The Papers of General Nathanael Greene

From Colonel Henry Lee, Jr.,

Lee informed NG of his "situation & expectations" when he received Col. [Otho] Williams's orders "to join the army."[1] Has hurried "to this place," but must wait a day for "two troops of Cavalry" to join him. He regrets being called back because "the posture of affairs" south of the Santee River and in Georgia was "so pleasing." He continues:
The minds of the people are wavering. Their general inclination favors us, but they cannot, they will not declare, when they understand our effort is confined to the exertions of their own militia. They will expect regular troops from us; being disappointed in this, & being obliged by our conduct to take a part decisively, I fear, instead of a general insurrection in our favor, we shall strengthen the enemy. My conclusion therefore is, that unless we can spare a force adequate to the great prospects of the day, it would have been better to have deferred operations.
NG knows best "whether an adequate force can be spared," but Lee presumes that "Gen Morgan's victory was so complete" that Lord Cornwallis, unless North Carolinians "are generally in the interest of the enemy," will be unable to join forces "with his No Carolina detachment."[2] Even then, the recovery of South Carolina and Georgia "would blast every advantage" that Cornwallis's "most sanguine success could produce." Suggests that NG send him "A party of horse & foot" numbering 300 men. Lee would use it to capture "all" the enemy's "outposts" and thus confine the British to Charleston, Georgetown, Ninety Six, and Camden, S.C., and Savannah and Augusta, Ga. This small force would "increase daily" to "many thousand"; it could "dispossess the enemy of some of the above posts" in "a few months." Without a force such as this, "Militia never can force regular troops from intrenched posts." Suggests various posts that might be attacked first. Adds that there are 2,000 Continental troops "in prison ships" in Charleston harbor and that the "Cooper & Ashley rivers communicate directly with them. What may not a true spirit of enterprize effect? One hundd chosen infantry with my Legion would perhaps be a sufficient number."
If NG agrees, he should send Lee the detachment and "full instructions." He should "place one nine pounder" in a secret place for Lee's use and write him frequently "in cyphers." For his part, Lee will devote himself "to rendering" the "most essential services." Thinks NG cannot "do any thing decisive" in North Carolina and that Cornwallis cannot succeed there, either. Asks NG to "Pardon the freedom of this address, it results from zeal for the good of America & for the prosperity" of NG's army. If NG still wants Lee to rejoin the army, he should notify Lee by express.[3] Also asks NG to give the bearer, one of Lee's sergeants, permission to claim some prisoners. "I flatter myself he will bring to me some of my deserters."
Autograph Letter Signed (NjGbS) 6 pp.
    [1.] Williams's orders have not been found. Lee had explained his "situation & expectations" in his letter of 30 January (PGNG, 7: 222). Lee's Legion was being recalled from detached duty with Gen. Francis Marion in South Carolina.
    [2.] On Gen. Daniel Morgan's victory at Cowpens, see Morgan to NG, 19 January (PGNG, 7: 152-161). The detachment to which Lee referred was the British party that had recently captured Wilmington. As noted at Drayton to NG, 2 February (PGNG, 7: 236-237), the two enemy forces did not combine until early April, when Cornwallis marched to Wilmington.
    [3.] No reply from NG has been found, but Ichabod Burnet's strong reiteration of NG's orders in a letter of 2 February (PGNG, 7: 234-235), undoubtedly convinced Lee that he should march without waiting for an answer.