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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Stephen Drayton to Thomas Burke
Drayton, Stephen, 1736-1810
July 06, 1781
Volume 15, Pages 511-514

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12 Miles From Cross Creek, 6th July, 1781.


The journey I have taken, having brought on my bilious complaint, I am obliged to lay by a few days to prevent a too powerful attack; of course shall not be able to give your Excellency any account respecting the Enemy that have marched out of Wilmington.

But this only, I have learnt, that Major Craig has issued a Proclamation, requiring all Loyal subjects in Bladen & the adjacent Counties, to hold themselves in readiness for the Field by next Month. It is imagined the intent is to fix Posts at Elizabeth & X Creek, to procure & secure the grain in the contiguous Counties & which I readily conceive to be highly probable.

Allow me sir to speak freely upon the situation of this part of the Country, & as I would wish to act, & to be believed that I do act, upon impartial principles, respecting the examination of Men & measures where my Country is concerned; so I hope, no imputation of prejudice or mean self Interest will be laid to me, in what I now shall say.

I have often had occasion to see & to lament the want of method in most of our public Transactions; more especially those, respecting the convicting reclaiming or punishing of Tories; & I believe firmly, that we have by our own imprudencies & irregular proceedings made more Enemies, than have become so from mere inclination; I may venture on appeal to your Excellency's own knowledge to prove my assertion; but I will endeavor to support it by a relation of recent facts.

Civil Wars are always attended with something horrid. The bare Idea of Friend against Friend & nearest Relatives in armed opposition shocks human nature! But good God! Sir, let us not countenance barbarities that would disgrace the Savage! if we cannot totally stop, yet we may check wanton exercise of cruelty. Pardon me sir, the late act perpetrated at X Creek demands a freedom of speech & calls aloud for examination. I mean the murder committed by one Beard on one McLeod! They are both strangers & utterly unknown to me; I plead the cause of Humanity, of true policy. I am for preventg. every Execution, even of my enemy,

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by private hands, but what may be done in the Field of Battle. I am for wresting that usurped power out of the hands of the soldiers, & by no means allow them individually to be Judges; it is enough, in doing their duty in the Field, that they are Executioners. I am told the late Governor applauded the Action & regretted there were not in every County, more such men as this Beard. Is it possible that Mr. Nash whose sence & knowledge of mankind must have taught him to know better could have allowed him praise an Action teeming with every Evil! if such actions receive high sanction who is safe where prejudice, envy or Malice may prevail in the breast of a bad man; are not the best liable to be called an Enemy & treated as such? I am not vindicating the deceased or pronouncing him innocent. I grant he was subject to punishment for his behaviour, but as our Laws have pointed out the mode, a public tryal & example was the only way to have proceeded by. But sir, McL. blood was not forfeit enough; they have done more, they have carryed the punishment farther. They have taken every article of Cloathing & every means of Subsistance from the Widow & the Children & have left them to the cold merciless hand of Charity rendered more so by threats to those who might relieve. My good sir could the Children partake of the Fathers Guilt? why then punished? Can such deeds as these, may it please your Excellency, bear a retrospect! Can we feel ourselves in a State of expecting success to our grand undertakings, if we attempt the attainment by such means! indeed, indeed we cannot. The Gentlemen in X Creek who resented the act, have their Lives threat'ned by Beard's adherents & are obliged in Consequence to keep out of the way.

Another procedure, equally in my opinion, unjust, impolitical, & unlawful; is that, of an Officer bringing a Number of Men & Horses down the Country, under the pretence of being on duty, choosing capriciously, the Farmer out, & making his quarters good. The Evils attendant on such Behaviour I am certain are obvious to you yet give me leave to point a few out to your Excellency. 1st. As being contrary to Law & Justice; the Legislative loose their power & Confidence with the people. 2dly. A waste always takes place of course so much, which otherways should be appropriated for the Exigencies of war, is destroyed; & Army operations thereby greatly Obstructed. 3rd. The Labor of the Farmer, is used in the name of the Public, without recompensation to the One or benefit to the

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Other & lastly it encourages & keeps alive that Maroding Spirit, already too prevalent. I must confess it presumption in me, to point out these Evils to you, but as they occurred to me forcibly, I have taken the liberty to put them down. Colo. Allston who commands a Body of Men in the Vicinity of X Creek, gives an opening to this Representation.

I am led to some of the Consequencies. Craig, as I have already mentioned, has ordered the Men in Bladen Co. to be in Arms, by such a time & it is supposed for establishing posts at Elizabeth & X Creek. Out of 15 Companies in the County of Bladen I am told 12 incline for Craig. Still there are a Number of Men not wanting that are willing to endeavor to prevent such steps of the Enemy proceeding but sir they are at a loss for a Head. The people cannot place confidence when a proper degree of dignity is wanting, they cannot put their Lives to Stake, when they know Chance & not worth guides the whole, & thus for want of a Leader they become indifferent to everything but personal safety & thus, have many been driven to join the Enemy because they have been by Some thought to be no friend to their Country.

Give me leave sir to continue in the same freedom I began & recommend, that a Man who has it in his power, from Example as well as precept, to shew the People he is able to render essential Service, be sent up to take the Command here & that as immediately as possible. Trust me, the minds of the Men never wanted conciliating measures to be be used more than Now. Let what Horse can be had, be sent instantly on to Rockfish & drowning Creek. Let the command be given to a Vigilant, attentive & careful Officer. Let a Commissary he appointed to prevent depredations, a quarter Master & Forage Commissary. In fact, let strict army discipline be established & I will warrant every good that can be expected. Without it, it is vain to attempt any thing.

If Sir, in my Sentiments of public matters, I have not intruded too much permit me before I conclude my Letter to crave your Excellency's attention and patience to an application for self. Being informed your Excellency has a House, furnitere &c. in the Neighborhood of Hillsboro, which you would Rent, I could wish to have the occupation of it, if only for a few months, for my family, untill either I could provide myself with another or if matters suit right

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with me, untill the weather is cool enough for my movement Northwardly.

Be pleased to indulge me in another Request, that you would consider this Letter as altogether private, in compliance with your Excellency's desire of knowing how things were Circumstanced in this Quarter & with my wish of doing service.

I have the Honor to be
Your Excellency's most obt. Huml. Servant,