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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Josiah Martin to George Sackville Germain, Viscount Sackville
Martin, Josiah, 1737-1786
March 21, 1776
Volume 10, Pages 486-493

[B. P. R. O. Am. & W. Ind.: No. Carolina. No. 222.]
Letter from Governor Martin to Lord George Germain.

No Carolina, Snow Peggy in Cape Fear River,
March 21st, 1776.

My Lord,

By the Duke of Cumberland Packet Boat which arrived here on the 18th instant I have had the honor to receive your Lordship's circular letter bearing date the 10th day of November notifying the King's appointment of your Lordship to be one of his Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State and signifying the Royal Pleasure that my future Dispatches be addressed to you. Pursuant to this command My Lord I have now the honor to open my correspondence with your Lordship and I beg leave to embrace this opportunity to offer my humble congratulations to your Lordship on your taking upon you the high department in administration to which his Majesty

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has been graciously pleased to call you and to commit to your care.

The same Packet has also brought me the honor of your Lordship's Dispatch No. 1, containing an account of the nature and strength of the Armament intended to be sent to the Southern Colonies and of its readiness to proceed according to its destination and requiring me to exert every effort to carry into execution the orders contained in Lord Dartmouth's letter of the 7th of November of which I have received the copy enclosed in your Lordship's dispatch the original having reached my hands safely in the beginning of January.

I own My Lord it is difficult for me to express my amazement on finding by your Lordship's letter that the armament which I have computed to be on its way from Cork from the very beginning of December or sooner is only in a state of readiness to proceed towards the latter end of that month and I regret this unfortunate delay the more sincerely because it has contravened a plan and purpose of mine not originally formed but necessarily pursued and correspondingly as I conceived after the Receipt of the orders contained in Lord Dartmouth's dispatch that would have had the happiest effects and consequences as the issue of it though unlucky has certainly evinced.

Moved by the pressing and reiterated assurances given me by some well affected persons living in the County of Brunswick adjacent to the station of the Ship in which I was embarked that the people of their neighbourhood and a multitude of others of their friends and acquaintances throughout the Country were groaning under the oppressions of the little Tyrannies, they had been deluded to vest with authority under the denomination of Committees, Solicited to relieve them from the self made yoke which they now found intolerable, informed by the concurring testimony of these People and all others from the Country with whom I communicated of the weakness of the Rebel Troops affectedly called Regulars, who by the best efforts of their leaders were not yet provided with arms for a third of their number and that they were equally deficient of ammunition, persuaded too by all reports of the soreness of the common people under their new fangled Government and of their disposition to revolt from it, compassion and sense of duty to the King's Government and the distresses of his Majesty's Subjects wrought upon me to attend to the wishes of these People who

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invited me to their relief by the most confident assurances that they would engage in a month's time to join me with Two or Three thousand men. I thought upon these good presages My Lord the happy moment was arrived when this Country might be delivered from Anarchy, that it was not to be neglected or lost and determined accordingly to try by the efforts of the People themselves in such proneness to make the experiment, and while I had no prospect of aid from without at once to restore lawfull Government.

Forming this design My Lord I resolved to unite the strength of the numerous Highlanders and other well affected people of the interior Counties to the force these people promised to collect in the lower Connties more contiguous to this neighborhood and it was concerted between me and the people of Brunswick who had made such advances to me that they should assemble as secretly as possible and put themselves in motion together. The day appointed for the whole to join me was the 1st of February.

At this time I had an Agent in the interior Country whom I had instructed to enquire compute and ascertain as nearly as possible the numbers of men I might depend on to turn out in behalf of Government on notice: he had now been absent beyond my expectation and hearing nothing of him and Knowing that he was held suspected by the Rebels I conjectured the Committees had laid hold of him. I was thus at a loss for a confidential Messenger to establish the concert I proposed and to carry the necessary powers and instructions to the people of the Interior Counties. The difficulty hardly occurred to me before the men of Brunswick, at whose instances I formed the design of raising the power of the Country recommended to me one of their number as the fittest person I could entrust with that service. I confided in him, furnished him with all necessary powers and credentials and dismissed him with money beyond his own desires to defray his charges and with promise of reward (such as made it his best interest to be faithfull) on his return to me with evidences of having executed my purpose.

