George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Duane, 2 January 1781

From James Duane

Philad. 2d January 1781.

My dear General

I receivd with infinite pleasure your very friendly favour by Lt Col. Smith.1 I shall have occasion to give you some Information on passages of it which you ought to know but I have already trespassed on my Health to assist our new Minister.2 I have just got rid of a Violent Inflamation in my Throat and find myself at an extinguishd fire an hour after midnight. The provision you wished is made for Col. Smith and I am happy on his Account.3 I wish I knew what to do for Col. Willet. An officer of his Gallantry and Zeal for the Service ought not to be mortified with a Retirement.

Young Pierce wants the office of paymaster General. I know his merit but will the Appointment be agreeable to your Excellency. to speak plainly is he supposd to possess a dignity of Character suiteable to the Office?4 Sir Henry Clintons movements & Retardments Embarkations and Debarkations keep our Southern friends here in a constant fever—If General Greene had with him a small regular force & coud operate before a Junction between the Reinforcement & Cornwallis advanced body, this insolent little Tyrant woud repent his Rashness. Tho’ he is rejoicing at his safe Arrival at Charles Town & will never venture so far from home again, his whole force which I verily [believe] does not at his three posts exceed 2000 men including the shattered [corps]5 of Tarleton must have been broken to pieces. Leslie I fear will come up in Time to reanimate them.6 Adieu my dear Children7 And believe me with the Warmest affection Esteem & Attachment Your most obedient & most faithful Friend & Servant

Jas Duane

ALS, PHi: Gratz Collection. GW acknowledged this letter when he wrote Duane on 19 February.

1Duane refers to GW’s letter of 26 Dec. 1780.

2Duane refers to GW’s aide-de-camp John Laurens, whom Congress had just appointed special minister to the French court (see Laurens to GW, 7 Jan. 1781, n.2). For Duane’s detailed and lengthy memorandum on the financial affairs of the United States drawn up for Laurens’s use, see 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 , 16:530–34.

3In his 26 Dec. letter to Duane, GW had asked if Lt. Col. William Stephens Smith, whose regiment had been discontinued in the new arrangement of the army, could be continued as an inspector, the duty he had been performing since the previous August. On 1 Jan., Congress resolved: “That Lieutenant Colonel William Smith be continued as sub-inspector with his present rank in the army of the United States, to be employed as the Commander in Chief shall direct” (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 , 19:3; see also Israel Angell to GW, 1 Jan., n.1).

4On 17 Jan., Congress named John Pierce, Jr., who had been deputy paymaster, to the office of paymaster general. He wrote a letter to accept on 19 Jan. (see 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 , 19:48, 65, 72).

5Duane wrote “Corpse.”

6British general Henry Clinton at New York City had dispatched Maj. Gen. Alexander Leslie with a corps of 2,500 men to reinforce Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis’s army in the southern states. After first landing at Portsmouth, Va., about 21 Oct. 1780 and operating in that area for several weeks, Leslie re-embarked his troops and arrived at Charleston, S.C., on 14 Dec. (see Nathanael Greene to GW, 31 Oct., n.4; John Rutledge’s “Report on the Military Situation in Georgia and South Carolina,” printed as an enclosure with Rutledge to GW, 28 Dec., n.8; and Nisbet Balfour to Cornwallis, 13 and 15 Dec., in Saberton, Cornwallis Papers description begins Ian Saberton, ed. The Cornwallis Papers: The Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in The Southern Theatre of the American Revolutionary War. 6 vols. Uckfield, England, 2010. description ends , 3:112–14). He joined Cornwallis at Winnsboro, S.C., with 1,500 troops on 18 Jan., bringing Cornwallis’s total strength to about 4,000 (see Cornwallis to George Germain, 17 March, in Davies, Documents of the American Revolution description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends , 20:85–90).

7Duane appears to have inadvertently written this word instead of “general.”

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