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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Thomas Burke to Richard Caswell
Burke, Thomas, ca. 1747-1783
November 04, 1777
Volume 11, Pages 668-669

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[From Executive Letter Book]

Tyaquin, Nov. 4th, 1777.

Dr. Sir:—

I left York Town in Pennsylvania on the 1st ulto. and arrived at home on the 26th after our retreat from Philadelphia. I remained at Burlington a week in daily expectation of an action at the British Army's crossing the Schuykill, in this expectation I was disappointed, the Enemy crossed and marched to Philadelphia without opposition. I have not yet heard or been able to suggest a reason, which gives me sufficient satisfaction for that event. Our Army was on their Flank, and why they crossed without our attack remains yet to be explained sufficiently to me. After the Enemy had got possession of the City I set out and found myself obliged to direct my route by Eastown, Bethlehem, Reading and Lancaster, to York which constituted a very difficult journey.

While I was at Reading, happened the Battle of Chestnut Hill, and Germantown, wherein we unfortunately lost General Nash, one of the best, the most respected & regretted officers in the Continental Army. The particulars of this Battle Mr. Harnett informed me he wrote you before my arrival at York and I will not trouble you with a repetition. Upon the whole it appears that our miscarriage sprung from the same source, want of abilities in our Superior officers, and want of order and discipline, in our army. This, Sir, is an Evil of the most dangerous tendency, & to remedy it has long been the object of my thoughts and endeavours. Indeed I saw very little prospect of success till very lately, but just before I left Congress I had the pleasure to find that every Gentleman was equally sensible of the necessity of applying a proper remedy, the great difficulty will be to get over particular connections, and personal regards, but it must be effectually remedied or all our efforts are in vain.

The miscarriages in Pennsylvania have made it necessary it seems, to order the Troops which defended the passes of the High Lands on the Hudson's River to be withdrawn to reinforce General Washington, General Clinton taking advantage of this has attacked and carried off fort Montgomery, burned our Frigates in that river, and opened the communication between York and Albany, except some little ineffectual bits that remain. The army under Genl Gates, as well as that under Genl Washington were situated so

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near the Enemy that little seemed to be done but to attack them. A Battle of considerable importance was every day expected to be fought by each army, and our force was so much superior to that of the Enemy that we have every reason to hope for signal success, indeed nothing can prevent it, but some of those unfortunate blunders which have lately been so frequent in our army. Upon the whole, Sir, I am in daily expectation of an account of signal victories gained over both armies of our Enemies, but I dare not promise, it, having been of late so cruelly disappointed of my most sanguine and well founded expectations.

Very little of any consequence has been lately determined in Congress. The Confederation was the subject of daily consideration when I came away, but as I consider the plan now in embryo, as what can never be suited to the States, I think nothing decided on it, is of consequence. I fear I differ very widely on this subject with a majority in Congress. I deem a time of peace and tranquility, the proper time for agitating so important a concern, but some and not a few, are of opinion that advantage should be taken of the present circumstances of the States which are supposed favorable for pressing them, to a very close connexion, but more Sir of this when we meet—My long absence from home has much deranged my rustic affairs, and they require much of my own particular attention to restore them. This makes it exceedingly inconvenient to me to go to Newbern immediately. I will therefore beg to be excused for a week or two, but if my presence is required there I will set off immediately on your signifying your Commands, an opportunity for which will immediately offer by the messenger who will bring up a writ for an election of Commoner for this County to fill an occasional vacancy which has happened. I saw Capt. Caswell at Brandywine on the field of Battle. I saw him next day at Chester, and since I have enquired for him, and heard he was well.

I have the honor to be Dr Sir, yr mo obdt serv.,