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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Josiah Martin to William Legge, Earl of Dartmouth
Martin, Josiah, 1737-1786
July 20, 1775
Volume 10, Pages 108-109

[B. P. R. O. Am. & W. Ind.: No. Carolina. No. 222.]
Letter from Governor Martin to the Earl of Dartmouth.

Cruizer Sloop of War in Cape Fear River,
No. Carolina, July 20th, 1775.

My Lord,

I have embrassed the moment only that the immediate departure of a Vessel affords me to acquaint your Lordship that I received about 9 o'clock at night on the 18th inst. a letter signed “The People,” by the hands of a Pilot who confessed he received it from Mr John Ashe, a copy of which letter and of my answer thereto I have the honor herewith to lay before your Lordship. At between 2 and 3 o'clock the next morning an officer of the Cruizer came down to the Cabin where I was to inform Captain Parry that Captain Collet's house in Fort Johnston was on fire. The necessary preparations were immediately made for the Security of His Majesty's Ship and covering the Artillery on shore in case the People should attempt to possess themselves of it, during which no creature was to be seen, and all the buildings in the Fort, which being of wood burnt like tinders, were entirely consumed. Early in the morning of yesterday a body of Men with three stands of colours was seen in motion on a point of land about 2 miles above the Ship, which soon afterwards entered the Woods and disappeared, until between 7 and 8 o'clock when we discovered a large party at some distance, and some lesser parties about the Fort which a few of the People soon afterwards entered and with a degree of wanton malice not to be described set fire to everything that had escaped the flames the preceding night, which indeed was nothing but a Centry Box, and some of the Parapets of wood work that Captain Collet had newly raised upon the defences of the place. These proceedings however to the last degree violent, extravagant and provoking, I did not think My Lord of consequence sufficient to justify me in commencing hostilities against the People so long as they forebore to touch the King's Artillery, as I had no men to land I could do it with so little effect, and as all the material damage that the Fort could sustain had been effected in the night by persons yet undiscovered. Some of the Trucks of the Gun carriages, which owing to Captain Collet's oversight, were not embarked as I directed with the shot and other small Stores, the rabble

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removed four or five hundred yards from where they lay and left them. These I hope to recover to day and get them on Board Ship.

After sauntering about the Fort, and its neighborhood till between 2 and 3 o'clock in the afternoon, this rabble which amounted as nearly as I can learn to about 300 men, with a savage and barbarian wantonness, disgracefull to humanity, set fire to a large barn, stable and coach house, and a new small dwelling house together with several outhouses that Captain Collet had built for his own convenience on the King's Land belonging to the Fort, without the works, and immediately after completing this desolation retired by the route they came.

The pretence for these shamefull and extravagant outrages is annamosity to Captain Collet, whose zeal for the King's Service, and natural vehemence and impetuosity of temper, I fear have transported him to some great indiscretions, but I am confident to no violences that can justify such barbarian vengeance.

Mr John Ashe and Mr Cornelius Harnett were ring leaders of this savage and audacious Mob, concerning which my present information enables me to add nothing furthur.

I have the honor &c,