James Madison Papers

John Mathews, for Committee of Congress, to Nathanael Greene, 12 December 1780

John Mathews, for Committee of Congress,
to Nathanael Greene

RC (William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan).

Philadelphia Decr. 12th: 1780


The inclosed extracts appear as sufficiently interesting, to induce us to forward them to you. The reiterated information we have lately received from different quarters leave little room to doubt, that the Southern States, will be the grand theatre of war this ensuing winter and spring.1

The Waggons with stores for the army under your command, with two Companie[s] of Artificers, are now on their way to join you.

Nothing has been as yet done to supply your troops with cloathing. Capt. Jones had sailed with the cloathing, but being dismast[ed] a few days after he got to sea, was obliged [to p]ut back to be refitted. By a letter recei[ved] yesterday from Mr. Williams at Nantz; he informs us, that the Vessels will be ready to sail again in a few days. They will have on board, [already?] made and materials sufficient for making, 20,000 suits of cloaths, with some hats, stockings, shirts, Overalls, Shoes & Stocks and barrels & locks, for 20,000 muskets, & 100 Tons of Saltpetre.2

The article of intelligence contained in the inclosed extracts, respecting Portugal seems to be pretty well [sustained?] by subsequent advices.3

We have received no late intelligence of the enemies movements at New York. They appear to be quiet at present.

We are sir with much Respect & Esteem Yr. most Obet. Servts. By Order of the Committee4

Jno. Mathews Chairma[n]

1The principal inclosure was the copy of an extract from a letter of 17 October 1780 by an unknown correspondent—probably an Englishman—to Arthur Lee. The other was a copy of Lee’s note of 7 December, transmitting the extract to the president of Congress (William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan). Besides mentioning Henry Laurens’ imprisonment in the Tower and the accession of the Netherlands and Portugal to the League of Armed Neutrality (JM to Jones, 5 December 1780 and n. 5), the letter to Lee stated that Henry Clinton had asked to be relieved of his command if he could not be reinforced with ten thousand men, that a vessel bearing an assurance to Clinton of the government’s approval of his conduct and of its determination to send him assistance as soon as possible had left England on 10 October, that steps were already being taken to raise “nine new Regiments of foot and one of Horse,” that the belligerent powers in Europe were “busily preparing for another campaign,” that “Ten Ships of the Line are now about sailing from Brest with about 5000 troops, some say to reinforce Monsieur Ternay, and others, that they are for the West Indies,” and that the British would concentrate on North Carolina and Virginia in the coming campaign. The comments about Clinton are apparently based on his letter of 25 August 1780 to Lord George Germain and upon Germain’s reply of 13 October (William B. Willcox, ed., The American Rebellion, pp. 454–55, 467–68). If Lee’s correspondent had the letter of 13 October in mind, obviously he was incorrect about the date on which it left by ship for America. The writer of the letter to Lee may also have raised false hopes by his mistaken information regarding the French reinforcements assembling at Brest.

4JM was a member of the committee “to correspond with the commanding officer of the southern department” (Mathews to Greene, 27 November 1780, editorial note).

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