Documenting the American South Logo
Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from William Caswell to Thomas Burke
Caswell, William, 1754-1785
August 17, 1781
Volume 22, Pages 564-565

-------------------- page 564 --------------------

Gen Caswell, Intelligence.

Kingston, 17th Aug., 1781.


The Enemy have advanced from Wilmington within ten or twelve miles of this place and their baggage was Yesterday within 14 miles. The day before yesterday I had a party of one hundred and sixty Horse on their lines, and had a smart skirmish with 50 or 60 of their Horse, but found the Militia Horse could not stand a Charge. Their approach with Swords made us leave the ground. Major Craig and about 300 foot and 50 or 60 Horse were on their way to surprise Gen’l Lillington they were within three miles of Him when we fell in with him; but had sent the Gen’l notice of their movements before they got within seven; he moved off and by our attack on their Horse prevented their intention. While our men stood we made a Good fire, and by small parties that we at different times collected, I am sure their Horse suffered, and am satisfied from circumstances, that the person (one Gordon) who commanded, fell in the Action. Gen’l Lillington is between New Bern and the Enemy, and I am fearful will risk an Action with the Enemy. I have done everything in my power to prevent it, and have let him have a Sight of your Excellencie’s Letter, wherein you mention that no General Action must take place, and from the No. of Horse we have I think he cannot be surprised. His force, as near as I can inform myself, is 27 from Onslow, 100 from Jones, 130 from Craven, 200 from Dobbs and about 150 from Pitt, making in the whole about 600; about 150 Horse under my Command, and we have about 200 Militia occasionally embodies in Wayne and the lower end of Johnston, which I would willingly send into Duplin in the Rear of the British could I have any Intelligence of their determined route, but hope they will return to Wilmington or near there until we can drive them quite off. I am very doubtful they will attempt to go to Newbern, as they have got several Pilot Boats and Gallies in order to go into such Places.

I assure you, Sir, That I think this Part of the Country in Eminent Danger. The Enemy is now in the Best part of the Country belonging to this District and cannot be routed by what force we can raise, and Your Excellency will perceive that there is very Little

-------------------- page 565 --------------------
force from the Wilmington District; not more than 27 foot and about 30 Horse, all from Onslow. There is a few good Whigs in the different Corps from Duplin.

Ammunition is scarce; have sent to Col. Long for some; shall thank Your Excellency to order it to be forwarded.

I am your Excellency’s Most obedient Servant,

P. S. Gen’l Lillington can’t go in the rear of the Enemy for want of Forage and Meal.

The Enemy are within 26 Miles of Newbern; Gen. Lillington 3 Miles on their right flank.

W. C.

Rec’d 20th, answered same Day.