George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Steuben, 12 February 1781

From Major General Steuben

Richmond 12th Feby 1781


I had the honor to address your Excellency the [  ] since then nothing material has occurred in this quarter the Enemy laying quiet in Portsmouth.1

The Letter of which the enclosed is Copy came yesterday by Express not being certain that General Green had wrote your Excellency by the same Conveyance I inclose copy of his Letter to me by an omission in dating the Letter I am uncertain where he was at the time of writing it but immagine him to have been somewhere in the neighbourhood of Charlotte.2

We have no certain accounts of the number of Troops arrived at Wilmington or who commands them it was said General Prevost but I believe it is only conjecture.3

I go this day to Chesterfield to expedite as much as possible the march of the remaining detachment of 400 Men for the southard having got thro most of the difficulties which opposed our equipping them for the Field they will be very well Armed & tolerably Cloathed—I shall at the same time meet the Officers who are in consequence of my Advertisement assembled their to agree on an Arrangement of the Virg. Line agreable to the late Resolution of Congress.4

I cannot help again mentioning to your Excellency the distress we are likely to suffer for want of Arms there is not the least prospect of obtaining a single one from this State indeed should any operation require their having only one Thousand more Militia in the field I doubt their being able to Arm them. how then we are to Arm the Recruits for the Army is hard to say.5 with great Respect & Esteem I have the honor to be Your Excellencys most Obed. Servt

steuben Maj: Gen.

LS, DLC:GW; Df, NHi: Steuben Papers.

2The copy of the undated letter from Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene to Steuben reads: “Since I wrote you by Major Giles, Lord Cornwallis, has been constantly in pursuit of Gen. Morgan, and has burnt his Waggons, & equipd his Army in such a manner as to move with the greatest facility, his force is abo. 2500 men.

“Gen. Morgan by forced marches kept out of the reach of his Lordship, & has got off his Prisoners in safety, but it was partly owing to a happy intervention of a Great Storm, which raised the Catabaw so high that the Enemy could not cross During which time the Prisoners were pushed on, over The Yadkin, and are on their march for Virginia. The moment I got Intelligence that the Enemy were penetrating the Country, I put the Army in motion upon the Pedee, and left it under the Command of Genl Huger, and crossd the Country with a small escort, in order to collect the Militia and make head against the Enemy untill we could make a junction of our Forces, We made the necessary dispositions to prevent the Enemy from crossing the Catabaw, but so few Militia come in and the fords were so numerous it was impossible to Effect it; they cross’d at McCow⟨ens⟩ ford where Gen. Davidson was posted, with the Greatest part of the Militia, The Opposition was inconsiderable, owing to the Generals being Killed, as it is said in the begining of the action, the Greatest part of the Militia were dispersed soon afer the Enemy cross’d, nor can I hear of their Collecting in any considerable numbers since I waited at one of the places of Rendezvous that night after the Enemy cross’d untill past 12 oClo⟨ck⟩ and not a Man came to our assistance.

“We are now Endeavouring to form a junction of our Continental Troops at this Place the Enemy were within about 25 miles of us last night, We have hitherto removed all the Stores out of the Enemy’s way, but if they pursue us, & we are not able to make an effectual Stand which there is little prospect of, unless the Militia come to our aid we shall loose our Stores, & what serves to render our Situation still more distressing is I have just received intelligence that the Fleet that left Virginia is arrived at Wilmington, & that the forces have landed there.

“These Southern States are in such a defenceless Condition that they must fall under the dominion of the Enemy unless reinforcements are sent on immediately from the Northward, You know I have always considered the incursions in Virginia as of no consequence if we could prevent their penetrating this way, Pray send on all the men you can equip & if Col. Carrington has not left Virga, desire him to join the army as soon as he can. Major Forsyth also if he has the appointment of Comy Gen.

“In moving the Stores from Salisbury I found 1700 Stand of arms (Continental) in one Store Kept for the use of the Militia, in the most miserable order You can imagine. Such distribution of Public Stores is enough to ruin a Nation, These are some of the happy effects of defending the Country with militia, from which Good Lord deliver us.

“Since my last Lt Col. Lee, has Surprized George Town, he writes me that many were Kill’d, but few taken, one field Officer was killed, and several taken prisoner: You shall have the Particulars when I have time to relate them.

“If the Enemy distress us in this State I ⟨am⟩ not without hopes of giving them trouble in the rear, & shall take measures for that Purpose ⟨with⟩ Genls Sumpter, Marian & Pickins, O! that we had in the field, as Harry the 5th said, some few of the many thousands that are Idle at home” (DLC:GW; see also GW to Samuel Huntington, 26 Feb., postscript). For Greene’s original letter to Steuben, likely written at camp on the Yadkin River near Island Ford, N.C., on 3 Feb., 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 , 7:242–45. Greene did not write GW on that date, but see Greene to GW, 9 February.

3British major James Henry Craig, not Maj. Gen. Augustine Prevost, commanded the troops (see Thomas Jefferson to GW, this date; see also Jefferson to GW, 8 Feb., and n.1 to that document).

4See General Orders, 1 Nov. and 31 Dec. 1780.

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