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Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier, marquis de (1757-1834) to Nathanael Greene

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC06323 Author/Creator: Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier, marquis de (1757-1834) Place Written: Virginia Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 3 June 1781 Pagination: 4 p. : docket ; 32.4 x 20.9 cm.

Summary of Content: Written by Lafayette as commander of American forces in Virginia to General Greene as commander of the Southern Department. Lafayette is writing from his camp between the Rappahannock and North Anna Rivers. Updates Greene on the cat and mouse campaign he was undertaking against General Lord Cornwallis throughout Virginia. Says that Cornwallis's force is much larger than his, especially his cavalry, which outnumbers his 10 to 1. Tells Greene that Cornwallis landed at Westover instead of Richmond and has been attempting to outflank him. Thought he would have met up with General Anthony Wayne by now, but he has not. Seems that Cornwallis's objective is Fredericksburg, but says he could also be going to Charlottesville. Mentions that he has had stores removed from Cornwallis's probable paths. After an unauthenticated report of an insurrection in the Convention Army, which was made up British prisoners of war from the Saratoga campaign of 1777, Lafayette worries that Cornwallis is moving to free them. Says General Daniel Morgan is moving against the rebels. Says Congressional Board of War has ordered them moved northward, which he is undertaking immediately. Complains of the 500 mounted troops Cornwallis has under his command. Says it makes it hard for him to reconnoitre. Ink is faded.

Full Transcript: Camp Between Rappaanack and North
Anna 3rd june 1781
I Have done Myself the Honor to write You Many letters, But least some of them Had Miscarried, Which I much ...Aprehend to Have Been the Case I shall Repeat [struck: an] Account of the late transactions in this State
The junction of the Ennemy Being Made, which for the Reasons I Have Mentioned it was Impossible to prevent I Retired towards Richmond and waited for Lord Cornwallis's movement; His Regular force Being so vastly superior to mine, Reinforcements from Below Having still increased it, and His Cavalry Being ten to one, I could not think to Bring into Action a small Body of eight or nine Hundred men that [portioned] the shadow of An Army, and An inconsiderable Body of Militia whose defeat was Certain and would Be attended with a fatal loss of arms
Lord Cornwallis Had at first the project to land above Richmond But desisted from it and landed at west over - He then proposed to turn our Left flank, But Before it was executed we moved, By the left to the forks of Chicaominy - The Ennemy Advanced [2] twelve Miles and we Retreated [struck: But] in the same proportion - They crossed Chicaominy and Advanced on the Road to FredericksBurg - We Marched on a parallel with them keeping the Upper part of the Country - our position at Mattapong Church would Have Much Exposed the Ennemy's flank on their way to FredericksBurg, But they stopped at Cook's ford on North Anna River where they Are for the present - General Waine Having Announced to me His departure for the 23d [illegible] I expected Before this time to Have made a junction - We Have Moved Back some distance, and are cautious not to indulge Lord Cornwallis with the Advantage of An Action with our present force
The Intentions of the Ennemy are not as yet well Explained - FredericksBurg Appears to Be their object, the More so as A greater Number of troops are said to Be gone down than is Necessary to the Garrison of Portsmouth - the public stores Have Been as well as possible Removed, and as Has Been Every part of Hunter's works that could Be taken out of the way - it is possible they mean to make [3] A Strike towards Charlotte's ville - This I would not Be uneasy for Had My Repeated directions Been Executed - But instead of Removing Stores from there to Alternate old Court House general Baron de Steuben Has collected 600 Regulars and where I ordered the Militia South of James River to Rendisvous, it Appears By a letter I Received this Evening that State Stores Have Been Contrary to My direction Collected there least they should mix with the Continentals - But My former letters were so positive, and My late precautions Are [inserted: so] Multiplied that I Hope the precious part of the Stores will Have gone to a [struck: saf] safer place- I Had also some stores Removed from Orange Court House- dispatches from the Governor to me Have fallen into the Ennemies Hands of which I gave Him and the Baron an immediate Notice
[inserted: The Report of] An Insurrection in Hampshire County, and the Hurry of Lord Cornwallis to Communicate the Copy of a Cartel with you where it is settled the prisoners will Be sent By such a time to James town are Motions that gave me some suspicion of a project towards the Convention troops - the Number of the Rebels is said to Be 700 and Gnl Morgan Has marched against them - I think the Account is pretty well Authenticated tho' it is not official
[4] Having luckily oppened A letter from the Board of war to the Governor where By the Convention Prisoners Are ordered to New England, I sent a Copy of it to Col Wood and Requested An immediate Execution of the Order this Motion and the Aprehension that I Might Be interrupted in a jonction with Gnl Waine Have induced me particularly to attend to our Reunion An Event that was indispensable to give us a possibility to protect some part or other of this State I was Untill lately ignorant of Your orders that the [strikeout] Continentals and Militia Under Baron de Steuben Be United with this Part of Your Army and the Baron Intended Shortly to March to the Southward - When United to Gnl Waine I shall Better Be able to Command My own Movements and those of the other troops in this State - Had this Expected jonction taken place [struck: so] sooner, [strikeout] Matters would Have Been very different
The Ennemy Must Have 500 men Mounted, and their Cavalry increases daily - it is impossible in this Country to take Horses out of their way, and the Neglect of the inhabitants, disposition of Houses, and Robberies of Negroes (should even the most vigorous Measures Have Been taken By the Civil Authority) would Have yet put Many Horses into their Hands - Under this Cloud of light troops it is difficult to Reconnoitre as well as to Counteract any Rapid movement they chose to make.
I Have the Honor to Be with the Highest Respect
Your Most Obedient Humble
[written on bottom of page 1]
Hbl Major General Greene

From the Marquis la Fayette
June 3d. 1781.
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Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: Revolutionary WarRevolutionary War GeneralMilitary HistoryContinental ArmyGlobal History and CivicsForeign AffairsConvention ArmyPrisoner of WarMutinyRebellionCavalry

Sub Era: The War for Independence

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