The Papers of General Nathanael Greene


To Baron Steuben

Dear Sir

A variety of circumstances have combined since my last to make it necessary to retreat to this place. It was my intention at first to halt at the Yadkin & form a junction with the two Armies at a place called the Island ford, but the heavy rains, deep Creeks, a want of provisions, & the miserable situation of our Horses, made the movements of the Army on the Peedee so unwieldy that it was utterly impossible to form a junction untill we retired to Gilford Court House. Here I was in hopes of collecting a force sufficient to make a stand & save the State of North Carolina from the depredations of the Enemy, but the Militia came in so slowly that I have but little strength added to my Army; a state of which was yesterday referred to a Council of War, who determined (upon information being received that the British Troops had actually crossed the Shallow ford) that we ought to retire immediately towards the confines of Virginia, & avoid at all events the risque of a general action.
I think it is reduced to a certainty that the destruction of this Army is the principal aim of Lord Cornwallis, & undoubtedly it is the only thing that can insure him the safe conquest of this Country. The interest of America is so nearly connected with the operations of this Campaign that prudence makes it necessary to avoid the present moment of action to strike a blow hereafter that may be decisive & important. My expectations on this head will rest chiefly on Virginia, so that your exertions to assist me from that quarter will become more necessary; & I doubt not but proper measures will be taken by you to strengthen me as soon as possible. I wish much for an opportunity to take advantage of the Enemies present situation, as it is evident they have risqued every thing to subdue North Carolina. But I have the pleasure to inform you that whilst they are running over this Country in pursuit of conquest, I have a small Army of Militia in South Carolina to plague & alarm them in that quarter. Their efforts too have been successful; Genl Marion has surprised a Post at Wandbo [Wadboo], destroyed their Stores, & taken about 30 Prisoners; and at Manigaults ferry the Enemy were again surprised, had several killed & taken, & a quantity of Stores & some cloathing destroyed.
All the Lead & Ammunition that were at the Moravians Towns have been sent over the Dan River, which Captain Irish may collect at some place, & have manufactured, into Musquet Cartridges as that article is scarce.
I have now but just time to acknowledge the receipt of three Letters from you, which shall be particularly answered when time & circumstances will permit. I am Dr sir with great esteem

Your mo: hble servt

Nath Greene

[P.S.]
NB Lord Cornwallis appears perfectly well acquainted with the strength of the Militia of this Country; and boldly advances regardless of their collective force.
Letter signed (NHi) 2 pp.