Letter from Thomas Burke to Richard Caswell
Burke, Thomas, ca. 1747-1783
Volume 11, Pages 592-594
DR. THOS. BURKE TO GOV CASWELL.
[From Executive Letter Book.]
Philadelphia, Aug. 21st, 1777.
I have been in daily expectation of setting off for the Southward
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for some time past, and therefore have omitted writing to you, and indeed we have not until very lately had any thing to write about. At length the campaign begins to be active, and I am, though exceedingly anxious to get home, induced to defer my journey until something material shall happen between the two grand armies who are now approaching each other. After many unaccountable movements the fleet and army under the Howes has reached so far up Chesapeak as to have their rear above Baltimore, and their van a good way into the Susquehanna. No accounts are yet received of their landing. General Washington has already marched with a gallant army composed of Southern Troops to oppose them; and a few days will bring him in sight of them. He will we hope be powerfully supported by the brave and martial militia of Maryland and Pennsylvania. In short, Sir, our hopes are now very high that a capital blow will be given to the enemy in every quarter. Burgoin already feels the force and spirit of the New York and Eastern Militia. A choice body of 1500 men were encountered by about two thousand New Hampshire Militia, and routed with the loss of 2 hundred killed and taken with all the artillery. Another brave action was fought by a party of New York Militia, who, tho' surprised by an ambuscade, fought with most obstinate perserverance from nine until three o'clock, when the enemy were forced to retire, having suffered great slaughter. What renders this action remarkable is, that, upon the first surprise 200 out of 700 were panic-struck and fled; the commanding officer was wounded, and many brave officers were killed very early in the engagement, yet the men, with a courage that would do honour to the best veterans in Europe, sustained the engagement under every disadvantage, and under a very bloody slaughter, until they gained an undisputed victory. The particulars of these actions you will find in the inclosed papers, and I touch upon them here only because I deem them happy presages of the accomplishment of what I have always hoped and wished for, that our militia might become good soldiers. Happy improvement! What foreign force or domestic ambition should we then have any thing to fear from? General Nash with his Brigade has passed through this City, and they appeared very well, I saw Captain Caswell, he is well, but had no time to talk with me. I wish, Sir, I could tell you the Congress
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improve in wisdom and virtue: but as I hope soon to see you, I shall reserve what I have to say of them.
I have the honor to be, Sir,
with greatest respect and esteem,
Your ver obdt. hum. Ser't.,
P. S. The Enemy are landed near the head of Elk.