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promptly forwarding the supplies from Delaware
and Maryland, he gave to -General Gist. " You will
please to make all your applications in writing,"
he writes, " that it may appear hereafter for our
justification that we left nothing unessayed to pro-
mote the public service. Let your applications
be as pressing as our necessities are urgent ; after


which if the southern States are lost we shall
stand justified. The greatest consequences depend
upon your activity and zeal in your service."

One of his greatest annoyances during this jour-
ney arose from the difficulty of procuring correct
intelligence concerning the condition of affairs in
the south. In Baltimore, where, according to
George Lux, " men were as much at a loss generally
speaking, for authentic advices from the south-
ward as if they were in the East Indies," he found
the people filled with sanguine hopes of capturing
Lord Cornwallis and his army. Thus the Whigs
were lulled into a dangerous security, while the
disaffected, better informed and wiser in their gen-
eration, continued their malignant efforts with un-
abated zeal. Gates's letters to the governor, hold-
ing out the promise" of a speedy renewal of offen-
sive operations, and of "recovering all our losses
in the southern States," were supposed to have
contributed not a little " to fix the delusion."

Nothing could be more unfavorable to Greene's
aims than this unsettled and wavering state of
the public mind ; and how rapidly the public mind
was tossed to and fro, from the extreme of hope to
the extreme of despair, Lux tells him in a letter
of the 29th of November. "In three days came
here the different acco.unts that the enemy had'
left our bay; Lord Cornwallis and his army likely
to be taken ; a French army and fleet off" Charles-
ton, the enemy still in the bay, and hemming
in the Virginia militia, so as they could not
escape; a complete victory gained by General


Gates; that no battle at all had been fought to
the southward ; and lastly, that the British had
gone up James River; and, excepting the last
article, there is neither a confirmation nor de-
nial of these reports." It was not unnatural,
although perhaps not strictly just, that the blame
of this uncertainty at so interesting a conjuncture
should have been laid at the door of the execu-
tive. " Is it not cruel," Lux exclaims, " that the
Governor of Virginia does not give our governor
just and true accounts ? " But the real source of
the evil lay deeper ; and he comes much nearer to
the mark in his next sentence : " We have all
these cursed lies by a parcel of petty speculators,
who raise stories either for or against us, according
as they have anything to buy or sell."

But Greene was now rapidly approaching the
scene of action, and looking forward, meanwhile,
to his arrival at Richmond for " good information."
On the 12th, at noon, he was at Mount Vernon,
and writes to Washington the next morning " by
candle-light," that " nothing but the absolute ne-
cessity of being with my command as soon as pos-
sible could induce me to make my stay so short."
" Mount Vernon," he says, " is one of the most
pleasant places I ever saw; and I don't wonder
that you languish so often to return to the pleas-
ures of domestic life. Nothing but the glory of
being Commander-in-chief, and the happiness of
being universally admired, could compensate for
such a sacrifice as you make."

" Baron Steuben," he adds, " is delighted with


the place, and charmed with the reception we met
with. Mrs. Washington sets out for camp about
the middle of next week."

His next stage was to Fredericksburg, where he
had hoped to find his friend General Weedon, and
hear from him something certain about the'move-
ments of the enemy. But Weedon was with the
militia which had been called out to meet the en-
emy in the neighborhood of Portsmouth. " I lodged
at your house at Fredericksburg," Greene writes
to him from Richmond, " and was treated with
great politeness by Mrs. Weedon, who I was very
sorry to find exceeding unhap py at your going into
service again. I left Mrs. Greene equally unhappy
at my going to the southward."

In the evening of the 16 th, he reached Richmond.

