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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Benedict Arnold to Henry Clinton [Extract]
Arnold, Benedict, 1741-1801
February 25, 1781
Volume 17, Pages 987-988


Portsmouth, February 25, 1781.


After my dispatches were closed (which were intended to go by the General Monk) three French ships, one a sixty-four, the other two frigates, arrived from Rhode Island, and anchored in Lynnhaven Bay. On the 14th instant they arrived in Hampton Roads and remained there until the 19th when they left the Capes and are said to be now cruizing to the southward of them.

Before the arrival of the French ships the enemy's force did not exceed two thousand five hundred men at Suffolk and in the vicinity, which was greatly augmented soon after their arrival. On the 18th they came down in force near our lines and surprised a piquet of six men; but soon retired. Lieutenant Colonel Simcoe with four hundred men being in Princess Anne County, I did not think it prudent to leave our works to attack them.

I have very good intelligence that the rebels at Suffolk have been informed by express from General Greene, that on the 16th or 18th instant my Lord Cornwallis crossed the Dan River, sixty miles above Halifax and one hundred and twelve from Petersburgh, with one thousand cavalry and four thousand infantry and was on the march for Petersburgh. Generals Greene and Morgan with three thousand or four thousand men, chiefly Militia, were retiring before

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him; in consequence of which a considerable part of their troops have been detached to join General Greene. I have not been able to ascertain the number of troops remaining at Suffolk and the vicinity. I expect to do it in a day or two, in which time every possible effort shall be made to complete our works in such a manner that a considerable detachment may be made to proceed up the James River, with some ships to co-operate with Lord Cornwallis; and if he should have reached the river to furnish him with such supplies of provisions, &c., as we can spare and his troops must be in need of.