to Govr Caswell.” The words bracketed in the Caswell draft to be omitted from the letter to Rutledge read: “nor indeed of the dependence there may be on the State by that of South Carolina.” Six words are added in the margin of the draft’s first page: “arrange the business with Your Excellency.” They fit into the sentence as follows: “I shall therefore write to the Commanding Officer in the Southern department on the subject and desire him to arrange the business with Your Excellency, determine on the places, which appear to him most eligible relatively to the present & probable train of Southern operations and to make the earliest communication on the point to Your Excellency” (Df, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

Abner Nash, who succeeded Caswell as North Carolina governor, explained in a letter to GW dated 6 Oct. that his state would be unable to meet the congressional requisition for provisions (DLC:GW).

9GW wrote Virginia governor Thomas Jefferson from Morristown on this date: “The probability of a continuance of the War to the southward, which will of course draw the troops of the State of Virginia to that quarter, makes it essentially necessary that every measure should be taken to procure supplies of Cloathing for them, especially of Shoes, Stockings and linen—The distance and the difficulty of transportation would render a supply of those Articles, from hence, extremely precarious, even were our Continental Magazines well stocked, but this is so far from being the case, that I can assure your Excellency there never was greater occasion for the states to exert themselves in procuring Cloathing for their respective troops. General Lincoln has, he informs me, already written to you on this subject, but as he could not be acquainted with our present circumstances and prospects in regard to Cloathing, I thought it expedient to communicate our situation to your Excellency that You might the better perceive the necessity which the State of Virginia will be under of supplying her troops to the southward more particularly with the Articles which I have before enumerated” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; see also Lincoln to GW, 23–24 Jan.).

Lincoln had written Jefferson from Charleston on 7 Jan.: “I am informed that the Virginia Line are ordered from the Main Army to reinforce the one here. Unless they have more than a common stock of shoes and socks, they will soon be barefooted … And as this reinforcement will augment the army to a number beyond our ability to clothe from our present Magazines (though clothing is indeed sent for from the West Indies, yet it’s arrival depends on so many circumstances, that it would be unsafe and imprudent to depend solely thereon). I wish, as Congress have desired the several States to attend to the clothing of their own troops, that a supply might be sent on for yours. Blankets, shoes, and shirts, are now exceedingly wanted here” (Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 3:260–61).

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