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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from John Armstrong to Horatio Gates
Armstrong, John, 1717-1795
September 03, 1780 - September 11, 1780
Volume 14, Pages 587-589


Philada., 3d September 1780.

Dear General:

The Arrival of the Young Gentlemen with your Dispatches to Congress, Shewing the sudden & unexpected defeat of the Army under your command, must, like every other event of that kind, stand subjected to the various strictures of mankind, forming opinions on subjects in their local circumstances too remote for accurate & fair decision even to judges otherwise competent. Being indisposed, I was not in the House when yr. letter was read but have not learned that Congress, either then or afterwards

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have shewn the least disposition to censure; a general concern as well without as within doors, pervades the minds of the well disposed and the more easily obtains from a consideration of the deranged situation of our affairs in every quarter of the country. Our expectations, however, are still lively and suggest the late misfortunes to the south as so many prompters to greater vigor & firmness in the future exertions of these States, wherein Virginia, for many reasons, ought to be deeply interested. Your letter is committed but the result uncertain. Conjecture will probably pronounce that Congress, having lately exerted every nerve that embarrassments almost indescriptible would admit, little more is to be expected from hence, whilst our Objects rise no higher than that of defence, to which, at a proper distance, you may again become competent; but on the Arrival of Governor Rutledge, you will be informed of a different design, which requires time, & various preparations in order to give it effect. At present our sanguine expectations respecting the attack of New York, begin to abate for this Season, thro' the delay of the 2d Division of the French Fleet, yet these hopes have not fully expired, altho' the Militia of the several states are now discharged thro' scarcity of provisions, or rather the want of money to procure it & the transportation thereof, but we wish the good with you to take                      ground___Viz. that Several or all of these middle States have large demands on Congress for supplys to our Army, a considerable part of it now going on in the second year. Our Southern friends must trust also, tho' not so long if they give a ready circulation to the new money when their Quota comes to hand, the curency of which only can Save us.

By some mistake we had been informed that you had Eleven thousand men a considerable time ago, that the Enemy had left Camden and retired to Moncks' Corner, &c. Had this been the Case, my first apprehensions were, lest you shou'd follow too suddeny into the unhealthy part of the country. That risque however is over for the Season, and Experience will always favour the propriety of training a raw Militia by gradual Skirmishing, by harassing & impeding the Enemy, rather than by risquing a general Action, which to you I am confident was not matter of choice, but of necessity circumstanced as you must have been.

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The second division of the French fleet has in fact been blocked up at Brest by thirty odd British Ships of the line so that we have now but little expectation of their arrival in time for an expedition agst. New York before next Spring.

11th Sept.

We have some reason to believe, that by this time 12 Sail of the line & Six Frigates from the West Indias, have arrived at one or other of our Eastern Ports. This if true may revive the design agst. New York, of which I hope Major MacGuill may carry you farther notice. Some British Commoners are Still amusing themselves with the Idle phantom, that a Change in their Ministry, wou'd regain the confidence of America. Burke & Conway have indeed drawn the present picture of G. Britain in frightful colours, and the Armed Neutrality of Russia and various other European powers must have a humiliating influence on the arrogance of that Nation. The Emperour of Moroca has Ordered his Ports kindly to treat & receive every American trader. Money alone, or rather the want of it is like to distress us beyond measure. The Army are now often without the Article of Beef.

Your letter of the 29 Ulto. is this day come to Town and the Result of a Committee will I doubt not furnish you with an agreeable answer. I have recd. Major Armstrong's letters, and have my apprehensions lest his late illness may terminate in a decay, of which, should you discover any Symptoms this Fall, I am persuaded your cordial friendship for him will prompt you to advise & give him Such leave of Absence, as you think proper for the recovery of his health, intimating the same to Congress or the Board of War. Please to present my Compliments to Mr. Thos. Burke, and inform him, that with perseverence I have procured a place in the Hospital Department for my unfortunate countryman of whom we spoke before he left Philada. Adieu, Dear General, may that God whose mercies are Over all his other Works guide and protect you, and be not discouraged.