George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin, Baron [von] Steuben, 18 February 1781

Chesterfield Court House 18th Feby 81


Our affairs to the Southward become every day more Critical, Since I had the Honor of Writing Your Excellency the Inst., I have Recd a Letter from Genl Greene advising me that a Variety of circumstances had combined to oblige him to retire towards the frontiers of Virginia; his letter is dated Guildford Court House, Midway between Salisbury, & Hillsboro, marked in the Map New Gordon Meeting house, Cornwallis was at the Moravian Towns. This morning the Governor informed me of a Report, that Cornwallis was the 14th Inst., on the Roanoke, that Genl Morgan was in his Front, and General Greene in his Rear. In Consequence of this all the Melitia of the Frontier who have Arms, are order’d to Join Genl Greene immediately.

I am afraid the number will be small, few except the Rifle men having Arms.

I had positively determined that the detachment of 400 Men should march from hence the 25th, but such is the difficulty of [clothing] them that I fear it will be the last of the month before I can get them off.

The Enemy still keep their position at Portsmouth. Genl Muhlenberg is with 150 Militia a towards Suffolk, and a two detachments of 200 Men each are at [Cabbin] Point, and Sandy Point to cover the Communication across the River, as Genl Nelson has 800 Men on the Other side.

A few days since 24 Sail of Vessels [   ] two frigates, said to be sent to View [   ] reinforcement, [   ] of their Vessels are in Elizabeth as nigh Portsmouth as possible.

The day before yesterday Genl Nelson advised me of the arrival of three [   ] at Buck[   ], near Hampton Road One 64 Gun Ship, & two Frigates, I immediately dispatched Captn [De Pontair] with a letter to the Commanding Officer, to acquaint him with our situation, and know his intentions.

I have also sent Col. [   ] Engineer, & Colo. Harrison of the Artillery, to put in order a Battery on York River; That in case a superior force of the Enemy should arrive, we may be able to afford the french Vessells some protection.

General Weedon I ordered to Fredricksberg to form two Regiments of Militia, ready to cover the Battery in case of need.

I am making what little preparation can be made here, for an Enterprize against Portsmo. provided the French Vessels should be able to secure our movments, but of this I can say nothing till I hear from Monsr [Tolly] who commands them.

My Situation is really very embarrassing. Genl Greenes whole dependance is on this State, Arnolds invasion had already retarded the Drafts for the new Army, and now, in the moment I was in expectation of its taking place; the approach of Cornwallis occasions the Militias, being called out, and this puts a total stop to the Drafts. I do not learn that Maryland is [   ] than this State.

If Cornwallis should continue to [   ] as rapidly as he has done; or if [   ] receive a reinforcement of 1500 Men [ illegible I fear] this State will not make much more Re[sistance] than North, [Carolina] has done: every [thing is] totally in Confusion, the State is des[titute] of Arms, and by bad Management, of [almost every thing] else necessary for their [defence].

The executive power is so confined, the governor has it not in his power to [   ] me 40 Negros to work at Hoods.

In part My Dear General I [fear that without] some speedy assistance, our affairs in this Quarter will go very badly.

I have submitted to the Governor whether it would not be [proper] to remove the [Prisoners] from Charlottes Ville. I am with the highest sentiments of Respect & Esteem Your Excellency’s Most Obedient Humble Servant


Maj. General

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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