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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Alexander Leslie to Henry Clinton
Leslie, Alexander, ca. 1740-1794
November 19, 1780
Volume 15, Pages 300-302


On board the Romulus,
Hampton Road, 19th November, 1780.


I have the honour to send your Excellency Duplicates of three Letters sent by Lieutenant Salisbury, of this ship, the 8th Instant, which I hope came to hand.

I told you in that of the 8th that in consequence of Lord Rawdon's Letter (the Original I now send you, a Copy went by Mr. Salisbury) that I had determined to reinforce Lord Cornwallis as soon as possible with the whole of my Command. Part of the Troops embarked the 11th; I then fixed on a Garrison to continue at Portsmouth as a Blind. The 15th I had all on board except 500 Men to Protect the Depy. Commy. General's Vessel that got on ground at high Water, but by Exertion she was afloat at two in the Morning, and the rear Guard embarked. The Wind then came favorable, and continued to bring us all into this Road. Our Anchor was no sooner down than a hard Gale of Wind came on at N. W., and continued that Night and the following day. Had we met it in Elizabeth River most of the Ships would have got entangled or aground, and might have been insulted by the Enemy; but not a Shot has been fired, so they can't say we are drove from their Shore.

(The last twenty-four hours was an unpleasant time, for until then the Refugees & followers of the Army were ignorant of my design to Evacuate the Place; however, there was a necessity for it, & no time was lossed.)

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The Enemy are in some force at McKay's Mills under a General Mulenburg; its between Suffolk & Smithfield, a strong Situation. When the Letter from Lord Rawdon arrived I was meditating to get round him by landing in two Divisions, the one in Nansemond River, the other in Wt. Bay. This would have created a delay of some days, which I thought too precious to throw away on Mr. Mulenburg.

As to Naval Matters, I refer your Excellency to Commodore Gayton's Letters. He has been most attentive and active on every occasion.

The people in general seem sorry at our leaving this District, and I believe would have been happy to have remained quiet at home; it is a plentiful Country all round our Posts. From my first hearing of Ferguson's fate, I inwardly suspected what came to pass; therefore I never issued any Proclamation of my Own, nor did I encourage the People to take Arms. Many blamed me for it, but now they think I acted right.

I left the Works entire, and I still hope you will be enabled to take up this ground, for it certainly is the Key to the Wealth of Virginia & Maryland. It is to be lamented we are so weak in Ships of War, for there's a Fleet of Sixty Sail expected hourly from the West Indies, besides the valuable Ships or Craft ready to Sail from the Chesapeake.

Had we gone up the River we should have benefited as Individuals, loaded with Plunder & Tobacco, but I am confident we should have lost some of our large Ships, for they get aground on every Move, even the King's Ships, who never want for Pilots.

One of my People sent to Ld. Cornwallis fell into the hands of the Enemy. They made him drunk, and then produced my Slip of Paper. You will see it in their Papers, I imagine; it contained nothing of Consequence. Since my last I am happy to inform Your Excellency of the good behaviour of the Troops, and I must say from the first being on Shore there has not been a Complaint of a single Hessian; it is a most respectable Corps.

You will observe from the Returns that the Provincial Troops lose Men by Desertion; most of those gone are Recruits from the Enemy. They give now for Militia Men to serve till 1782 as Substitutes from 4,000 to 6,000 Pound this Currency, and the

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Dollar about One half-penny Sterling, which may be the reason of those fellows leaving us.

The People in general seem tired of the War, and wish for their former Ease and Comforts. Indeed, as far as the Troops went, the Men in general were at home, Except the very violent and those gone as Militia Men. The better Sort in this Province are deep in debt to the Merchants in England, and of course violent to a degree.

I am sorry to observe the Women don't Smile upon us.

In consequence of the Depredations committed by the Seamen, Transport & Privateers Men & Refugees, &c., in the different Creeks in Norfolk County, I left with the Clergyman of Portsmouth 100 Guineas to be distributed in small Portions to the poorer Sort, who has lossed their all. I think this Money will be well laid out, as it shews our intention was not to distress them.

I expect great Efforts from Col. Balfour, as I told him all my Wants. This goes in a Schooner of Mr. Goodrick's, who has been very useful. About 20 Refugees have come with us; I shall Arm the whole.

I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your most obedient & Most humble Servt.,