Documenting the American South Logo
Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from William Hooper to Sir [President of the Provincial Congress of North Carolina?]
Hooper, William, 1742-1790
November 16, 1776
Volume 10, Pages 904-908

Philadelphia, November 16th, 1776.


When I closed my letters last evening, I did not imagine that it would be necessary for me to write anything further upon the motives which induced the Congress to send the Express who is the bearer of this. The Representation of the delegates of South Carolina, stating the weakness of that Colony and its incompetency to its own defence, if attacked by a formidable force of the Enemy, its reliance upon North Carolina for that succour which it had little reason to expect from any other source; their apprehensions that an attack was immediately intended by General Howe upon Charlestown, have induced Congress to pass a resolve which this incloses, and have detained the Express to give an opportunity to communicate it to your honorable body.

-------------------- page 905 --------------------

The Congress of North Carolina are well aware that should the Enemy succeed in an attempt upon Charlestown and obtain possession of that metropolis, it would operate very important consequences with respect to the neighbouring colonies in their future struggle. As that place might from the advantages of Nature be easily fortified on the land side, and with a fleet commanded everywhere else, a small force would be competent to the defence of it, and an enemy once in possession would obtain a permanent lodgment there. It would become an Asylum for the disaffected from all parts of the Southern States, by which means the enemy will be enabled to fill up those deficiencies which Nature or the chance of war may produce in their forces. It will at the same time furnish them with a safe commodious Harbour for their Shipping from whence they may be sent occasionally to distress their neighbours, or find safety themselves when pressed by their Enemies, or the inclemency of the Weather. The Inhabitants of the Western Counties of North Carolina may see the importance of South Carolina being kept secure from the introduction of the Enemy, in another but not less important point of view; the intercourse which they have had with the town of Charlestown marks it as an object of much importance to them. I will not be as positive, for I judge perhaps upon mere superficial grounds, as General Armstrong, but I will not pronounce him wrong, when he says that the Battles of our State will be fought in South Carolina or Virginia, and that in one or the other North Carolina will be saved or subdued.

North Carolina at an early period in this contest disclosed a spirit, a determined resolution, a strength which raised it from an obscurity to a distinction which it now respectably holds in the list of the United States. Its intestine foes were soon taught the weight of its collective powers, and their opposition sunk into insignificance and contempt. Their crimes have produced an abject contrition, and some of them are humbled so low as to merit rather pity than resentment. From within ourselves, then, little is to be feared, and from the situation of our Country in that part where a foreign Enemy is to make its advances at first, they must hazard more than the importance of the Object would justify. Sudden landing for the sake of Water, depredations of cattle or negroes will be all which they will attempt, and scouting parties may be so employed to harrass them as to prevent this being long a business of pleasure to them.

-------------------- page 906 --------------------

Virginia has, or the Inhabitants of that State, expressing themselves by their delegates imagine they have, much to apprehend in case the Enemy should attempt to obtain a footing amongst them. This depends much upon their own exertions. True it is from the great number of Water courses which pervade that Country, the enemy from their Shipping may harrass them by small indecisive encounters, but I am confident that nothing upon a large scale, when Success will determine any thing important as to the common cause, will be attempted there. For these reasons I conclude that the Enemy will shape their course immediately to Charlestown, and well aware to what causes they owed their disappointment in the former attempt, will go with a formidable army not less than 10,000, & without spending any part of their Strength in a conflict with Sullivant or other Batteries, will endeavour to pass them with a fair Wind and invest the town before it is prepared to give them a proper reception, or possibly may land at a distance and advance under cover of occasional temporary Works.

This points out Strongly the necessity of their having a force at or near Charlestown, to make a sudden effort to repel the first attempts of the Enemy. A delay might defeat the whole, and a force be inadequate to remove them from a lodgment made, when a third of it might, if seasonably applied, have prevented their obtaining it at first. The Continental Congress have therefore thought proper to recommend that the Continental Troops under Genl Moore should be stationed where they may be in a capacity to be suddenly and most effectually useful to South Carolina, and at the same time not at such a distance from ourselves as to be incapaable of rendering No: Carolina assistance in case the Enemy should be infatuated enough to attempt to penetrate it. This measure recommended by Congress will I doubt not obtain your approbation; yet as the full and perfect security of North Carolina is a first and important object to me, the representative of it, I did not think myself at liberty to consent to any arrangement which might weaken our internal resources without a competent substitute in lieu of them. This induced my application that the Militia which we might have occasion to call forth should be at the Continental Expence, which from the justice of it obtained their assent. If you have begun any works at Cape Fear River or elsewhere, you will now have the means of compleating them, and have a force on hand to assist your Neighbours in So: Carolina or Virginia; and

-------------------- page 907 --------------------
the State of North Carolina may perhaps be remembered hereafter with gratitude as having given salvation to one or both of them. I have promised much for my dear Countrymen upon this occasion, not more than I am well assured they will perform I know the hardships they have encountered, the difficulties under which they labour at present, but when they consider the prize they contend for is liberty to themselves & to posterity, to avoid the galling yoke of Abject Slavery now & to latest ages, all they suffer or can suffer will weigh but as a feather against a world when they contemplate things as they are.

Circumstanced as matters are, should you have occasion for stores of any kind which this place supplies I beg to know your wants immediately that, upon the Arrival of the packet from Edenton they may be dispatched to you. We expect her every moment and am much surprised that she has not appeared before this.

Inclosed you have another Resolve which the necessity of recruiting an army immediately to the Eastward has rendered proper. Congress, tho' well convinced of the utility of enlisting men during the War, as it would tend to prevent the frequent calls for bounty upon new enlistments, and obviate the difficulties which would result from troops leaving Camp when their services are most essential, and when perhaps the fate of America might depend upon their stay, that we might have an army enured to service and discipline, thought proper to direct them to be raised during the war. An application from the State of Masstts, accompanied with the information that Connecticut and Rhode Island were pursuing similar and equally improper means to compleat their levies, finding that these States urged as an excuse for their extraordinary bounties, the insurmountable difficulties which they met with in recruiting men during the war, suggesting that Soldiers complained of such an engagement as a contract for perpetual servitude, the Continental Congress thought proper to relax & shorten the terms of Enlistment, agreeable to the Resolve which I send you herewith & which the above will fully explain.

Nothing in addition to what this & my many preceeding letters contain occurs to me as necessary at present to be subjoined. I have already far trespassed upon the patience & the momentous employment of that honourable Assembly in which you preside, & for which I send my excuse, in their candor which will I flatter

-------------------- page 908 --------------------
myself attribute it to a belief on my part that I am in the way of my duty.

I am Sir, With the Greatest Respect,
Yours & the Conventions most
Obedient Humble Servant