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Letter from a Committee of Sussex County to the Council of Safety of Delaware


Sussex County, Broad Creek, Delaware, July 5, 1776.

GENTLEMEN: The situation of the part of the country in which we live having of late appeared to us rather critical, and a number of armed vessels lately appearing in our rivers, occasion us to think ourselves bound in duty, both to our country and our families, to lay our case before you, both for advice and assistance. We need not inform that a large majority of the people in the lower part of this country appear disaffected, which, being lately fully demonstrated by these hostile appearances, occasions troops to be sent from above to quiet them; and we are sorry to say, that it is our opinion that they (viz: the enemies of the cause) are not better affected than they were before those troops came, (we mean in the parts near us,) although we are fully of the opinion that the gentlemen appointed and sent down as heads of that business thought proper to have a few hundred riflemen sent amongst us at that time, who took up some of the most insolent, and put them in confinement, disarmed the offenders of less note, and left a few troops as


a protection to the well disposed. Things at this time should have worn a face much more in favour of the country than it now does.

The night before last, we sent an express down to Vienna, a small town in Maryland, upon Nanticoke River, to give information of what men-of-war or tenders were in the rivers. Yesterday our express returned, and gave an account, that in the mouth of the River Nanticoke, there lay the Fowey ship-of-war and four tenders; in the River Wicomico were three tenders. Those up Wicomico had run far up the river into the heart of the country; but we had no account of any great damage they had then done. They had landed, and attempted to rob some plantations; but were driven back to their vessels. Although the Militia were about ten miles below the mouth of the river, they went on shore, and robbed the most wealthy man in the neighbourhood, of his cash, and all his negroes they could lay hands on; after which, they tied the gentleman, and took him off on board their vessel. We also may inform you, that parties from tenders and other vessels supposed to belong to Dunmore' s Fleet, have taken large quantities of cattle and other stock from what is called the Islands, which lie just below the mouth of Nanticoke River; and we have reason to believe that they have taken stock out of the river they left, which they might easily have done, as great part of the inhabitants upon the river, from the mouth to the head, would be glad to have an opportunity to deal with them, and would take great pleasure to supply them with anything in their power. This much, gentlemen, you may depend on, that vast numbers of the inhabitants of Somerset and Dorchester Counties, in Maryland, and of Sussex County, in Delaware, have men on board of these men-of-war and tenders, either trading, inlisting, taking the oath of allegiance, or something we really are not informed of; but we have it from such authority, that we do really believe that they purchase some sorts of goods from the tenders, very low; and also, that the captain of the tenders registers the name of every person who goes on board of them. We are also fully convinced that numbers of the inhabitants have actually voluntarily entered into the service under Dunmore; some of whom, we have reason to believe, now bear command on board these tenders, and we look upon them as a more dangerous enemy than the Europeans. They know our country, and are able to carry the vessels they command to the heads of our rivers; and it is reported (and we believe it to be true) that these traitors have sent word (by their neighbours, who have been down on board trading) to their relations, who live in the heart of the country, that in a very short time they, with their armed vessels, will pay them a visit. It would be impossible for us to relate to you, gentlemen, on paper, every threat that has been thrown out by the disaffected amongst ourselves, as well as the people on board the tenders and ships-of-war, and therefore shall only add, that, from the disaffection amongst ourselves, which we conceive to be so great, that there is, at least, six disaffected to one firm man for America, — we say, from that melancholy appearance, and from the arrival of these armed vessels, we think it our duty to make application to you for assistance of men; and make no doubt but that, if it is in your power, you will grant it to us. If it is not in your power, we must be candid enough to inform you, that self preservation will oblige us either to leave our hivings, or fall in and run with the current, either of which will be hateful to us. But we believe it cannot be required of us to offer ourselves sacrifices for our country, without there being some prospect of benefit arising therefrom.

If, gentlemen, upon reflection, you judge it practicable and expedient to grant us men, we beg they may continue stationed amongst us, until we shall appear able to protect ourselves; and for that purpose, we pray you will, in our behalf, make application to Congress that we may not be liable to have them called away, and again be left destitute; for if we should have them only a short time, and then taken from us, our case would be worse than now, as revenge might prompt our enemies to more desperate actions. Although we represent our case to be distressing, we do not mean to represent it as past hope; for we are of opinion, if you favour us with only three or four good companies, with prudent officers, we shall not only be able to defend ourselves, but also that it will be a means to reclaim a considerable number of the disaffected, and bring them to their duty, as


it will enable our officers to pursue such steps as is necessary to accomplish this purpose so much wished for. Not doubting but that you will do everything for us that may appear to you necessary,

We rest, and are, gentlemen, your most obedient humble servants,


To the Hon˙ the Council of Safety now sitting at Sussex.

I do hereby certify, that the several subscribers to the within letter were sworn to the truth of the facts in said letter set forth before the Council of Safety for the County of Sussex, in Delaware, 5th July, 1776.

By order of the Council of Safety.

DAVID HALL, Chairman.