The Papers of General Nathanael Greene


From Colonel Henry Lee, Jr.

My dear Genl

I acquainted you with my situation & expectations on receiving orders from Col Williams to join the army.
I have hurried on to this place where I must necessarily halt one day, for the junction of two troops of Cavalry in my rear.
The invitation which the posture of affairs on the other side of the Santee, & in the state of Georgia, held out to a proper attempt, was so pleasing, that I regret exceedingly my call from that country.
I regret it not only as a soldier anxious to acquire honor, but as a citizen.
The minds of the people are wavering. Their general inclination favors us, but they cannot, they will not declare, when they understand our effort is confined to the exertions of their own militia. They will expect regular troops from us; being disappointed in this, & being obliged by our conduct to take a part decisively, I fear, instead of a general insurrection in our favor, we shall strengthen the enemy. My conclusion therefore is, that unless we can spare a force adequate to the great prospects of the day, it would have been better to have deferred operations.
Whether an adequate force can be spared you best know, as it depends on the circumstances of the two armys.
I must presume that Gen Morgans victory was so complete as to put it out of the power of Lord Cornwallis to effect a junction with his No Carolina detachment even if Gen Dundas has arrived there, from Virga, unless the people of No Carolina are generally in the interest of the enemy. But should his force promise a junction, I think the recovery of the two south states would blast every advantage, which his most sanguine success could produce.
A party of horse & foot from your army equal to the breaking down all the outposts in the two states, & confining the enemy to Chstown, Georgetown, Ninety Six, Cambden, Savannah & Augusta, would increase daily. From 300, they would grow to as many thousand. This small party would have it in their power to dispossess the enemy of some of the above posts in the course of a few months. Militia never can force regular troops from intrenched posts.
Fort Moultrie is an object of the first consequence & might be the source of the most lasting benefit, if taken by us. Its garrison is small. Savannah & Beaufort are in the same situation.
Two thousand continental troops lay in prison ships in Chstown harbor. Cooper & Ashley rivers communicate directly with them.
What may not a true spirit of enterprize effect?
One hundd chosen infantry with my Legion would perhaps be a sufficient number.
If you think proper to adopt the scheme favor me with your full instructions, give me the additional number, place one nine pounder in some secret position near Pedee, where I may get it when wanted, honor me with frequent letters, establish a communication in cyphers, & I will devote myself to rendering you the most essential services.
I think you cannot do any thing decisive with your army as you cannot risk an action only on partial grounds. Nor do I beleive Cornwallis can succeed in his schemes unless No Carolina oppose the United States.
Pardon the freedom of this address, it results from my zeal for the good of America & for the prosperity of your army.
If you conclude that we join, I request you will be pleased to send your orders by an express & give the bearer one of my sergeants, permission to take such of the prisoners under care of Gen Stephens, as he may claim.
I flatter myself he will bring to me some of my deserters. I have the honor to be most affy

your h sert

Henry Lee Junr

Autograph letter signed (NjGbS) 6 pp.