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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Cornelius Harnett to William Wilkinson
Harnett, Cornelius, 1723-1781
November 20, 1777
Volume 11, Pages 808-810


York Pennsylvania Nov. 20th 1777

Dear Sir,

I this day received your Scolding Letter of the 30th Ulto. which is the fifth I have received since I left Cape Fear, I can say with truth that I have written to you more than twice in a Month since I left home, I sent you Mrs. Harnett Mr. Hooper & Mr. MacLaine particular accounts of the Battles of Brandywine & German Town, together with every transaction since at Saratoga, North River &c. If you do not receive them I cannot help it. I am convinced letters are opened in our Post office & not suffered to pass to the Place intended, since Congress have been in this Town it has been impossible to write by Post, as it passes through at no certain day only comes in late at night & sets off early in the morning. All the members complain of this & we shall in a few days have an office in the Town. I assure you I have been obliged to catch at transient opportunities and many times wrote in such hurry that I could only write a few lines to let my friends & family know that I was well, Mr. Penn has more Leisure than I have. I never in my life went through so much fatigue, being obliged to sit all day in Congress & often very often in the Treasury board till 11 at night.

I have told you in several of my letters that nothing can be purchased here but at a most exorbitant Price, no Distiller either

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white or Black to be got at any rate or indeed Victuals to eat, in this once plentiful Country. I tell you again the 9th or 10th time that Jackey was very well about a month ago. Mr. Gillon has been detained much Longer than he expected which gives me an opportunity of answering your Letter. We have indeed been very unlucky in the fighting way in this Quarter but the success of Genl. Gates has made some amends for our misfortune, here. Fort Mifflin is certainly taken by the Enemy & it is supposed they will at last get their ships up the river, some imagine by this means Genl. Howe will be enabled to keep possession of Philadelphia this winter. A large reinforcement from Gen Gates' Army will in a day or two join Genl. Washington. Perhaps we shall soon see a a reverse of fortune. Genl. Howe also expects a strong reinforcement from N. York. The public have been much abused in regard to the number of Genl. Washington's army, it never exceeded 16,000 Including Militia which did him little service in either Battle, we have supposed Howe's could not consist of more than 10,000 but it is imagined by the best Judges to exceed that number now, after the great Losses they met with in the two last actions. We are generally too apt to lessen the number of the Enemies Army & Exaggerate that of our own, which is bad policy. We have no Press here I can therefore send you no papers. I wrote Mr. Hooper and Mr. Maclaine by way of New Bern a few days ago & beg you'll forward the inclosed immediately. The Indians have been of late very troublesome about the Neighbourhood of Fort Pitt, have murdered several of the Inhabitants, burnt their houses & destroyed their grain &c we hope a speedy stop will be put to their Devastations & that they will be reduced to the necessity of defending their own Towns, as the war will no doubt be carried speedily into their own Country. Congress have finished the Confederation, it will be sent by Express to the Assemblies of the several States for their Consideration. I heartily desire to be at home, & whenever I get there I shall with pleasure give up this very disagreeable & troublesome office. I have wrote my friends to beg they would send some person to relieve me. Tell Mr. Purviance I sent his letter to his brother Jno. I fear he is in New Jersey. Make my Compliments to Mr. Quince and all my friends. Mr. Hill's father died a few weeks ago in Boston. Colo. Buncombe we are told is a Prisoner in Philadelphia taken at German
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Town. We hear nothing of Lieut. Col. Erwin it is supposed that he was killed in the field. They have been making rum to the Eastward out of the juice of corn stalks. I shall soon send you the whole process & am

Dr. Sir,
Your most obedt. Servt.

I hope this letter is long enough.