George Washington Papers

Estimate of the Enemy’s Force, January 1781

Estimate of the Enemy’s Force

c. January 1781. In the first section of the document, which he headed “Estimate of the Enemy’s force at New York Jany 1781,” GW recorded the name and strength of each British, German, and Loyalist unit known to be in the New York area: two battalions of British grenadiers; two battalions of British light infantry; four battalions of Hessian grenadiers; the British 22d, 37th, 42d, 43d, 54th, 57th, 76th, and 80th regiments; the Loyalist battalions of Col. Gabriel Ludlow, Lt. Col. Abraham Van Buskirk, and Lt. Col. Joseph Barton; two Anspach battalions; the Hessian regiments Landgraf, von Donop, Lieb, von Bünau, Erbprinz, and Prinz Carl; the Hessian Jäger Corps; and “Delancys free booters.”1 GW totaled the strength of these units as 9,200, and he stated the strength of the “Militia & Refugees” as 3,000.

In the next section, which he titled “British force in So. Carolina & Georgia,” GW listed the following British, German, and Loyalist units, also giving the estimated strength of each: 7th, 23d, 33d, 63d, 64th, and 71st British regiments; the Volunteers of Ireland; the first and second battalions of Brig. Gen. Oliver De Lancey’s brigade; the third battalion of the New Jersey Volunteers; the Prince of Wales American Regiment; the British Legion; four Hessian regiments;2 and “A Corps of L. I[fan]try.” GW then listed the supposed composition and strength of each unit in Maj. Gen. Alexander Leslie’s expeditionary force, the units of which he recorded as: two battalions of guards; the King’s American Regiment; two companies of the British 84th regiment; the British 82d regiment; the Hessian Regiment von Bose; and “Detachts from Provl Cos.” He estimated Leslie’s total strength as 1,930. GW next stated the following units as the composition of Brig. Gen. Benedict Arnold’s corps, also giving the estimated strength of each: the British 38th regiment; the Queen’s Rangers; the Loyal American Regiment; and “Drafts from difft Corps.” He estimated Arnold’s total strength as 1,500 and totaled the strength of the British, German, and Loyalist forces in the two states as 6,497.

In the final section of the document, GW presented in tabular format intelligence received about the British posts in South Carolina and Georgia.3 Where the intelligence included the information, he listed the commander, the type of fortification, and the number of regular and militia troops in the garrison, along with any units stationed nearby. The posts with more than 300 men GW listed as: Augusta, Ga.; Ninety-Six, S.C.; and Charleston. He recorded data for eleven other posts with smaller garrisons. GW listed Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton’s British Legion but gave no exact location. He noted that the intelligence placed Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis at Winnsboro, S.C., with 900 regulars and 100 militia, and Lt. Col. Francis Rawdon-Hastings at Camden, S.C., with 500 regulars and 200 militia. At the end of this section, GW totaled the number of regulars as 3,584 and militia as 1,340 and wrote that the British warship Galatea was “In the Harbour,” presumably of Charleston.


1GW listed but gave no strength for the British and Hessian artillery, the detachment of the 17th Dragoons, and the Hessian mounted chasseurs. Loyalist lieutenant colonel James De Lancey commanded the Westchester County, N.Y., Refugees and Militia.

2GW listed these as the regiments Wissenbach, von Türmbach, von Ditfurth, and von Huyn. The Hessian regiment von Huyn had become the regiment von Benning in 1780.

3GW wrote that the intelligence summarized in this section “is taken from a letter of Govr Rutledges of the 8th of December 1780.” GW likely refers to South Carolina governor John Rutledge’s letter of that date to the South Carolina delegates in Congress. New Jersey delegate John Witherspoon described part of the content of the letter when he wrote New Jersey governor William Livingston on 16 Dec.: “This Morning or last night an Express arrived with a long Letter from Gov. Rutledge of So. Carolina to the Delegates of that State giving an Account of the position of the Forces on both sides & some little skirmishes. The English have a Post at Camden well fortified & a pretty considerable Garrison in it, another Post at 96, another at Augusta” (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 , 16:451–54, quote on 453). For the dating of this letter as 8 Dec., see Rutledge to GW, 28 Dec., n.8. At the time he wrote this document, GW does not appear to have received Rutledge’s “Report on the Military Situation in Georgia and South Carolina,” which Rutledge enclosed in his letter to GW of 28 Dec. 1780. The intelligence on British posts and fortifications that Rutledge presents in that document varies substantially from the information recorded by GW.

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