George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 15 September 1780

From Major General Horatio Gates

Hillsborough [N.C.] 15th September 1780


Inclosed I have the Honor to send Your Excellency the particular Returns of the several Continental Corps serving in this Department—from thence, I have the Satisfaction to find, that the Loss in the Action near Camden, is by no Means so considerable; as I had so much Reason to apprehend.1 I dispatched a Letter the 9th Inst: to Governor Jefferson, containing Intelligence of a particular Sort, which I requested him to forward Directly to Congress—and therein desired that a Copy might instantly be sent to Your Excellency.2 As I only join’d Baron de Kalb, and the Maryland Division the 26th July at Buffalo Ford, upon Deep River; I could not give Your Excellency any Account of the Troops &c.—in this Department, previous thereto. The Letters I wrote Congress, and the Board of War the 22d July at Hillsborough, I requested might be copied, and sent to Your Excellency—this, Governor Rutledge tells me, was ordered by Congress to be done3—My former Secretary is in Philada and for want of Money could not join me; and I have only one here, so my Hands have been continually full.4

I am thus particular upon this Head, that Your Excellency may be convinced, that want of Time, and not want of due Respect, and Attention; has been the real Cause of my not writing oftener, and more particularly to Your Excellency—As the Copy of my Letter to Govr Jefferson of the 9th Instant, must have reached Your Excellency, I shall only observe thereupon; that I am fully of Opinion, it is a principal Object with Sir Harry Clinton, as well as Earl Cornwallis, to lay hold of Portsmouth in Virginia; and fix a Strong post there, should the late Arrival of the Second Division of the French Fleet, or other Circumstances, put it out of Your Excellency’s Power, to do any Thing effectual this Year; against New York. Sir Harry will most probably come in Force, and renew his Efforts to the Southward; and may detach a Reinforcement, previous to his embarquing, himself, but of this Your Excellency will have the First Intelligence; as Sir Harry cannot make a Considerable Embarkation, without your Knowing it—Satisfied that you will in that Circumstance, do every Thing, that can be expected to be done, I repose the Utmost Confidence in Your Excellency’s supporting the Troops in this Department—Could a proper Squadron of the Fleet of Our Allies be prevail’d upon, to Winter in some Port within the Capes of Virginia; it would effectually defeat every Scheme the Enemy’s Generals may form against any part of The State of Virginia. These being Suggestions that have arisen in my Mind from the Intelligence received; I submit them to Your Excellency’s superior Wisdom and Judgement, without further Comment thereupon. Nothing of Moment has occurred, since I wrote last to Your Excellency.5 The Supernumerary Maryland Officers, are gone to that State to receive, discipline, and equip; the Troops rais’d, and to be raised there, for the Continental Service. I have ordered Colonel Hall, who commands them; to correspond with Your Excellency.6 I am disappointed in sending Your Excellency the Return of the Maryland Division. Col. Williams has wrote to Colonel Scammell, and acquainted him with the Reasons, that, cannot be complied with, by this Express.7 with every Sentiment of Respect, & Regard; I am Sir Your Excellencys most Obedient Humble Servant,

Horatio Gates

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DLC: Jefferson Papers; copy, NN: Emmet Collection. Although GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman docketed the LS as answered on 11 Oct., GW replied to Gates on 8 October.

1See Samuel Huntington to GW, 31 Aug., n.1. Gates enclosed returns for the commands of Col. Anthony Walton White (dated 31 Aug.), Col. Charles Harrison (dated 4 Sept.), Colonel Armand (dated 6 Sept.), and Col. Abraham Buford (dated 9 Sept.; all DLC:GW).

2See Huntington to Nathanael Greene, 18 Sept., found at Greene to GW, 23 Sept., n.1.

3This correspondence has not been identified.

4William Clajon had written Gates from Philadelphia on 20 Aug.: “The exhausted State of the Treasury prevents my joining you as yet” (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 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 , 17:709).

6The next known letter from Col. David Hall to GW is dated 17 April 1782 (DLC:GW).

7The letter from Col. Otho Holland Williams to Adj. Gen. Alexander Scammell has not been identified, but see Williams, “Campaign of 1780,” description begins Otho Holland Williams. “Southern Army. A Narrative of the Campaign of 1780.” In William Johnson, Sketches of the Life and Correspondence of Nathanael Greene, Major General of the Armies of the United States, In the War of the Revolution. vol. 1. Charleston, S.C., 1822, pp. 485–510. description ends 1:385–87; see also Gates to GW, 30 Aug. 1780, n.2.

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