The Papers of General Nathanael Greene

From General Thomas Sumter

Dr Sir

I have received your favours of the 8th one without a date & of the 15th & 19th Inst.[1]
You express a desire of seeing me again in the field, I am happy to know, that the service for which you most Immediately wanted me, is no longer needfull, & Genl Morgan has fortunately relieved you from your apprehensions for his safety, by defeating Coll. Tarleton, a circumstance of great consequence, upon which I must beg leave, most heartily to congratulate you.[2] The Methods I use to obtain Inteligence may probably answer, but I am short in very special requisites for that purpose.[3] When I had the Honour of a conference with [you,] if I discovered [i.e., displayed] any injudicious thirst for enterprise, private gain, or personal Glory, I am sorry for it, and shall be doubly Mortified to find that my endeavours, together with the Good people of South Carolina, have not tended the least Degree to promote the Publick Good; I lament that private Gain is the primary Object with too many, and as much lament that the desire of Fame is not more sought after. As to the Former the world I think will acquit me, but the latter reason & Conscience convinces I have not been arrogant & designing but allways meant to conduct & demean myself, so as to tend most to the Publick Good, & the satisfaction of my superior officers. The dificulty of writing obliges me to decline being as full as I could wish. The cause of my not sending you an express on sooner, was in hopes of gaining some important Inteligence to Communicate. I believe you have found that my former inteligence Respecting the force of Colo Tarleton & Gen. Morgan to be very just. I can with propriety say that Lord Cornwallis' whole does not exceed Sixteen hundred; when they marched from Winnsbourrough, and encampt at Bull Run, he had but six hundred & Eighty men. With this number he marched to Turkey Crick Broad River, was there joined by Genl Leslie, with a detachment of five hundred & Seventy eight men rank & file, making in the whole twelve hundred & fifty eight, since joined by Eighty from Camden, the remains of Tarleton's scattered troops, together with the Matrosses, which when aded cannot by Any Means exceed the Number above mentioned.[4]
For farther particulars & the situation of the Army, I beg leave to recommend you to Major Myddelton, as also that of Camden, Congarees, Ninety Six, Augusta, & the state of things Generally, upon the western Quarter.[5] I agree with you, & lament the great probability of this country being laid waste by plundering parties, as people Dayly discover a greater avidity to that shamefull practice. I had Adopted measures which would have efectually suppressd it. By being wounded & other interuptions have been prevented from executing that design, notwithstanding, daring as people appear to be in these practices, yet I am convinced they mought easily be made to subside. A few examples, & a proper abhorrence shewen, would answer every purpose. This conduct I meant to pursue but have not been sufficiently countinenced nor supported.
I confess I have been under some embaressment respecting Gen. Morgans command, & the orders he has given. As I have been concerned but little in either trust, & believe I have been guilty of no Impropriety, and shall allways make a point to correspond & act upon such principles with Gen. Morgan, as is most likely to tend to the publick Good, and have no doubt but he well deserves all the applause you have given him, therefore will not stand upon little punctilos. to the prejudice of the service. There has been a great change of things in this Quarter of late, & I conceive the Enemy thinks their situations some-what unfavourable to themselves, as well as to those Inhabitants among which they pass— and notwithstanding, the weak & scattered condition of the So. Carolina Malitia, yet their remaining in the rear of the Enemy may give them uneasy Apprehensions. Major Myddelton will be Able to give you full satisfactions relative to this Matter. I still find myself but poorly, but have hopes of being able to ride tolerably in a few days, when I shall be happy to receive your Commands. I have the Honr to be Dr Sir with the greatest respect,

your Most Obed Humble Servt

Thos Sumter.

Reprinted from SCHGM 16 (1915): 97-99. In Sumter's handwriting, periods and commas look much alike. From careful reading, it is clear that the original transcriber of this letter rendered some periods as commas. The editors have restored periods where the contents indicate they are warranted.
    [1.] NG's letter of 16 January (PGNG, 7: 132-133) was probably the undated one that Sumter received.
    [2.] On Gen. Daniel Morgan's victory over Col. Banastre Tarleton's detachment at the battle of Cowpens, see Morgan to NG, 19 January (PGNG, 7: 152-161).
    [3.] By "special requisites," Sumter undoubtedly meant money.
    [4.] Lord Cornwallis's force is usually estimated to have numbered from 2,500 to 3,000 men. (See, for example, Clinton to Cornwallis, 30 April 1781, Stevens, Clinton-Cornwallis Controversy, 1: 442.) According to British sources, Gen. Alexander Leslie's detachment numbered about 1,500. (Tarleton, Campaigns, p. 210)
    [5.] As seen in Sumter's first letter of 31 January (PGNG, 7: 230), Col. Charles Myddelton's first attempt to see NG was unsuccessful; Myddelton did meet with NG on 7 February. (See NG to Sumter, 9 February, PGNG, 7: 266.)