CARRINGTON, EDWARD. (1748–1810). Continental officer, General Nathanael Greene's quartermaster general. Virginia. A man who deserves to be better remembered for his varied services in the Continental army, Edward Carrington was born in Goochland County, Virginia, on 11 February 1748, and served on its Patriot County Committee in 1775 and 1776. He was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel of artillery in Colonel Charles Harrison's First Continental Artillary Regiment when this unit was activated on 30 November 1776. Carrington distinguished himself at the battle of Monmouth, in May 1778, where his guns were posted with the left wing of General William Alexander (Lord Stirling), playing a crucial role in preventing an American defeat. In March 1780 he served with General Arthur St. Clair and Alexander Hamilton as commissioner for the exchange of prisoners. Carrington commanded the three batteries that marched south with de Kalb, along with other Virginia artillery units that had been sent earlier to reinforce Lincoln. When Colonel Harrison unexpectedly joined De Kalb in North Carolina he superseded Carrington.
When General Horatio Gates reached de Kalb's headquarters (25 July 1780), or soon thereafter, he sent Carrington on a reconnaissance mission along the Roanoke and Dan Rivers that proved of great value in General Nathanael Greene's ingenious campaign of maneuver against General CharlesCornwallis' army. General Henry Lee praised Carrington for performing his "duty with much intelligence."
Carrington rejoined the army just two days before its concentration at Guilford Court-House, 7 Feb. 1781, where he he served both as an artillery commander and as Greene's quartermaster general. Lee again praised Carrington for a brilliant job: "[W]ithout a single dollar in the military chest … he contrived, by his method, his zeal, and his indefatigable industry, to give promptitude to our movements, as well as accuracy and punctuality" (Lee, p. 250).
Carrington repeatedly served double duty as an active officer, joining Colonel Otho Williams's rearguard action in delaying Cornwallis's pursuit of Greene's army, and personally supervising the crossing of the Dan River. Soon thereafter, Carrington brought forward the artillery and some much-needed provisions just in time for the battle of Hobkirk's Hill, which took place on 25 April 1781. When Greene's army withdrew into an area of prominent ridges known as the High Hills of Santee (South Carolina) in July 1781, he granted Carrington's request to return to General George Washington's army to succeed Colonel Thomas Proctor as as commander of the Fourth Continental Artillery Regiment. Carrington commanded this artillery regiment during the Yorktown Campaign.
After the surrender of Cornwallis, Carrington reverted to his post of quartermaster general, having been passed over for promotion in the artillery. On Greene's instructions, he went to Philadelphia to see Robert Morris about getting supplies for the southern army. In this assignment he was successful, and Morris made funds available to Greene for the purchase of food and clothing. Carrington rejoined Greene in the summer of 1782, and served as his quartermaster general until the end of the war.
The Virginia legislature selected Carrington as one of its representatives to the last Continental Congress, which met from 1786 to 1788, whereupon Washington appointed him to the post of federal marshal for the state of Virginia. Carrington was foreman of the jury that acquitted Aaron Burr of treason in 1807. He died almost exactly three years later, at the age of 61. Carrington's organizational skills and his ability to acquire and move supplies and munitions kept Greene's hard-pressed army in the field throughout the vital Southern campaign. Perhaps his epitaph should be the words of Nathanael Greene: "Nobody ever heard of a quartermaster, in history."
revised by Michael Bellesiles