This man in all the guise of blunt and unaffected honesty left me with every seeming impression of gratitude and attachment and as it since appears the instant afterwards betrayed my secret, the report of one of his more loyal but less intelligent neighbours three or four days subsequent to his departure inspired me with a momentary doubt only of his integrity, for at the same time he taught me to conceive it he banished it again from my mind by

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assurance that the man was still pursuing his route into the back Country on the business with which I had charged him, his conduct however as described was misterious and there was not a person within my reach whom I could employ to clear it up; while I was under this embarrassment the Syren Frigate arrived and brought me Lord Dartmouth's dispatches numbered 20, 21, & 22 which gave me the first hopes of certain effectual external aid. What was now to be done? I had anticipated the orders they contained to embody the people of the Country, I could not recall the steps I had taken, I had reason to apprehend the Rebels were in possession of my secret which made them acquainted with the names of the principal persons on whose influence or rather good acceptance with the people all my hopes of drawing forth the aid of the back Counties depended and I had it moreover to dread that unapprized of danger they would be seized by the Committees which would at once extinguish all my long cherished hopes.

While I was brooding over these untoward too possible events my Agent from the interior Country out of expectation arrived, I made him acquainted with the suspected Treachery of my Emmissary of which he discovered the probable fatal consequences. He brought me under the hands of persons to whom I had directed his inquiries assurances that I might expect between Two and three thousand Men at a summons about half of them well armed which they had computed in a time too short to carry their enquiries to the extent they wished. I was now confirmed in the opinion I had formed that my plan (which even in point of time corresponded nearly with the expectation of Troops that I was taught by Lord Dartmouth's letter) ought to be prosecuted as not only conformable to the measures thereby directed but for the sake and safety of the people on whom all my hopes of executing them were founded now marked out it was to be feared by the Treachery I suspected to the vengeance of the Rebels.

Pursuant to this resolution My Lord I furnished Mr Maclean, my unwearried persevering Agent, with powers to proper persons to raise and embody men, and instructions to them being in sufficient force to press down to Brunswick by the 15th day of February or as soon after as might be possible, of which difference of appointment in time and of any future delay I directed him to apprize certain persons in the back part of Brunswick County.

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Thus provided, Mr Maclean again set out for the back Country having my papers in such concealment and in another trusty hand, as it was improbable the rebels should suspect, he passed on to Cross Creek, where the failure of my former Emissary to see the persons to whom he was directed, established his treachery out of doubt. After this my first intelligence came by the person who had accompanied Mr Maclean in his last expedition into the Country. It was a verbal message from my most trusty friends importing that the Loyalists were in high spirits and very fast collecting, that they assured themselves of being six thousand strong, well furnished with waggons and horses, that they intended to post one thousand at Cross Creek, and with the rest I might rely on their being in possession of Wilmington (the principal Town on this River and within reach of the King's ships) by the 20th or 25th of February at farthest. The time of my expecting the approach of the Loyalists being at hand, I was on my way up the river to meet them when I received this advice that corresponded with all my hopes, and insured the accomplishment of my wishes to restore the peace of this country. Some communication that I had with the people of Wilmington, of whom I made a demand of a quantity of flour, still encouraged my good expectations, but their change of language soon afterwards abated them greatly. Having not the least intercourse with the Loyalists, I still remained in doubt as well about the route they had taken as concerning all reports of their operations until the 6th inst. that a certain Mr Reed, who, failing in an attempt to join them on their route from Cross Creek (owing to the intervention of a party of the Rebels) wonderfully escaped them and found his way down to me. His intelligence reduced the number of the Loyalists to 3,500 men, but nevertheless assured me they were in condition to make their way good unless they were obstructed by some unfordable water, which from a better knowledge of the Country he supposed might happen at a point where he computed them to be, and that it was practicable to relieve them by small vessels, on which opinion that I communicated to Capt Parry of the Cruizer. That Gentleman, after consulting with the Pilots, made the necessary preparations for giving every possible succour with his usual alacrity, but before this purpose could be executed our intelligence from various quarters assured us that the meeting of the loyalists was out of hope; that they had been checked about 17 miles above Wilmington by the Rebels, in an attempt to pass a Bridge, on the 27th of February, and

