George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Samuel Huntington, 1 November 1780

From Samuel Huntington

Philadelphia November 1. 1780


Your Excellency will be informed by the enclosed Copy of an Act of Congress of the 30. Ulto, that they approve of the Appointment of Major General Greene to the Command of the Southern Army, and have adopted your Opinion in ordering Major General the Baron de Steuben to that Department.

Your Excellency will also note the Powers and Directions given to Major General Greene, and the several State’s Troops that are to compose the Army under his Command.1

You will see by the enclosed Paper, the Enemy have landed in Virginia—that Cornwallis retreated from Charlotte the 12. Ulto, and the Success of Col. Clarke against Augusta is confirmed. These Facts are not to be doubted, altho’ we have not the Particulars with Exactness.2

Your several Despatches of the 21. 22. & 29. Ulto have been received & laid before Congress.3 I have the Honor to be with the highest regard your Excellency’s most obedient & most humble servant

Sam. Huntington President

LS, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 15. GW replied to Huntington on 7 November.

1The enclosed resolution that Congress adopted on 30 Oct. approved GW’s selection of Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene as commander of the southern department and recommendation regarding Major General Steuben. It continued: “That the army for the said department do consist of all the regular regiments and corps raised or to be raised from the States of Delaware to Georgia inclusive until the further orders of Congress or the Commander in Chief.

“That all the powers heretofore given by Congress to Major Genl Gates since his appointment to that Command, be and hereby are continued & Vested in Major Genl Greene, who is also to consider as instructions all such resolutions as have been entered into by Congress since the time aforesaid directing in any general or particular business respecting the said department.

“That he have power also to organize & employ the army under his command in the manner he shall judge most proper, subject to the controul of the Commander in Chief.

“That it be earnestly recommended to the Legislatures and Executives of the said States respectively to Afford every necessary Assistance and support in men, cloathing, money, arms intrenching tools, provisions and other Aids and supplies to Major General Greene, who is hereby Authorized to call for the same.

“That the heads of the several staff departments for supplying the Main Army be and hereby are directed to furnish to the order of Major Genl Greene such articles as upon inquiry he shall find cannot be Obtained in the southern department.

“That in case of any Operations in the department Aforesaid on the part of the great Ally of these states, or of his Catholic Majesty their friend, he be and hereby is empowered to co-operate therewith in the most effectual Manner possible.

“And Whereas it has been represented to Congress that the commanding Officer in the southern [department] entertains doubts respecting his powers with regard to the Exchange of prisoners.

“Resolved, That he be and hereby is Authorized to negotiate from time to time a Cartel or Exchange of prisoners with the Commanding Officer of the British in that department provided such exchanges be not contrary to any General directions of Congress or the Commander in Chief” (DLC:GW; 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 , 18:994–96, and Huntington to Greene, 31 Oct., in Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 16:293–94).

In his letter to Richard Henry Lee written from Morristown, N.J., on 27 Oct., New Hampshire delegate Nathaniel Peabody extended congratulations “on the appointment of Major General Greene, to take the command of the southern Army. That gentlemans great abilities in the field, his extensive knowledge of the various departments in the Army, gives him the advantage of almost every other General Officer in America, in immediately reducing to order and System an Army and affairs, which at present are almost ‘without form and void’. …

“General Greene entertains a high opinion of your influence and abilities, and wishes for your assistance, in support of such measures as he may find necessary to adopt for recovering the southern states, or rather what is more probable, to prevent the Enemy, from making further progress” (Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 16:280–82, quotes on 281).

Maryland delegate John Hanson wrote his fellow delegate Charles Carroll of Carrollton from Philadelphia on 30 Oct.: “General Green is now here on his way to take the Command of the Southern Army. … Much is expected from his experience, prudence and abillities” (Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 16:284–86, quotes on 284).

2The enclosure has not been identified, but The Pennsylvania Journal; and the Weekly Advertiser (Philadelphia) for 1 Nov. contained this intelligence on military operations in the southern states.

For the retreat of Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis’s army from Charlotte, N.C., on 9 Oct., and the landing of a British expedition in Virginia, see Greene to GW, 31 Oct., and notes 3 and 4.

Georgia militia colonel Elijah Clarke had led an attack against Augusta on 14 September. Although Clarke was initially successful in taking peripheral forts, the arrival of British reinforcements prompted him to withdraw his command on 18 Sept. (see Heard Robertson, “The Second British Occupation of Augusta, 1780–1781,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 58 [1974]:422–46, especially 432–35).

Elijah Clarke (c.1742–1799) moved from South Carolina to Georgia and became an acclaimed partisan leader during the Revolutionary War. Securing ownership of a confiscated Loyalist estate, he subsequently used his fame and wealth to emerge as a central, and eventually controversial, figure in Georgia military and political affairs.

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