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TO MAJOR-GENERAL GREENE. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. IX (1780-1782) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. IX (1780-1782).
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TO MAJOR-GENERAL GREENE.
Philadelphia, 15 December, 1781.
My Dear Sir,
I have successively received your favors of the 30th of October and 2d and 21st of November.
I thank you for your kind congratulations on an event, which is certainly most important, considered in a public view, and which adds to my personal satisfaction, by finding that it in some degree relieves you from that load of difficulty and distress, with which you had so long been contending. The evacuation of the State of North Carolina is another very fortunate circumstance.1
I presented your recommendation of Colonel Williams to Congress, backed by my own; the expediency of filling up the vacant brigadierships is among other matters now under consideration; and, if thought proper at this time, there is no doubt of Colonel Williams being promoted.2
I hope General St. Clair has before or by this time joined you. The enemy have sent no reinforcement from New York to Charleston, nor do I learn that any preparations are making for such a measure. If it should be the opinion, that the British force in South Carolina is adequate to the maintenance of Charleston, I should not be surprised, if Sir Henry Clinton was to content himself with acting upon the defensive in that quarter, at least until the pleasure of the ministry can be known; because an additional force, sufficient to regain and make establishments in the country, is more than can well be spared from New York. I am informed, the English prints of a late date speak of a reinforcement preparing from thence for Carolina and Florida; and I think it not at all improbable, for I fancy Lord Cornwallis’s private despatches, after the battle of Guilford, painted his affairs in no very favorable light.
I am apprehensive that the States, elated by the late success, and taking it for granted that Great Britain will no longer support so losing a contest, will relax in their preparations for the next campaign. I am detained here by Congress to assist in the arrangements for the next year; and I shall not fail, in conjunction with the financier, minister for foreign affairs, and secretary of war, who are all most heartily well disposed, to impress upon Congress, and get them to impress upon the respective States, the necessity of the most vigorous exertions. I am sorry that Major Hyrne’s indisposition has prevented the transmission of the lists of prisoners, as the Commissary General who is now at Elizabethtown negotiating an exchange may find himself at a loss for want of them. He is proceeding upon a return which Genl. Moultrie furnished and which I believe was taken from Major Hyrne’s books. Should it appear that any characters have been omitted, it can easily be rectified as we shall have a considerable balance of officers remaining in our hands.
I really know not what to say on the subject of retaliation. Congress have it under consideration, and we must await their determination. Of this I am convinced, that of all laws it is the most difficult to execute, where you have not the transgressor himself in your possession. Humanity will ever interfere and plead strongly against the sacrifice of an innocent person for the guilt of another; and, as to destruction of property within the enemy’s lines, it is in fact destroying our own. It will be to the eternal disgrace of the nation, which drives us to the disagreeable necessity of thinking of means to curb their barbarity.1 I am with the warmest sentiments of esteem, &c.
[1 ]The British had recently retired from Wilmington.
[2 ]As General Smallwood had been promoted to the rank of major-general, Colonel Otho H. Williams was recommended by General Greene to supply his place as brigadier in the Maryland line.
[1 ]On these topics General Greene had written: “Before an exchange is gone fully into I wish something decisive may be done respecting Colonel Hayne. As retaliation necessarily involves the whole Continent, I wish your Excellency’s order and the order of Congress thereon. The latter have signified their approbation of the measures I took. But, as retaliation did not take place immediately, nor did I think myself at liberty to act on a matter of such magnitude but from the most pressing necessity, and as the enemy did not repeat the offence, I have been at a loss how to act with respect to the original one, not having any officer of equal rank with Colonel Hayne in my possession. I am ready to execute whatever may be thought advisable. It would be happy for America, if something could be done to put a stop to the practice of burning, both in the northern States and here also; and, to prevent it here, I wrote to the enemy a letter on the subject, a copy of which I enclose; and if they do not desist, I will put the war on the footing I mention.”—MS. Letter, November 21st.