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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Petition from Denis Nicholas de Cottineau concerning the construction of Fort Hancock
Cottineau, Denis Nicholas de
April 1778
Volume 15, Pages 215-218


To the Honorable Assembly of the State of North Carolina.

About fifteen days ago Captain Cottineau came to this Town, on purpose to represent to the Governor of this State that his frigate, now lying in Cape Look-Out Bay, was not in Security, and that she run'd the greatest risk of being insulted by the enemies of America, which look upon the French to be their owne, Because they assist this continent. Captain de Cottineau observed to the Governor that besides the protection he had a right to claim from this State, after the services that his cargo, which was considerable, should prove to the state, (as much for the private wants as for those of the army), it Became the dignity of the Government to protect a stranger from the Coast as well as in the Harbours, and to hinder the Enemies from coming in their ports to Destroy, Burn or insult the ships which ought to be in safety in the said ports and her harbour in regard to the Treaty of all the polished Nations. The Governor answered to the said Captain that his just demands requires some measures and Expences which he could not take upon himself to perform; But as the General Assembly

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should set in a few days, he thought that his demands could not bear the Least difficulty; been very useful to the whole Continent, specially to this State, for it is true that Cape Look-Out fortifications could assure a retreat to all the Continental vessels as well as to a great quantity of strangers, that the one as well as the other might find a good shelter against the Winds and the Enemies, this Bay been fortified should prove of a great advantage to this State, being the only safe harbour from Cape Henry to Cape Fear, where strangers may go in without danger and almost without Pilots.

Captain de Cottineau has proposed to furnish 80 men and his boats to build a fort at his own expences, and to pay a part of the state charges on that purpose, even to put some of the frigate guns upon it untill the Assembly should send some, and Monsieur Le Chevalier De Cambray, officer of artillery, who came in this country on purpose to serve under General Washington, has taken the trouble of building the said fort, and showed to his Excellency the Governor two different plans of the necessary fortification. He had besides calculated what should be the amount of the Expenses, and found it to be five thousand pounds; but the Governor made always the same answers and observations, and gave Capt. De Cottineau an order for the Commander of the Militia at Beauford to give assistance in Case of attack from the enemy, as the time was precious to Capt. De Cottineau. Mr. Nash, with some more private gentlemen, made a subscription of 1,200 pounds, which was sufficient for making some small augmentations only to the fort that I had already begun for my own Security, which I judge to be enough to repulse a frigate. In consequence of these I bought several tools, and went to Beauford. Here I begun to work with my Crew only, excepting six countrymen. Therefore the fort is not done for want of good helping people.

Here is a plan of the fort, together with Cape Lookout Bay, which Monsieur De Cambray has drawned. I believe that this Honorable Assembly will easily feel the importance of this new and useful settlement, and Consequently will order the necessary improvements, so as to enable him of not fearing any of the enemies' attacks. Monsieur Le Chevalier De Cambray intends (when he'll return here) to present before this Assembly a plan of his Ideas in that respect. He is a gentleman of good character

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and understanding, a brave officer and of excellent good conduct, and very willing to be useful to the continent, which he has proved already by remaining about a month's time upon the place where is the fort. At his own Expences he made a voyage were at Newbern, which cost him above a hundred pounds, having had the misfortune of Breaking a chair which was lended to him. This sum may be nothing for others, But proves to be very considerable to that officer who has no other property in this Country but the desire of been useful.

I must observe that I have some true notions that the Captain of the English man-of-war called the Emerald, who gave me a chase from Chesapeake Bay, together with another frigate, flatters himself of destroying my frigate in any port of this continent, and I know that he is disposed to come as soon as the weather will permit. I share with ye gentlemen the insult of such a discourse, But I can assure ye that the Emerald and her partner shall leave their Ribbs upon the Coast if they prove so bold as to attack the fort or my frigate. For those means, I expect that you'll be so kind as to allow a strong guard to the fort. Then, to the satisfaction of abating their Bravade, we shall have the pleasure of having two enemies less.

Whatever be your Designs, Gentlemen, give me leave to Represent to this Honorable Assembly that ye cannot refuse to order that a guard should be sent to the present fort with an American flag, on purpose to protect such a good harbour as Cape Lookout Bay is. I think that 50 or 60 men will be sufficient, together with 25 I could send, in case of a near attack, to stand against 250, if the Enemies was to land them there. I intend to build a watch house or a Corps de guard to give necessary notice to the Country Militia. Then I shall look upon the place to Be without any Risk, the men of war not been able to approach.

In case you should meet with some Difficulties in regard of sending proper guns to the fort, I can afford to offer 6 to this state, of 4 pounders each, which I shall Leave here. They cost to me 450 livres apiece in France, with all their furnitures. You may reimburse to me whatever you'll please. I can all the same leave two swivels with necessary Balls; they serve now to defend the fort's Ditch.

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I must observe that this fort, sufficient for some time, requires fifteen days' work with about 60 men to be perfectioned in its capacity, with a small expences of one thousand pounds, without Comprehending the house. Besides, Monsieur Le Chevalier De Cambray, who understands very well these matters, shall instruct you of all his performances.

As the fort is not yet finished, I cannot give an account of the present expences to the subscribers, Because there was but a few workmen of this Country, and that one pound of tobacco that I allowed per day to every one of my crew is for my own account. Therefore, I do not think that the 1200 pounds are yet over.

I beg, Gentlemen, that you would prove so kind as to protect and send this Letter to the Congress by which I ask to be Intitled by commission for Defending the Landing at Cape Lookout Bay; and as I may be in that care from day to day, I hope you'll take all my just demands into Consideration. Be persuaded that, besides the obligations I shall be under towards this Honourable Assembly on this occasion, nobody desires more than myself success to the Continental arms, glory to the Congress and all the chiefs, happiness to all the Americans and prosperity to this State.