The Papers of General Nathanael Greene


From Baron Steuben

Dear General

My last informed you of the Enemys having passed Hoods on their way down the River.
The 12th I marched with 700 Men to Cabbin Point.
The Continental Troops being too naked to Keep the Field had been sent back to Chesterfield Co Ho. The 14th in the morning the Enemy {landed} at Hardys Ferry 22 Miles below Cabbin Point & began their March towards Smithfield[.] Supposing that Colo [Josiah] Parker with the Militia of the lower Counties would oppose them in front[,] I detached Major Willis with 300 Men & 50 Horse to harrass their Rear. My orders were badly executed & the Enemy enterd Smithfield the 15th without opposition.
Having that day reced a reinforcemt of 400 Men I immediately detached them under Genl [Robert] Lawson with orders to proceed towards Smithfield & act in conjunction with Colo Parker who I supposed had retired towards Suffolk. On Genl Lawsons approach the Enemy left Smithfield, crossed Nansemond [Nandesmond] River at Sleeply Hole & encamped on the opposite bank & Genl Lawson being joined by the Troops under Coll Parker occupied Smithfield.
The 19th the Enemy marched to Portsmouth & their Vessells fell down to Hampton Road.
My first care was to open a communication with Genl [Thomas] Nelson on the other side James River. I had taken much trouble to do this but could procure but few Boats. These I stationed at Allens where in case of danger they could be secured by running up Chippoak Creek. I drew over 500 Men from the other side and reinforced Genl Lawson with 400.
The 19th I went over to Williamsburg to consult with Genl Nelson on the possibility of forcing the Enemy to quit Portsmouth and it being not only his Opinion but that of Colo [John Christian] Senf who had surveyed the Ground and of every Officer who was acquainted with the situation, that it was out of our power, I determined on taking a position to prevent their excursions in the Country.
For this purpose I repaird to Smithfield & having reconnoitred & gained every possible information of the Ground I made the following Disposition.
Coll Parker with the Suffolk Militia at Reddocks Mills, a very strong pass with a small advanced post at Coopers Mills 4 Miles in his front. He is to prevent the Enemys parties from making any excursions & if forced is to fall back on Genl Lawson.
Genl Lawson is posted at Mackeys Mills four Miles from Smithfield with 2 Regiments consistg of 800 Infantry 2 Comps consisting of 100 Light Infy & Nelsons Horse. A small Detachment from this force is advanced to Suffolk to support Parker in case of Need & Keep open the communication. Piquets are also Kept at Sleepy Hole and at the Mouth of Nansemond River.
Genl [Peter] Muhlenberg is at Cabbin Point with 2 Regts consisting of 800 Infy & Armands Cavalry. Genl Nelson with 1000 Infy & some Volunteer Cavalry is at Williamsburg, to Keep posts from thence to Newports News.
If the Enemy come out in force Genl Muhlenberg is to support Lawson & to form a Junction with him & oppose the Enemy should they march towards South Quay.
In making this Disposition I had in View as a very material object the Keeping up as small a number of Militia as possible and therefore reduced the 4000 called out to the above number. The Militia of the Counties adjacent to the River I have orderd to be relievd by others from the back Country and as a great part of these will bring Rifles with them I have orderd the spare Arms to be collected & Kept on Waggons ready to Arm the Militia of the Vicinity should we be in want of them.
I have directed Genl Weedon to remain at Fredricksburg, to discharge all the Militia adjacent to that place but to keep ready 1000 Stand of arms that they may be Armed in case the Enemy should move that way & in that case also Genls Muhlenberg & Nelson are to move the same way. With great respect & esteem I am Dr General

Your Mo: Obed Servt

Steuben

Letter signed (MiU-C) 4 pp.