Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 70,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Greene, Nathanael (1742-1786) to Henry Knox

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.01424 Author/Creator: Greene, Nathanael (1742-1786) Place Written: Headquarters outside Charleston, South Carolina Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 20 May 1782 Pagination: 7 p. : docket ; 32.5 x 20.7 cm.

Summary of Content: Written by Major General Greene to Major General Knox. Is happy to hear about Knox's promotion. Thought that he might be able to work with Knox on the coming campaign, but says the circumstances have been changed by British Admiral George Brydges Rodney's victory over Comte de Grasse's French fleet near Dominica at the Battle of Saintes on 12 April 1782. Says Sir Henry Clinton will undoubtedly push operations in the South. Says he heard that Knox thinks there will be a British evacuation and has delayed sending supplies as a result. Had to use some harsh discipline, including hanging a sergeant, to keep his troops in line after a mutiny. They are "naked and without a prospect of clothing and hardly a gill of rum." Says the enemy is in good shape in comparison. Says things have been eased for him and his troops after the 19th and 30th regiment were sent from Charleston to the West Indies. Claims "I fear all America have been dreaming to long of peace." Says Virginia and North Carolina "are taking a serious nap and I doubt nothing will rouse them but a removal of the French troops Southerly or Northerly." Says only 1000 regular troops are in the field south of Maryland, and that many of their terms are about to end. Laments that Americans do not support the war and says "Nothing but a fundamental alteration in the manner of carrying on the war will bring them to adopt wise and salutary measures." Says using militia to take the place of regulars is a big part of the problem. Says South Carolina has voted to give him a grant of 10,000 guineas. Georgia has voted him 5,000 more. Says he might never see any of the money, but that it will vindicate his duty. Wants to know what will happen to the Maryland artillery because "They are here rather in an awkward situation. Wants to know where the carpenters he was promised are. Says General Anthony Wayne in Georgia is in need of "Artificers." Signed by Greene with his initials 'NG'.

Full Transcript: [draft]
Headquarters
May 20th 1782 -
Dear Sir
Nothing has made me more happy than hearing of your promotion[.] I was apprehsive Congress would neglect to do you justice until you ...had taken your final determination to leave the Army. I wish they had done it with a little better grace it would have been pleasing to you and more to their credit. However they seem to have a faculty of doing every thing of this sort of out of season.
I have been in some expectation that the operations of this Campaign might bring us together; but Admiral Rodney has given Count de Grass such a confounded thump of the back that I begin to despair at last this Campaign [2] This unfortunate event will I fear totally change the face of matters in the West Indies; and the plan of operations in the United States. Clinton finding himself secure from the cooperation of the French will most undoubtedly push the Southern war. I am told you have been so strongly impressed with an idea of evacuation of this Country as to delay the supplies. This has brought on a mutiny which threatened very serious consequences. But hanging a sergeant with decision and sending off five others in a disgraceful manner gave it a happy check. Of all situations we are in the most disagreeable, we can neither fight or let it alone. The enemy are secured by their works while we are exposed to an attack when ever the enemy are disposed to move out. Our [3] Troops from getting no pay being fed upon bad provisions[,] naked and without a prospect of clothing and hardly a gill of rum a month are not a little discontended [sic] or at least have been. The enemy on the other hand are well paid well fed and well clothed as I ever saw troops. From the different condition of the two Armies the enemy have a great advantage over us - However we are more at our ease than we have been the 19th and 30th Regiments having been detached from Charlestown under General O'Hara for the West Indies -
I fear all America have been dreaming too long of peace. Eight months is gone since the enemy have been acting upon the defensive and little or nothing done. Virginia and North Carolina are taking a serious nap and I doubt nothing will rouse [4] them but a removal of the French troops Southerly or Northerly. Can you believe in all the states south of Maryland have not a thousand regular troops in the field; and a great part of those who are in the field their term of service soon expires. Alas how languid and how improvident this people? Nothing but a fundamental alteration in the manner of carrying on the war will bring them to adopt wise and salutary measures. Employing such shoals of Militia and neglecting to fill their regular battalions is the great service of this evil - All the people appear to desire Military fame but few are willing to engage in the only way that can assure it to them. This Country is still in a most critical situation; but I cannot make the people believe it. They will not allow any thing [5] for the chances of war; and because we've done something conclude we can do everything. Their confidence is both pleasing and distressing. They have been generous in their intentions to me; but its effects will depend upon the issue of the war. I wrote you some time ago that the state of South Carolina had voted me a grant for ten thousand guineas[.] The state of Georgia have voted me five more. Perhaps I may never derive any advantage from these votes; but if I should not, they will serve to prove that the people were fully satisfied that I did every thing possible to be done with my force. I have had many tryals and many difficulties; and I wish from my soul we may not from this late affair experience a reversal of them [6] The Commander in Chief has had his difficulties to the Northward; but they were like mole hills to mountains when compared with ours. I am happy to hear your prospects are bettered although so much better than ours before. I am told your Army is fed by contracts and fully supplied; and that you are well clothed. Pay I suppose you have little or none. If you have it is better than I expect[.] Apropos what is to be done with the Maryland Artillery? They are here rather in an awkward situation. I wish something decisive was concluded on. Pray where is the Carpenters you promised me? I have hard nothing of them. I am sure you will nto forget me after what I wrote you on that subject.
General Wayne commands [7] in Georgia and is in great distress for want of a few artificers. However with less than half the enemies force he insults them and maintains his ground in spight of their teeth.
Mrs Greene joins me in respectful compliments to you and Mrs Knox. How is Lucy my Godson and young master Camillus. Has he got a roman nose? Do you intend to give him a roman or Spartan education? I think you will mix a little French softness with antient severity. I beg my compliments to Major Shaw[,] Col Jackson[,] and all my old friends.
Yours aff NG
[docket]
From General Greene
20th May 1782.
See More

People:

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: NavyFranceRevolutionary WarRevolutionary War GeneralGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyMilitary HistoryContinental ArmyBattleCaribbeanMilitary SuppliesDeath PenaltyMutinyMilitary LawClothing and AccessoriesMilitary ProvisionsMilitary UniformsAlcoholMilitiaSoldier's PayFinanceArtilleryArtisans

Sub Era: The War for Independence

Order a Copy Citation Guidelines for Online Resources