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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette to Jethro Sumner
Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier, marquis de, 1757-1834
May 11, 1781
Volume 15, Pages 458-459

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Milton, May the 11th, 1781.


General Phillips's position at Petersburg, and the vast superiority of either of the two armies to our Regular force will render it impossible to prevent the enemy's junction. But it is of the highest importance it should be retarded, and if you are able By a continual tho' small opposition for some days to delay Lord Cornwallis's arrival, I consider it as the most essential service that can be rendered to the Southern States.

Had you not received orders from General Greene to collect the drafts and have them opposed to Lord Cornwallis, I would have not presumed to divert the Reinforcement from the Army under his immediate Command. My opinion indeed, even in this critical juncture, is that the Troops in South Carolina must be our first and principal object. From their Services, more than from any that could be desired in this part, depends the safety and the Relief of the Southern States. But with his present force it cannot be expected General Greene may effect any thing material.

However, as you have been directed to assemble the Recruits and make Lord Cornwallis your first object, I think your small force may be usefully employed in hanging upon the enemy's Rear and left flank which will give you the opportunity to collect the Remainder of the drafts, and by the time they are together you will have received further instructions from General Greene for which you might apply immediately.

The Militia that is collected ought to be in the enemy's front and give them whatever opposition is in their power when Lord Cornwallis comes this way, and I fear it will be too soon. General Jones may give proper Rendesvous to the Militia that has not yet received one so that we may have a more respectable force to oppose the two conbined Armies. But this collecting of Militia must be submitted to the more important consideration to raise continental soldiers.

Dragoons, or at least Mounted Infantry and Riflemen are two essentials, of which I am entirely destitute. I earnestly request

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you will use your influence to procure us as many of them as you can.

Horses that are left in the enemy's way are taken into their Service, and their Cavalry will increase to such a point that they at last will be able to overrun the whole Country. It is therefore my positive opinion that Horses, Saddles and Bridles and Waggons which the inhabitants from disaffection or Neglect Have left within the enemy's Reach ought to be impressed into public service and sent into this Camp where those articles are absolutely wanting.

I hear two Boats have been left at Halifax which (I am afraid) will give the enemy a considerable aid. It is of a very great importance that the Boats at Taylor's Ferry be kept under a strong guard, and under the Care of an officer upon whom you entirely depend, so that in case of danger they may be removed up the River and rather burned than left into the Hands of the enemy.

With the most sincere Regard I have the
Honor to be,
Dear Sir,
Your most obedient, Humble

P. S.

20,000 Cartridges have been sent towards Roanoke which have been escorted over Appomatox By Gen'l Millenburg while another party was diverting the attention of the enemy. Not knowing where you was Gen'l Millenburg has directed the officer to apply to General Jones.