George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Benjamin Lincoln, 19 December 1778

From Major General Benjamin Lincoln

Charles Town [S.C.] Decr 19th 1778

Dear General

Immediately on my arrival here I called for a return of the troops and continental stores in this state, and the state of Georgia, but have not yet obtained them—otherwise I should have done myself the honor of inclosing them; but from all I can learn there are very few continental stores in either of the states.

The troops have been supplied by this state, and the heads of the several departments of medical Commissary, & Quater Mas., when supplies were necessary, have applied to the civil authority, (there being no military Chest here) who granted them or not as their own judgments dictated, which mode of doing buisness, often created great dissentions between the civil and military, and a militation of orders.

In this situation I found matters, and that the army, (to use Majr General Howes own words,) “had been in a State of abject dependence on the civil authority.” indeed the continental officer commanding in this department has not had it in his power from the want of supplies which he could contrive, to march the troops without the consent of the President of this state, however urgent the necessity.1 I hope things will be better settled, and that I never shall be driven to the hard necessity of altercating with the civil power than which, nothing would be more disagreabled.

The enemy from St Augustine lately marched into Georgia, they summoned a small Fort in Sunbury, but satisfied with the spirited answer given by the officer commanding it retreated over the Altamaha river, they plundered Negros, Cattle &c. to a considerable amount.2 I am not able to learn whether they have left the state or not. What was their original motive, whether a diversion of the troops here—whether to co-opperate with a force from New York—or to secure a quantity of Provisions is not yet determined—I think the latter is most probable, tho there are some reasons to suppose they expected to act in conjunction with a body from New York.

There are here very few troops & I think a very small proportion of those call’d for by Congress will arrive; by the next opportunity I hope to forward the returns of the troops & of the few continental stores in this department. I have the honor to be dear Genl with the greatest esteem & Affection yr Excellency’s most obedt humble Servt

B. Lincoln.

ALS, DLC:GW; LB, MHi: Lincoln Papers. GW answered on 15 March 1779.

1Congress had appointed Lincoln to take command of the southern department in place of Maj. Gen. Robert Howe on 25 Sept. 1778 (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 , 12:951). For more on the disputes between Howe and “the President of this state,” President Rawlins Lowndes, see 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 , 11:253–54.

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