George Washington Papers

Enclosure: John Rutledge’s “Report on the Military Situation in Georgia and South Carolina”, 1780

John Rutledge’s “Report on the Military Situation in Georgia and South Carolina”

[c.28 Dec. 1780]

There is still in So. Carolina, a large Number of Cattle & Hogs—& a considerable Quantity of Corn & Rice—but, the latter is, at present, wholly in the Enemy’s power, &, it will be impracticable to lay up any great Magazines, of the other Articles, untill We possess more of the Country than We now do—Measures are, however, taking, for procuring all the Corn—Hogs & Cattle on Pedee, & its Vicinity, (which will afford no small Supply)—& for salting the Meat—Transportation from Cheraws, by Water, to George-Town, is easy, unless prevented by the Enemy—I have written pressingly to the Governor of No. Carolina, to have a large Quantity of Meat Salted in that State, which may be done, as there is a great deal of Salt there, from whome, indeed, We must be supplied with that Article.1

The Enemy’s Posts, & Strength, in Geo. & So. Carolina, are At[:]

Augusta—in Georgia—on Savannah River 150 Miles from Savannah—150 Reg[ula]rs under Col. Brown—& some Militia—2 Forts.2

Ninety Six—50 Miles from Augusta—200 Regrs—Col. Cruger—some Mi[li]t[ia]—2 Forts & 2 redoubts.

Little River—15 Miles from Ninety Six—60 regrs & 150 Militia—Cuningham.3

Bozlers ferry on Br[oa]d River—45 Miles from Lil. river—500 Regrs—Tarlton & McArthur.4

Winnisborough—22 Miles from B: ferry—8 or 900 regrs—Cornwallis—& some Militia of pearis’s.5

Camden—40 Miles from Winisboro—500 Regrs—Ld Rawdon—5 redoubts.

These posts are all in the same Direction, extending from East to West, thro’ the Country.

George-Town—80 Regrs 70 Militia—Redoubt.

Nielson’s Ferry, on Santee River—60 Miles fom C[harles] Town—300 regrs Major McLaureth.6

Of the Numbers in C. Town & Savannah We have no exact Accounts, but, it is beleived, that they are very small[.] They keep about 60 Men at Fort Moultrie—They are repairing our old Lines, at the Back of the Town, &, it is said, intend to raise some Redoubts, in front of those Lines, & one near ab[ou]t where the Bridge crossed the Canal.7

General Leslie arrived in C. Town, the 14 Instant, with the Troops which were in Virginia, supposed about 2000—They were on the 24th Instant, at Monks Corner, on their Way to Nielsons-ferry, except about 500, who were said to be gone to George-Town8—The Enemy have Posts of Militia, at the Congarees, Landing-ferry,9 the high Hills of Santee,10 & several other Parts of the Country, but those are of little Consequence—I do not apprehend they could possibly bring into the Field more than 1000 or 1200 of the Country People, unless some unfavourable Turn, in our Affairs, shd take place—a successful Blow wd deprive ’em even of these.

Troops may be debarked at Bulls, Stono, or Edistoe, Inlet—or Port Royal—The latter seems most eligible, as the Troops, in landing, wd probably receive the least Annoyance, from the Enemy11—I cannot, at present, give the Names of persons who might be depended on, for their Opinion, & Advice, Circumstances may have occasioned a Change in the Sentiments of several, whom I thought well affected, but, doubtless, if a French Fleet shd appear on our Coast, they will find many Friends on any part of it—A Capt. Joiner, who commands the so. Carolina, a Vessell of War in the service of this State, is daily expected at some Port to the Eastward, or Northward—He wd be of infinite service, in an Exped[itio]n to the Southward—being a staunch Friend—a Man of Influence—is well acquainted with Port Royal Bar—has lived many Years at Beaufort, & could pilot Vessells over that Bar, better than any Man I know12—Commodore Gillon, who is on Board of the So. Carolina, wd also be of great service, in such an Expedition—I beleive there are two or 3 Coasting Pilots, at Philada, whom I recommended that Congress shd retain, for this service—Mr Bee, one of our delegates, or Mr Mathews, can inform your Excellency, if those Pilots are there—& when Gillon & Joiner arrive—They (Gillon & Joiner) could advise the best place for debarking Troops, & give any Satsifaction which might be required on that Point.13

If such an Expedition should be resolved on, it wd be well to apprize Us, of it, in Time, by a Courier over Land, that every necessary preparation, in our power, might be made, to co-operate in, or facilitate it.


1Rutledge’s letter to North Carolina governor Abner Nash has not been identified.

