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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Stephen Drayton to Horatio Gates
Drayton, Stephen, 1736-1810
August 23, 1780
Volume 14, Pages 571-572


Cross Creek, 23d August, 1780.


I expected long before this day to have had the honor of delivering the attendant packet in person, but from the excess of heat & too long stages I so much worsted my Horses I was obliged to lay by, both at Blandford & Halifax & having cross'd Capefear, was approaching fast to your Camp, when I met run-aways, who gave me the first melancholy News of the unfortunate action on the 16th Instant. Uncertain, Sir, of your fate, or where to proceed in search of you, I returned to this place to wait further intelligence. I am now, from oppression of mind and fatigue, unable, with any degree of propriety, to undertake a journey to Charlotte, where I am happy to find you are, having almost a constant fever on me. Unwilling, therefore, longer to detain the letters for you, have entrusted then to the Bearer_____who comes Express.

I beg leave to assure you, Sir, it was with the utmost regret I was obliged to stay in Williamsburg. I have never put Interest in Competition with my duty to my Country; but having left in the hands of the Enemy all my family, & also not having had it in my power to bring away my Books & papers relative to my office, I endeavour'd to obtain a flag by Sea from the Governor of Virginia to Charles Town. Fed with the hopes I should be indulged with one, I patiently waited weeks. No prospect at that period appearing nearer than at my first application, I immediately determined to join the Camp & there render any service in my power either as Q. M. Genl. or as an Individual. Such was my

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intention when I first sett out from Virginia, & such is now my wish But, Sir, by the information of One who was made a prisoner by the Enemy and carried into Charles Town, from whence he made his escape about fourteen days since I find I no more have a Wife; it is said she died in the small-pox. The inveteracy shewn me in the pillages of the Enemy had left my family but little to subsist on before, which, added to a disorder She always dreaded, has left me desolate but, Sir, I will not unnecessarily make you partake of my Griefs. I have, my General, two, & only two, promising Boys, who were with their unhappy Mother, & whom I wish to snatch from poverty & destruction. It is their situation that calls aloud upon the Father for assistance & protection. My Country is in some degrees lost in the feelings of the Parent. I beg leave, therefore, to apply to you for a flag to Lord Cornwallis; & as I am Not certain of my having had the small-pox, I entreat to be indulged in requesting that this Flag may be in the name of my Nephew, Jacob Drayton, who is now with me with one Servant. Let me presume further in my requests & on your goodness, & that you would favor me with a letter to Ld. Cornwallis, setting forth my unhappy situation and desiring a safe pass-port to and from Charles Town, with liberty to bring my Boys & their Cloaths; I dare not expect anything else.

Pardon me, Sir, the freedom I have used in asking so much & in giving you all this trouble. Humanity, which is always powerful in the Hearts of the Brave, will with you strongly plead in my favor.

I shall wait the return of the Messenger, and hope then to be able to receive any Orders you may be pleased to give me, be it either to proceed to Camp, or in the line of my Duty, to any other place you may think proper, to execute which shall be my Glory, & to merit your Confidence my Study.

I have the Honor to be, Sir,
Your most Obedient Humble Servant,

P. S. Before I could obtain an Express I learnt you were at Salisbury. I therefore have changed my Messenger to Major Emmit by the Way of Hillsborough.

Hon'ble Major Genl. Gates.