Want to save this letter now that you've found it?
It's easy - just create your own collection of letters after signing up for a free account.
I am much obliged by your Excellency's long and communicative letters of the 9th of July and 6th of August. Since my letter of the 26th of August, the evacuation of Charleston is reduced to a certainty. The following disposition, it is said, is to be made of the troops in garrison.
Lord Rawdon's corps, which is put upon the British establishment as the one hundred and fifth regiment, is going directly to Ireland. Governor Martin's corps is drafted into the North Carolina volunteers, which, with the South Carolina royalists, and the King's Carolina rangers, and the refugees, are going to St. Augustine, to relieve the British troops at that place. The Georgia loyalists are incorporated with the King's Carolina rangers. It is said these troops are to sail on Sunday. After these troops are gone, there will remain in Charleston; the residue of the guards the seventeenth, twenty-third, thirty-third, and seventy-first regiments; five companies of the eighty-second; the flank companies of The eiglitj-fourth ; a detachment of British artillery, the third, sixty-third, and sixty-fourth regiments ; the Hessian corps of A Dittforth, and Bening; a detachment of Hessian artillery and Yagers ; with the American corps, the New York volunteers, the King's American regiment, the Prince of Wales's regiment, the first and second battalions of Delancey's, and the second battalion of New Jersey volunteers. These are to join the troops at New York; but whether at that place, or on their passage to some other port, is uncertain, as it seems to be a matter fully established here that New York is to be evacuated.
What is the object of the British Ministry, or the British Commander, in drawing off the troops from this country, is difficult to tell. I confess it looks like an approaching peace ; and yet I cannot but have my doubts. Reports say that Sir Guy Carleton is to go to Canada, and that Lord Cornwallis is to command in the West Indies. This disposition is equivocal, as it points both to war or peace, only upon a different plan. Could Great Britain humble the pride of France by some lucky stroke, I should not be surprised to find them forming new attacks upon us. But if they cannot reduce the navy of France, they may embrace a peace, as least ruinous to their affairs, however mortifying to their pride.
I wrote your Excellency on the 12th of August a pretty full state of all matters in this quarter, and wish your final determination with respect to the disposition of the troops to the southward. I find, by a resolution of Congress, no State is to be credited for troops not enlisted agreeably to the resolutions of Congress on that subject. Whether those men, drafted in North Carolina for eighteen months, will be brought into service under these circumstances, I cannot determine. They ought to have been in camp long since, if they had marched agreeably to my orders ; but I have not heard of one man being on the march. On the contrary, reports say the State will not permit them to come. Should these troops not come forward, and the others march northwardly, it will leave the Southern States exceedingly defenceless, and much exposed even to the inroads of the troops in East Florida and the attacks from the Indians.
On our possessing Charleston, the fortifications will come under consideration. My object would be to render it sufficiently strong to protect its trade against sudden descents of three or four thousand ; but, when a force invades it that is superior to the natural strength of the country, it must fall ; and to incur a large expense in the fortification, and sacrifice the garrison only to protract its fall for a few days, will be neither wise nor prudent. I should recommend, therefore, whenever there appears a force sufficient to possess the town by regular approaches, to abandon it, and to have the principal magazine of the country at Camden.
To leave the town without any fortifications, will render trade so unsafe as to be highly injurious to the public finances ; besides, the perpetual alarms to which the inhabitants will be constantly exposed, will render their situation exceedingly disagreeable. All the Southern States are in a deplorable situation, and will require a great deal of nursing and care to establish good government and give a proper spur to agriculture and commerce. At present there are no Courts of Justice in any of the States, and it is dangerous travelling in almost every part of the country. from the great number of robbers and private plunderers that infest the roads. From these circumstances your Excellency can judge how feeble must be the efforts of a people in this situation, reduced to poverty by continual depredations.
I have received orders from the Secretary of War to collect the minds of the officers for the reform of the army, agreeably to the resolution of Congress of the 7th of August. I have taken the sentiments of the officers here, and forwarded them to the respective States, to have the business completed. That part of the plan which proposes filling the Staff from the retiring officers, I fear will not be found eligible. The consideration proposed is by no means a sufficient encouragement to induce suitable characters to engage ; and if the appointments are confined to the retiring officers alone, it may be difficult to find suitable characters. Good Staff-Officers facilitate the operations and business of an army greatly, and the want of such embarrasses it exceedingly. I am not certain that I comprehend the intentions of Congress fully, and therefore can say little on the subject.
This army has been exceedingly sickly in the months of August and September, and remains so still, as your Excellency will see by the returns. The enemy have been equally so. After I wrote to you of the enemy's operations to the southward, General Gist took one of their galleys. Major Frazer attempted a surprise upon General Marion, but was repulsed, with the loss of one officer killed, two wounded, and ten or twelve dragoons killed and wounded. These are all the military occurrences which have happened since that period. I have the honor to be, with great respect, your Excellency's Most obedient and most humble servant,
- Nathanael Greene
- 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