George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from Major General Benjamin Lincoln, 8 January 1780

From Major General Benjamin Lincoln

Charles-Town [S.C.] Jany 8th 1780

My dear General,

I was a few days since honored with your Excellency’s favor of the 26th October last by Lieut. Colonel Ternant.

I am too fully convinced of the utility of the new regulations not to afford him every countenance and assistance in my power, and it will be my greatest attention to have the troops in this Department formed on the plan adopted for the order & discipline of the army of the United States.1

I hear, but have no official notice of it, that the Virginia line are ordered from the main army to reinforce this department. If this should prove true, it will be fortunate indeed for this country, and I think exceedingly so for the United States & the cause in general; for it is such an attention to the safety of this people, that, if ever an idea has been formed & nourished among them that they were neglected by Congress, it must now be removed; besides the security it will afford to this State & Georgia.2

By the last accounts I have received from Savannah, the enemy seem to be alarmed by the movements of the Spaniards, and towards the end of the last month sent off the 60th regt to St Augustine, & (some say) another small corps. What has been the fate of Mobille & pensacola is uncertain; by some accounts we have reason to believe that they are in the hands of the Spaniards;3 this I have from a number of deserters, & since is confirmed by Mr Cowen, one of our officers, who was lately exchanged, and left Savannah.4 I think there cannot be a doubt but that such a report prevails there, but what gave rise to it I know not. Though I have not so full evidence in favor of the report as gives me satisfaction respecting the truth of it; yet I have thought it necessary & my duty to give your Excellency this hint.

While I congratulate your Excellency on the success of the arms of the United States in the department more immediately under your direction, I have to lament that so little has been done here that we have nothing for our consolation, but that we have not permitted the enemy to run away with us. I have the honor to be with the highest esteem Your Excellencys most Obedient servant

B. Lincoln

LS, DLC:GW. Lincoln wrote the closing.

1Lincoln is referring to the army’s new regulations for order and discipline drafted by Major General Steuben, the army’s Inspector General. For GW’s orders to implement the regulations in the army, see the general orders of 12 April and 30 June 1779; see also General Orders, 9 October 1779.

Congress had appointed Lt. Col. Jean-Baptiste Ternant inspector of the troops in South Carolina and Georgia on 25 Sept. 1778 (see Henry Laurens to GW, 27 Sept. 1778).

2GW had detached the Virginia regiments from the main army in early December and ordered them to march to South Carolina (see GW to Samuel Huntington, 29 Nov. 1779, and the source note to that document, and GW to William Woodford, 8 and 13 Dec. 1779).

3Lincoln is referring to the British posts at Mobile and Pensacola in West Florida (now Alabama and Florida, respectively). Spanish forces captured Mobile in March 1780; the Spanish did not attack Pensacola until March 1781.

4Edward Cowen (Cowan) joined the 1st Georgia Regiment as a lieutenant in September 1777. In August 1779, he was serving as a lieutenant in the 4th Georgia Regiment but was listed as a prisoner with the enemy. In 1782–83, Cowen held a lieutenant’s commission in the newly formed Georgia Battalion.

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