The Papers of General Nathanael Greene


To General Mordecai Gist

Dear Sir

I am favored with your letter of the 5th of Deccember and the only one I have receivd from you since I left Anappolis.[1]
Surely the States must be sufficently impressed with their own dangerous situation; and if they will not come to some decisive measures for giving effectual support to the Army they may have to repent in the hour of distress of their own langour and indecision.
These Southern States have been struggling a long while with a superior force, until their spirits are broken and the resources of the Country exhausted. Where the people are kept continually in arms they must live altogether upon their past labours, and totally neglect any future provision. This is the situation in these Southern States which must render the condition of the Inhabitants distressing and the support of the Army impracticable. Such great bodies of Militia have been kept on foot and those subsisted in a way so very expensive and wasteful that the State of North & South Carolinia are in a manner laid waste nor can any State when invaded afford considerable support to an Army for a length of time it causes such an universal obstruction to all kind of business. It is the States that are in tranquility who have it in their power to give effectual support to an Army not those that are in distress.
When I left Anappolis I was in great hopes the Legislature would have taken measures before this for filling their Regiments and for supplying the Waggons, which this army was and still is in such want of.[2] The cash which I requird was so essential and might have been obtained so easily of hundreds of private Gentlemen in Maryland that I am surprisd it has not been forwarded me; especially as I mentioned the necessity and the purpose for which it was wanted.
I perswade my self if the State of Maryland could reallise the critical situation of this Army, and the disagreeable consequences that may follow the neglect of not giving it timely support, we should not be long without further aid. The Enimy are receiving reinforcments continually and our numbers are dayly declining nor is our whole collective force more than one third of theirs, and the greater part of those renderd unfit for duty for want of cloathing.
General [William] Smallwood is gone home to join his influence to yours in order to bring out as seasonable a reinforcement as possible.[3] Whatever Stores you send on to this Army, give positive orders to the Waggon Master in writing, not to deliver an article to the order of any person except Baron Stuben until he arrives in Camp. The Agents at Posts have made such a practice of opening and taking out Stores for their own use, that the Stores are generally plunderd in such a manner before they get to Camp that little or nothing [is] left; and if we cannot check this evil it will be impossible for this Army to get properly supplied.
We are now obliged to collect our own provision; and was it not that we have some of the Militia of the Country to assist us in this busines[s] we should be scatterd over the face of the Earth little less remote from one another than the Inhabitants. Our situation is distressing and we must be ruined if the enemy push us, which we have great reason to expect as Lord Cornwallis has been in Motion for some days past.[4]
General Smallwood can give a much more full and general state of things in this quarter than I have time to write; and as he passed through Virginia during the enemies operations in that quarter I must refer you and the Legislature to him for further particulars.[5] I am sir with esteem & regard

Your Most Obedient humble Sert

N Greene

Autograph draft signed (MiU-C).
    [1.] NG had stopped in Annapolis, Md., on his way to take command of the Southern Army in November 1780.
    [2.] NG's requisition on Maryland is at PGNG, 6: 474. In his letter of 19 January (PGNG, 7: 151-152), Gist reported on the state's efforts to provide troops and supplies.
    [3.] On Gen. William Smallwood's return to Maryland, see NG to Steuben, 28 December 1780 (PGNG, 7: 11-12).
    [4.] For Cornwallis's movements, see notes at Morgan to NG, 19 January (PGNG, 7: 152-161) and 23 January (PGNG, 7: 178-179).
    [5.] See Steuben to NG, 8 January (PGNG, 7: 76-81), concerning British operations in Virginia.