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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Thomas Burke to Richard Caswell
Burke, Thomas, ca. 1747-1783
May 23, 1777
Volume 11, Pages 476-478

[From Executive Letter Book.]

Philadelphia, May 23d, 1777.


Since my last nothing has occurred worth your attention except the arrival of several supply ships, by which we have received many very important articles for facilitating the ensuing campaign. Our army is daily gaining strength, and I hope before long will be in a condition to face the enemy to some advantage. The enemy are unaccountably inactive, and cautious to the last degree. It is supposed they expect reinforcements, but we have accounts from Europe which indicate that they will in a great measure be disappointed.

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I have heard from our Troops who are now under inoculation at Alexandria, in Virginia, and two hundred who have had the small pox are on their march under Cols. Sumner and Lytle. I was informed they were much in want of shoes by reason of some disappointment in your Quartermaster's department. I applied to the Clothier General for a supply for them, and General Schuyler immediately sent them under the care of an officer to meet them at Baltimore. We are alarmed with a report brought hither by a Mr. Tenant from the Southward, that some persons in North Carolina have maliciously propagated a report, that a very fatal infection disease prevails in our army, and the general belief thereof very much retards and injures the recruiting the service. I am happy in having it in my power to declare that such report is entirely groundless, and that our army is in very high health and spirits. The Congress have instituted a liberal medical arrangement, and put it under the immediate inspection of a Committee, of which I am a member. By this arrangement no diseased patients are suffered to remain in camp, nor even any wounded patients who are incapable of duty: all such are immediately removed to hospitals remote from the quarters of the healthy troops, and there are carefully attended and supplied. Proper officers are appointed to superintend and direct every thing necessary for the sick and wounded, and to make regular returns to the Medical Committee. By the last return very few appeared sick, in proportion to the numbers in service: and by every account from officers daily in this city from camp we learn that the army is very healthy. This information will enable your Excellency to refute the falsehood, and take off the evil impressions it may have made, and I am satisfied that your endeavours for so good a purpose will not be wanting. Since my last we have made no progress in the business of Confederation. A difficulty occurs, which, I fear, will be insuperable: that is how to secure to each State its separate independence, and give each its proper weight in the public Councils. So unequaled as the States are, it will be nearly impossible to effect this: and after all it is far from improbable that the only Confederation will be a defensive Alliance. Nothing of importance has been determined in Congress, except what is merely executory. I must beg leave again to complain of my receiving no information from my constituents. You will excuse my uneasiness

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upon this account when you reflect, that, I am charged with a very important trust, to which I feel myself very unequal, and in which I am most anxiously desirous of rendering every possible service to my country: that I have been without a Colleague ever since my arrival, and in great measure uninformed in what had been previously done. To be under such circumstances, and also uninformed of any contingencies which may make any alteration in the system of my country, you will readily admit is sufficient to make me uneasy. I shall however Sir, give unremitting attention to every matter which shall come before the Great Council of which I am a member, and decide on fixed principles and clear conviction as far as my understanding is competent. I doubt not my Country will believe my intentions to be what they wish, and my endeavours shall be the best my abilities will admit. I need not repeat my wish that greater services might be rendered by some abler hand. I also beg leave to request your Excellency to inform me whether I am at liberty to return home during any time in this summer.

Some ships are in the river, and the Marine of this State are ordered down. Some of us are resolved to go down, and observe at least the conflict, if any there may be. I am called away, and therefore must conclude. Having the honor to be

Your Excellency's most obedient hum. Serv't.,
His Excellency Gov'r. Caswell.

P. S.

In one of my letters I believe I mentioned that Georgia was of no use in Congress but to vote with Connecticut. This was owing I believe to this circumstance, only one Delegate was then present, who is by birth a Connecticut man. Since then a Mr. Watton has given his attendance, which was before interrupted by illness; and I perceive that Georgia is now frequently divided when any question relates to Colonial politics, so that these two Delagates are of different principles or different judgments.