The Papers of General Nathanael Greene

To Governor Thomas Jefferson Of Virginia.

The enemy "have been pressing" the Southern Army's rear "every day" since it left Guilford Court House. NG fears that his army "is so great an object" to Lord Cornwallis that Cornwallis will cross the Dan at a horse ford "above" and continue the pursuit. If he does, NG will have to retreat across the "Stanton branch of the Roanoke" River.[1] NG's army is half the size of Cornwallis's, and not more than 200 militia have joined it. If Cornwallis cannot force a battle, NG believes the British will "fall down the Country" to Halifax, N.C. NG is trying to fortify that place to prevent the British from "taking post there." They may "push through Virginia," however.[2] Laments that a small enemy force has been able to "march through an extent of Country of several hundred miles without a check." The Southern Army must be greatly reinforced if NG is to stop the enemy. Wants the militia who are sent to the army to be under "Continental officers, that are or have been in service"; that will double the militiamen's effectiveness.[3]
Cavalry being "so essential," NG wants the First and Third regiments of Continental dragoons completed. "The Country is inevitably lost unless decided Measures are taken" to obtain horses and equipment. Jefferson should "consider the necessity and act accordingly."[4] NG cannot go into greater detail. He is pressed by business and "fatigued to death." He has had to conduct a retreat of 200 miles, "Manuevering constantly in the face of the enemy to give time for the Militia to turn out and to get off our Stores." Has had to cross "several large rivers" with the enemy at his army's heels. Has also been forced—and will be again—to "take many measures to effect the removal of our Stores contrary to the established laws." Believes "the occasion must justify" the action; hopes the legislature will "make charitable allowance accordingly. The Army is all that the States have to depend upon for their political existence." Trusts that "whatever is necessary to its support will meet their approbation."
Autograph Draft Signed (MiU-C) 4 pp.
    [1.] The Roanoke River, which rises west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, was called the Staunton between the Blue Ridge and its confluence with the Dan River at the line between Halifax and Mecklenburg counties, Va.; from there, it was once again known as the Roanoke.
    [2.] On NG's plan to fortify Halifax, see NG to Kosciuszko, 16 February (PGNG, 7: 296-297). Cornwallis did not go to Halifax or cross the Dan River; instead, he marched to Hillsborough, N.C. (See NG to Pickens, 19 February, PGNG, 7: 316.)
    [3.] As seen by his letter of 19 February (PGNG, 7: 317), Jefferson tried to get supernumerary Continental officers to command the militia. The officers, however, resisted the service. (See North to NG, 23 February, PGNG, 7: 337-341.)
    [4.] In his reply of 18 February (PGNG, 7: 317), Jefferson told NG to "make no scruples about property"; on 19 February (PGNG, 7: 317), he gave NG a warrant to impress horses for the dragoons.