Documenting the American South Logo
Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Cornelius Harnett to Richard Caswell
Harnett, Cornelius, 1723-1781
October 24, 1778 - October 27, 1778
Volume 22, Pages 986-987


Philadelphia, October 24th, 1778.


A fleet from New York, consisting of sixteen ships of the line and upwards of one hundred transports, sailed a few days ago, with troops and heavy cannon on board. Their destination is at present a secret. Congress is much alarmed, fearing they may intend for the southward (Charleston), which has induced them to call upon North Carolina for a greater body of men than I suppose can be raised in time to prevent the enemy’s designs. Your Excellency will perceive it to be the desire of Congress that you should put yourself at the head of the troops from your State, and should you be inclined to do so, have given you the rank and pay, etc., of a Major-General in the Continental army. General Howe is ordered to headquarters, and General Lincoln, an officer of great military merit, is appointed to the command in the Southern department.

I hope your Excellency has long since received the $400,000 for bounty, pay, etc., of the last levies; $150,000 more will in a few days be sent to Mr. William Blount for the use of the troops to be sent to South Carolina, where one million more will be sent for the expense of this expedition.

General Washington, apprehensive that the enemy may intend an attack upon Boston, has ordered on General Gates to the eastward

-------------------- page 987 --------------------
with a large detachment from the main army. Should the enemy appear on that coast, suppose all New England will be in motion. Some among us think this fleet has sailed either for Europe or the West India Islands. Whether New York and Rhode Island will be evacuated by the enemy this fall, seems at present very doubtful. The newspapers enclosed will give you an opportunity of forming a conjecture of the enemy’s designs. You will find the last speech and dying words of the British Commissioners, with the comments upon it by common sense.

I beg your Excellency will not take amiss my once more reminding you of the necessity of sending on as soon as possible the State account against the Continent. The charge against North Carolina in the Treasury books is $1,075,543.29, when other States, which have had ten times the money expended on them do not stand chargeable with more than $500,000, and this entirely owing to their having a military chest established within them and constantly supplied out of the Treasury of the Continent, exclusive of Commissaries, Quartermasters, etc., who never called upon the State for money.

27th October.

Since writing the above and meeting with no opportunity of sending it forward but by post, I have enclosed a paper of this date. It is now believed the enemy reallyintend to evacuate New York.

I have not the pleasure of a line from your Excellency since my return.

I am, with the greatest respect,
Your Excellency’s most obedient and very humble servant,

We have procured $10,000 to carry into execution the resolve of our Legislature of the 30th April, relative to supplying our troops with necessaries.

His Excellency Governor Caswell.