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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Mark Armstrong to Horatio Gates
Armstrong, Mark
November 19, 1780
Volume 14, Pages 744-745


Surry County, November 19th, 1780.


This morning Received your letter dated the 16th, From Salisbury, and being from home cannot go directly forward. But shall start as soon as have Sent off an officer and guard, who Is to Conduct the lead, which I expect is now on the road from The Mines to head Quarters. I am, Sir, heartily sory that I Have listened to the Solicitations of the officers & Justices of The peace in this & the Neighbouring Counties, to set at liberty, or to bind over to the law, any of the prisoners taken at King's Mountain, so much Against the interest of this & the United States, it being their oppinion that such men would Never be Exchanged, but be tryed by the laws of their Country. Nor did I know the Contrary, untill I was Acquainted by the board of war that a Cartel has been lately settled for that purpose, and what I have acted with reguard to the Militia of Salisbury district was entirely done Through my Ignorance, & the Council aforesaid; nor shall I plead Justification any further, as I now plainly see I was wrong.

When I got the Charge of the prisoners, Colo. Campbel's Troops were all left this place. Colo. Cleveland discharged his, and I was Left with Very few men fit for duty, without a sufficient Quantity of arms, and many of the Continentals obliged to Stand with empty Guns, for I had no Ammunition, and many of the officers from The other Side of the Mountain threatned that if

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the Tory prisoners were Taken to the westward they would raise a body of men & Kill every one of Them. The anxiety that many of the prisoners Showed to be again put in a way that might give them the opportunity of Showing their fidelity by act of Service to their Country, were the Motives that induced us to act that part which we now discover to Be Wrong. The remainder which was left being British, I was likewise Solicited by the Magistrates to let your Honour know of The difficulty of sending them over the Mountain under the above Circumstances, Judging, as there was but few of them, they would be disposed off in a way less Expensive to the publick; & thus have I gave up to other men's oppinions, without any intention of doing Any kind of Injustice to my Country or distressed friend.

The Militia from Burk County are all bound to the Supperior Court, & listed for Six Months or longer, at the discreation of the Commander in Chief. Those of this County who were in The late insurection are likewise bound to Court & inlisted for Three months or longer, at the discreation of the commander in Chief, all which papers I have by me, excepting the inlistment of those of Burk, which I have sent to Majr. Armstrong to be Delivered to Brigadier General Davison. Those are the reasons which carried me out of the line of my duty and leaves me So much Exposed, Whilest those who advised me are at present Not so Subject to Censure. I could wish the past moments were in my power to recall, but that is for ever lost; I shall repair as Quick as possible to head Quarters and take Such papers as will Testify what I have above related, & shall for the Future be more Cautious of my Conduct in Tampering with Such Weighty affairs of Government, in case I ever am entrusted with them.

I am, Sir, with the greatest Esteem,
Your Honour's Most obedient &.
Most Humble Servant,
The Hon'ble Majr. General Gates.