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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Benedict Arnold to Henry Clinton [Extract]
Arnold, Benedict, 1741-1801
February 13, 1781 - February 14, 1781
Volume 17, Pages 984-986


Portsmouth, 13th February, 1781.


No time has been lost in repairing the old and erecting new works here (in which the Negroes have been very serviceable) but none

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are yet compleat. Repairing Barracks, foraging and patroling with large Parties, has engrossed the time of a great part of the Troops. One hundred Men are posted at the Great Bridge. Lieut. Colonel Simcoe, with near Four hundred Men, are in Princess Anne County scouring the Country of several parties and arranging matters with the Country people.

The Enemy are at Suffolk with Two thousand five hundred, or three thousand men. They threaten an attack on us, but I cannot suppose them capable of so much temerity. We are prepared for them at all points, and I believe nothing will induce them to attack us, but the hope of succeeding in a surprize, and despair of keeping their tattered force together, through want of Provisions, and the necessity of ploughing their Lands to prevent a famine the ensuing Year.

I have requested a Ship from Commodore Symonds to send to My Lord Cornwallis, I have not received an answer, but if she is furnished me, I intend proposing to My Lord, if the Co-operation will be of Service to him, to send some Boats with four or five hundred Troops thro' Curratucks inlet, to Sweep the Albemarle Sound as high as Edington, & to go to New Bern and destroy their Shipping Stores, &c., while a few armed Vessels take Post at Ocracoke Bar, and a Frigate Cruises without. This movement I am convinced will have a good effect, first, by destroying the Navigation of North Carolina, and thereby distressing the Inhabitants, and secondly by taking off their attention from my Lord Cornwallis and General Leslie.

A number of my Boats are begun, & if fifty or one hundred Ship Carpenters and Boat Builders could be procured in New York, or elsewhere and sent here, they might be employed to great advantage.

I have sent Six Vessels under Convoy of a Frigate to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, for forage, provision, and lumber.

February 14th.

Yesterday at one O'Clock P. M., anchored in Linn Haven Bay Three French Ships of War, one of 64 Guns and two Frigates, it remains a doubt where they are from, and whether they are the King's Ships or Merchantmen. I believe the latter, tho' the Gentlemen of the Navy are of the opinion they are the former, & from

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Rhode Island. A vessel sails this evening at my request for Charles Town to prevent Commodore Gayton, or any Frigate coming this way from falling into their hands.