The Papers of General Nathanael Greene

Proceedings of a Council of War

The Honble Major Genl Greene
The Honble Brigadier Genl[Isaac] Huger
The Honble Brigadier Genl[Daniel] Morgan
Colonel Otho Williams
The Commanding Officer informs the Council that by the field Returns which were given in this Day his Army does not consist of more than 1426 Infantry Men, many of whom are badly armed and distressed for the Want of Clothing. Exclusive of this Force there is a Militia consisting [of] six hundred Men, but badly armed. The Force of the Enemy, from the best Intelligence that can be obtained, amounts to twenty five hundred or three thousand Men: and from their Situation at the Shallow Ford, this Army is evidently exposed to the Risque of a general Action. The heavy Baggage & most of the Stores have been ordered over Roanoake River in Order to enable the Army to move with Facility & Ease. To all these Circumstances is added that of the Army's being now without Provisions and no Magazines of any Sort within our Reach.
From this State of Facts the General desires the Opinion of the Officers in Council what Measures are necessary to be pursued for the Interest of the Army?
The Question being put, whether we ought to risque an Action with the Enemy or not; it was determined unanimously that we ought to avoid a general Action at all Events, and that the Army ought to retreat immediately over the Roanoke River.[1]


I. Huger
Danl Morgan
O. H. Williams

Copy (made contemporaneously with original) (PCC, item 155, vol. 1: 569, DNA). NG sent this copy of the proceedings to Samuel Huntington, the president of Congress, in his letter of 10 February (PGNG, 7: 271).
    [1.] NG had boasted to Alexander Hamilton on 10 January (PGNG, 7: 87-91) that he called "no councils of war." His reason for holding this one was undoubtedly because the Southern Army, in retreating across the Dan/Roanoke River into Virginia, was leaving North Carolina to the British, at least for the time being. NG knew that a retreat of this sort could bring disgrace, as it had for Generals Philip Schuyler and Arthur St. Clair when they abandoned Ft. Ticonderoga in 1777. He very likely hoped that the council's ratification of his decision would help him deflect any charge that he had needlessly abandoned the state to the enemy. The council's decision initiated what has been called the race to the Dan, as NG's army retreated toward Virginia with Lord Cornwallis's force on its heels.