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Gates, Horatio (1728-1806) to William Smallwood

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC06505 Author/Creator: Gates, Horatio (1728-1806) Place Written: Salisbury, North Carolina Type: Letter signed Date: 13 November 1780 Pagination: 2 p. : address : docket ; 33.6 x 20.8 cm.

Summary of Content: Written by Major General Gates to Major General Smallwood. This was written after Gates's defeat at the Battle of Camden and after Congress voted to call a court of inquiry into Gates's conduct at the battle in October 1780. Smallwood commanded the troops of the Maryland Line and was also at Camden. Seems to have written the letter over several days. Says he arrived in Salisbury after an agreeable march from Hillsborough. Encloses a letter from Governor Thomas Jefferson and a list of units under the command of General Alexander Leslie (not included). Fears that General Henry Clinton will reinforce Leslie when campaigning in the north stops. Says a Board of General Officers unanimously agreed that Colonel Polk should immediately answer for his conduct. This is a reference to Thomas Polk, commissary-general for North Carolina and commissary of purchase for the army, who fought with Gates over the supply of Continental troops. Mentions British troops movements in North Carolina and Virginia. Is sending troops to meet him.Command is to devolve to General Daniel Morgan if Smallwood is absent. Says he received Smallwood's letter of 31October 1780 while on the march and is astonished Polk won't supply the Continental Army. Gets into details of troop discharges.

Background Information: Polk's duties as commissary brought him into antagonism with Gates, on a question of supplying the militia with rations. General Gates suggested that he be ordered to Salisbury to answer ...for his conduct. Polk offered his resignation, but it was not at first accepted. Afterward he became district commissary. After the action at Cowan's Ford, General Greene offered the command of the militia of Salisbury district to Colonel Polk, with the commission of brigadier-general, but, in spite of a personal request by General Greene, the latter was not confirmed by the governor and council, and Colonel Polk was superseded in May 1781.See More

Full Transcript: Salisbury 13th November 1780
Dear Sirs
Saturday Night I arrived here with such of the Continental Light Dragoons as were fit to move. - I left Hillsborough on Monday Morning and ...had a very dry and agreeable March hither. - Inclosed I send a Copy of a Letter I received last Night by express from Governor Jefferson; and a List of the Troops, the enemy are said to have now under the Command of General Lesley in Virginia. - From several Circumstances I am induced to believe, these, are only the advanced corps; and that as soon as Sir Harry Clinton perceives, the Season for Campaigning is past, to the Northward, He will reinforce the Troops in Virginia - and very probably those in South Carolina also, - and most assuredly will himself, join one or the other of these Bodies of Troops ~ A Board of General Officers, who sat yesterday Morning at my Quarters, have given it as their unanimous opinion that Colonel Polk should be immediately obliged to answer for his Conduct, - and that his two friends, Mr. Achiltree and Mr Mc Cafferty, should be sent for here, under a guard, to be dealt with, as they shall appear to have merited. ~
I have not the least Dependance in what Genl Harrington [inserted: writes] in respect to a fleet of our allies, being upon the Coast of South Carolina or Georgia, - had that been the Case, Admiral Rodney would never have suffered the Troops now in Virginia, to have sailed from New York, under a Convoy of only One Fifty gun ship and Three frigates, - besides, Lord Cornwallis who has now been march'd a month from Charlotte, would have been more expeditions in his movements; had he any cause to apprehend, an attack upon the Sea Line of the Southern States: - for these reasons, and from the advanced season of the year, - I cannot believe there is either French or Spanish Fleet, upon the Coast. I shall be very happy to be mistaken ~ As [2] the Enemy seem to have taken a fixed position at Winsborough, and Camden, and fortified the Latter; it behoves us to do the like, in the best situation for us - in doing which, our Strength, Magazines, Resources, Health and Preservation of the Troops, are to be considerate. - for this purpose I could wish to see you here, for a Day or two; when the sense of the General Officers, may be collected upon that and other Important Subjects; not prudent to trust to writing, by this mode of conveyance ~ I shall order a Strong Escort from the Cavalry to meet you at Phiser's, to relieve, those you may think it necessary to bring with you from camp.
- You will give your Directions to Genl. Morgan, upon whom the Command will devolve, in your absence, taking his Opinion upon the present posture of affairs, before you set out. - Your Letter of the 31:st ultimo came to my Hands the 6th.. ins:t, upon the March from Hillsborough. - I am astonished at what you tell me, in regard to Colonel Polks refusing to supply the Continental Troops with provisions - and at the very alarming Distress you are reduced to, for want of that essential article. - to increase your numbers must encrease your wants: - I must therefore repeat my desire of seeing you, as soon as possible. ~ General Butler acquaints me there are Numbers of the Militia discharged from your camp, whose Terms of Service are unexpired, - one Regiment being to serve until the 25th. Instant, and the other until the 5th. December - the General thinks they have deceived you, as to the Time, they were to remain. - you will discover the bad tendency of letting them go Home before their Time is out, as they will all in future expect like indulgence. - The badness of the weather, which appears likely to last; The badness of the Roads; and wretchedness of our Draught Horses, will necessarily detain us here some Time; Long enough perhaps, for us, to decide upon the most eligible Spot for our next Station. With much Regard I am Dear Sir your affectionate, hble Servant Horatio Gates.
Major Genl. Smallwood.

Majr. Genl. Smallwood

[address leaf]
Salisbury November 13th. 1780.
From General Gates.
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Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: Revolutionary WarRevolutionary War GeneralMilitary HistoryContinental ArmyMilitary CampBattle of CamdenBattlePresidentVice President

Sub Era: The War for Independence

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