George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Nathanael Greene, 14 October 1780

To Major General Nathanael Greene

Head Qrs Passaic Falls Oct. 14th 1780

Dear Sir,

By a letter received yesterday afternoon from His Excellency, the President of Congress, of the 6th Instt, inclosing the copy of a resolution of the preceeding day, I find it has been their pleasure, to direct me to order a Court of enquiry to be held on the conduct of Major General Gates, as Commander of the Southern Army; And also to direct me to appoint an Officer to command it in his room, untill the enquiry is made.1

As Congress have been pleased to leave the Officer to Command on this occasion to my choice, it is my wish to appoint you—and, from the pressing situation of affairs in that quarter, of which you are not unapprised, that you should arrive there, as soon as circumstances will possibly admit.2

Besides my own inclination to this choice, I have the satisfaction to inform you that, from a Letter I have received, it concurs with the wishes of the Delegates of the three Southern States most immediately interested in the present operations of the Enemy.3 And I have no doubt it will be perfectly agreeable to the Sentiments of the whole. Your ulterior Instructions will be prepared when you arrive here.4

I expect that General Heath if not already at West point, is on his way from Rhode Island—I write to him to take the command of the Post. If he is with you, you will be pleased to communicate to him your instructions with respect to it, and any other matters you may judge it material for him to know. If he is not arrivd General McDougal will command till he comes—to whom I also write for the purpose—and to whom you will make the communications I have requested, which he will transfer to General Heath.5

I have only to add—that I wish your earliest arrival—that there may be no circumstances to retard your proceeding to the Southward—and that the command may be attended with the most interesting good consequences to the States—and the highest honor to yourself. I am Dear Sir With great regard & esteem Yr Most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

P.S. You will bear in mind the estimates. I wish to receive them as soon as possible as I expect the return of the Minister and would willingly have them for consideration sometime before.6 I pray you to direct particular care & attention to the Boats.7

If General Heath is not Arrived—You will forward the inclosed. I think it probable from the Letter I wrote him to join the Army—that he will come on the route through Litchfield. Lest the Letter that goes on this rout should not Meet him—I inclose another to Genl McDougal which can be kept by him till he arrives.8

Go: W——n

ALS, NjP: De Coppet Collection; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

2Greene had doubted his selection (see his letter to Jeremiah Wadsworth, 15 Oct., in Greene Papers description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends , 6:391–92). Sgt. Ebenezer Parkman, Jr., who served with the artificers, wrote in his diary entry for 24 Oct. that “Greene Set out His Journey to the Southward to take the Chief Command of the Forces there” (MWA: Parkman Family Papers). For Greene’s arrival in Virginia, see his letter to GW, 19 Nov. (DLC:GW).

3South Carolina delegate John Mathews had written GW from Philadelphia on 6 Oct.: “Congress having Ordered a Court of enquiry on the conduct of Majr Genl Gates as Commander of the Southern army, And directed your Excellency to appoint an Officer to that command—I am authorized by the Delegates of the three Southern States to communicate to your Excellency their wish that Majr Genl Greene may be the Officer appointed to the Command of the Southern department, if it would not be incompatible with the rules of the Army” (ALS, DLC:GW). Other major generals with support in Congress were Alexander McDougall, Arthur St. Clair, and William Smallwood.

5See GW to William Heath, this date, and the source note to that document.

6Returning from Newport, French minister La Luzerne met GW (see Greene to GW, 23 Sept., n.4, and GW to Arthur Lee, 20 Nov., CSmH; see also Greene to GW, this date, and n.1 to that document).

7Greene secured these boats (see his letter to Hugh Hughes, 16 Oct., in Greene Papers description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends , 6:399).

Index Entries