George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Abner Nash, 6 November 1780

To Abner Nash

Head Quarters, Passaic Falls Novr 6th 1780


I had the honor Yesterday to receive Your Excellency’s Letter of the 6th of Octobr, and am extremely obliged to You for the intelligence contained in it.1

It is of so great importance that the earliest and best intelligence of all the great Movements & designs of the Enemy, as well as of the situation of our own affairs, should be obtained, that I must entreat you will be so good as to favor me with such communications as may have any influence on our Military Arrangements & Operations.

While I sincerely lament the distressed & exhausted situation of the Southern States, I cannot but hope the Enemy have committed themselves so far as to be made to repent of their temerity; especially since I have received information of a more recent date than Your Letter, of the success of the Militia against Col. Ferguson: this I flatter Myself will give a better aspect to Your affairs, and will awaken more extensively that spirit of bravery & enterprize which display’d itself so conspicuously on the occasion.2

The Enemy seem again to have adopted the same system of policy they have before prosecuted with but too much success, of making Detachments to the Southward; at a time when our army is greatly reduced by the expiration of the service of the Levies who were raised for the Campaign only3—besides the Detachment under Genl Leslie, which has landed in Virginia—It is reported Another embarkation is taking place at N. York,4 But I have great confidence in the exertion of the Southern States, when their all is at Stake, and in the abilities of General Greene to call forth and apply the resources of the Country in the best & most effectual manner to its defence—The Major General the Baron Steuben, who accompanies him, possesses the most distinguished military talents, & has render’d signal service to this Army as Inspector Genl5—Major Lee has also marched to join the southern Army with his Legion6—The Arrival of a reinforcement in New York, nearly equal to the late detachment,7 And the incursion of a large force (of which I have just recd intelligence) from Canada on the Northern & Western Frontiers of the State of New York where great devastation has already been committed,8 will I fear render it impossible to make any further Detachments from this Army to the Southard.9 I have the honor to be With great esteem & respect Your Excellencys Most Obed. Servt.

Df, in David Humphreys’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1When Nash wrote GW on 6 Oct., he criticized Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates for the defeat at the Battle of Camden and outlined the precarious military situation in North and South Carolina.

2For the defeat of Col. Patrick Ferguson’s command at the Battle of Kings Mountain on 7 Oct., see General Orders, 27 Oct., and n.2.

3The six-month enlistments for these troops were to expire on 1 Jan. 1781.

4For the British expedition to Virginia under Maj. Gen. Alexander Leslie, see GW to Samuel Huntington, 17 Oct., n.2, and Nathanael Greene to GW, 31 Oct., n.4. The report of a second British embarkation forming at New York was largely erroneous (see John Jameson to GW, 31 Oct.; see also n.7 below).

5Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene went to the southern department as its new commander (see GW to Greene, 14 Oct., and Greene to GW, 16 Oct.). For Major General Steuben’s transfer to the southern department, see GW to Greene and to Steuben, both 22 Oct.; see also GW to Huntington, same date.

7The British reinforcement that recently arrived at New York were the same troops thought to be preparing for a new embarkation to the southern states (see n.4 above).

8For British operations along the New York frontier, see George Clinton to GW, 30 Oct. and 3 November.

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