Primary tabs

Observations on the Conduct of Lord Dunmore


Williamsburgh, October 27, 1775.

Let no Tory plume himself on Lord Dunmore' s success at and in the neighbourhood of Norfolk. The situation of Norfolk and Portsmouth was very different from that of any other place in Virginia. The inhabitants were almost to a man merchants and mechanicks, and a majority of them Scotchmen and rank Tories; the Towns full of slaves, ready for an insurrection at the beck of their leader; two men of war always prepared to fire on them. The inhabitants had little or no ammunition, and were badly furnished with arms. It is true, there were some cannon, belonging to a few gentlemen who had fitted out privateers in the last war, but those were not mounted or furnished with cartridges, and were therefore useless, and removed into the country. What, then, could be expected from a people whose whole property was at stake in their houses, and whose lives, were beset on all sides? An open and powerful enemy in full array of war before their Town, base and perfidious fellow-citizens surrounding them, and dangerous and deadly enemies in their very houses. But, with all these advantages, the great exploit of seizing the Printers was achieved when many of the most spirited gentlemen of Norfolk were out of Town; and the soldiers stole away the cannon in the night, not daring to venture so far from their ships in the day. Emboldened by these successes, they have, indeed, ventured to march one hundred and twenty Regulars on their way to Kemp' s Landing. But their intelligence was good; they knew that there was no force to oppose them. There, indeed, they (unfortunately for our Country) surprised Mr˙ Matthews and a few other gentlemen. But let not our countrymen be the least discouraged at these things; the brave Bostonians bore many insults before they chastised the insolence and insults of their oppressors at Lexington. I do not, in the least, suspect the courage of my countrymen. I know their cool intrepidity, and will affirm that no troops in the world are superiour to them in the use of their arms; I mean not in the anticks of a parade, but in the true use of fire-arms; for, as marksmen, they are unequalled. Whenever an engagement happens, I make no doubt the list of killed and wounded will equal that of Bunker' s Hill. Lord Dunmore is well acquainted with the skill of our Riflemen, and the Shawanese have borne testimony of the coolness of their aim; and he may be assured that there is not a man alive, of the three thousand whom he ordered out against the Indians last year, who is not impatient to attack him, and would not as willingly discharge their rifles at him, as at any Indian they ever engaged with.

And now I have mentioned the Indian war, I cannot omit taking notice of the suspicion that has gone forth, that Lord Dunmore encouraged that war, and sent the Shawanese to attack Colonel Andrew Lewis; for there were Indians in the engagement, who left Lord Dunmore after their conference with him, and who returned to him after their defeat. It is said that the Indians have confessed this, and declare that they were directed by Lord Dunmore to attack Colonel Lewis; and what must give credit to their charge is, that he marched with the troops, immediately under him, with less than a gill of powder a man. The direction of his march, and his behaviour on the news of tlie defeat, together with his endeavours to bring on a civil war with Pennsylvania, and his sending off the Indian hostages when he thought proper to feign a flight on board the Fowey, are circumstances which confirm this suspicion. This was indeed such a refinement of treachery as is scarcely to be conceived but by the most cruel and bloody of all tyrants. But no one will be much surprised at it who is acquainted with Lord Dunmore' s private character, or with the machinations of the present Ministry. To have cut off Colonel Lewis and his Army would have been a trifle to what was intended to follow. His Lordship could have patched up a peace with the Indians, after finding them sufficient for his purpose; and having removed the great obstacle of their progress, (many brave Riflemen,) this summer he could have called them in to his assistance, laid waste our frontiers, butchering innocent women and children, and perhaps thousands of poor souls who are utterly unacquainted with and have had no share in the dispute with Great Britain. Nor was this perfidy greater than that of his employers, who encouraged the importation of slaves, nay, almost forced them on us, and then


called on them to revenge the wrongs we had done them by enslaving them, and promised their assistance to recover that liberty which they basely pretended they are willing to indulge them with. Whoever considers the nature of this damnable plot, and the proofs we have that it was actually intended to have been executed, will not wonder at what has been said concerning Lord Dunmore' s treachery to Colonel Lewis; and the whole world must admire our patience and fortitude, and will applaud the stroke, whenever struck, which shall completely chastise the insulting tyrants who had so diabolically plotted our ruin.

But to return to my first observation, viz: that no Tory need plume himself on Lord Dunmore' s success; I will add, that this success has but served to increase that resentment which has been suppressed for some time past. The people had submitted themselves to the control of the Convention; they have left it to them to direct their fury, which is now ready to burst forth with redoubled force. There is now a good stock of powder in the Country, and an excellent manufactory of that useful article established; and almost every man has a gun or rifle, and (except a few Tories) every man in the Country is determined never to submit. The people are removing their effects from the rivers, and bid defiance to our enemies. We have appealed to Heaven, and rely on the Lord of Hosts and King of Kings for protection.