Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Nathanael Greene, 23 March 1781

From Nathanael Greene

Camp, at Buffaloe Creek; March 23d, 1781.


As the Militia of Virginia came out only for six Weeks their times will very shortly expire. I must request of your Excellency to order out 1500 more for three Months, to be sent from those Counties which are best able to arm and equip themselves. Their services will be immediately wanted.

Every Hour serves to confirm the severety of the Action on the 15th, and proves the calculations made of the Enemys loss to be rather under than over. Their precipitate retreat from Gilford, and the leaving behind our Wounded at the Court House, and seventy of their own at New Garden settlement, are circumstances that bear strong marks of distress.

Our Troops are in high spirits, and the Army in the most perfect readiness for another action. The Enemy are retireing and we advancing. Their rout is conjectured by some to be towards Cross Creek, and by others towards Pedee. I have the honor to be Your Excellencys most obedient and most humble Servt.,

Nath Greene

P.S. If measures are not taken to furnish us with Provisions immediately we shall be obliged to fall back.

RC (Vi); probably in the hand of William Pierce, signed by Greene; addressed and endorsed. FC (MiU-C). Tr (CSmH); this and preceding FC have the postscript included as the final paragraph of the letter, indicating that they were made after RC (Vi). Tr (DLC: TJ Papers). Tr (DLC: PCC, No. 71, ii); enclosed in TJ’s letter to Huntington, 28 Mch. Tr (DLC: Washington Papers); enclosed in TJ to Washington, 28 Mch. The three preceding copies lack the sentence contained in the postscript of RC (Vi).

On 22 Mch. Greene wrote a long letter to Steuben about the state of affairs in the army in which he made the following remarks: “Our force is now small, exclusive of the militia acting with us, whose times of service are out in less than three weeks. If therefore the recruits are not likely to join soon, another draft of the militia will be necessary; I have written Governor Jefferson on the subject, and you will from the prospect before you advise the Assembly in the matter. Not less than fifteen hundred men should be called for, and the militia of the back counties would be most agreeable. … I hope you will be successfull in your operations against Arnold, and reap all the Glory due to your Toils. On this and every occasion, I shall always be exceeding happy to hear of your success, and to contribute all in my power to promote it” (NHi). A month earlier, at an equally critical juncture, Greene had taken the unusual step of calling upon Patrick Henry to assist in raising 1,500 troops: “Your influence in Virginia,” he wrote, “properly exercised at this important period may terminate the war greatly to the honor and advantage of the Southern states. If it is possible for you to call forth fifteen hundred volunteers and march them immediately to my assistance, the British army will be exposed to a very critical and dangerous situation. … I must repeat it, the present moment is big with the most important consequences and requires the greatest and most spirited exertions. You I know are equal to them and I trust no step will be neglected that may be necessary to call forth the power of your part of the country” (Greene to Patrick Henry, 10 Feb. 1781, CSmH; see Greene to TJ, 10 Feb. 1781).

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