George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 15 January 1781

From Major General Horatio Gates

Berkley County Virginia 15th January 1781


The 2d of last month General Greene presented me your Excellency’s Letter of the 22d of October1—and upon the 10th following, Capt. Hughes of the First Regt of Dragoons,2 delivered me that of the 8th of October from Pasaick falls—he said it was given him by one of the staff Department, who had pick’d it up upon the road—it had evident marks of having been opened by the way.3 By General Green’s Letter of the 6th December Your Excellency will perceive—the Enquiry into my conduct could not be held—neither could any time be fied for holding it—Congress will likewise receive from me, and General Greene, Copies of the inclosed Letters,4 with Sentiments of great respect—I am Sir Your most obedient humble Servant

Horatio Gates

ALS, misfiled under 15 Jan. 1780, DLC:GW; ADfS, NHi: Gates Papers; LB, NN: Emmet Collection; LB, DLC: Thomas Jefferson Papers. GW acknowledged this letter when he wrote Gates on 12 May (NHi: Gates Papers).

1For this letter, see GW to Nathanael Greene, 22 Oct. 1780, n.6; see also Greene to GW, 7 December.

2John Hughes, who had been promoted from quartermaster sergeant to quartermaster in the 1st Continental Light Dragoon Regiment in January 1778, became a lieutenant in November 1779. He was not formally promoted to captain until March 1781.

4Gates enclosed copies of three letters: Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene’s letter to him of 4 Dec. 1780; Gates’s reply to Greene of the same date; and Greene’s letter to Gates of 6 Dec. 1780 (all DLC:GW).

In his letter to Gates of 4 Dec., Greene inquired whether Gates desired to go forward with the court of inquiry ordered by Congress regarding his conduct while in command of the southern department (see also 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 , 6:518–19).

In his reply to Greene, Gates wrote in part: “Conscious throughout the whole of my Command, of my having done all that was in my power for the public good, I am anxious that the Inquiry into my conduct should immediately take place” (see also 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 , 6:523).

Greene’s letter to Gates of 6 Dec., written at “Camp at Charlotte [N.C.]” reads: “Agreeable to my Instructions, I have taken the Opinion of the Generals and other principal Officers of this Army upon the practicability of holding a Court of Enquiry into your Conduct during your Command in this Department. They are unanimously in the Opinion, that it is not practicable agreeably to the Tenor of my Instructions, and that it would not be prudent to call the Baron Stuben from Virginia without further Information from that Quarter, and, that the Circumstances of this Army would not admit of the Enquiry’s being made, even if the Baron was here.

“Your earnest desire of having the Court held, would have induced me to call the Baron to this Army, had the Officers been of opinion, that our circumstances would admit of the Enquiry being made; unless the Operations of the Enemy in Virginia had rendered his continuance there very essential, in which case I am persuaded you would neither wish, nor expect it. I flatter myself you are convinced that I am equally anxious with Yourself for having the Court convened, and no less desireous of giving you an early Opportunity of justifying yourself to the World, than you are of submitting your—Conduct to an impartial Enquiry. As soon as the State of this Army will admit of my convening a Court agreeable to the Tenor of my Instructions, I will give you immediate Notice thereof” (see also Greene to GW, 7 Dec., n.2).

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