George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Samuel Huntington, 8 September 1780

From Samuel Huntington

Philadelphia September 8. 1780


I have the Honor to transmit your Excellency the enclosed Extracts of Letters from the Governors of North Carolina & Virginia, which contain the latest Intelligence we have received from the southern Department, and give a more favourable representation of the Action near Cambden on the 16. Ulto than we had apprehended from the Letter of General Gates of the 20. Ulto,1 a Copy of which I presume you have received.2 I have the Honor to be with the highest respect your Excellency’s most obedient Servant

Sam. Huntington

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 15.

1The enclosure from Virginia governor Thomas Jefferson to Huntington dated 3 Sept. resembles his letter to GW written on the same date. Jefferson also forwarded a letter from North Carolina governor Abner Nash to that state’s delegates (DLC:GW; see also 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 , 3:589–90).

The enclosed version of Nash’s letter dated 23 Aug. reads: “Since our late defeat near Camden, I delayed writing to you, till I could give you some certain account of that unhappy affair & of its effects. Gen. Gates, I presume, has acquainted Congress of the total loss of the artillery & baggage & of most of the musquets that were in the hands of the Militia. These, except one North Carolina Militia regiment Commanded on the occasion by Col. Dixon of the regulars, behaved in the most shameful manner. … By this shameful desertion of the Militia the enemy were able to turn the left of the standing troops & to bend their Whole force against them. The conflict was obstinate and bloody & lasted for fifteen Minutes, when superior bravery was obliged to yield to superior Numbers, and I have the pleasure to acquaint you that after they had retreated from the ground, they were fiercely charged by a party of british horse, whom they repulsed & completely vanquished. I am assured by a gentleman now here, wounded in the action, that he is confident that not more than two of that party got off. These brave Men suffered greatly. From what I can learn, they must have lost near half their number, and to the immortal honor of what remained they made their retreat good. … Our loss among the principal Officers is not great But the loss of 400 waggons, all the artillery, ammunition, tents and baggage of every kind & most of the muskets is very great indeed. And to add to our misfortunes, Col. Sumpter, who the day before the action, had captured a party of the british with forty waggons loaded with Military Stores, was the day after the action overtaken & surprized near the Hanging rock by a party of the british horse. They came on him so unprepared as to oblige him & his Men to fly to the woods, leaving their prisoners waggons & even arms behind them. This, Gentlemen, is a very heavy blow and leaves the enemy for the present in possession of a very large field. But, Gentlemen, notwithstanding all these misfortunes we are preparing again to face the enemy; and with proper assistance from Virginia, I despair not in the least of keeping them at least out of this state. Their numbers are contemptible. They had not in the action More than about 2000 Men & 500 of them at least must have been killed and wounded. The Officers of the Maryland & Delaware line have upwards of 300 Men left, besides those of the party with Col. Sumpter. Genl Stevens writes to genl Gates that he has collected between seven & eight hundred of the Virginia Militia & state troops and that about one half are armed. Major Mazaret is here with a small park of artillery. Genl Caswell made a stand at Charlotte near the boundary line & called in upwards of a thousand fresh Men all armed. These he added to col. Sumpter’s party of about 700 and gave him the command of the whole, whilst he came here to see me. And on my part I have ordered out three regiments from this district and mean to put them under the command of genl Sumner and the Officers of three regular regiments of this state. So that I hope in a few days we shall be able to assume a tolerable good countenance.

“Having stated to you our losses, the condition of our scattered Army & our present prospects, it remains that I acquaint you with our wants. They are numerous. We want all the aid Virginia can possibly furnish, of troops if possible regulars and of Money[.] Our expenditures have been immense & our funds are exhausted, we also want waggons, horses, flour, beef, camp kettles & pots, a few field pieces, lead, flints and tents or tent cloth, and we wish the Virginians would establish a very large & plentiful supply Magazine of provisions on their side of Roanoke: For that, I fear, Must be our next stand in case of another Misfortune, and let me tell you, should this happen, the enemy will find resources of Men and provisions sufficient in the two Carolinas to compose and subsist an Army which may prove formidable to the Commonwealth of Virginia. They have but too many friends here, I do assure you. And if we do not very speedily take the field again in force I tremble for the fate of this country. Congress promised us 3500 stand of arms, which I hope are on their Way hither, as they are extremely wanted. The members of the general Assembly are collecting here and will, I presume, make up a house in a few days” (DLC:GW).

2GW replied to Huntington on 15 Sept. (see also Huntington to GW, 31 Aug., n.1).

Index Entries