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British Fleet in James River



Nansemond, Virginia, February 5, 1776.

Saturday night last, we received intelligence of six tenders sailing from Norfolk the day before, and that three of them were on their way up this river, which was confirmed about nine o' clock by three vessels anchoring, one near Sleepy-Hole Ferry, and two more, two or three miles higher up, having come as far as the flood tide served. Their boats were moving about the remainder part of the night, one up the river, since supposed as high as Goodrich' s, five miles higher up, and just within the Narrows, but returned a little before day. They attempted nothing till the morning, when a boat full of armed men approached the shove within half a mile of the tenders, and were fired upon by four men from the bank, at one hundred yards distance; they returned the fire, and rowed wide of the place, when the four men were honoured with a salute of well-directed cannon, but without any bad consequence. This first effort seemed of singular service, as they never attempted landing after, except at one desolate place, which they effected in the night, and burnt a house with some corn in it belonging to Mr˙ Cowper. It appears, by indubitable proof, that this incursion was partly intended, with the concurrence of Goodrich and sons, to get possession of two vessels loaded with pork, bacon, and other provisions, which, to the discredit of his neighbourhood, those avaricious, false men have been suffered to collect and put on board, and with all expedition put themselves under the protection of the tenders. Though it was with a good deal of difficulty the last of them effected it, (from the fire of our men, and the tenders' boats Being repulsed,) they weighed, ran up, and took possession, under a heavy fire of our brave men, who had nothing but small arms, and a scanty portion of ammunition to oppose their cannon and musketry. There was one occurrence happened, which, had we Foreseen, a tender and her prize would have fallen into our hands. The wind being ahead on their return, they were obliged to come within sixty yards of a high bank; fifty men, with a plenty of ammunition, could have drove them below decks, and prevented them from tending the sheets, by which they must have come ashore. A few regulars with the help of ammunition to our own men, would secure us in such a manner, that the fertile lands on this river may be cultivated to the no small advantage of the community; whereas, if we are drove back, the lands are so indifferent, for near one hundred miles, that a famine must be the inevitable consequence.