George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Benjamin Lincoln, 27 February 1781

To Major General Benjamin Lincoln

Head Quarters New Windsor 27th February 1781.

Dear sir

I have received your favor of the 15th.1 I am glad to hear of Colonel Laurens’s departure—He wrote to me a few days before he sailed and mentioned in the warmest manner your exertions to get the Ship mann’d2—The few Continental soldiers you spared on the occasion were well bestowed considering the importance of Colonel Laurens’s mission.

By a Resolve of Congress of the 4th of January, the Board of War seem to have the payment of the Invalids—The Resolve is as follows—“That the Board of War draw no more Warrants on the pay Master except for the Invalid Regiment and the regiment of Artificers in the department of the Commissary General Military Stores, untill the further order of Congress”3—From this I should imagine the Commanding Officer at Boston should regularly transmit his Muster Rolls and Abstracts to the Board and obtain a Warrant.

The late Lt Colonel Lorings case is referred to me by Congress, and I shall take it into consideration.4

Our last advices from Genl Greene are of the 31st January—Lord Cornwallis, with 2500 men intirely divested of Baggage, had made a push against Genl Morgan, and was near recovering the prisoners taken upon the 17th January,5 but Genl Morgan got them off and they had crossed the Yadkin on their way to Virginia. Lord Cornwallis was still advancing—and General Greene studiously avoiding an engagement, except he could draw together a greater force of Militia, than he had much prospect of. I am very anxious for the issue of this Manouvre, which may be productive of the most important consequences.

Lt Colonel Lee with his Legion, had surprized George Town. I have not many particulars—He took Lt Colo. Campbell and several other Officers prisoners—and killed a Major Irvine—a good many privates were killed, few taken. Our loss one killed and two wounded.6

I have tried the efficacy of Proclamations of Pardon to deserters so often, and have found so little good result from them, that I am inclined to think desertion is rather encouraged than remedied by a frequent repetition of them. The soldier goes off or remains at home after a furlough, and looks for a proclamation as a thing of course. I am with the highest Regard Dear Sir Your Most Obedient servant.

Go: Washington

LS, in William Colfax’s writing, MH; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

3See JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 19:21.

4See Samuel Huntington to GW, 15 Dec. 1780. GW subsequently denied a new court-martial (see his letter to Jotham Loring, 6 April 1781, DLC:GW).

5GW refers to the Battle of Cowpens (see Nathanael Greene’s first letter to GW, 24 Jan., n.3).

6Both Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene’s letter to Huntington of 31 Jan. and Lt. Col. Henry Lee’s letter to Greene of 25 Jan. reporting the attack on the British garrison at Georgetown, S.C., were enclosed in Huntington’s letter to GW of 21 February.

George Campbell (1732–1799) joined the British army as an ensign in May 1760 and became a lieutenant in the 42d Regiment of Foot (Royal Highland Regiment) in July 1762. He went on half pay in July 1763. He transferred to the 30th Regiment of Foot in May 1767. Campbell retired from the Royal Army in May 1769 to serve as an ensign in the Madras Infantry of the East India Company. Returning to British service of the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, he received a commission as lieutenant colonel of the King’s American Regiment in June 1777. Paroled after his capture at Georgetown, Campbell was not exchanged until early 1782. Despite a court-martial and six-month suspension from rank and pay in May 1783, he eventually rose to the rank of major general in 1795.

Alexander Irving (d. 1781), a Loyalist, had been commissioned a major of the Cheraws District Regiment of the South Carolina Royal Militia in September 1780.

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