And here he received an immediate confirma-
tion of his worst fears, for he found everything in
confusion ; " the business of government almost at
a standstill for want of money and public credit."
Great alarm, too, had just been excited by the
sudden appearance of a strong body of the enemy.
The militia had been called out, and such prepara-
tions for defense made, as time and circumstances
permitted. But the British general, " after mak-
ing every preparation for establishing a perma-
nent post at Portsmouth by fortifying the place
strongly, had suddenly drawn in his advanced par-
ties, evacuated the town, embarked his troops, and
fallen down to Hampton Roads," where he still
lay when Greene reached Richmond. The ves-
sels in the harbor were left unhurt ; " shoals of


negroes," were left on the shore. He was at a loss
to account for this " sudden change of measures."
It could hardly be for fear of Muhlenberg and
Weedon, who were near " the great bridge on the
west side of James River," for their forces, though
respectable in numbers, were too ill-provided and
too imperfectly disciplined to attack a fortified
post. " There must be some foreign cause," he
wrote to Washington on the 19th, " which must
be left for time and further information to ex-

The Governor of Virginia at this important cri-
sis of her fortunes, was Thomas Jefferson, whose
name was far from awakening then the associa-
tions which it awakens now. It was the first time
that Jefferson and G-reene had met, and the only
time that they were ever brought into personal
relations with each other. What impression each
made upon the other I have no means of ascer-
taining, although from- Greene's manner of speak-
ing of the militia in his first letter to Jefferson, I
should say that he had taken early note of the
democratic tendencies of the illustrious Virginian.
There was hard work for each of them to do, con-
jectures to make which brought judgment into
play, and decisions to make which brought out
character in its strongest light. It was from Vir-
ginia that recruits and militia and supplies were
chiefly to be drawn, and the man on whom the
effective management of the machinery for draw-
ing them out depended, as far as it could depend
upon a single man, was the Governor of Virginia.


To him, therefore, Greene addressed himself as he
had addressed himself to Grovernor Rodney and
Governor Lee, urging the gravity of the occasion,
the necessities of his army, and the importance of
keeping the enemy, at a distance.

" It affords me great satisfaction," he says, " to see the
enterprise and spirit with which the mihtia have turned
out lately in all quarters, and this great bulwark of civil
liberty promises security and independence to this country
if they are not depended upon as a principal, but employed
as an auxiliary ; but if you depend upon them as a
principal, the very nature of the war must become so ruin-
ous to the country, that though numbers for a time may
give security, yet the difficulty of keeping this order of
men long in the field, and the accumulated expenses attend-
ing it, must soon put it out of yoiir power to make further
opposition, and the enemy will have only to delay their
operations for a few months to give success to their meas-
ures. It must be the extreme of folly to hazard our lib-
erties upon such a precarious tenure when we have it so
much in our power to fix them upon a more solid basis."

Greene's six days in Richmond were like his
nine in Philadelphia, devoted to the interests of
his command. On the 19th of November he wrote
to the President of Congress, recalling his atten-
tion to the subject of clothing, giving the unsatis-
factory results of his " particular inquiries " during
his journey, and assuring him that he could see
"rio prospect of obtaining this necessary article
but in the way that he had suggested to Congress
before he left Philadelphia." He returns also to
the subject of transportation, which, with clothing,
might almost be said to have been written on his


heart ; as Nelson, at an equally anxious period of
his career, said that Frigate would be found writ-
ten on his. Jefferson had been trying for " three
weeks and upwards " to collect a hundred wagons,
and although vested with full powers of impress-
ment, had collected only eighteen.^ " The want
of money and the want of public credit are the
bane of all business." He has no complaints to
make of the Legislature of Virginia. " They ap-
pear perfectly disposed to do everything in their
power, but the enemy's late incursion and the
heavy losses they have met with in their imports
for the use of the State, will render their exertions
of less avail." Provisions and forage were abun-
dant, but there were no magazines, and even if
there had been, there were no means of filling
them. The draft for three thousand five hundred
men to serve for eighteen months, had fallen short
of two thousand, and of these part were already
deserting " in shoals," for want of clothing, and the
rest would soon be in the hospital for the same
cause. Still he had but little fear about finding
men ; " my greater fears," he wrote, " are on -ac-
count of provisions, clothing, arms, and amuni-

He wrote also to Washington : —

" The governor says their situation as to clothing is
desperate. Nor is the business of transportation in a much
more eligible condition. We cannot march the troops of
this State, or transport the provisions necessary for their

