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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Proclamation by Richard Caswell concerning army deserters
Caswell, Richard, 1729-1789
January 25, 1777
Volume 22, Pages 903-904

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State of North Carolina.

By His ExcellencyRichard Caswell, Esq., Governor, Captain-General and Commander in Chief in and over the said State


Whereas, the situation of affairs in America rendered it absolutely necessary that nine battalions of Continental troops should be raised in this State, and Congress having granted a large bounty and made ample provision for the pay and maintenance of those who should enlist as soldiers in the service of the United States; and as many persons who voluntarily enlisted received the bounty and pay allowed and engaged in the most solemn manner to serve as soldiers in the Continental army, agreeable to the rules established for the government thereof, notwithstanding the necessity of their assistance to put a speedy end to the ravages of the subjects of a merciless tyrant and to secure those inestimable rights and privileges which are the gift of heaven, and which alone distinguishes freedom from slavery, regardless of the sacred ties of religion and honor, have in open day most shamefully deserted their brother soldiers and abandoned the cause they engaged to support, at the risk of their lives.

And whereas, the Provincial Congress at Halifax, in April last, in order to prevent desertion and discourage persons from harboring deserters, did resolve, “That a penalty of five pounds be inflicted on any person who shall knowingly secrete, habor, succor or entertain for the space of twenty-four hours any deserter from the service, after having been duly enlisted, to be recovered before any jurisdiction having cognizance thereof, one-half to the informer, the other half to the public.”

And whereas, there is reason to apprehend that such desertion hath been much promoted and encouraged by the correspondence and counsel of wicked and designing persons within this State; and it is notorious that such deserters have been and are secreted, harbored, succored or entertained by such persons.

To the end, therefore, that such deserters may return to their duty, that no person plead ignorance of the above resolve, and that an end be put to such iniquitous practices, I have thought proper, by and with the advice of Council of State, to issue this, my proclamation, hereby requiring all deserters from the said battalions immediately to return to their respective corps, and forewarning all persons

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from secreting, haboring, succoring or entertaining any deserted soldier, on pain of incurring the penalty to be inflicted in virtue of the above recited resolve. And I do most earnestly exhort and require the several justices of the peace, militia officers and other liege subjects within this State, to use their utmost endeavors in apprehending or causing to be apprehended and sent to headquarters all such deserted soldiers. And recommend it to the several justices of the peace to cause prosecutions to be commenced by presentment of the grand jury in each county against every person who shall dare to violate the above resolve. And I likewise in the strongest manner recommend it to all officers, civil and military, and all good subjects within this State to give all possible countenance, encouragement and assistance in raising the recruits necessary to complete the aforesaid battalions.

Given under by hand and seal at arms, at New Bern, the 25th day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-seven, and in the first year of our independence.

By his Excellency’s command:
J. GLASGOW, Secretary of the State.