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To George Washington from Major General Benjamin Lincoln, 24 March 1780

From Major General Benjamin Lincoln

Chas Town [S.C.] March 24th 1780

My dear General,

Since my last1 the enemy have very unexpectedly brought over the ships mentioned in the enclosed paper2—it has been thought there was not water enough for a 64 gun ship—Before they came into the harbour it was determined to form a line of battle across the channel with our ships, to act in conjunction with Fort Moultrie—but afterwards, as the enemy were so vastly superior to our force, it was thought best to remove our ships up to the Town in Cooper-river, land their heavy cannon and men3—We are endeavouring to obstruct the channel from the Town to Shute’s-folly4—if we should succeed great good will result from the measure as thereby we shall prevent the enemy from running up that river, and cutting off our communication with the country on the east.

The enemy are extending their works on Ashley river from the mouth of Wappoo with a design to cover their stores which they can land near the first work at the mouth of the Creek, and remove them a mile or two across land to the head of another creek, which empties into the Ashley, where they have a work also, which is opposite a good landing on this side—I think they will throw their troops across above, take post at this landing, and then transport their stores, which will save them a very long land carriage.

I lament most sincerely that from the want of a sufficient power, we cannot oppose their passing this river, which might easily be effected, and oblige the enemy to take a circuit of forty miles—General Woodford is not yet arrived5—By his letter of the 6th instant, he informs me that his troops would leave Petersburgh the day after—his numbers by some means or other are greatly reduced—by his return he has 737 only fit for action6—General Scott informs me that he is coming on without the remainder of his troops—want of clothing is the cause—a few of them have been persuaded to take care of Genl Woodford’s baggage.7

Many of the No. Carolina Militia, whose times have expired leave us to-day, they cannot be persuaded to remain longer tho’ the enemy are in our neighbourhood.

General McIntosh received a few days since a resolve of Congress, founded on a letter from the Governor of Georgia and one from the Speaker of the Assembly of that State, purporting that he had lost the confidence of the people, in which resolve he is suspended from acting in the southern department—I have not only to lament the loss of so good an Officer—but that Congress have so suddenly come into a resolution which must wound the feelings of an old servant of the United States, and who by the War is reduced from a State of great affluence to that but a little removed from beggary—He has the command of the Country Militia of this State now in Garrison.8 I have the honor to be My Dear General with the highest esteem your Excellency most Obedient servant

B: Lincoln

ALS, DLC:GW. GW acknowledged receipt of this letter after 15 April when he wrote Lincoln on 28 April. For a similar letter from Lincoln to Samuel Huntington, president of Congress, on the same date, see Huntington to GW, 22 April, n.2.

1Lincoln last had written GW on 4 March.

2Lincoln enclosed an intelligence report headed “An exact description of the enemy Vessels as they lie in the Channel within the Bar of Charlestown 21st March [Tuesday] 3 oClock P.M. 1780 having been very attentively viewed & examined.” The report continues: “1st A large black Pink mounting 10 Guns—6 on the main deck 2 aft & 2 forward in close Quarters.

“2d A Frigate which Mr [Le]Poole said was the Raleigh—a handsome american built ship her whole side painted yellow when she came but now only her waste—mounting 26 guns on her Battery.

“3d A Yellow Schooner lying within (& under the shore) The above Frigate—I can not therefore now see her hull—but she never appeared to me armed.

“4 A low british built Frigate. brown sides & white Head, mounting on her battery.

“5 A Galley shewing four ports & supposing she has a prow gun, mounts nine. She lies within the above Frigate near the shore.

“6 An American built Frigate arrived yesterday after the Fleet got over (the same which I observd) was remarkably taunt rigged. She has a brown side, is the exact picture of the Boston & mount 24 Guns on her Battery.

“7th A large Whitby built ship, mounting 4 Guns on the main deck over the Gunwhale—& 4 in close quarters—2 aft & 2 forward.

“8 The Blonde, a low french built Frigate, yellow waste mounts 26 Guns on the battery.

“9th The Camilla a small yellow painted Ship mounting 20 Guns on her Battery.

“10 The Ship which has been call by the different names of Renown Roebuck, or Romulus, painted yellow between her two tier of Guns: having not more than 42 or 44 Guns on her two Batteries.

“11 A Ship without quarter Galleries or Badges, which arrived sunday with an arm’d Brig & two transports (since gone to Stono) supposed from N. York mounting only 20 Guns on her Battery not having a good view of her before I took her for a Frigate, but now am almost confident she was the connecticut state Ship, call’d the Oliver Cromwell.

“12—A large Whitby built ship—without Guns.

“13—The Persseus—brown sides—mounts 22 Guns on her battery.

“14—The Flag Ship, brown sides—she mounts not more than 48 or 44 Guns on her two Decks call’d differently the Romulus, or Roebuck.

“15—Another large Whitby built ship, lying between the flag Ship and the largest man of war—& along side the latter.

“16 The suppos’d 64 gun Ship, [(]which lying out side of the transport, & the Flag ship on this side) I cannot see to describe precisely.

“17th Another large Whitby built Ship, without guns.

“18 A Virginia built pilot boat, this day from stono cannot discover any Guns but may have some Swivels.

