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My letter to Congress, a copy of which I inclose to your Excellency, will inform yon of an unsuccessful action with Lord Cornwallis on the 15th. Our prospects were flattering ; and had the North Carolina militia seconded the endeavours of their officers, victory was certain. But they left the most advantageous position I ever saw, without scarcely firing a gun. None fired more than twice, and very few more than once, and near one half not at all. The Virginia militia behaved with great gallantry, and the success of the day seemed to be doubtful for a long time. The action was long and severe.
In my former letters I inclosed to your Excellency the probable strength of the British army, since which they have been constantly declining. Our force, as you will see by the returns, was respectable ; and the probability of not being able to keep it long in the field, and the difficulty of subsisting men in this exhausted country, together with the great advantages which would result from the action, if we were victorious, and the little injury, if we were otherwise, determined me to bring on an action as soon as possible. When both parties are agreed in a matter, all obstacles are soon removed. I thought the determination warranted by the soundest principles of good policy, and I hope events will prove it so, though we were unfortunate. I regret nothing so much as the loss of my artillery, though it was of little use to us, nor can it be, in this great wilderness. However, as the enemy have it, we must also.
Lord Cornwallis will not give up this country without being soundly beaten. I wish our force was more competent to the business. But I am in hopes, by little and little, to reduce him in time. His troops are good, well found, and fight with great obstinacy.
I am very happy to hear the Marquis de Lafayette is coming to Virginia, though I am afraid, from a hint in one of Baron Steuben's letters, he will think himself injured in being superseded in the command. Could the Marquis join us at this moment, we should have a glorious campaign. It would put Lord Cornwallis and his whole army into our hands. I am also happy to hear, that the Pennsylvania line are coming to the southward. The mutiny in that line was a very extraordinary one. It is reported here to have proceeded from the great cruelty of the officers. A member of Congress writes this j but I believe it to be so far from the truth, that I am persuaded it originated rather through indulgence than from any other cause.
Virginia has given me every support I could wish, or expect, since Lord Cornwallis has been in North Carolina; and nothing has contributed more to this than the prejudice of the people in favor of your Excellency, which has been extended to me from the friendship you have been pleased to honor me with. The service here is extremely severe, and the officers and soldiers bear it with a degree of patience that does them the highest honor. I have never taken off my clothes since I left the Pedee. I was taken with a fainting last night, owing, I imagine, to excessive fatigue and constant watching. I am better to-day, but far from being well.
I have little prospect of acquiring much reputation while I labor under so many disadvantages. I hope my friends will make just allowances ; and as for vulgar opinion, I regard it not. Neither time nor health will permit me to write your Excellency upon many matters which are upon my mind. I beg my best respects to Mrs. Washington.
With esteem and regard I am, &c.,
- Correspondence of the American Revolution; Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, Volume III., Jared Sparks, 1853