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Letter from Benjamin Lincoln to Richard Caswell
Caswell, Richard, 1729-1789
January 03, 1780
Volume 15, Pages 311-313

[From Executive Letter Book.]

Charles Town, January 3rd, 1780.

Dear Sir:

I was yesterday honoured with your favour of the 13th ulto.

It affords great pleasure to be informed that your militia have been draughted, are on their march, and may soon be expected

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here, where their services are greatly needed, and by the last accounts from Philadelphia will probably soon be more so, while the continued exertions of your state for the defence of this and of Georgia leave no room to doubt of their zeal in the support of the common Cause, and the particular interest of your neighbouring states, who must view with pleasure your voluntary and timely efforts to preserve their safety and happiness. The impartial Historian will record these acts among those virtuous deeds which have reflected so much lustre on the first three years of American Independence.

We can supply your Militia with arms, ammunition, cartridge boxes and Camp Kettles. We are greatly deficient in the article of tents; if you could send us them, and some lead, they will be particularly agreeable. Your Excellency will give me leave also to recommend that some shoes, stockings, shirts, and small clothes be sent on, for, from this long march, the men will be barefoot before they arrive here; and from the want of Magazines, at which the Militia can receive such necessary supplies, they become unfit for duty, their health endangered, & they get a disrelish for the service. Men would gladly pay for these things if they could purchase them, but they too seldom have it in their power to do so, and I am quite unhappy that, from the low state of our public Magazines, I have little reason to expect we shall have it in our power to remedy this evil. Provision is made for the reception of your troops on the routes you have ordered them; every allowance will be made for the difficulties in marching Militia. I know they are great, and will be so, until all of them are really influenced by those principles of patriotism, that love of their Country and concern for their own freedom and independence which induced America, in the first Instance, to oppose the tyranny of Britian.

I never mention Militia but I am filled with concern that we are under the necessity of calling them out; for there is such a waste of time in marching to and from Camp, such sporting with the public monies by the extraordinary expence in keeping up an army in this way, such loss of husbandmen from the fields (being double the number absent from their homes to those really in arms) besides the more melancholly evils which arise from a call so frequently of different men into Camp, many of whom are lost

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before they become seasoned to it, and the distresses brought on the families of those who are hurried away before they have an opp'y of making the necessary provision for their subsistence while absent, are misfortunes much to be regretted, and guarded against if possible.

From this view of the matter I am induced, and always have been inclined to wish that, instead of these frequent calls of the Militia the Continental Battalions were filled up, and hoped that from the recent evils felt by the late mode of keeping up an army your state would have been led to have filled up your Contint. Regiments. Hardly a sum can be named as a Bounty for a Soldier who would engage during the war, or for three years, which might not be given rather than pursue our present mode. This will appear if we consider the men engaged for three years only, and that but one-half of the Militia called out are in the field at a time, which I think is true, and estimate the wages of a man for three years, the several Bounties given to the Militia in that time, and the expence of provision, waggons, &c., marching to and from Camp, and the great loss of ammunition in shifting from one hand to another, and I think the necessity and propriety of filling up your Continental Battalions will be further evident when we reflect that from men raised for a considerable length of time, (a time sufficient in which to discipline them,) more essential services may be expected than from a like number who are not retained in service long enough to learn the duties, or become inured to, the fatigues of the Camp, and that to avoid the dissatisfaction which arises in the minds of the Militia on these frequent calls is a mischief which we should avoid if consistent with the safety of the State.

I have the honour to be, Dear Sir,
With the highest sentiments of regard & Esteem,
Your most obedient Servant,