“19 A very large Pink brig this day from Stono—but does not appear armed.

“20 A handsome yellow painted arm’d brigg arrived Sunday mounts 16 Guns.

“21st The Germain arm’d ship mounting 18 Guns which may be 4 pounders, She formerly had only 2 & 3 pounders.

“22 A very large pink Ship, without Guns.

“I have only noted the guns on their Batteries which am confident is correct—Quarter Deck, forecastle & swivel Guns are omitted Reckoned also 43 sail of Vessels this day at Mr Hutson’s—Two above Mr Paul Hamilton’s, & others in different parts of Stono river—mostly square rigged—& two Gallies, besides some schooners below Glen’s landing” (DLC:GW).

3The combined American and French naval force at Charleston numbered four Continental frigates, four South Carolina warships, and two French warships (see Lincoln to GW, 23–24 Jan., n.3).

Charleston schoolteacher Samuel Baldwin wrote in his journal for Monday, 20 March: “The English ships came over the bar without meeting with any accidents. This was early in the morning. With the evening tide a 64 gun ship came safely over, contrary to the expectations of every body, as there was a general and fixed persuasion, founded on the declaration of all the pilots and others who were acquainted with the channel, that the water was so shallow that such a large ship could not possibly get over. The naval force of the enemy was now become so superior that it was thought our shipping could not be able to withstand them. Late on Monday evening Gen’l Lincoln went down to Fort Moultrie in the ships and returned in the morning.” That same afternoon, 21 March, “the inhabitants and troops in town were surprised to see the ships quit their station near the fort and come up to the town” (Baldwin, “Events in Charleston,” description begins Samuel Baldwin, “Diary of Events in Charleston, S.C., from March 20th to April 20th, 1780.” Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society 2 (1846–47): 77–86. description ends 78). Baldwin then wrote in his journal entry for 22 and 23 March: “The ships were brought to the wharves and their guns taken out to be placed at the different forts round the town. The fortifications were carried on with vigour, and a new traverse work begun on the right of the lines above the town, to prevent the enemy’s ships from enfilading them, in case they should get into Cooper river. A battery also was begun on the right to prevent the ships from lying in Cooper river” (Baldwin, “Events in Charleston,” description begins Samuel Baldwin, “Diary of Events in Charleston, S.C., from March 20th to April 20th, 1780.” Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society 2 (1846–47): 77–86. description ends 79).

4Shute’s Folly was the name given to a tract of marshy island land in Charleston Harbor, now generally submerged, briefly owned in the mid-eighteenth century by men with the surname Shute. A student of the property deemed the derogatory name “a matter of fruitless speculation” (Henry A. M. Smith, “Hog Island and Shute’s Folly,” South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, 19 [1918]: 91–93).

5Brig. Gen. William Woodford commanded the Virginia line, sent as reinforcements from the northern department in early December 1779 (see GW to Samuel Huntington, 29 Nov. 1779, and the source note to that document).

6Woodford’s letter to Lincoln of 6 March 1780 has not been identified, but see Woodford to GW, 8 March, for likely similar content (see also Huntington to GW, 22 April, n.2).

7Brig. Gen. Charles Scott’s letter to Lincoln has not been identified. GW had ordered Scott to raise a brigade of new Continental levies in Virginia to bolster the southern army (see GW to Scott, 5 and 25 May 1779; GW to Richard Henry Lee, 30 April 1779, n.1; and GW to Lee, Henry Laurens, and Thomas Burke, 5 May 1779).

8At the instigation of Georgia governor George Walton and assembly speaker William Glascock, Congress had debated Brig. Gen. Lachlan McIntosh’s status on 15 Feb. and adopted a resolution that reads: “That a copy of the letters from the State of Georgia, as far as they relate to General McIntosh, be transmitted to that officer, and that he be informed Congress deem it inexpedient to employ him at present in the southern army, and therefore, that his services in that department be dispensed with, until the further order of Congress” (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 , 16:168–70; see also Huntington to McIntosh, 15 Feb., 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 , 14:420; 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 , 17:804, 18:812, 839, 861; Hawes, McIntosh Papers description begins Lilla M. Hawes, ed. The Papers of Lachlan McIntosh, 1774–1799. Savannah, 1957. In Collections of the Georgia Historical Society, vol. 12. description ends , 78–85, 115–17; and “Declaration of Officers of the Georgia Line Respecting General McIntosh” in Hawes, Lachlan McIntosh Papers description begins Lilla Mills Hawes, ed. Lachlan McIntosh Papers in the University of Georgia Libraries. Athens, Ga., 1968. (University of Georgia Libraries Miscellanea Publications, no. 7.) description ends , 38–40). For the proceedings against McIntosh, which were deeply rooted in Georgia political divisions, see Jackson, Lachlan McIntosh description begins Harvey H. Jackson. Lachlan McIntosh and the Politics of Revolutionary Georgia. Athens, Ga., 1979. description ends , 115–23, and Alexander A. Lawrence, “General Lachlan McIntosh and His Suspension from Continental Command During the Revolution,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 38 (1954): 101–41.

William Glascock (1730–1793), born in Richmond County, Va., moved to Georgia before the American Revolution, settled near Augusta, and actively promoted the Patriot cause in politics.

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