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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Thomas Burke to Jethro Sumner
Burke, Thomas, ca. 1747-1783
July 20, 1781
Volume 15, Pages 556-557

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Col. Williams,' Nutbush, July 20th, 1781.


Your favors of the 14th and 17th Instant came to hand this day, the last at this moment.

Since the date of the Marquis's letter, several events have happened in Virginia. The Enemy crossed to the south side of James River at Jamestown. In crossing they were attacked by a detachment of our troops who were repulsed, the Marquis's Horse was shot under him. The enemy afterwards moved up the river and since I have not learned the movements of our troops. The Enemy had previously sent a detachment to Portsmouth. Tarleton has scoured the Country through Amelia to Prince Edward. There it is said he divided his force, one party wheeling to the right through Powhatan and Chesterfield, the other through Charlotte, Lunenburgh, Brunswick and so along down Meherin. They destroyed all the Mills and collected all the Horses and saddles in their rout. All those movements the meditated attack on New York by General Washington, the marine superiority which they have reason to dread, the great employment which Britain has for her Troops in other parts of the World and consequent difficulty of reinforcing her armies here, with the heavy force which Lord Cornwallis finds pressing him in Virginia, all have suggested to me the probability of the Enemy's embarquing their infantry to succor New York and retreating from Virginia into some strong grounds and in either event detaching a large Body of Cavalry to their Southern Army by rapid marching through this Country.

This opinion has determined me to post parties of riflemen along the passes on Roanoke in order to dispute them with the Cavalry which I suppose we should be able to call pretty heavily. I have issued orders for this purpose but whether in the present state of derangement any orders will be regarded I am far being able to determine.

The Council seem utterly regardless of this Country, Not one has yet met me but General Butler, nor have I heard from any except Willie Jones.

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I will leave the orders you have given to their own operation for the present, and hereafter take them up as circumstances shall indicate.

I am not able to inform you relative to the Officers you mention, but I recollect that sometime past I was told that a party of the drafts were immediately to march from Duplin County and another is on its way from Bertie. The assembly have passed an Act for compleating the deficiencies which shall be put in Execution without delay, and in order to enable me to be decisive I must be furnished with the exact returns from every County.

All the other matters touched upon in your letters shall be attended to as soon as it shall be in my power. And you shall be made acquainted with the measures which shall be adopted relative to them. But until the Council meet I can take no step effectual.

I am Sir with respect your Hum. Servt.,