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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from William Caswell to Thomas Burke
Caswell, William, 1754-1785
August 27, 1781
Volume 15, Pages 626-628


August 27th, 1781.


After the Enemy were in possession of New Bern Two Days they evacuated it & came up Neuse road to our post at Bryan Mills, and was very near surprising the party there, which I had just left under the command of Col. Gorham, owing to the Horse not taking post on our right flank so soon by two hours as directed, which was attributed to their finding some Liquor & most of them got intoxicated. Col. Gorham finding them advancing in front made every disposition to skirmish with them thinking his right flank and rear well covered with Horse but on their approach in front the picquets on his right flank began to skirmish. He then found that the

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Horse had not taken post as directed and ordered a retreat which he very well effected two miles across Neuse. The Enemy lay but one night there, burnt Genl. Bryan's, Mr. Wm. Herritage's, Mr. Wm. Coxe's & Mr. Longfield Coxe's houses and much distressed and abused their families then moved across the Country to Trent and have gone towards the Rich Lands of New River, the night before last encamped at the Lewis Williams place, and they gave out that they intend going down the Sound road and destroying all the Salt works they have taken with the Inhabitants and those under arms about fifteen prisoners, their loss is near the same killed and taken & about the same number wounded. Their loss should have been much greater, but the great Scarcity of Ammunition prevented my Skirmishing much, the Militia being quite fatigued, I have dismissed them & ordered the three & Twelve months drafts immediately Completed. Genl. Bryan Herritage & the Coxes have raised a party & burnt up all the Houses of the Tories near them. I am exceedingly sorry for the event & Dread the consequences, Have given them orders to stop it, but fear I cannot put an end to it

A No. of those people who have been & are with the British, would come in on some terms. Should your Excellency think proper to give them any indulgence think it would answer a Good purpose. Upwards of two hundred are with them from this District & from the Counties of Craven & Dobbs.

Gov. Nash gave me orders to take the Horses of the Disaffected. A No. have been taken and are scattered about the Country Just now, tho' they have been in the service of the public. Shall thank you for orders respecting those horses and also Gov. Nash also gave me orders to take the stock, this has not been done as they could not be taken care of and no place appointed to carry them to. 500 or 1000 Head of Cattle & 200 or 300 Sheep may be had from those in actual service against us if your Excellency should think proper to order them off. Your Excellency's Letter of the 24th Instant come to hand. I am exceedingly happy to find that Gen. Wayne is so near but as the Enemy have moved off think he will not find them nearer than Wilmington. What force we could raise in Duplin, Wayne & Onslow were to fall in their rear & have not heard from them since the Enemy passed the Rich Lands of New River. Should your Excellency think proper to order out the

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Militia immediately Genl. Wayne can have them all that can be armed very shortly embodied, and I am satisfied they will turn out with the greatest cheerfulness. If Genl. Wayne should move this way, Mr. John Tillery a Quarter Master with Col. Long is an Exceeding good hand as a pilot & is acquainted with the Country and inhabitants.

I am Sir with much respect,
Your Excellency's most Obdt. Servt.,