The Papers of General Nathanael Greene


From Colonel Otho H. Williams

Dr Genl

Uncertain of the Enemy's motions I waited for information at Bruces till one Hour ago.[2] I sent 2 parties of Dragoons & some Country men different roads for intelligence.
Accident informed me the Enemy were within six or Eight miles of my Quarters. I detach'd Coll Lee with a Troop of Dragoons & put the rest of the Light Troops in Motion to Cross the Haw River at a Bridge. Coll Lee met the Enemy's advance, s{tood} a Charge and Captured 3 or 4 Men whom I send you. They Say Ld Cornwallis & the whole British Army preceeded by CollTarltons Legion is close in our rear.[3]
I will endeavour to avoid him.[4] The Cavalry wait to Cover. Coll Lee & the Infantry are Crossing the Bridge.

With Esteem Yrs

O H Williams

Autograph letter signed (Greene Papers: DLC). The right margin is torn; one word, in curly brackets, was taken from a GWG Transcript, CSmH.
    [1.] The date was determined from the contents.
    [2.] See Williams to NG, first letter of this date (PGNG, 7: 282).
    [3.] Col. Henry Lee's legion was the rear guard of Williams's detachment throughout the retreat to the Dan River. Lee's men were often in sight of advanced parties of Lord Cornwallis's army, and according to Col. Banastre Tarleton, who was with the British vanguard, "many skirmishes took place." (Tarleton, Campaigns, p. 229) Years later, Henry Lee gave a lengthy account of this particular skirmish, but remembered it as having occurred on 13 February. (Lee, Memoirs, 1: 280-86) E. W. Caruthers, a nineteenth-century historian, who drew heavily on local tradition to augment Lee's account, placed the encounter "near Bruce's Cross Road." (Caruthers, Revolutionary Incidents, pp. 46-49; Caruthers incorrectly gave 12 February as the date of the skirmish.) Lee claimed that his men killed eighteen British dragoons. He also wrote that he came close to executing one of his prisoners, a captain, in retaliation for the sabering of Lee's only casualty, an unarmed bugler. (Lee, Memoirs, 1: 282-86) In his own memoirs, Tarleton—as Williams did in this letter—mentioned only the prisoners taken in the skirmish: a British officer and "three of his followers." (Tarleton, Campaigns, p. 228) NG wrote Baron Steuben on 15 February (PGNG, 7: 292-293) that Lee had "killed and took the greater part" of the British party.
    [4.] Throughout the race to the Dan, Williams successfully avoided a battle with Cornwallis.