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Letter from Colonel Hartley to General Gates: When he wrote for a reinforcement, was not on any knight-errant scheme



[No˙ 1.]

Ship Dunmore, in Elizabeth River, Virginia,

30th March, 1776.

MY LORD: It gives me great comfort, in the very unhappy situation in which I am left, to think that my conduct meets with his Majesty' s approbation. I can assure your Lordship, were it not for that, and the earnest desire I have to serve him, no earthly consideration could induce me to continue in this wretched State, where there is not a hope of gaining either honour, credit, pleasure, or profit. No! my sole comfort is that I am doing my utmost to serve the best of sovereigns.

What your Lordship observes in my despatches of the 22d of October, of the disposition of many of the people here to take an open part against the Rebels, is exactly as I had the honour to inform your Lordship ; and I really believe now, had the Liverpool arrived (as your Lordship had reason to expect) about that time, I am well satisfied it would have made a wonderful change on the face of affairs in this country. But, my Lord, she did not arrive here till the 19th of December, two months after that, as your Lordship will have seen by my subsequent despatches.

Common fame has long since informed me that an armament was preparing for the southern part of this Continent; and many a pleasing idea it gave me, in the midst of my distress, the hopes that I should soon have relief. And your Lordship, however sensible your feelings may be, will not easily conceive what I felt on the receipt of yours, which informs me that, notwithstanding all my applications, representations, sufferings, and the efforts I had made with two incomplete companies of the Fourteenth Regiment- that notwithstanding all I had said or done-no attention was paid to it, but am left, in the first Colony on the Continent for riches, power, and extent, without the smallest assistance, and the preference given to a poor, insignificant Province, which has not a safe harbour with depth of water that will admit half the fleet that is sent there; and, as I am informed, should the army land, they must wade through a sandy pine-barren for many miles, before they reach the inhabited part of the country.

General Clinton, in his way to North-Carolina, called


here, and stayed with me two or three days, when I gave him every information in my power, relative to the situation of this Colony; and his Majesty may be assured, should the General return here, he shall have every assistance that one most zealously devoted to his Majesty' s service can give him.

Your Lordship will observe, by my letter No˙ 34, that I have been endeavouring to raise two regiments here-one of white people, the other of black. The former goes on very slowly, but the latter very well, and would have been in great forwardness had not a fever crept in amongst them, which carried off a great many very fine fellows. The medical people here thought, and I believe with reason, that it proceeded from their being much crowded on board the ships, and want of clothing-both of which we have now provided against: the first, by landing, and taking possession of a small neck of land, which I have fortified in the best manner our abilities and circumstances would admit of; and I think, though we have now several thousands of the Rebel army in our neighbourhood, who frequently come and take a few shots at us, and retire, yet I am satisfied they will not willingly give us any disturbance there, though they threaten it much. We have in this little fort four ovens, and pretty good barracks for our Ethiopian corps. I have bought a large quantity of oznaburgs, of which I am making summer clothing for our garrison.

My Lord, in my despatch No˙ 34,I had frequent occasion to mention a family of the name of Goodrich, natives of this Colony. This is a spirited, active, industrious family, and it has cost me much trouble and pains (knowing the service they would be of to whichever party they joined) to secure them in his Majesty' s service. The male part consists of a father and seven sons, five of which are arrived to the age of manhood, who are now most zealously engaged in his Majesty' s service. Four of them are perfectly well acquainted with every river, creek, or branch within this Bay. I have now five of their vessels employed constantly running up the rivers, where they have orders to seize, burn, or destroy everything that is water-borne that they can get at. They often land, and take off what provisions they can get, which keeps the Rebels in constant motion; and I generally send a few of the Fourteenth Regiment with them. They land only where they are not likely to meet with opposition, and have orders to retire on board so soon as they see any force coming against them. I mention this family to your Lordship for two reasons: the first is, lest any of their vessels, of which they have many in various parts of the world, should fall into the hands of any of our ships of war, that they may have that attention shown to them that I think them so well entitled to. My second reason is, that, should we ever see better times in this quarter, (which I pray God we may soon!) his Majesty may show them such marks of his favour as he thinks their services are deserving of. They have all left their houses, negroes, plantations, stock, and every thing else, at the mercy of the Rebels, and are now, with their whole families, water-borne in this fleet.

I have received the late act of Parliament, with your Lordship' s despatches, which I have hardly yet been able to look into, but should be glad to have your Lordship' s opinion whether the word "not," in the 217th page and 18th line, standing between the words "Provinces" and "herein," is meant to be part of the bill, or is only an errour in the press. If it is part of the act, it then restrains every Governour, Lieutenant-Governour, or Commander-in-Chief of any of his Majesty' s Colonies or Provinces now in rebellion, from sending vessels to supply themselves, or those under their protection, with the necessaries of life; which I hope could never be meant.

Enclosed I send your Lordship a letter of Mr˙ John Norton, dated the 22d of November, 1775, to Mr˙Robert Carter Nicholas, Treasurer of this Colony, wherein Mr˙ Norton informs him that about £3,000 of the bills he drew in favour of Mr˙ N. had been presented and accepted. This Mr˙ N. most certainly means Mr˙ Thomas Newton, Junior, the endorser of the bills sent your Lordship in my letter No˙ 34.

My long residence in this quarter of the globe, in the publick capacity in which his Majesty has been pleased to employ me, has given me an opportunity of making many


observations on the policy of this Continent, that I should be happy to have an opportunity of communicating to your Lordship before matters are finally settled on this Continent.

Since writing the above, I have been reading the Act with more attention than I had leisure to do before, and I must observe to your Lordship, if my construction of it is right, it will be impossible to be complied with, for the Act says, in the 222d page, that "the prizes are not to be carried into any of the Colonies herein particularly mentioned." Now, all come under that predicament, Nova Scotia and the Floridas excepted; so that every vessel so soon as taken must be sent to one or other of these places, which would take them near three months to go and return, in which vessel they must send an officer and a number of men, according to the size of the vessel. Was this to be the case, there is not a man-of-war on this station, that would have either officer or man left in her in a month; were they even to detain them in the fleet, where such capture was made, they must leave so many men in them that in a very short time their ships would be so weak that they would not be fit to go to sea, which was the case here for some time, and having no Judge of the Admiralty here to try them, I was obliged to find a remedy for this inconveniency, which was this: I appointed five gentlemen in the fleet to act as Commissioners, who are empowered to take depositions and inquire fully into the circumstances of any captures made by the men-of-war, or the tenders; if in their opinion the vessel and cargo were seizable, they then appointed sworn appraisers to put a value on the vessel and cargo, and the vessel and cargo were sold to the highest bidder at publick auction, and the moneys arising from such sales are deposited in the hands of responsible people, either till his Majesty' s pleasure should be known, or if a Judge of the Admiralty should afterwards be appointed, and the owners of the vessels were not satisfied with the judgment of the Commissioners, the cause might be tried by the Judge of the Admiralty from the depositions, etc˙, taken by the Commissioners, of which they are required to keep regular books, properly authenticated. This was the mode I thought requisite to adopt, rather than his Majesty' s service should suffer by employing the sailors in taking care of prizes, and to prevent the goods from perishing and being totally lost, and probably the vessel also; indeed, most of these prizes have been loaded with provisions, which we should ere this have been in the greatest want of, had we not been so fortunate as to have taken them.

I am, my Lord, your Lordship' s most obedient, humble servant,


To Lord George Germaine.



* Received no enclosure with this duplicate.