George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Nathanael Greene, 27 February 1781

To Major General Nathanael Greene

Head Quarters New Windsor February 27. 81

My Dear Sir,

Since mine to you of the 2d instant I have duly received your several letters public and private of the 11th 13th 24th and 28th of January.1 The President of Congress, and Baron De Steuben have just transmitted me copies of your letters to them of subsequent date.2

I wish I had it in my power to congratulate you on the brilliant and important success of General Morgan, without the alloy, which the distresses of the department, you command and the posterior events intermixd. Amidst the complicated dangers with which you are surrounded—a confidence in your abilities is my only consolation. I am convinced you will do everything that is practicable. I lament that you will find it so difficult to avoid a general action, for our misfortunes can only be complete in the dispersion of your little army—which will be the most probable consequence of such an event.

I am happy to inform you that Congress have ordered the Pensylvania line to the Southward.3 Its temporary dissolution as well as its distance from you will prevent its affording you immediate succour; but you may depend I shall do everything to accelerate its movements.

You will have been informed that the British fleet on this coast have lately suffered in a storm. The amount of the damage sustained by it consists in the total loss of one ship of the line stranded on Long-Island, and another dismasted, which has been since remasted; but it is doubtful whether she is yet fit for service, as she is supposed to have suffered in her hull. There was a third ship which was said to have been seen dismasted, before she put to sea, and from the length of her absence was hoped to be lost. But she has since returned uninjured.4

On the idea of a superiority on the side of our allies, I marched a detachment from here under the Marquis Dela Fayette and made a proposal for a cooperation in Chesapeak bay, against Arnold, with the whole of the French fleet and a part of their land force.5 Before my proposition arrived, The Chevalier Des touches had sent a sixty four and two or three frigates to Chesapeak and had lost his superiority by the return of the missing ship.6 This has prevented the execution of my project; but the Marquis still continues his march to make the best of circumstances. The last intelligence from you is an additional motive to his going forward, as his movements into Virginia though but temporary, will have some influence in your favour. You will easily imagine the situation in which I am left after this detachment. We are told that the Eastern states are making great exertions to complete their batalions; but hitherto no recruits have arrived.

I have directed General St Clair to forward to the head of Elk with the Marquis all the troops of his line, that can be assembled.7 I am in hopes they will be able to descend Chesapeak bay, under protection of the French ships which will greatly advance their junction with you.

Congress will have transmitted you their resolutions for assisting your department.8 The Chevalier Des touches informs me that he has sent round in his ships a quantity of arms and cloathing, which had arrived at Providence for the state of Virginia.9

The Baron De Steuben informs me regularly of all his operations. The enemy’s incursion into Virginia has diverted the succours of that state; but I have not failed to inculcate upon it how essential it was to bend its attention towards your relief, at the expence of temporary inconveniences to itself.10

Several late arrivals from the West Indies give us room to hope that D’Estaing fell in with Admiral Hood in his way to the Islands and captured some vessels of the line and a number of transports with troops.11 We have many rumours of a second division, but nothing certain.12 God send a speedy confirmation of both! I am with the truest esteem and personal regard Dr Sir Your most Obedient servt

Go: Washington

P.S. I have proposed to Congress the recruiting mounting and equipping Moylans regiment to be sent to you.13 At present it would be of no use to you.

LS, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC: Hamilton-McLane Family Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1See GW to Greene, 2 February. Greene wrote two letters to GW on 13 Jan., and he misdated his first letter of 24 Jan. as 28 January. For one of Greene’s letters to GW on 13 Jan., see GW to Greene, 13 Dec. 1780, n.7.

2For Greene’s letter to Samuel Huntington of 31 Jan., and his undated letter to Major General Steuben, see Huntington to GW, 21 Feb., n.1, and Steuben to GW, 12 Feb., n.2.

5See GW to Lafayette, 20 Feb., both letters [1 and 2], and to Rochambeau, 15 February.

8See Huntington to Greene, 20 Feb., in 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 , 7:323–24.

11This intelligence proved erroneous (see Rochambeau to GW, 18 Feb., n.1).

12GW refers to the second division of the French expeditionary force.

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