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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Joseph Hewes to Richard Caswell
Hewes, Joseph, 1730-1779
May 23, 1779
Volume 14, Pages 94-95

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[From Executive Letter Book.]

Edenton, 23d May, 1779.


When I sent off the first express to your Excellency the accounts I had of the Enemy were very imperfect; since that the Inhabitants of this Town have taken great pains to get the best information by sending express and small parties continually.

The force of the Enemy consists of one 64 Gun Ship, one of 20 Guns, a Row Galley, carrying one 24 pounder in the Bow, one 18 pounder in the Stern, and six nine pounders, one or two more smaller Gallies, a number of Privateers and small armed vessels, and about sixteen large Transport ships, having on board, when they first arrived, Five Regiments, say two of British, one Irish, one Hessian, and one of Chasseurs or German Riflemen, with a number of Tories, among whom old Goodrich is the principal, and who, it is said, has lent the British Government £200,000 to forward the expedition. They landed at Portsmouth without opposition. A Col. Mathews had command of the Fort there with about eighty men, who all went off soon after the Enemy appeared. A great number of vessels, with much valuable property, fell into their hands. A detachment of about 400 men were sent to Suffolk; they burnt the Town and destroyed a large quantity of Pork, Salt and Tobacco belonging to the public, as also a great property of Individuals, and then returned to the neighborhood of Portsmouth without the least opposition, driving in all the Cattle, Sheep, horses and hogs that they could find, also plundering women and children, burning houses, and committing every kind of outrage that could enter the heads of a licentious Soldiery. They are now intrenching themselves at Portsmouth, and at the head of a small Creek, about Eleven miles from that Town, nearly on the way towards Suffolk, at a place known by the name of Doctor Hall's. In both places they are covered on one side by their shipping; from these posts they sally out daily in quest of plunder. The Virginians, who seem to have been in a kind of stupor, begin now to turn out. Three days ago they had about 1,300 men assembled at or near Smithfield, Twenty miles on the

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other side Suffolk towards Williamsburg, under the command of a Col. Lauson, who is said to be a good officer, and who has been in the Continental Service. They have applied to us for Arms and lead, but there is not one musket or a pound of lead in this place belonging to the United States, to this or any other State; there is a great plenty of powder, the property of the Continent, and some small parcels of lead in the hands of the Individuals, and your Excellency knows how few Muskets are to be found among the Militia in this and the adjacent Counties. I do not think a good musket can be found for every fourth man. Alarming as the situation may be, the Militia seem very willing to turn out. A Company from Perquimans and another from Tyrrel came to Town on the first alarm, and several other Companies from both Counties were ready. As we found the Enemy had returned from Suffolk with some degree of precipitation when no opposition was near, we could not think they would go far from their ships, and therefore thought it best that those Companies should return home 'till orders were received from your Excellency. Part of the Militia of Currituck & Camden have joined a few Virginians, and taken post at the Northwest Landing, about ten miles from the great Bridge, in order to prevent the Enemy from entering the Country that way. This Body consists of about 200 men; they are distressed for bread, and it is not in our power to afford them any supplies from hence.

Vandewater, who I sent express, returned with your Excellency's letter the day before yesterday. Col. Lamb came here yesterday, and is gone home to-day. He says he shall return in a few days and wait your orders. You no doubt have heard that three Continental Frigates, from Boston, lately fell in with a small Fleet, from New York, bound to Georgia; they took eight sail of them, having on board provisions & stores for the British Army, a complete set of furniture for a Regiment of Light Horse, and upwards of Forty officers, among whom it was confidently asserted they have got Col. Campbell that commanded in Georgia. These eight prizes are all arrived safe at Boston.

I am, with much respect and esteem, Dr. Sir,
Your Excellency's Mo. ob., hum'l Servt.,
Gov. Caswell.