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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Cornelius Harnett to Richard Caswell
Harnett, Cornelius, 1723-1781
August 27, 1778
Volume 22, Pages 977-980


Philadelphia, August 27th, 1778.


I embrace this first opportunity since my arrival to throw a few lines to your Excellency, which I am obliged to do without method or corrections. Colonel Hogan is just arrived with 500 odd men, and will, I believe, immediately proceed to headquarters at White Plains.

I take the liberty to enclose some of the last papers.

Our affairs at Rhode Island seem to wear a promising aspect. You will find that the French Admiral, the Count d’Estaing, after beginning an attack upon the enemy’s fortifications, had silenced two of their batteries, when an English fleet appeared off the harbor in the evening, which obliged the Count to proceed to sea the next morning to engage them, and was seen at 11 o’clock in pursuit and the enemy flying before him. General Sullivan, who commands our wing on the island, seems to be in high spirits, the enemy having evacuated all their outposts and retired within their lines near the town of Newport. Our army, under cover of a fog, had erected a battery within 250 yards of their lines and seem to intend to force them. We are in anxious expectation of the event, as our General seems confident of success. The enemy have no prospect to retreat, having been obliged by the approach of the French fleet to burn five of their frigates and two galleys, and had by the last account received

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but one frigate left at Newport, which, upon the return of the French fleet must be also destroyed or fall into their hands.

General Washington, with the main army, remains still at White Plains, waiting, I suppose, the event of the expedition against Rhode Island. I also enclose the sentence of the court martial which sat on the trial of General Lee.

I must now beg leave to call your Excellency’s attention to some matters which particularly concern the State which I have the honor to represent.

I cannot find as yet that Congress has reduced the number of supernumerary officers in the several battalions of the different States in the manner they have done with our officers. If so, the States have not been equally dealt by.

Our troops of light horse have been shamefully neglected, having been long in want of accoutrements, whilst other new-raised corps have been completely accoutred.

No general officer from our State has been as yet appointed, although the General Assembly recommended two gentlemen to be nominated by their Delegates, which was done in the most pressing manner in December last.

The requisition of the State for $500,000 for bounty, pay, etc., of the men raised to complete the six regiments as the quota of our State, agreeable to the new arrangement, has been refused by Congress, without assigning any reason. As I find on their journal only a very short resolve to send $100,000, in lieu of the $500,000 required, and that resolve enclosed to your Excellency without a letter from the President mentioning the motives which induced the measure.

I am informed it has been asserted in Congress, in the absence of our members, that the State of North Carolina had received from the Continental Treasury more than their proportion of money, and until their account against the United States should be properly liquidated, no further sums should be advanced. This will convince you, sir, of the absolute necessity of sending on the accounts and vouchers; not only those relative to the supplies to the Continental troops, but also those relative to the insurrection, the Indian expedition, the militia sent to Virginia and those called out on several other occasions, as I find all the other States are endeavoring to do the same. I am very well convinced that North Carolina is largely in advance to the Continent, much more I expect than will pay the

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late requisition, which, if I remember right, was $250,000. I have been exceedingly hurt when called upon to produce the demand our State has against the Unites States, and must repeat to your Excellency my earnest desire that you will be pleased to send on the accounts and vouchers, stated by gentlemen well acquainted with accounts, as every matter of this sort will be very strictly scrutinized by Commissioners of Claims, appointed for that purpose.

I wish we could have been represented in Congress at the time the requisition for $500,000 was made. I flatter myself the State would not have been affronted in so gross a manner. I stayed at York town until the very last day to which I was appointed, being resolved to travel home at my own expense, rather than leave the State unrepresented.

If I had an opportunity of attending the General Assembly, I would propose that six Delegates for our State should be annually appointed, and that three of them should attend six months and the other three the remaining six months, and there to continue until they were relieved by others of the new appointment, and no Delegate to be paid for a longer time than his traveling to, attendance on and returning home. By this means the State would be at very little expense (annually) more than they are at present, and be continually represented. I need not mention to you, sir, the necessity of having your State constantly represented in Congress. You are too well acquainted with public assemblies to doubt of such necessity. Had either of my associates, or even myself, been present, the credit of the State of North Carolina would not have been so wantonly sported with. Myself and my colleagues intend, as soon as we can find an opening, to introduce this subject. For my own part, I can’t be easy until Congress explains to the State the reasons of their conduct. They have been so taken up since my arrival with business of very great importance to the public, that we have not had it in our power as yet to bring this matter on, but are determined to do it as soon as possible.

I could have wished that Congress had appointed a Deputy Paymaster-General in our State, and had taken care to have supplied a military chest with money necessary for the pay and subsistence of their troops. This measure has taken place in almost every one of the other States.

I assure you, although I sincerely wish the accounts and vouchers may be speedily sent on, I shudder at the difficulty I expect to meet

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with in the passing them in such a manner as may give satisfaction to the State. I shall contribute all in my power towards accomplishing these purposes.

The bearer of this is Colonel Marbury, of Georgia, who has promised me to call on your Excellency on his way hoem. This gentleman comes well recommended to me by General Howe, and I beg leave to mention him to you as a gentleman of merit. I have the honor to be, with great respect,

Your Excellency’s most obedient humble servant,
His Excellency Governor Caswell.