George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Nathanael Greene, 28 December 1780

From Major General Nathanael Greene

Camp at the Cheraws on the east side of Pedee [River]1
Decembr 28th 1780.


In my last dispatches of the 7th Instant I informed your Excellency of my arrival at Camp, and of the condition and situation of the Army.2 I was apprehensive on my first arrival, that the Country around Charlotte was too much exhausted to afford subsistance for the Army at that place for any considerable time. Upon a little further enquiry I was fully convinced; and immediately dispatched Col. Kosciuszko to look out a position on the Pedee, that would afford a healthy camp and provisions in plenty. His report was favourable, and I immediately put the Army under marching orders; but the excessive rains which continued eleven days prevented our marching ’till the 20th Inst. We arrived here the 26th, having performed the march with incredible difficulty through a barren country with waggons and horses altogether unfit for service. The probability that my taking this p⟨o⟩sition would discourage the enemy fr⟨om⟩ attempting to possess themselves of Cros⟨s⟩ creek which would have given them th⟨e⟩ command of the greatest part of the provisions in the lower country, wa⟨s⟩ another inducement to come to this pla⟨ce⟩ It is also a camp of repose, and no Ar⟨my⟩ ever wanted one more, the troops having totally lost their discipline.

Before I left Charlotte I detach⟨ed⟩ 300 of our best troops and Lt Colonel Washington’s Regiment of Light Dragoo⟨ns⟩ under the command of Genl Morgan with orders to take a position on th⟨e⟩ south side of the Catawba, near the fork of Broad river, where he was to be joined by 300 Volunteers under Genl Davidson and 4 or 500 S. Carolina and Georgia Militia under the command ⟨of⟩ Colonel Clark and Colonel Few⟨.⟩ With this party he is either to a⟨ct⟩ upon the offensive or defensive as accasion may warrant. This will streighten the enemy in their limit and prevent their drawing supplies from the upper Country. It will also give spirits to the Inhabitants of that quarter and enable them to form a number of small magazines in the rear of the troops, (which Genl Morgan has particularly in charge) that we may have something to subsist on should we be able to advance hereafter in force.3

Lord Cornwallis continues in the same position that he was when I wrote before; and Genl Leslie arrived off Charlestown bar the 14th. But whither he has landed any of his troops I am not informed.4 The troops mentioned to have arrived in my former letter were only some recruits that came in with provision Vessels, not exceeding 4 or 500, Men.

General Gates left the Army the 10th and Genl Smallwood the 19th Inst. The latter is gone to Maryland with a view of forwarding the troops & supplies from that State, and to settle the matter with Congress respecting his right of promotion; being determined not to submit to the command of the Baron de Steuben who is still in Virginia very usefully employed in forming and forwarding the Troops from that State.5

I have been obliged to se⟨nd⟩ Major Neilson’s corps of horse and Col. Armon⟨ds⟩ Legion to Virginia, both being unfit for ⟨duty⟩ for want of clothing and other equipmen⟨t⟩ and the difficulty of subsisting of them much greater here than there. Before my arrival Genl Gates made an attemp⟨t⟩ to employ part of Col. Armond’s Legion a⟨nd⟩ fifteen of them deserted on the march from Hillsborough to Charlotte, whic⟨h⟩ obliged him to recall them. I wish you⟨r⟩ Excellency’s directions respecting this Corps as they are totally deranged, and cannot be fit for service for some time.6

Two slight skirmisshes have been fought with the enemy since my last one by a party under Col. Marian up the Santee, and the other by Coll Few near Ninety six, about 20 or thirty were killed and wounded on each sid⟨e⟩.7

I will not pain your Excellency with further accounts of the wants and sufferings of this Army. But I am ⟨not⟩ without great apprehension of ⟨its⟩ entire dessolution unless the Commissa⟨r⟩y⟨s⟩ and Quarter Master’s departments can be rendered more competent to the demands of the service—Nor is the Clothing and hospital departments upon a better footing. Not a shilling in the pay Chest nor a prospect of any for months to come. This is really making bricks without straw. I am with sentiments of the highest respect and esteem Your Excellency’s Most Obedient Humble Servant.

