The Papers of General Nathanael Greene

From John Mathews,

Has NG's letter of 23 January. Its unexpected news "was a most healing cordial to our drooping spirits"; it has had "a very sensible effect on some folks," convincing them to aid a department that "for some time past had appeared to be almost annihilated, & forgot."[1] If Congress had the means, NG would be well supported. "But alas! the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Indeed the distresses of every department is at present past description. A want of money totally unhinges every thing." The committee's letter tells "what is sent, & sending forward."[2] Congress this day approved £10,000 specie for "a variety of necessaries" for NG's department; given the state of the country's "coffers," this is "stretching a point."[3] Congress has recently passed a plan for a "permanent revenue." If approved by the states, it will give the national government "a tolerable credit." The plan, which has been sent to Gov. [John] Rutledge, "will be a work of time."[4] Mathews is pleased that NG finds Rutledge as Mathews described him and is sure NG will come to admire Rutledge's "many amiable qualities, & extensive abilities" even more. The French minister informed Mathews "in confidence" that part of the French fleet will visit the South. It will first "make an attempt on Gard[i]ner's Bay. If nothing is to be done there, the next object will be the fleet in Virginia & then to make a feint on Chs Town." Mathews gives "the hint"; NG will know "how to improve it," if he has the "capacity to take advantage of it." At the least, this should draw part of Lord Cornwallis's force toward Charleston and give the Southern Army "a breathing spel."[5] Promises to support NG; asks him to write when he can.
Autograph Letter Signed (MiU-C) 3 pp.
    [1.] NG's letter of 23 January (PGNG, 7: 174) had reported the victory at Cowpens.
    [2.] Mathews was a member of the congressional committee that corresponded with the commander of the Southern Department. The committee's letter has not been found.
    [3.] Congress had approved a warrant "for five hundred thousand dollars old emissions, for the use of Colonel [Edward] Carrington, deputy quartermaster for the southern army." (JCC, 19: 137)
    [4.] For more on Congress's plan, see Varnum to NG, this date (PGNG, 7: 277-280).
    [5.] The French minister, the Chevalier de La Luzerne, was referring to the flotilla that the French had sent to Chesapeake Bay from Newport, R.I., as part of a plan to capture Benedict Arnold. (See Steuben to NG, 22 February, PGNG, 7: 333-334.) Because of the limited size of the force, there was no consideration of an attack on the British fleet at Gardiner's Bay, near New York, or a feint against Charleston, S.C. (See Comte de Rochambeau to Washington, 8 February, Washington Papers, DLC.)