George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 3 September 1780

From Major General Horatio Gates

Hillsborough [N.C.] 3d September 1780


I had the Day before Yesterday the Honor to receive your Excellency’s Letter, dated the 8th August from Orange Town. It gave me infinite Satisfaction to find, you had baffled Sir Harry Clinton’s Designs, and was to all Appearance in so prosperous a Situation.1 Heaven grant you the greatest Honor and Success. As to the Situation of Affairs here, since my last Letter to Your Excellency of the 30th Ulto—I can only say no considerable Alteration has taken place—The Enemy remaining still; and the Disaffected doing Nothing of Consequence to disturb us—1400 of the Second Draught of the Militia of this State are marched, to cover Salisbury, and the Country from thence to Charlotte, where Colonel Sumpter has a Command; which occasionally acts upon the West Side of the Wateree, and has hitherto given such a Jealousy to the British in Camden; as to keep them at Home. Three Hundred Virginia Rifle Men under Colonel Campbell2—and Militia from the back Counties, are marching to the East Bank of the Yadkin, at the Ford,3 and Genl Stevens with what have not run Home, of the other Virginia Militia; is at Guildford Court House.4 The Maryland Division, and the Artillery are here, to be refitted, the former will be put into One Strong Regiment, with a good Light Infantry Company under Coll Williams. The Rest of the Officers will be sent, immediately to Maryland for the purpose directed, by Your Excellency, in Your Letter to the Baron de Kalb of the 27th June, which came to my Hands, only Yesterday, from Richmond in Virginia.5 General Muhlenberg acquaints me, that near five Hundred Regulars are upon their march from Petersburgh to this place;6 these with the Marylanders abovementioned, will make us Stronger in Continental Troops, than I was before the Action. The Cavalry under the Colonels White and Washington, and Major Nelson; are not quite equipped so as to be able to march to Rock Fish in the Neigbourhood of Cross Creek, as I directed—but I hope they will soon be in a Condition to obey my Orders.7

Col. Dubyson Aid de Camp to the Baron de Kalb, a most amiable Young Officer, will soon waite upon Your Excellency—he was wounded and taken—but Lord Cornwallis has permitted him to go to Philadelphia on parole—All the Baron’s Baggage and papers are saved, they are delivered to Colonel Dubyson, who will be responsible for them.8

Too much honor cannot be paid by Congress to the Memory of the Baron de Kalb, he was every Thing an excellent Officer should be, and in the Cause of the United States has sacrificed his Life—If I, can yet render Good Service to the United States; it will be necessary it should be seen, that I have the Support of Congress, and Your Excellency, otherwise some Men may think they please my Superiors, by blaming me—and thus recommend themselves to Favor—but you Sir will be too generous, to lend an Ear to such Men; if such there be, and will shew your greatness of Soul, rather by protecting, than slighting the Unfortunate—if on the contrary I am not supported, and Countenance is given to every One, who will speak disrespectfully of me; it will be better for Congress to remove me at once from a Command, where I shall be unable to render them any Good Service—This Sir, I submit to Your Candor and Honor, and shall chearfully, awaite the Decision of my Superiors9—With the warmest Wishes for Your prosperity, and the sincerest Sentiments of Esteem and Regard I am Sir Your Excellency’s most obedient Humble Servant

Horatio Gates

P.S. inclosed are two Letters of Lord Rawdon, found at the House of Rugely, 13 Miles from Camden, to whom they are directed—which will shew Your Excellency what dark Schemes our Enemies fall upon, in order to effect their nefarious Purposes.10

LS, DLC:GW; ADfS, NHi: Gates Papers; LB, DLC:Jefferson Papers; copy, DNA:PCC, item 154; copy, DNA:PCC, item 171; copy, NN: Emmet Collection; copy, R-Ar. Although GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman wrote “Ansd 11th October” on the docket of the LS, GW replied to Gates on 8 October.

1GW thwarted a British movement against the French in Rhode Island (see GW’s second letter to Rochambeau, 27 July, n.3).

2William Campbell (1745–1781) became a captain in the 1st Virginia Regiment in February 1776, soon married into Patrick Henry’s family, and later that year went absent without leave before resigning his commission. Becoming a state legislator and militia colonel, he fought Indians and Loyalists on Virginia’s southwestern frontier in July 1780. Congress commended him on 13 Nov. for his role in the Battle of Kings Mountain (see 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 , 18:1048–49). Named a militia brigadier general in June 1781, Campbell died from illness that August.

3Brig. Gen. William Smallwood wrote Gates from Guilford Court House, N.C., on 31 Aug. with advice that Campbell’s troops be moved to Trading Ford, where the Yadkin River could be crossed about seven miles northeast of Salisbury, N.C. (see Gregory and Dunnings, “Gates Papers” description begins James Gregory and Thomas Dunnings, eds. “Horatio Gates Papers, 1726–1828.” Sanford, N.C., 1979. Microfilm. description ends ).

4See Gates to Thomas Jefferson, 30 Aug., in Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 3:573–74.

5See GW to Johann Kalb, 27 June, found at GW to Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer and Josiah Beall, same date, n.2.

6See Peter Muhlenberg to Gates, 29 Aug. (Gregory and Dunnings, “Gates Papers” description begins James Gregory and Thomas Dunnings, eds. “Horatio Gates Papers, 1726–1828.” Sanford, N.C., 1979. Microfilm. description ends ); see also Jefferson to GW, this date.

7See Gates to Anthony Walton White, 24 Aug., and White to Gates, 31 Aug. (both Gregory and Dunnings, “Gates Papers” description begins James Gregory and Thomas Dunnings, eds. “Horatio Gates Papers, 1726–1828.” Sanford, N.C., 1979. Microfilm. description ends ).

10Gates enclosed British lieutenant colonel Francis Rawdon-Hastings’s letter to Loyalist colonel Henry Rugeley, written at Camden, S.C., on 1 July, ordering Rugeley to announce that South Carolinians abetting British deserters would be punished “either by whipping, Imprisonment, or by being sent to serve his Majesty in the West Indies,” while “Country people” who apprehended or killed British deserters earned monetary rewards (DLC:GW).

Gates also enclosed Rawdon-Hastings’s letter to Rugeley dated 7 July with instructions to promise “Five Hundred Guineas” to any of South Carolina militia colonel Thomas Sumter’s officers who would betray their commander to the British (DLC:GW; “Secret” is written at the top of the letter).

Henry Rugeley (Rugely; d. 1796) owned Clermont, an estate north of Camden also called Rugeley’s Mills. He became a Loyalist militia colonel after the British took Charleston in May 1780 and surrendered at Clermont with over 100 troops that December. Rugeley died in England.

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