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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Robert Bignall to Alexander Martin
Bignall, Robert, ca. 1730-1787
October 18, 1781
Volume 22, Pages 604-605


Tarborough, 18th October.

His Excellency Alexander Martin, Esquire, Governor, etc., etc.


I wrote your Excellency a few days ago, when I was going to Newbern. I am just returned from there, and have purchased from a French Gen’l who lately arrived in Newbern, 650 French Musketts and Bayonetts and 650 lbs. Gun Powder. For the Musketts and Bayonetts I am to pay three hundred pounds weight of Tobacco a piece, and for every three Pounds Gun Powder one hundred pounds Tobacco, so that each Muskett, Bayonett and one Pound Powder cost 333 1-3 lbs. Tobacco. It was with Difficulty I got my Powder, as the people in Newbern gave 2 hard Dollars Per lb. for it, for the use of their Privateers. The Musketts and Powder amounts to 216,666 2-3 lbs. Tobacco, which I have engaged to deliver at Washington in Six weeks from the 15th of this Month. This is much more Tobacco than I have belonging to the Public, but I hope That your Excellency will take care that my Promise is complied with. I expect you will find it absolutely necessary to send some person to impress the Tobacco at this Place, at Washington and Newbern, and give me leave to suggest to your Excellency that the sooner this is done the better, as I know as soon as we have water in the River the Tobacco will be taken from this Place, in order that I may get the Tobacco down in Time, I wish you to impower me to impress Boats, and you will also please direct the Col. of this County to furnish me with as many and such hands out of the militia as will be necessary to carry the Tobacco down. This the people will readily do, if they are allowed the Time out of a Tour of Duty. I

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am anxious that the Gentleman with whom I contracted for the Arms and Powder should be paid in Time, and I am sure it will not be in my Power to get the Tobacco down by hire, as I have not one Farthing of money on hand, and the owner of the Boats will take nothing but hard Money or Tobacco, and that at a most extravagant rate. Goods may be had, I am told, at Beauford. A valuable prise will be sold sometime next week, but your Excellency must know how difficult it is to purchase for the Public. No one likes to trust them. ’Tis probable Goods might be had, provided the Person who has them to sell could have good assurance of Payment being made in any reasonable time. Tobacco is the only article that will answer, and that at about four dollars P. C. Goods about seven for one, Sterling; some, I am told, have been sold at six for one, and some as high as eight for one. I have this Day wrote Col. Long, requesting him to send Waggons immediately down to Newbern for the Arms and Powder. I would wish to know from your Excellency what you would wish to have done with them.

I am, with due regard,
Your Excellency’s Most obed’t and very Humble Serv’t,

The arms are but Light and short Bayonets.

R. Bignall’s letter, Oct. 10th, 1781.