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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from William Caswell to Thomas Burke
Caswell, William, 1754-1785
August 20, 1781
Volume 22, Pages 568-569


Kingston, August 20th, 1781.

His Excellency Thomas Burke, Esquire, Halifax. By Express.


The Enemy yesterday evening were in Possession of Newbern with 400 British and between 400 and 500 Tories, and have plundered every Plantation that was in their way of all that they could find. It is impossible for me to inform Your Excellency of the ruin, ravage and Distress committed on the Inhabitants of this Country. Their strength when they left Wilmington were 400 British and about 80 Tories. On their March they have come through a very disaffected part of the Country, and most of the Inhabitants have joined them. They take all they can. Those that are above 50 Years of Age they require them to take an Oath of Allegiance to the King. Those under are prevailed upon to take up Arms against the State, and by that Means they have raised such a Body of Tories. Newberne lays between the Rivers of Neuse and Trent. This Place is

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about 45 Miles above, and almost the whole of the Inhabitants below this will be exceeding fond of becoming British Subjects, and most of the Inhabitants of Beaufort and Hyde Counties to the North of Newbern will join them. Our whole Force that can be collected from this part of the Country will be from Pitt, Wayne and Johnston. Dobbs has part of it fallen into the Hands of the British, and Three Companies out of Seven have to a Man joined them. They are in Possession of Part of Craven and Jones. Carteret is below them and little Assistance can be expected from those Counties, and what Force we can raise and Arm from the other Counties will not be superior to the Tories. Arms cannot be had to Arm as many men as may be raised. I believe there is Arms enough, but the Inhabitants secrete them, either owing to their being disaffected or their fearfulnss of their not being returned, tho’ every assurance is given them. What men I can raise shall take Post at Different Places. One at Webber’s Bridge, on Trent, in Jones County, about 20 Miles above Newberne; the other at Bryan’s Mills, on Neuse, about 17 Miles above. I wish I may be able to keep those Two Posts. I am very fearful, without Assistance from Continental Troops, that this Part of the Country will be entirely lost, and if no assistance comes shortly I am sensible that the Good People here will fall a Sacrifice to British Tyranny. Evacuation now begins to take place with the Whigs, as they see no probability of Relief or a stand to be made here, and I am fearful too many good men will leave me. However, I am determined to do every Thing that a Distressed Officer can do, and as long as Life lasts defend the District. Gen’l Lillington, being quite worn out and tired down, leaves Camp to-morrow. The 12 Months’ draft and Three Months’ Draft cannot at present be put into Effect here.

I am, with respect and Esteem,
Your Exceliency’s most obedient Servant,