The Papers of General Nathanael Greene

To George Washington


In my despatches of the 29th Ultimo I did myself the honor to acquaint your Excellency with the disposition I had made to counteract the movements of the enemy and to protect the Country from their depredations.[1]
Lord Cornwallis continued at Weymissbury, making every preparation, and compleatly equiping his troops for the most active operations, untill the 9th Instant; when having been joined by the troops under General Leslie, he put his army in motion and advanced as far as the Cross-roads on the West side of the Catawba River, and about forty miles from Camden.[2]
The position which Brigr General Morgan occupied, was well chosen for harrassing the left flank, and checking the progress of the enemy on the route they had taken for the execution of their plan of operations. This I suppose induced his Lordship on the 11th to detach Lt Colonel Tarlton [Banastre Tarleton] to dislodge him, and disperse the few Militia who were collecting.
I have the satisfaction to transmit your Excellency the copy of a letter which I this moment recieved from Brigadier Genl Morgan announcing the total defeat of Lt Colonel Tarlton's detachment.[3] The victory was compleat, and the action glorious. The brilliancy and success with which it was fought, does the highest honor to the American arms and adds splendor to the character of the General and his Officers. I must beg leave to recommend them to your Excellency's notice and doubt not, but from your representation Congress will receive pleasure from testifying their approbation of their conduct.[4]
Colonel [Andrew] Pickens was left on the ground to relieve the wounded, and to cover that part of the Country.[5]
I am unhappy that the distressed situation of this Army will not admit of our improving the advantage we have gained. But I hope it has given the enemy a check that will prevent their advancing for some days. Our supplies of provisions are growing more precarious; and the other Stores which I can only look for from Philadelphia, do not arrive in such quantities, as to replace those which are daily destroyed in service.
I have appointed Major [Edmund] Hyrne Deputy Commissary Genl of Prisoners for the Southern department, and ordered him to send all the prisoners of War to Virginia. The Militia under General Stephens [Edward Stevens] will take charge of them, as their time of service has already expired.[6]
I have directed Major General the Baron de Steuben to transmit to Congress and to your Excellency regular reports of the operations in Virginia.[7]
I do myself the honor to enclose a copy of my Letter to Congress respecting the action of the 17th Inst.[8] I am with sentiments of the most perfect esteem and respect

Your Excellency's Most Obedient Humble Servant

Nath Greene

Letter signed (DLC). The LS is dated 28 January, but other copies of the letter (NjP; PCC) and the contents establish the 24th as the correct date.
    [1.] The letter, dated 28 December 1780, is at PGNG, 7: 11.
    [2.] Cornwallis's movements prior to the battle of Cowpens are discussed at Morgan to NG, 19 January (PGNG, 7: 152-161). As seen there, Leslie's detachment did not join Cornwallis until 18 January. ("British Orderly Book," p. 284)
    [3.] Gen. Daniel Morgan's report is in his letter to NG of 19 January (PGNG, 7: 152-161). Cornwallis's decision to send Tarleton in pursuit of Morgan is discussed at that letter.
    [4.] Washington commended Morgan's victory in his general orders of 13 February. (Fitzpatrick, GW, 21: 223-24) In a letter to Congress of 17 February, Washington did not explicitly ask that Morgan and his officers be honored, but he did say their victory reflected "the highest honor" upon American "Arms." (Ibid., p. 238) On 9 March, Congress voted thanks to Morgan and the officers and men of his command, awarded a gold medal to Morgan, silver medals to William Washington and John Eager Howard, a sword to Andrew Pickens, and brevet commissions to two of Morgan's volunteer aides. (JCC, 19: 246-47)
    [5.] Pickens remained in the battlefield area for only a few hours after Morgan and his troops marched. After he rejoined Morgan, Pickens was given the job of escorting the prisoners captured at Cowpens. (Ferguson, "Pickens," pp. 146-48)
    [6.] See NG to Hyrne, 25 January (PGNG, 7: 194).
    [7.] See NG to Steuben, this date (PGNG, 7: 186-187).
    [8.] NG enclosed a copy of his letter to Samuel Huntington of this date (PGNG, 7: 185).