Camp at Burr’s Mill on Thicketty Creek,
15 January 1781
Dear General: Your letters of the 3rd and 8th instant, came to hand yesterday just as I was preparing to change my position, was therefor obliged to detain the express until this evening.
The accounts I have transmitted to you of Lieutenant Colonel Washington’s success, accord with his opinion. The number killed and wounded on the part of the tories must depend on conjecture, as they broke on the first charge, scattered through the woods and were pursued in every direction. The consequences attending this defeat will be fatal to the disaffected. have not been able to embody.
Sensible of the importance of having magazines of forage and provisions established in this country, I have left no means in my power unassayed to effect this business. I dispatched Captain Chitty, (whom I have appointed as commissary ofpurchases for my command), with orders to collect and store all the provisions that could be obtained between the Catawba and Broad rivers. I gave him directions to call on Colonel Hill, who commands a regiment of militia in that quarter, to furnish him with a proper number of men to assist him in the execution of this commission, but he, to my great surprise, had just returned without effecting any thing. He tells me that his failure proceeded from the want of the countenance and assistance of Colonel Hill, who assured him that General Sumpter directed him to obey no orders from me, unless they came through him.
I find it impracticable to procure more provisions in this quarter than is absolutely necessary for our own immediate consumption: indeed it has been with the greatest difficulty that we have been able to effect this. We have to feed such a number of horses that the most plentiful country must soon be exhausted. Nor am I a little apprehensive that no part of this state accessible to us, can support us long. Could the militia be persuaded to change their fatal mode of going to war, much provision might be saved, but the custom has taken such deep root that it cannot be abolished.
Upon a full and mature deliberation, I am confirmed in the opinion that nothing can be effected by my detachment in this country which will balance the risks I will be subjected to by remaining here. The enemy’s great superiority of numbers and our distance from the main army, will enable Lord Cornwallis to detach so superior a force against me, as to render it essential to our safety to avoid coming to action; nor will this always be in my power. No attempt to surprise me will be left untried by them, and situated as we must be, every possible precaution may not be sufficient to secure us. The scarcity of forage makes it impossible for us to be always in a compact body; and were this not the case, it is beyond the art of man to keep the militia from straggling. These reasons induce me to request that I may be recalled with my detachment; and that General Davidson and Colonel Pickens may be left with the militia of North and South Carolina and Georgia. They will not be so much the object of the enemy’s attention, and will be capable of being a check on the disaffected, which is all I can effect.
Colonel Pickens is a valuable discreet, and attentive officer, and has the confidence of the militia. My force is inadequate to the attempts you have hinted at. I have now with me only two hundred South Carolina and Georgia, and one hundred and forty North Carolina, volunteers. Nor do I expect to have more that two-thirds of these to assist me, should I be attacked, for it is impossible to keep them collected. Though I am convinced that were you on the spot, the propriety of my proposition would strike you forcibly; should you think it unadvisable to recall me, you may depend on my attempting every thing to annoy the enemy, and to provide for the safety of the detachment. I shall cheerfully acquiesce in your determinations. Col. Tarleton has crossed the Tyger at Musgrove’s Mill; his force we cannot learn. It is more than probable we are his object. Cornwallis, by last accounts, was at the cross-roads near Lee’s old place.
We have just learned that Tarleton’s force is from eleven to twelve hundred British.
I am, dear general,