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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Nathanael Greene to Thomas Burke
Greene, Nathanael, 1742-1786
March 18, 1782
Volume 16, Pages 238-240

[From Executive Letter Book.]

Head Quarters, March 18th, 1782.

Dear Sir:

Since I wrote to you on the sixth of February, inclosing you a copy of General Leslie’s letter and my answers, I have received your letters of the 31st of January and of the 15th and 22nd of February and as you mentioned nothing of the receipt of my letter inclosing you general Leslie’s answer, I herewith inclose you copies.

I find by your letter of the 31st of January, that you have taken into your hands the reins of Government. You will find by looking over my letter to you on that subject while you was at Camp, I advised you to return to your Government and wait General Leslie’s answer. My advice was intended to place your conduct in as favorable a point of light as possible. I wish your engaging in business may not give your enemies both at home and abroad some occasion to sport with your feeling. I am sensible how necessary your services are both for the interests of your State and this Army, but whatever inconveniences I might have felt from your remaining out of office, I should rather have undergone them than demand your aid on terms not perfectly honorable to yourself.

Your zeal to serve me and the Army under my command claims my warmest acknowledgments nor shall any thing on my part be wanting to effect your exchange. I have made two essays since you left me, but neither suceeded, and at both of which they preemptorily demanded your return to captivity. Captain Shubrick,

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who made the last, was instructed to demand Governor Wright if they demanded you and to offer him in exchange, but not to rest it on that footing, if he could effect it by any other composition. However nothing was done, and another meeting is to take place in five or six days.

Thus you see how the business is circumstanced, and your own feelings must govern your conduct, in matters so truly delicate and interesting to yourself.

The Enemy seem to know your importance and I fear will embarrass your exchange on that account. Many people in Charles Town justify your first escape from the dangerous situation you was placed in; and I have heard that the morning after you left James Island a man was shot at the door of your quarters on the presumption of its being you.

I am glad to hear you have determined to consider all those prisoners of War taken in arms against us, who are not willing to engage voluntarily in our service. I wrote a letter the 24th of February to the acting Governor of your State on this subject. Your letters from Salem did not come to hand until within a few days. I wrote another letter also respecting the great difficulty and delays we meet with in getting our Stores through Salisbury District. The plan proposed by Mr. Morris for subsisting this Army by contract I think an exceeding good one, but its success will depend entirely upon the States. If they will levy and collect their taxes, contracts may be made, but not without; for nine tenths of the amount of the Contracts are to be paid by warrants drawn by me on the States and only one tenth to be paid out of the Military chest, therefore the Contractors cannot go on with the business unless the warrants are immediately paid by the States. The taxes must precede the Contracts. It is impossible to give bills any credit, in whatever form they may be drawn unless there is an obvious and certain mode of payment and as there are few merchants and no great cities in your State, the difficulty of giving credit to bills will be greater than in most other States; Therefore, it is necessary that your taxes begin first; and I am persuaded that if this business was properly attended to, the people would feel less oppression and the Army would be better supported. I beg leave to recommend it in the strongest terms, and to be set about as early as possible. If you know or

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hear of any person willing to contract for the support of the Army on the plan of the Financier General, desire them to repair to Head Quarters, where they will have terms proposed, on the subject. I beg you to communicate it to the people at large. Whatever supplies you may furnish upon the old mode in the mean time, shall be duly accounted for, so as your State may take benefit by her exertions. As for West India goods we shall be glad of any quantity you may find it convenient to forward to us. Rum or spirits are the great articles of consumption. We could consume a hogshead and a half a day if we could get it; but we shall be glad to receive any quantity you may think proper to send us.

A few Hogsheads of Sugar and Coffee for our Hospitals will be very agreeable, and the whole may be forwarded in the way you propose to George Town. Our beef here is very poor and we have no salt provision. If you could send us a few hundred head of good stall fed beef and a few hundred head of good fat hogs, it would afford us great relief. Or if you could send us a couple hundred barrels of good pork to George Town by water we could get it to the Army and it would afford an agreeable variety to the Troops who are fed on nothing but poor beef.

I am truly sorry the Members of your Assembly did not meet so as to make a house at Salem. Many precious moments have been lost, which should have been improved in recruiting the Army. It is true the few recruits we have got by non-jurors and other delinquents are better than no force, but far inferior to those who voluntarily engage in the service of their Country from the double motive of principle and interest.

It is not much to the honor of your State that they left your interest to fall a sacrifice, because you had been unfortunate; and I feel a pleasure that you had it in your power to relieve Mrs. Burke at so critical a season.

Please to remember me to the two Messrs. Jones.

I am with esteem your
Most obedient Humble Servant,