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after sustaining the loss of Captain Donald McLeod, a gallant Officer, and near 20 men killed and wounded, had dispersed. This unfortunate truth My Lord, was too soon confirmed by the arrival of Mr McLean, Mr Campbell, Mr Stuart and Mr McNicole, who with infinite fatigue, danger and difficulty and by a vast effort made their way to the Scorpion Sloop of War, which lay at Brunswick. From these Gentlemen my Lord I have accounts very different from all my former intelligence. They tell me that owing to a want of prudent concert, and more as they think to a deceit practiced upon the Country People too palpable to escape instant detection, that destroyed all faith and confidence between them and their leaders, they brought instead of five thousand men they had promised, not more than between seven and eight hundred to Cross Creek, where the Highlanders, steady to their honourable purpose and agreeable to concert that the whole body of loyalists should support any part which necessity or chance should put in motion prematurely, had taken arms and assembled to the number of six hundred men, to back the untimely declaration of the Loyalists in the County of Anson. Seeing then that they had no hopes of augmenting their strength from the interior country and that the execution of their purpose was no longer to be postponed, as the Rebels on every side were making head to oppose them, they came to the resolution of pressing forward with the force they had, amounting in the whole to about fourteen hundred men. They marched accordingly, and taking the route to Wilmington, met with no difficulty in advancing eighty miles through the disaffected country, and were so near carrying their point as to arrive within seventeen miles of it in force from their outset so much inferior to all my expectations, that daily diminished by the defection of the Country people as danger and difficulty increased upon them, and that at the time of the check was reduced to the Highlanders and about one hundred of the Country People, making in all about seven hundred men. This Event, My Lord, however unlucky, I hope will justify to his Majesty and your Lordship my representations of the favorable dispositions of many of the King's subjects here but for the idle deception before alluded to (by which they were taught that I was actually at Cross Creek with a thousand regulars, and which their ready intercourse with that place as immediately detected, as the disappointment staggered their confidence) I am assured would have grafted such a force on the spirit and vigour of the Highlanders as must have been sufficient to restore
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peace and order in this Province without the immediate aid of his Majesty's Troops.

What I wish in the present state of affairs is to evince to his Majesty that the conduct I have pursued was in my judgment indispensible and calculated (so far as previous circumstances left it in my power to act correspondingly) to answer the King's views and to fulfil his Majesty's orders communicated to me by Lord Dartmouth; the raising a large body of men in this country My Lord is not to be effected by communicating the purpose to each individual to be engaged, the people are in a state of independence and none are to be found so much under the influence of individuals here (except perhaps a few of the Highlanders) as to follow the implicit nod of particular men, wherefore it being almost impossible to conduct with secrecy a design of this nature it can only succeed in the present state of things by the prompt execution of the purpose after it is broached, and if there had been no preconcert of mine to attend to laying together all parts of Lord Dartmouth's letter of the 7th of November I am at this day humbly of opinion I could not have taken measures more properly for the execution of its directions to me than what I pursued not foreseeing the delay of the expedition. I pleased myself at the time with their accidental unison and if the zeal and forwardness of the people had not been repressed by the imposition I have mentioned or if the Troops had arrived according to my reasonable expectation at the beginning of February success had most certainly crowned my endeavours, and if the Troops had not come exactly according to appointment the people appearing in the numbers I surely reckoned upon and should have had, not contravened by fraud I could have put them in such condition and strength by the provision I had made of arms and ammunition as would have enabled me to accomplish every part and object of the King's orders with regard to holding in readiness a corps of Provincials to join his Majesty's Troops when they did arrive.

The little check the loyalists here have received I do not conceive My Lord will have any extensive ill consequences. All is recoverable by a body of Troops penetrating into this country, on the practicability of which I have given my very humble opinion to General Clinton who will be the Judge and Arbitor of what is to be effected. The accounts of every person who has come from the country still establish my belief of the good inclinations of a very large Body of people in it and of their wishes to assist in the restoration of his

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Majesty's Government, and the difference between the present state of affairs and my expectations is that the King's troops if they act here must now meet the people in the country instead of their meeting them at the sea shore, which if feasible the generous offers of his Majesty's subjects here after so long neglect & discouragement and at such an alarming period of rebellion now almost general in these Colonies, your Lordship's justice I persuade myself will think have a high claim.

While I can assure your Lordship I suffer every anguish, mortification and disappointment from the defeat of my best endeavours to fulfill in the most faithfull manner my royal Masters expectations and commands, having the consciousness of discharging my duty to the best of my judgment and understanding I trust my conduct will stand fair in his Majesty's sight.

I most humbly beg leave to suggest to your Lordship that some encouragement is wanting to hold forth to the Provincials who may serve on the present occasion, as provision for the families of such as may be killed and support to such as may be wounded or disabled, in which cases it is already understood among them that they are not intitled to the same advantages as his Majesty's troops, which may operate to the disadvantage of the King's service.

Your Lordship may rest assured that I shall employ my utmost endeavours agreeable to the direction of your circular letter accompanying the Act of Parliament to prohibit all trade and intercourse with the Colonies in Rebellion to give it effect in this Province.

Constrained to be my own Amanuensis for want of opportunity to obtain a better in my present situation, and writing under every possible inconvenience in the Cabin of a little vessel I am sensible this letter needs apology, which I flatter myself your Lordships goodness will admit when you are pleased to consider the wretched state of a man not of Neptunes element in the tenth month of his confinement on Board Ship.

I have the honour to be, &c.,