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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Francis Rawdon-Hastings, Marquis of Hastings to Charles Cornwallis, Marquis Cornwallis
Hastings, Francis Rawdon-Hastings, Marquess of, 1754-1826
May 24, 1781
Volume 17, Pages 1031-1035

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Camp at Monk's Corner, 24th May, 1781.

My Lord:

The Situation of Affairs in this Province has made me judge it necessary for a time to withdraw my Force from the Back Country, and to assemble what Troops I can collect at this point. I hope a recital of the Circumstances which have led to this determination will satisfy your Lordship as to the Expediency of the Measure.

After the Action on the 25th April (an account of which I had the honor of transmitting to your Lordship), Major General Greene remained for some days behind the farthest Branch of Granny's Quarter Creek.

A second Attempt upon his Army could not in that Situation be undertaken upon the Principles which advised the former. In the first instance I made so short an Excursion from my Works that I could venture without Hazard to leave them very slightly guarded; and I had the Confidence that had fortune proved unfavorable, we should easily have made good our Retreat, and our loss in all probability would not have disabled us from the further Defence of the place. To get at General Greene in his retired Situation, I must have made a very extensive circuit in order to head the Creek, which wou'd have presented to him the fairest Opportunity of slipping by me to Camden. And he was still so superior to me in numbers that had I left such a Garrison at my Post as might enable it to stand an Assault, my Force in the Field would have been totally unequal to Cope with the Enemy's Army. I had much to hope from the Arrival of Reinforcements to me, and little to fear from any probable Addition to my Antagonist's Force.

While upon that Principle, I waited for my expected Succours. Gen. Greene retired from our Front, and crossing the Wateree took a position behind Twenty-five Mile Creek. On the 7th of May, Lieut-Colonel Watson joined me with his Detachment, much reduced in Number, the Casualties, Sickness and a Reinforcement which he had left to strengthen the Garrison at Georgetown. He had crossed the Santee near its Mouth & recrossed it a little below the Entrance of the Congaree.

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By him I received the unwelcome intelligence that the whole interior Country had revolted, and that Marion & Lee (after reducing a small Post where Lieut. Col. Watson kept his Baggage at Wright's Bluff), had crossed the Santee to support the Insurgents upon the same Night which he passed it to join me. Information reached me the same day, that the Post at Motte's House near the Mouth of the Congaree was invested and Batteries opened against it. I had been long sensible of the necessity for my retiring within the Santee; but whilst Lee and Marion were in a Situation to retard my March in Front, at the same time that my Rear was exposed to Greene, I conceived it impracticable without the disgrace of abandoning my Stores and particularly my Wounded at Camden.

The Measure even now could only be effected at Neilson's Ferry which was Sixty Miles from me.

I determined to undertake it immediately, but I thought it first requisite to attempt reaping some Advantage from the additional strength which I has received. On the Night of the 7th, I crossed the Wateree at Camden Ferry, proposing to turn the Flank and attack the Rear of Green's Army, where the Ground was not strong, tho' it was very much so in Front.

The Troops had scarcely crossed the River when I received notice that Greene had moved early in the Evening, upon getting intimation of my being reinforced. I followed him by the direct Road, & found him posted behind Sawney's Creek.

Having driven in his Pickets, I examined every point of his Situation. I found it everywhere so strong that I could not hope to force it without suffering such Loss as must have crippled my Force for any future Enterprise, and the retreat lay so open for him that I could not hope that Victory would give us an Advantage sufficiently decisive to counterbalance the Loss.

The Creek (tho' slighly marked in the Maps) runs very high into the Country. Had I attempted to get around him he would have evaded me with ease; for as his Numbers still exceeded mine, I could not separate my force to fix him in any point, and Time (at this Juncture most important to me) would have been thus unprofitably wasted. I therefore returned to Camden the same Afternoon, after having in vain attempted to decoy the Enemy into Action by affecting to conceal our Retreat.

On the 9th I published to the Troops and to the Militia my

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design of evacuating Camden, offering to such of the latter as chose to accompany me every Assistance that we could afford them. During the ensuing Night I sent off all our Baggage, &c., under a strong Escort, and destroyed the Works, remaining at Camden with the rest of the Troops till 10 O'clock the next day in order to cover the March.

