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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Instructions to John Steward concerning supplies and troops for the Southern Department of the Continental Army
Greene, Nathanael, 1742-1786
December 26, 1781
Volume 16, Pages 677-680



It being too much the genius of all Republicks to relax in prosperity, and the great difficulty of interesting their feelings, but from a sense of common danger, to guard against future misfortunes, lead me to apprehend that our late success will have a fatal effect upon our affairs, and that if the enemy push their operations vigorously at the opening of the Campaign, they will find us unprepared and an easy sacrifice.

Many flatter themselves with an approaching peace; some from one consideration and some from another, and all from their wishes. But however desireable it may be, it will depend upon the turn of politicks in Europe, and to be well prepared for War, is the most likely way of obtaining peace. It is very certain that Great Britain is making every exertion to form alliances, in which if she succeeds there is little doubt of a farther prosecution of the War. And tho’ Administration may contract their plan of general Conquest there can be little doubt of their pushing their operations against the States, which are most vulnerable, upon the plan of uti possidetis to favor the negotiating a peace to advantage. I have to request therefore that the State of North Caroline may be urged in the warmest Terms to fill up their Continental Battallion. The Country will be more secure and less ravaged, and the expence is far less, than when the war is carried on with Militia, besides the interruption which calling the militia gives to all kinds of business, the general corruption of morals follows, for want of discipline.

Our reinforcement from the Northward are greatly inferior to what they are supposed by common report. nor is there any prospect of any great additional force; and a co-operation of our good ally may be distant, and at least is very uncertain, depending upon the movements of the enemy and the strength of their Navy, therefore the greater exertions are necessary among yourselves.

To confine the enemy to their Sea-port Towns, and within their fortifications is a great object. But to be prepared against any

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great exertions which the enemy may make upon a plan of Uti possidetis at the close of the War, from the ease with which they can reinforce their army, and the difficulty of reinforcing ours is still a greater object. But besides the advantage of confining the enemy to the Sea port Towns and preventing their getting considerable possessions from sudden exertions, it is well worth while to take into consideration in deciding upon the question, the advantages that would result from enabling this Army to lay Seige to Charles Town, and tho’ the issue may be doubtfull for want of a proper apparatus, yet the prospect is so inviting as to warrant the experiment. And after all should the enemy reinforce it, to prevent a seige from taking effect, yet the support of a very large garrison, from which they can derive little or no advantage will be found so expensive and burdensome, & so inconsistent with their general plan, or national policy as to induce them to evacuate the place, when they would not, if they could hold it at a small expence.

These reasons, and such others as the nature of the subject shall suggest to you, you will urge with the general Assembly, to induce them to fill their continental Battallions without loss of time. You will lay before the assembly the distressed and deplorable situation of the greater part of this State from the ravages of the enemy, and the necessity of giving them full protection to afford them time and opportunity to recover themselves, without which they are inevitably ruined.

The subsistence of our army is the second object you will lay before them. As our force increases our difficulties of subsistence will also increase. We have no settled magazines of provisions, nor salt to form any; neither would they be found adapted to the nature of the War we are engaged in from the difficulty of giving them protection, without locating our manuovres, and from the expence & difficulty of transportation, all of which are distressing to an Army, and cramp its operations. This Country is much drained of cattle, and the season will soon render the remainder unfit for use, unless it is such as we can get to put up to stall feed. It is necessary therefore that the State of North Carolina should put up at least three thousand head for the use of this Army and if they cannot feed so large a number let part of them be

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drove here, to be fed on the rice plantations. Unless North Carolina affords us this Aid, we shall be obliged to abandon this Country for want of subsistence. Rum and salt we are in the greatest distress for want of, and there is little prospect of getting any unless the State of North Carolina can assist us. This State can afford none. Virginia and Maryland from the distance, very little, unless a water transportation can be opened, which will be subject to continual interruptions and therefore little to be depended upon.

The third thing you will lay before the Legislature, is the difficulty we meet in getting Stores to Camp. Our Army has been without ammunition for weeks together for want of the means of transportation; and when the Quarter Master has impressed waggons for the most pressing emergency, the people have risen and taken them away, and prevented their waggons from going into the public service, and the Army exposed at the same time, to the most imminent danger, which is the case at this very moment. To provide the means of transportation, and supply the posts with provisions with more certainty claim the immediate attention of Legislature.

The Commissioners who are employed in collecting specific taxes, ought to be subject to some heavy fine and punishment where they neglect or fail in their duty, & have full and ample powers to provide according to the necessity of the case.

Unless these reformations take place our distresses will increase, nay it will be impossible to preserve a communication with the Northern States, or support the Army in its present situation. Reinforcements coming to the army are delayed for want of provisions, and the difficulties in getting forward the few stores which reach us are immense. Colonel Long can inform the house of the best mode of providing transportation, and some plan should be adopted for furnishing horses, as they fail in the Army, upon the application of Lieut. Col. Carrington Deputy Quarter Master General.

It would be well too if the State would authorize some person to take into pay upon public account such vessels as may be wanted to forward stores by water, as time and circumstances may render

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favorable to our wishes. All these matters you will lay before the Legislature, impress their importance to the service, and digest with them such plans as may be most effectual for forwarding us the aid we want.

Given at Camp. round O,
South Carolina, Decem. 26th, 1782.