The Papers of General Nathanael Greene


To Colonel Henry Lee, Jr.

Dear Sir

I have your favor of the 16th and 20th.
The Camp Kettles and Salt you wrote for in your first are orderd down, and I hope will arrive safe.
The difficulties you say are greater than you expected in carrying into execution your plan of attack.[1] Get good information before you attempt any thing. Your Corps is too valuable to throw away without some important object in view. Nor would I wish you to expose them upon any other occasion. I am fully perswaded of your zeal; and I have full confidence in your discretion.
It will not be prudent or practicable, for this Army to take the position you propose.[2] There is no Mills in that quarter; besides which the Enimy would cross the Pedee and fall down upon our flank and confine us in the neck of land between the Waccamaw and the Pedee. Another objection is, we are forming a Magazine upon this river above us about forty Miles, which the Enemy would destroy, if we were to move down the river such a distance from it.[3]
There is not the least danger of the Enemies attempting any thing against you for eight or ten days after you have made your attack; unless it is from Charlestown; and there their force is so small, it will be out of their power. While we are in this situation and Morgan where he is, Lord Cornwallis will not leave his posts at Camden, and the Congarees exposd, to give protection to this quarter; especially as his principal Magazines are in that quarter; and a division of his force will expose both parts. If you think a detachment will be necessary to cover your retreat in case of a repulse, I will send one. But as General [Francis] Marions force is so much superior to the Garrison at George Town I cannot think they will venture to pursue you even if you should be defeated; which I hope will not be the case if you make the attempt.
Dont forget Watsons Corps upon the Santee.[4] Perhaps all things considerd that may be the most inviting object.
General Arnold commands the troops in Virginia, and has been up at Westham seven miles above Richmond; and burnt the public works at that place, plunderd the town of Richmond, and destroyed all the stores collected at that place.[5] All this has been done without a single shot having been fired at them; and not more than an hundred men has been embodied upon the occasion. The Baron is very angry; but says but little.[6] The enemy had embarked and lay a little below Petersberg. All the Stores have been removd from that place, and the militia were beginning to collect. With esteem & regard I am Sir

your Most Obedt humble Sert

N Greene

[P.S.]
If any of the letters I send you are broken open again, confine the Express and send him prisoner to Camp.[7]
Autograph letter signed (David Coblentz, Raphine, Va., 1973).
    [1.] See Lee's letter of 20 January (PGNG, 7: 164). As seen later in this letter, Lee was planning an attack on the British garrison at Georgetown.
    [2.] In his letter of 20 January (PGNG, 7: 164), Lee had suggested that the army move farther south on the Pee Dee River.
    [3.] The magazine was at Colston's Mill, where the Rocky River emptied into the Pee Dee.
    [4.] NG had urged an attack on Col. John Watson-Tadwell's force at Wright's Bluff in his letter to Francis Marion of 16 January (PGNG, 7: 132). Marion argued against it in his reply of 20 January (PGNG, 7: 164-165).
    [5.] On Benedict Arnold's invasion of Virginia, see Steuben to NG, 8 January (PGNG, 7: 76-81).
    [6.] See Steuben to NG, 8 January (PGNG, 7: 76-81).
    [7.] Lee had reported the arrival of an express with a letter of NG's, which had been opened, on 16 January (PGNG, 7: 135-136).