Nath. Greene

P.S. This moment accounts have been recieved that Genl Leslie landed his troops at Charles town on the 21st Inst. and on the 24th was at Monk’s corner on his way to Nelson’s ferry.8

The Cherokee indians have murdered a number of the Inhabitants on the Frontiers of N. Carolina—It is said the Militia have marched against their lower Towns.9


LS, DLC:GW; ADfS (facsimile), Budka, Letters of Kosciuszko description begins Metchie J. E. Budka, ed. Autograph Letters of Thaddeus Kosciuszko in the American Revolution as well as those by and about him connected with that event found in the Collections of The Polish Museum of America and Published with the aid of The Legion of Young Polish Women as part of the Bicentennial Publications. Chicago, 1977. description ends , 54–57; LB, DLC: Nathanael Greene Papers. Mutilated portions of the LS are supplied in angle brackets from the draft. GW replied to Greene on 2 Feb. 1781 (DLC:GW).

1The so-called Cheraws district referred to the region where the Pee Dee (now Great Pee Dee) River crosses the border between North Carolina and South Carolina. Greene’s camp was in South Carolina just north of Cheraw village. Greene used varied nomenclature for his camp at this site (see 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 , 7:4).

3See Greene to Daniel Morgan and to William Washington, both 16 Dec., 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 , 6:589–90.

Benjamin Few, another Georgian, served as a militia colonel from 1776 to 1781.

4For British major general Alexander Leslie’s expedition, see Greene to GW, 31 Oct., n.4; see also the postscript to this document.

5See Steuben to GW, 24 Nov. and 17 December. For controversy surrounding the promotion of Maj. Gen. Smallwood to that rank, see GW to John Sullivan, 25 Nov., and Sullivan to GW, 9 December.

6Greene struck out material at this point on his draft: “But I think the Cavalry should be formed of natives only for many reasons, however the expence of raising and equiping a body of troops is sufficient to make it necessary to take every precaution to prevent their being put into the hands of people who will desert over to the enemy the first opportunity that is given them.”

7For Few’s engagement, see Greene to Few, 16 Dec., n.1, 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 , 6:586–87. Col. Francis Marion had written Greene from Black River in South Carolina on 22 Dec. that he skirmished “with 200” British infantry in “the High Hills” along the Santee River and “Killed and wounded Six” (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 , 6:605–6).

Francis Marion (c.1732–1795), a South Carolina planter, campaigned against the Cherokee Indians during the colonial period. He joined the 2d South Carolina Regiment as captain in June 1775 and rose to major that November. Promoted to lieutenant colonel commandant in September 1776, he led the regiment in the failed allied assault on Savannah in October 1779. Subsequently named brigadier general of South Carolina state troops, Marion led partisan militia during 1780 and 1781 in South Carolina, earning the moniker “Swamp Fox” and British condemnation. Congress commended Marion on 29 Oct. 1781 “for his wise, gallant and decided conduct, in defending the liberties of his country; and particularly for his prudent and intrepid attack” at Parker’s Ferry, S.C., and for his “distinguished part” in the Battle of Eutaw Springs (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 , 21:1085). Besides his military exploits, Marion served multiple terms as a state senator in South Carolina.

8Nelsons Ferry in South Carolina crossed the Santee River about fifty miles northwest of Charleston and roughly twenty-five miles in the same direction from Monck’s Corner; see also n.4 above, and John Rutledge’s “Report on the Military Situation in Georgia and South Carolina,” printed as an enclosure with Rutledge to GW, 28 December.

9Arthur Campbell wrote Virginia governor Thomas Jefferson from Washington County, Va., on 15 Jan. 1781 to report how Washington County militia and militia from “the two Western No. Carolina Counties, have been fortunate enough to frustrate the designs of the Cherokees. On my reaching the frontier, I found the Indians meant to annoy us by small parties. … To resist them effectually, the apparently best measure was to transfer the War without delay to their own border” (Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 4:359–63, quote on 359).

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