1 On tlie26th of Norember, Jeffer- press principles, about thirty wag-
son writes to General Stevens : "We ons." —Jefferson's Works, toI. i. p.
have collected here, at length, by im- 278.


subsistence, for want of wagons On my ar-
rival at Hillsborough, I intend to have all the rivers ex-
amined in order to see if I cannot ease this heavy business
by water transportation. I shall also recommend it to this
State and to North Carolina to stall-feed a large number
of beeves for the support of the southern army, with a
view of lightening the transportation. Unless I succeed
in these two measures, I am afraid it will be impossible to
subsist either in North or South Carolina a sufficient force
this winter to prevent the enemy from holding their present
possessions and extending their limits. However, the
spirit of the people is rising, and the legislatures appear
perfectly disposed to give all the aid in their power.

. I think the legislature will adopt your Excellency's
plan for filling their regiments for the war. But I foresee
very great difficulties in arranging the officers of the
Virginia line, as there are so many prisoners of the war
and such great discontent prevailing among them."

Meanwhile he had received a letter from Col-
onel Feibiger, announcing that a brigade of ten
wagons would set out from Philadelphia on the
8th ; that the artificers with one travelling forge
would set out on the 9th ; but that he had " heard
nothing from Colonel Pickering, and that the com-
mittee of Congress have determined nothing yet,
and seem exceedingly averse to draw on France."

" I have wrote to Congress again on the subject
of clothing," Greene replies, " and desire you will
repeat your application to the committee, and in
the most pressing terms request an immediate
supply of that article for the southern army." And
charging him to send forward the Pennsylvania
wagons as fast as they came in, he adds, "take
care to have them loaded, but giving a preference
to the arms."


On the 20th, also, he writes to his old brigade
commander, Muhlenberg, directing him to report
to Steuben for orders ; to Steuben himself, direct-
ing him to take command of the forces in Virginia,
giving him instructions for the arrangement of the
Virginia line, the inspection of stores, the appoint-
ment of a deputy quartermaster-general, the fix-
ing upon some plan for repairing damaged arms,
and other particr^lars important for the prompt
organization of the army ; to General Gist : —

" I must beg the State of Maryland will speedily comply
with my requisition, particularly as to the wagons and the
horses for Lee's legion. As soon as you get wagons, for-
ward all the stores from Baltimore. The horse furniture
is exceedingly wanted, as cavalry must be our greatest se-
curity till we can form amore respectable body of infantry.
. . . . You will please also to repeat my application
to the State of Delaware."

To Colonel Pickering he writes : —

" Your department in this State, is altogether deranged.
There is no deputy appointed, nor any one to direct and
conduct the business. The governor appointed one, but
he would not accept, nor do I believe it will be in your
power to get one upon the conditions of the system. I
have advised the governor to appoint Major Forsyth, if he
will accept. The governor says Finney has absolutely re-
fused. Forsyth is an active, fine young fellow, and if he
undertakes, you will have to accommodate his reward to
his expenses. The. nature of the duty will render them
considerable. Nothing can exceed the difficulty of getting
on the stores in this country ; wagons are not to be got.
I know your'embarrassments, and feel for you ; but if it is
possible, I beg you to forward us one hundred wagons, forty
covered, sixty open ; the whole may be loaded at Philadel-


phia with stores. ... I also wish, if it is possible, that
you would furnish a sum of money not less than ten thou-
sand dollars in specie value, for the use of your depart-
ment in this State, which now is not able to provide forage

evenfor my horses in this State Mr. Hunter,

the great iron master near Fredericksburg, can furnish
you with everything in that way that we want. It will
be well for you to call on him for his prices, in order to
enable you to compare them with those of Philadelphia ;
but you maj' expect them higher, and if the difference is
not great, it will be cheaper to get supplies of him, not-
withstanding, as it will save a great expense of transporta-
tion. 1 hope you will think of us, and aid us all in your

