George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Samuel Huntington, 20 February 1781

From Samuel Huntington

In Congress [Philadelphia] Feby 20th 1781.


You will perceive by the Enclosed Copies that a reinforcement to the british troops in the southern department has arrived in North Carolina.1 Congress wish you to be well informed of some Circumstances which render the situation of that department peculiarly in want of succour which can only be given by the troops of our Ally.

The people of North Carolina in that part last invaded are destitute of Arms & Military equipments, and so great is the distance of that Country from the only Magazines from which they could be supplied and so great and almost insurmountable are the difficulties of transportation that there wants cannot be relieved in time to preserve them from the ravages of the Enemy. The people in the western parts of that country are fully occupied in the arduous Opposition to the forces under lord Cornwallis. The States of Virginia & North Carolina have it not in their power to Cloathe & Equip troops for the field, and the disappointments in receiving supplies from Europe render it impossible for Congress to give them such aid as will be effectual.

Congress wish you Sir, to take into Consideration all those Circumstances and Many others which are peculiar to that department, and produce such weakness as the public resources are not able to remedy in time for their effectual protection & which are well known to you—And they desire you to urge all those considerations to the Commanders of the fleet & army of our Ally, and if it should not very Materially interfere with the general dispositions designed for those forces to take the spe[e]diest measures for their reinforceing the Army in the southern department, or if this be not Eligible to make such dispositions as may Create a diversion.

Congress hope that the damage sustained by the british fleet in the late storm has Occasioned a Change of Circumstances so favorable to the forces of our Ally as to render them superior to the Enemy, and in Condition to perform this Essential service to the United States without danger of being exposed to a superior force.2 This measure is no less important than that of opposing the Enemy with a well appointed & well equipped force in place of a force composed of troops perhaps destitute of every thing requisite for keeping the field.3

By order of Congress Sam. Huntington President

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 15; copy, CSmH.

1The enclosed copy of North Carolina governer Abner Nash’s letter to Huntington, dated 2 Feb. at Halifax, N.C., reads: “I am just now informed of the arrival of a British fleet in cape Fear river—their numbers are not yet assertained. the account says that eight large Ships had got over the Bar and a considerable number were in the offing—this invasion I fear will distress us very much as we are unprepared to receive them—the militia in the lower parts of the county are badly off for armes—the frequent drafts of late not only of men but of armes waggons and camp equipage of every kind, has occasioned this scarcity—I therefore beg leave to urge in the strongest terms the necessity of a supply of armese and ammunition as speedily as may be possible and I conceive it also absolutely that a company of Artificers should be ordered on—we have near 5000 stand of Armes at present useless for want of some trifling repairs and have not workmen to execute so necessary a business—The enemy seem determined on the reduction of this State being in force in almost every quarter and with the very few regulars we have and a militia badly equipt and greatly hurrassed with continual duty I fear we shall be drawn into very great distresses—At the same time I have the pleasure to inform Congress that the continual successes of the militia over the enemy in every part of this State has had the most happy effect on the dispositions of the People at large and I believe if properly supported they will answer every reasonable expectation.

“I presume it is unnecessary to mention the important victory obtained lately by genl Morgan over the enemy as I understand an express has some days ago gone on to Congress from the Genl” (DLC:GW). For Brig. Gen. Daniel Morgan’s victory at the Battle of Cowpens, see Nathanael Greene to GW, 24 Jan. (first letter), n.3.

Huntington also enclosed copies of Virginia governor Thomas Jefferson’s letters to him of 8 and 12 Feb. (DLC:GW). The letters are nearly identical to those of the same date that Jefferson sent to GW (see the source notes to those documents [8 and 12 Feb.]).

2For this storm, see Rochambeau to GW, 29 January.

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