Letter from Ichabod Burnet (as aide de camp to Nathanael Greene), 1781

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Ichabod Burnet was a New Jersey native who served as an aide de camp to Major General Nathanael Greene during the Revolutionary War.  In this letter, Burnet writes from Hick's Creek in Marlboro County, SC and gives a soldier’s view of camp life.  From describing what the men endured and the organization of the troops to speaking of more distant military campaigns and the political leanings of South Carolina’s residents, Burnet provides a first hand glimpse at the Revolutionary War.   


Burnet, Ichabod. Letter to Anonymous, 23 Jan. 1781.  South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.


Camp on PeDee

January 23d 1781

My dear Sir,

Your favour of the 11th I have received and am sorry to find Mr. Pettit has so bad a prospect of recovering his money.

I shall be happy in cultivating a correspondence with you while the Baron continues in Virginia, but hope his stay will be short.  I am almost persuaded that the party under Arnold are upon a predatory business, - but of this you are the best judge.  But he may arose the great knife and teach then the inconsistency of their establishments and plans.  The Baron’s influence will now be very great they must see the propriety of his advice & will be obliged to adopt his plan from necessity.  The gentlem[e]n from that state who are in camp are mortified and chagrined at the conduct of their countrymen.  They are loud in their exclamations against them and at the same time doubly attentive to prevent other persons from casting the least insinuations to their prejudice.  We are yet recruiting the troops but are destitute of clothing and stores of every kind.  The Staff departments are entirely deranged.  If the enemy have Virga. I hope the Baron will come on immediately – I shall be exceedingly happy to see you.  We have a most excellent climate and hope to have a good supply of stores before you come on. 

The deranged state of Virga must give the Baron and you great pain, but be assured I am fully sensible of it: for if there ever was any such thing as a perfect derangement – I should believe we have experienced it. 

We have heard nothing from Morgan – the main body of the enemy have been in motion after him for twelve days – but no fighting.  Lee & Green have arrived – the troops under Green have almost worn out their Clothing – we get but about half our allowance of meal, but hope for a better supply in the future.

The tories have embodied within 30 Miles of Head Quarters and for two days have been so troublesome that the Genl . has detached Major Anderson with 200 Men to disperse them.  The people are two thirds Tories – The Militia of this State support them by impressing.  They are extravagant beyond all conception.  They are called out for three months – the privates appoint the F. Officers and they the Capts. and Subs.  They are answerable to no one and the detachments have been six weeks marching towards Camp and then return from the supposition that their 3 Months would expire before they could get home.  And Altho’ never reported they are audited for a tour.  They impress what wagons they please and their officers impress rum & induce the people to sell it for half price, then sell it to their own men by the gill.  The Genl has only obtained a return of forage received by one detachment of 200 Men it amounts to more than would have supplied two Continental Brigades.  These are facts and thus the finances of the U. States are wasted.  I beg my respects to the Baron – compliments to North, Fairly and all who recollect

Genl  Stephen’s Brigade go home next week

                                                                                                I. Burnet

Correlating SC Social Studies Academic Standards:

Standard 3-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the American Revolution and South Carolina’s role in the development of the new American nation.

Indicator 3-3.2 Summarize the key conflicts and key leaders of the American Revolution in South Carolina and their effects on the state, including the occupation of Charleston by the British; the partisan warfare of Thomas Sumter, Andrew Pickens, and Francis Marion; and the battles of Cowpens and Kings Mountain. (H, P, G)

Standard 4-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the conflict between the American colonies and England.

Indicator 4-3.4 Summarize the events and key battles of the Revolutionary War, including Lexington and Concord, Bunker (Breed’s) Hill, Charleston, Saratoga, Cowpens, and Yorktown. (G, H)

Standard 8-2:  The student will demonstrate an understanding of the American Revolution - the beginnings of the new American nation and South Carolina’s part in the development of that nation.

Standard USHC-2: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the establishment of the United States as a new nation.

Indicator USHC-2.2 Explain the impact of the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution on the American colonies and on the world at large. (H, P, E)


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