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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Alexander Martin to Richard Caswell
Martin, Alexander, 1740-1807
November 04, 1777
Volume 13, Pages 262-264

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[Erom Executive Letter Book.]

Camp Near Germantown Nov. 4th 1778. (7.)

May It Please Your Excellency:

The different operations of the American Army I make no doubt you have been made fully acquainted with since the junction of the North Carolina Troops by Genl. Nash, until the 4th of last month, when we were unfortunately deprived of that brave officer by a cannon Ball, wounding him in his left thigh thro' his horse, as he was leading on the Brigade to attack the Enemy near this place. He languished three days with his wound and died justly lamented by his Brigade; however we think that he had not that respect shown him by the general officers as was due to his merit, either in his command or at his death. The number of general officers commanding a great army perhaps may be the apology that particular attention could not be paid to every one as they deserved. Col. Irwin is missing, we are afraid is among the dead, as we can not hear from him among the prisoners. At the same time we lost Capt. Turner of the 3rd Regiment, who fell by a musket shot. This brave officer greatly distinguished himself under my command in the eighth infantry at Chads-Ford, and in general did honor to that corps, commanded by Genl. Maxwell. At the same time Col. Buncombe was taken Prisoner, but we expect to have him exchanged soon from the great number of prisoners in our hands from the Northward. It is certain that on that day we retreated from a victory, as Howe had given orders to retreat over Schuylkill, his Troops being drove 3 miles before Cornwallis reinforced him from Philadelphia, which in turn thro' the smoke and Fog of the morning compelled us in confusion to retreat but with no great loss, considering our situation. About 500 is said to be missing, chief of whom are Militia. The Enemy acknowledge this the severest stroke they have met with in the war. Their Genl. Agnew is killed, Grant and Gray, with a Hessian Genl. wounded, since said to be dead. Count Donop, a Col. Commandant of a Hessian Brigade, a few days ago fell in our hands, who attacked our Fort at Red Bank on Delaware with one thousand

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men, was defeated by Col. Green, with the loss of one half his party, himself taken prisoner with 300 men. He is badly wounded, his thigh being shot off, but great pains are taken to recover him. Burgoyne's surrender with his whole army to Genl Gates has thunder struck Howe and all the Tories here. While I am writing a Gentleman arrived in camp from the Northward, who gives me an agreeable information that Genl. Heath, since Clinton left Rhode Island, passed over to that place, took about 700 prisoners, with 21 pieces of Brass Cannon. Should this be true, the Enemy's affairs are almost ruined to the Northward. What Howe's intentions are we cannot learn, whether to attack us again or retreat from Philadelphia, where he is cooped up. Only one chevaux de Frieze is injured, all the rest with the Forts stand firm, since the loss of the Augusta 64 Gun, and the Apollo, a 36 Gun, ship of War, before the chevaux de Friezes, whom they blew up, being run aground to avoid our Fire Rafts. They are cautious of venturing up the River in such a dangerous station again. Though we retreated from them at Chad's Ford, and at Germantown, yet they have nothing to boast of but their keeping the Field.

The Enemy's strength on their landing at the head of Elk is said to be about 17,000 which number by Desertions and those wounded, sick and killed must be about 5000 reduced. Their force at present may be about 10,000 or 12,000 perhaps. At the time we joined the American Army was really weak, at present it consists of from 16,000 to 20,000; as the Militia go and return we increase and lessen in our numbers.

As to myself I am almost worn down with fatigue, being detached on our joining the Grand Army with a part of the Carolina Brigade to form a Corps of light Infantry, under the command of Gen'l Maxwell, the active duties of which service have been almost too much for my Constitution. I am determined in a few days to resign, and return to Carolina, and leave the command to Col. Sumner. General Hand it is said was appointed over Col. Sumner a Brigadier for North Carolina, which if true will take the command.

I have had censures liberally bestowed on me by some officers in the 4th Battalion for my conduct at Germantown, but with pleasure I can inform you I am honorably acquitted by a grand

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Court Martial and am sorry to inform you that a censorious spirit too much prevails in the army, that the conduct of almost every General and Commanding officer has been arraigned by those of inferior Rank, & generally acquitted, particularly Sullivan, Stephens, Wayne, Maxwell and Col. Maryland. I have the honor to be with esteem and respect

Your Excellency's mo. ob. huml. Servt.

[This letter is dated in the letter book Nov. 4, 1778, but this is evidently a mistake of the copyist for 4 Nov 1777.—W. C.]