2Thomas Browne (c.1753–1825), a Loyalist, settled in Georgia after being raised in England. He became lieutenant-colonel commandant of the East Florida Rangers in June 1776 and took over the King’s Rangers with the same rank in May 1778. Browne led his regiment in numerous engagements in Georgia before his capture while defending Augusta, Ga., on 5 June 1781. Following his exchange, he participated in the defense of Savannah in January 1782. Browne emigrated to the Bahamas after the war and eventually received a land grant on the West Indian island of St. Vincent, where he died.

3Rutledge likely refers to the British outpost at Hammond’s Store, S.C., located about twenty-three miles north of Ninety-Six between the Little River and the Bush River, both tributaries of the Saluda River.

Patrick Cunningham (d. 1794) joined a South Carolina Loyalist militia regiment as captain in November 1775. He became major-commandant of a Loyalist militia regiment of six-month men in June 1780 and rose to lieutenant colonel before the unit dissolved.

4Rutledge probably means Brierley’s Ferry, S.C., which crossed the Broad River about fifteen miles west of Winnsboro, South Carolina.

Archibald McArthur had been promoted to captain of the 54th Regiment of Foot in September 1771 and became major in the 71st Regiment of Foot in November 1777. Captured at the Battle of Cowpens on 17 Jan. 1781, but soon exchanged, McArthur was named lieutenant colonel of the 3d Battalion of the 60th (Royal American) Regiment of Foot that April.

5Robert Pearis (d. 1781), a Loyalist, received a commission in February 1779 as captain in the South Carolina Royalists regiment. Pearis was captured at Augusta on 5 June 1781 and died that August.

6The British maintained an outpost named Fort Watson near Nelsons Ferry, South Carolina.

Evan McLaurin (d. 1782), a South Carolina Loyalist, served in several militia regiments and became major in the South Carolina Royalists regiment in May 1780.

7Rutledge refers to defensive works north of Charleston used during the British siege. The lines included a canal in front of the fortifications that connected marshy areas on the banks of the Ashley and Cooper rivers (see Duportail to GW, 17 May, and notes 1 and 6 to that document).

8Troops under British major general Alexander Leslie disembarked at Charleston on 15 Dec., marched from that place on 20 Dec., and camped at Monck’s Corner, S.C., on 22 December. The command resumed its march on 25 Dec. “at day break” and apparently arrived that evening at Nelsons Ferry (Newsome, “A British Orderly Book,” description begins A. R. Newsome, ed. “A British Orderly Book, 1780–1781 [presumably Alexander Leslie’s].” North Carolina Historical Review 9 (1932): 57–78, 163–86, 273–98, 366–92. description ends 178–82, quote on 182; see also Greene to GW, 31 Oct., n.4). One regiment went “on a Separate Service” to Georgetown, S.C. (Newsome, “A British Orderly Book,” description begins A. R. Newsome, ed. “A British Orderly Book, 1780–1781 [presumably Alexander Leslie’s].” North Carolina Historical Review 9 (1932): 57–78, 163–86, 273–98, 366–92. description ends 178).

9Rutledge evidently refers to Fort Granby near Friday’s Ferry, which crossed the Congaree River about thirty miles southwest of Camden, South Carolina.

10The area known as the High Hills of Santee was on elevated ground south of Camden and east of the Wateree River north of its junction with the Santee River.

11Bull’s Creek Inlet is on Winyah Bay at the outlet of the Pee Dee River near Georgetown.

Stono Inlet, near Charleston, is the outlet of the Stono River, which divides James Island from Johns Island.

Edisto Inlet, about twenty-five miles southwest of Charleston at the mouth of the Edisto River, gives access to Edisto, Wadmalaw, and Seabrook (Simmons) islands.

12John Joyner received a captain’s commission in the South Carolina navy in July 1775. He took sole command of the South Carolina navy frigate South Carolina in May 1782 after sharing that responsibility with Commodore Alexander Gillon.

13Alexander Gillon (1741–1794), a native of Holland who became a partner in a South Carolina mercantile firm, imported munitions for Congress in the years 1775 and 1776. He sailed on privateers before becoming commodore in the South Carolina navy in February 1778. Gillon went to Europe later that year to obtain financial and military aid for the state. He leased the frigate L’Indien in 1780 and changed its name to South Carolina. Gillon remained prominent in South Carolina after the war, serving in the state assembly and twice being elected to Congress.

The 40-gun frigate South Carolina sailed from Amsterdam, where she had been built, in August 1781. Gillon and Joyner eventually brought the ship to the waters off Charleston in late December of that year. Finding that place still under British occupation, they departed for Havana and participated in a Spanish attack on Nassau in May 1782 before arriving at Philadelphia later that month. The South Carolina was captured following an engagement with British frigates after leaving in December 1782 to escort a small convoy.

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