On the Night of the 13th I began to pass the River at Neilson's Ferry, & by the Evening of the 14th everything was safely across. Some mounted Militia had attempted to harrass our Rear Guard on the March, but a party of them having fallen into an Ambuscade, the rest of them gave us no further Trouble. We brought off all the Sick & Wounded, excepting about thirty, who were too ill to be moved; and for them I left an equal Number of Continental Prisoners in Exchange. We brought off all the Stores of any kind of Value, destroying the rest; and we brought off not only the Militia who had been with us in Camden, but also all the well affected Neighbors on our route, together with the Wives, Children, Negroes and Baggage of almost all of them.

My first News upon landing at Neilson's was that the Post at Motte's House had fallen. It was a simple Redoubt, & had been attacked formally by Sap. Lieut. McPherson had maintained it gallantly till the House in the Center of it was set in Flames by fire Arrows, which obliged his Men to throw themselves into the Ditch, & surrender at discretion. The Stroke was heavy upon me, as all the Provisions had been forwarded from Neilson's to that Post, for the Supply of Camden.

Lieut. Col. Balfour was so good as to meet me at Neilson's. He took this Measure that he might represent his Circumstances to me. He stated that the Revolt was universal; that from the little reason to apprehend this serious invasion the old Works of Charlestown had been in part levelled to make way for new Ones, which were not yet constructed; that his Garrison was inadequate to oppose any Force of consequence, and that the disaffection of the Town's Peoples howed itself in a thousand Instances. I agreed with him in the Conclusion to be drawn from hence that any Misfortune happening to my Corps might entail the Loss of the Province! But as Major McArthur had joined me with near 300 Foot and 80 Dragoons, I conceived I might, without hazarding too far, endeavor to check the Enemy's Operations on the Congaree. On the 14th at

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Night I marched from Neilson's, and on the Evening of the 15th I reached the Point where the Roads from Congaree & McCoard's Ferry unite. Various information was brought to me thither by Spies whom I had detached that Greene had passed the Congaree at McCoard's Ferry, and had pushed down the Orangeburgh Road. The Accounts, tho' none of them positive or singly satisfactory, corresponded so much that I was led to believe them, and the matter was of such moment that it would not admit of my pausing for more certain Information; therefore, after giving the Troops a little Rest, I moved back to Eutaw's the same Night, but hearing nothing there, I pursued my march hither.

I had been five Days within the Santee before a single man of the Country came near me. My first Intelligence on this Ground was that it had been only Sumpter with his Corps who had marched to Orangeburgh & that Greene had marched to Congarees, when the Post (unable to oppose such Force) had been surrendered to him on the 14th.

I dispatched Emissaries immediately to Ninety-six directing Lieut. Col. Cruger to retire to Augusta and I desired Lieut. Col. Balfour to forward the same Order by different Routes.

Should Lieut. Col. Cruger not have received this Order I fear his Situation will be dangerous. I did not think it practicable to assist him without running hazards which I judged the general State of the Province would not allow. Besides I had no deposit of Provisions left on the Frontier, and as to the expectation of gleaning them as I advanced in a wasted country and surrounded as I should have been by a swarm of Light Troops and mounted Militia; I conceived that my whole Force must have been so employed in procuring its daily Subsistence that little else could have been effected with it.

By my present position I cover those Districts from which Charlestown draws its principal Supplies. I am in readiness to improve any favorable Concurrence and I guard against any untoward Event.

It is a secondary, but not a trifling advantage, that I have been able to supply the Troops with Necessaries, for the want of which (occasioned by the long interruption of our Communications) they suffered serious Distress.

I am using every effort to augment our Cavalry; in hopes that

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the Arrival of some force which may put Charlestown out of Danger, will speedily enable us to adopt a more active Conduct.

But the plundering parties of the Enemy have so stripped the Country of Horses and there is such difficulty in getting Swords and other Appointments made at Charlestown, that I get on but slowly in this undertaking.

I have the honor to be with great Respect,
Your Lordship's Most obedient & affectionate Servant,
Lieut. General Earl Cornwallis, &c., &c., &c.