Addition, 12 Jan. 1781 and Undated, to| Manuscripts Gifts 2006 | Front Page 2006 | Previous Issues | Friends of the Library |
Lewis Morris Papers
Two letters, 12 January 1781 and undated, augment the South Caroliniana Library’s holdings of the papers of Lewis Morris (1754-1824) and report on the military situation in South Carolina prior to the battle of Cowpens fought on 17 January 1781. | Manuscripts Gifts 2006 | Previous Issues | Endowments | Friends of the Library |
The letter of 12 January 1781 was written by Lt. Col. Lewis Morris, aide-de-camp to Gen. Nathanael Greene, and addressed to his father, Lewis Morris, in New York from “Kershaw’s Ferry on the Pedee River.” In it Morris describes reinforcements arriving to support the Continen¬tal Army and operations of the British Army under Generals Leslie and Cornwallis. Even with the additional troops, he surmises, “we shall not be equal to more than one third of Cornwallis’s numbers,” but conveys his optimism in a Latin quotation, a variation of which is used today as South Carolina’s state motto, “Dum spiro, sperando - While I Breathe, I Hope.”
The undated letter, presumably written after Cowpens in January 1781, and again intended for Morris’s father, recounts the movement of the British Army under Lord Cornwallis away from “Wynnsborough” in an attempt to “dispossess Genl. Morgan on the West Side of the Catawba River.” Morris notes that if “Morgan acts with that prudence and caution which I have reason to believe he will...his Lordship will find it a very difficult matter.”
Morris also relates news of Benedict Arnold’s raids into Virginia and his resentment over the lack of defenses around Richmond. “The enemy landed five and twenty miles marched up and destroyed the public buildings, etc. and returned without having a shot fired at them?well let the Dominion smart by the hands of a traitor, they deserve it all.”
Lewis Morris, the son of a wealthy New York planter and signer of the Declaration of Independence, relocated to South Carolina when General Greene was given command of the Southern Continental Army, only weeks before Morris penned the first letter.
Following the war Morris settled in Charleston, S.C., and married Anne Barnett Elliott, a daughter of William Elliott, with whom he had eight children. He served five terms in the South Carolina General Assembly between 1789 and 1801 as well as holding the post of lieutenant governor, 1794-1796. Morris died at his family estate, Morrisania, in New York in 1824 and was buried in St. Michael’s Churchyard in Charleston.