George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Nathanael Greene, 3 November 1780

From Major General Nathanael Greene

Philadelphia Novemr 3d 1780.


Lt Colonel John Laurence is very anxious to join the southern Army, as soon as he gets exchanged. His knowledge of the southern States and of the customs and manners of the people will render his services very necessary in that quarter.1

Congress have passed a resolution authorizing me to make exchanges.2 I could wish to know your Excellency’s intentions in this business, as it is my wish to regulate my conduct agreeable to your views.

The Arms we are likely to get from the board of War and this State fall far short of my expectations. The whole will not exceed fifteen hundred.3

I must beg your Excellency therefore to forward us three or four thousand from the Eastern States as it is impossible to get them here. We are not less deficient in Cartouch boxes than Arms.

I am apprehensive the difficulty of forming a large body of Cavalry in Virginia will be much greater than I imagined I wish therefore if it was possible the Duke Lazunes legion might be detached to serve with the Southern Army provided it can be done consistent with the views of Count Rochambeau. The British might recieve a deadly blow in Virginia if Count Rochambeau and Admiral Ternay would suddenly embark their troops and land in Virginia. The Enemies fleet there is much inferior to that of the French, and the land force of the former greatly inferior to the latter when joined by the troops levying in Virginia and the Militia of the Country. But this will be thought too hazardous perhaps.4 I am with esteem & respect Your Excellencys Most Obedient Humble Servant

Nath. Greene

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DLC: Nathanael Greene Papers. The letter-book copy commenced with an additional sentence: “I am this moment setting out for the Southern Army.”

1Lt. Col. John Laurens had been captured at the surrender of Charleston, and his exchange had attracted congressional attention (see GW to Abraham Skinner, 17 Sept., n.6, and Laurens to GW, 25 May and 6 Nov.; see also GW to Samuel Huntington, 7 Nov.).

2Greene received authority over prisoner exchanges in the congressional resolution adopted on 30 Oct. that approved him as commander of the southern department (see Huntington to GW, 1 Nov., and n.1 to that document).

3Greene had written Joseph Reed, president of the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council, from Philadelphia on 1 Nov. with an urgent appeal to supply “the Southern Army four or five thousand stand of arms,” promising to replace them “out of the continental magazines. If you cannot furnish this number let us have all you can spare” (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 , 6:455, 457). State officials eventually provided 600 stand of arms.

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