To Colonel Timothy Matlock, chairman of the
committee charged with the subject of clothing
for the southern army, he writes : —

" It was my intention to have written you before this
respecting the prospect and encouragement I met with of
obtaining a supply of clothing, but I have postponed it
with a view of satisfying myself on this head in tiiis State,
and I am now fully convinced that the southern army will
be entirely without clothing unless you draw bills upon

France and provide for us in the way I proposed

It may be disagreeable to draw on France, but it is better
to do this than to let the army go to ruin. The dis-
tress and suffering of the southern army on account of
provision is sufficient to render the service so disagreeable
as to make it impossible to keep men in the field ; but
when they are starved with cold as well as hunger, the
whole army must become deserters or patients in the
hospitals ; both policy and humanity call loudly for supplies
of clothing. The people of this State and Maryland say
they are willing to do all in their power to provide cloth-
ing, be the consequences what they may, and I wish that
their abilities to supply the army may not be overrated."


His last public letter from Richmond is ad-
dressed to the Board of War. " I cannot proceed
further towards the southern army," he writes
them, " without repeating my request for you to
send forward all the arms, accoutrements, clothing,
and camp equipage, that can possibly be spared
from the northern army, for the use «f this depart-
ment. The prospect was disagreeable when I left
Philadelphia, and I am obliged to add that it ap-
pears more so as I advance towards the scene of

Of his private feelings he gives us a full view
in a private letter to Washington. After telling
him with what "marks of respect and attention "
he was everywhere received, how much Washing-
ton's letters had contributed to this, how impor-
tant his " weight and influence both with Congress
and the State " were for the support of operations
in the south ; and requesting " in the most earnest
manner that your Excellency continiie to animate
both these bodies with your opinion and recom-
mendations to such measures and such exertions
as will be necessary to give due support to the
southern army, without which I am very appre-
hensive the languor that is too apt to seize all pub-
lic bodies will lull them into a state of failse secu-
rity, and the affairs of the southern department
will and must go to ruin," he adds : —

" It has been my opinion for a long time that personal
influence must supply the defects of civil constitution, but
I have fiever been so fully convinced of it as on this jour-
ney. I believe the viev>fs and wishes of the great body of


the people are entirely with us. But remove the personal
influence of a few and; they are a lifeless, inanimate mass,
without direction or spirit to employ the means they
possess for their own security.

" I cannot contemplate my own situation without the
greatest degree of anxiety. I am far removed from al-
most all my ffiends and connections, and have to prosecute
a war in a country, in the best state attended with al-
most insurmountable difficulties, but doubly so now, from
the state of our finances and the loss of public credit.
How I shall be able to support myself under all these
embarrassments, God only knows. My only consolation is,
that if I fail I hope it will not be accompanied with any
peculiar marks of personal disgrace. Censure and re-
proach ever follow the unfortunate. This I expect, if I
don't succeed ; and it is only in the degree, not in the
entire freedom that I console myself.

" The ruin of my family is what-hangs most heavy upon
my" mind. My fortune is small, and misfortune or disgrace
to me must be ruin to them. I beg your Excellency will
do me the honor to forward the inclosed letter to Mrs.
Greene by the first safe conveyance, who is rendered ex-
ceedingly unhappy at my going to the southward."

And a few weeks later, summing up his obser-
vations in a letter to Eeed, he says :. —

" On my journey I visited the Maryland and Virginia
Assemblies, and laid before them the state of this army, and
urged the necessity of an immediate support. They both
promised to do everything in their power ; but such was
their poverty, even in their capitals, that they could not
furnish forage for my horses. I have also written to the
States of Delaware and North Carolina, neither of which
have taken any measures yet for giving effectual aid to this
army. . . . All the way through the country, as I
passed, I found the people engaged in matters of interest,


and in pursuit of pleasure, almost regardless of their
danger. Public credit totally lost, and every man excus-
ing himself from giving the least aid to government, from
an apprehension that they would get no return from any
advances. This afforded but a dull prospect ; nor has it
mended since my arrival."

