George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Benjamin Lincoln, 11 August 1780

From Major General Benjamin Lincoln

Hingham, Mass, 11 August 1780. “Could a consciousness of having the fullest intentions to serve my country and a sincere attempt to have executed such intentions have so availed me as to have discharged the debt of responsibility to the public for my conduct while their servant, and especially to you my dear General, as my commanding officer, I should have saved you the trouble of this long epistle—but as it cannot—do with the greatest chearfulness give your Excellency the following short state of matters relative to Charlestown which will in some measure point you to the causes of the loss of that place and to the line of conduct pursued by me, as senior officer, before and at the time of its surrender.” Lincoln argues that Congress made it clear that it desired him to defend Charleston. The considerable reinforcements expected, the valuable military stores accumulated in the city, and the expectation that the Continental navy could defend the port and that the lines of communication and supply could be held open made defense the only honorable option. Only when the defense of the city was no longer tenable did he surrender the garrison. Lincoln closes the letter: “Think it not My Dear General the language of adulation when I assure you, that your approbation of my military conduct will afford me the highest satisfaction, and prove my justification in the eyes of the world.”

ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, with some pages in another hand, NN: Emmet Collection; copy, MHi: Lincoln Papers; copy, NN: Emmet Collection. The ALS contains eighty-two pages of text; sixteen of the pages are in a hand other than Lincoln’s. The ALS is marked “Private.” The draft and the copies are dated 17 July. For an overview of the siege of Charleston, S.C., see Duportail to GW, 17 May, and the notes to that document.

Index Entries