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To George Washington from the Board of War, 9 May 1780

From the Board of War

War Office [Philadelphia] May 9th 1780


I do myself the Honor to transmit your Excellency, copies of sundry Letters from south Carolina, giving intelligence of the Military operations in that quarter. I have the Honor to be with the highest respect Your Excellency’s Most Obedient and very Hble Servt

Joseph Carleton
Secy p. t.1
By order


Board of War secretary pro tempore Joseph Carleton apparently enclosed copies of three letters: Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln to North Carolina governor Richard Caswell, dated 9 April; South Carolina privy council member John Lewis Gervais to Henry Laurens, dated 17 April; and North Carolina governor Abner Nash to Samuel Huntington, president of Congress, dated 24 April.

Written at Charleston, S.C., Lincoln’s letter to Caswell reads: “On the 29th Ulto the Enemy Crossed the Ashley near the Ferry in Force, and the next Day took post in front of our Lines, about three Thousand Yards therefrom—Since they have thrown up Several Works, none nearer than six Hundred Yards, from that to eleven Hundred.

“Seven Ships of War passed Fort Moultrie Yesterday Afternoon, and Anchored near where Fort Johnson Stood, with no Apparent damage, save that one of the Ships lost her foremast, one other Ship, said to be a Transport, fell to leeward and catched the Ground, within reach of some guns on Sullivans Island, which obliged the Crew to abandon & burn the Ship. I am informed that there is a quantity of Salted Pork in Wilmington, which is wanted in this Garrison, but that there is an Embargo on Provisions, and without Your Excellency’s permission, it cannot be shipped—I have therefore to [ask] Your Interposition in this Matter.

“Colo. Harrington is arrived with about 120 Men—I expect at Cornhoy tonight about 200 More, where at present they will be left.

“I anxiously wish the speedy Arrival of your Son with the Troops under his Command” (DLC:GW; see also Lincoln to GW, and John Laurens to GW, both 9 April, and the notes to those documents). Nash replaced Caswell as North Carolina’s governor in spring 1780.

Written at Georgetown, S.C., on 17 April (Monday), the enclosed letter from Gervais to Henry Laurens at Wilmington, N.C., reads: “You will have received by Major Young Accounts that the Enemy’s Ships had passed Fort Moultrie last Saturday & anchored in a Line across the River opposite Fort Johnson . …

“Deserters report that they had Seven Men killed & fourteen Wounded—No body was hurt at Fort Moultrie although they kept up a continual fire as they passed the Fort—On Thursday last the Enemy opened their Batteries against the Town, about 12 oClock that Day, the Governor, Colo. Pinckney D. Huger and myself left it, it having been determined some days before that we (the Governor & part of the privy Council) should retire, in order to preserve the Executive Authority of the State (from an Apprehension that the town Might be entirely blockaded) Genl Gadsden is chosen Lieutenant Governor, and remains in Charles Town with five other Members of the privy Council—when we left the Town a Child and its Nurse and One Man of General Hogan’s Brigade had ⟨be⟩en killed, and Two Houses were on Fire—it is reported that in the Afternoon another House had been burnt . …

“We have Accounts as late as the 15th at 2 oClock P.M: when the Enemy’s Cannonade was continued only Two Men (of Woodford’s Brigade) more were killed to that time—and one Lieutenant Campbell of the Georgia Battalion.

“We learn that on Fryday morning the Enemy Surprized our Horse . … Colo. White with a party went to reconnoitre, he is returned, and reports, the Enemy had been about four Miles above Monks Corner . …

“General Huger who commanded the Horse had not come in, but it is said he got off or escaped—the consequence of this Affair will probably be more Serious, as by their Success, the enemy have been able to penetrate into St Thomas’s Parish … all depends upon the succours we may receive” (DLC:GW; see also the edited receiver’s copy of this letter in Laurens Papers description begins Philip M. Hamer et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Laurens. 16 vols. Columbia, S.C., 1968–2003. description ends , 15:276–79; James Duane to GW, this date; and GW to Lincoln, 15 May, DLC:GW). For the Battle at Monck’s Corner, S.C., on 14 April, see Abraham Buford to GW, 6–8 May, n.5.

Henry Laurens included undated notes to explain distances and geography in the letter from Gervais. Laurens also added narrative remarks: “Through St Thomas’s Parrish to Scotts Ferry and Hobcraw, Cattle have been of late driven for supplying the besieged in Charles Town, the Enemy’s present view may be to cut off such supplies from the Garrison and appropriate them to their own uses.

“Should they keep possession of those Grounds, Charles Town will be indeed effectually blocked up, and Famine may in a Short time accomplish for the Enemy a Surrender which could not otherwise have been effected by Bombs & Cannon” (DLC:GW).

Written at New Bern, N.C., Nash’s letter to Huntington reads: “Inclosed Your Excellency will receive some Extracts of Intelligence & copies of Letters from So. Carolina directed to the late worthy Governor of the State, who I have the honor to succeed; Your Excellency will perceive by these Letters the distressed condition of Charles Town and the necessity there is of affording that Country a further Aid—The General Assembly of this State is now Sitting and are determined to make every effort in their power, at the same time sir they have requested that I should write to your Excellency, and urge in the strongest terms the absolute necessity of a further Aid from the Regular Army—Your Excellency will see by the inclosed Letters how critically situated our Affairs are at the Southward—the Blockade of the Town we have reason to fear is effected by the post the Enemy have taken on the North side of Cooper River nearly opposite to the Town; there is a necessity that this force of theirs should be removed, that supplies may be sent into the Town & that the Garrison may have a retreat open in case the destruction and loss of the place should become inevitable” (DLC:GW). Congress read Nash’s letter on this date and referred it to the Board of War (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 , 17:415; see also Huntington to Nash, this date, in 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 , 15:103–4).

1Joseph Carleton (1754–1812), born in England, served as treasurer of the Board of War from October 1778 until his appointment as the board’s secretary in February 1781. Carleton later became a merchant in Alexandria, Virginia.

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