On the 21st, lie resumed his journey. The ge-
nial Steuben was no longer with him; but his own
family had been increased by the accession of two
new aids, Major Pearce and Captain Pendleton,
whom he had found out of employ in Richmond,
and whose services he was glad to secure.

On the 22d, he was at Petersburg, where he
found it reported that the enemy had turned on
their footsteps and retaken Portsmouth. Without
giving full credence to the story, he ordered Steu-
ben, if it proved true, to repair immediately to
the army, and take charge of the defense of Vir-
ginia. But Lawson's brigade, on which he counted
for the immediate reinforcement of his own army,
was still to go forward without delay. " Our weak
side is not here," he writes, " and therefore I wish
to secure ourselves against the enemy's advancing
into North Carolina, which will effectually frus-
trate the enemy's great design in taking posses-
sion below ; " a statement of his views which should
be borne carefully in mind, for it contains the
germ which in March ripened into the bold ad-
vance from Ramsay's Mills. "You will find it
necessary," he continues, " to make particular in-
quiry into the way and means of transportation. I
find flour is going from this place by land, distance


sixty miles, when it might go at least 'thirty miles
by water without the least danger, and within a
very few miles of the army, with little or no haz-
ard, if some necessary precautions were taken.
Pray look into this matter on your arrival in camp.
Mr. Elliot is in the Quartermaster-general's de-
partment, and will give you the necessary infor-

On the 26th, he writes to Governor Nash, of
North Carolina, from General Parsons' house,
which lay on his road to Hillsborough : —

" I was in iiopes to h^ve had an early opportunity of
seeing and consulting with your Excellency upon the state
of the southern affairs ; but General Parsons informs me
you live wide of my route, and that the Assembly don't
meet until the 1st of January, which I fear will deprive
me of this happiness.

" You cannot be insensible of the enemy's designs
against this State, and the necessity there is of taking the
most speedy and effectual measures to counteract them.
The last letters I received from General Washington, men-
tion preparations making in New York for further detach-
ments to the southward. The subjugation of this State is
an important object with the enemy, and will be obstinately
persisted in, and nothing will deter them from pursuing
the design but a well-appointed army upon a permanent

" Congress have recommended the filling up the Con-
tinental army by the first of January. It is much to be
wished that this resolve could be carried immediately into
effect, both for the better defense of the country as well
as saving provisions, stores, and expenses of every kind ;
objects, all, necessary to be attended to in the present state
of our resources and condition of our finance. I have


not time to lay before your Excellency many things whicli
will claim the immediate attention of the Assembly on their
first meeting, and beg leave to suggest the propriety of
their meeting at an earlier day than the day they have ad-
journed to. As the enemy seem to threaten your State
on the side next to Virginia, I left Major-general Baron
Steuben, an able officer, to take command of the troops
raised by Virginia, to vs^atch their motions, which will
screen you on that quarter."

Ou the same day he writes to General Sumner
that he wishes to " see him as soon as possible, in
order to call the officers of the North Carolina line
upon the Continental establishment together, and
fix with them those that are to continue in ser-
vice, and those that are to retire. Please let me
hear from you as soon as may be."

And also to Colonel Lomagna : '' You will please
to send me a return of your legion as soon as pos-
sible, the number of men, horses, and accoutre-
ments of every kind. You will be very particular
in this return, that I may have a perfect knowl-
edge of the state of the legion, and be able to
give the necessary orders for putting it upon a
proper footing for service."

On the 27th, he is at HUlsborough, and writes
to Steuben : —

" I arrived at this place last evening, and I shall leave it
in about an hour. All the troops have marched from
hence for Salisbury and some say for Charlotte. The
Board of "War also have removed to Halifax, with a view
of being in the neighborhood of the enemy at Portsmouth.
No information, therefore, of any kind can be obtained,
which determines me to move on without loss of time.


. . . I find confirmed in this State what I apprehended,

Online LibraryGeorge Washington GreeneThe life of Nathanael Greene : major-general in the army of the revolution → online text (page 5 of 40)