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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Benedict Arnold to Henry Clinton [Extract]
Arnold, Benedict, 1741-1801
January 23, 1781
Volume 17, Pages 983-984

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Portsmouth, January 23rd, 1781.


The line of works begun, which are necessary for the defence of this place, your Excellency will observe (by the plan inclosed) are very extensive, and from the situation of it, cannot be contracted. The engineer's opinion of them, and the number of men necessary for their defence, against a superior force, I do myself the honor to enclose. Lieut.-Colonels Dundas and Simcoe, are clearly of the opinion with me, that three thousand men are necessary for their defence. We have all been greatly deceived in the extent and nature of the ground. There are many places in the river much easier defended with half the number of men. From the sketch of the place your Excellency will judge whether our opinion is well founded or not.

This province and North Carolina, are collecting the Militia, undoubtedly with a view to pay us a visit. Their numbers, from the best information I can obtain, are four thousand or five thousand. At present, I can hardly imagine they will attack this post though the works are no manner of service to us; and all our force cannot complete them in three months. I therefore think it my duty to request a reinforcement of at least two thousand men, which would render the post permanent and secure against any force the country could bring, as detachments could always be made (leaving the garrison secure) to disperse the Militia whenever it was found they were collecting, and the advantages of transportation, which we may derive from light boats (of which I propose to build fifty)would enable us to move with double the celerity, that the Militia could do with every exertion.

The country people have not come in, in numbers, as I expected; the necessity of General Leslie's removing from this place, after their being assured of his intention to remain here, has impressed them with the idea that we shall do the same; which is not easily effaced, as they have many of them suffered severely since his departure. I have not with certainty been informed where he is at

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present. Reports, which are contradictory, say at Cape Fear; others that he is at Charlestown; and some say at neither. I know not what opinion to form; neither have I heard from Lord Cornwallis, but by reports, which say that he is at or near Camden. No opportunity has yet presented of writing to either of these gentlemen, but I am of opinion our diversion at Richmond will operate much in his favor, as I am informed the Militia and Lighthorse, sent to reinforce the rebel army, under Greene, have been ordered to return.