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Letter from Lord Dunmore to Lord George Germain: A malignant fever has carried off many of his people, especially the blacks


[No˙ 3.]

Ship Dunmore, in Gwin' s Island Harbour,

Virginia, June 26, 1776.

MY LORD: Since writing your Lordship of the 2d of April, nothing very material has happened, except our change of harbour, which I found absolutely necessary, as we were constantly exposed to the fire of the musketry of the enemy, (Elizabeth River not being above musket-shot over,) and in daily expectation of their bringing heavier metal down against us, and that we lay in a tide' s way, and exposed to be burnt by fire-rafts, or boats, which they might have sent down amongst us, which indeed they did attempt, as your Lordship may see by the enclosed, (No˙ 1) which is authentick, as I had it from a spy I had amongst them who may be relied on; added to this, our salt provisions were quite expended, and we had no fresh. It therefore became requisite to move to a place where we could have an immediate supply of the latter, and there was no place (known to me) that appeared so eligible as the one we now occupy, and indeed so it has proved, for a finer harbour never was seen. We found on this Island (which contains two or three and twenty hundred acres of land) a considerable quantity of stock of different kinds, with great abundance of fish on all sides of it. The only fault that I can find to it, that it lies too near the main, which the Rebels occupy, all around us, as the haven between it and the main in some places don' t exceed two hundred yards wide. On the west end of this Island, where it is narrowest, I have thrown up a small work, in which I have five cannon, with another on the east end with two, and two smaller ones, towards the centre, which I would willingly flatter myself will secure us from any insult from our enemy, who, however, seem to neglect no opportunity of annoying us.

I am extremely sorry to inform your Lordship that that fever, of which I informed you in my letter No˙ 1, has proved a very malignant one, and has carried off an incredible number of our people, especially the blacks. Had it not been for this horrid disorder, I am satisfied I should have had two thousand blacks, with whom I should have had no doubt of penetrating into the heart of this Colony. I have done everything in my power to get the better of it, but am sorry to inform your Lordship that all our efforts have hitherto proved ineffectual; but every other means shall be tried to put a stop to it. I have now separated the sick from the well, by the breadth of the Island, and mean if possible to keep them from each other.

I am sorry also to inform your Lordship that old Mr˙ Goodrich, whom I mentioned in my last to your Lordship, he having taken two prizes in one of the Rebel harbours, and not being able by contrary winds to get out, was in the night boarded with a number of boats by the Rebels, and taken, and is now confined in the gaol at Williamsburg, loaded with very heavy irons, and I really fear their inhuman treatment of him will put an end to his life ; soon after this, two of his sons were unfortunate enough to fall likewise into their hands, who I doubt will not fare much better than the father.

Enclosed I send your Lordship (No˙ 2) the printed paper wherein the Convention of this Colony declare themselves independent of Great Britain, and I am well pleased they have declared themselves, for notwithstanding that they have by every artifice prepared the minds of the people for this event, yet I am well convinced it is quite repugnant to the wish of most. Their having ordered the prayers for the preservation of his Majesty, and those of his family, etc˙, to be erased, and substituted others for their Congress, Conventions, etc˙, in their place, I am well convinced (though this Colony is by no means remarkably over-religious) that this change will have a wonderful effect on the minds of the lower class of people, who, I am satisfied, even now only wait for an army able to protect them, which army, I doubt not, were they landed, they would immediately join; even many of those, I am satisfied, that now appear in arms against us would willingly change sides.

Finding the expense of hiring small vessels for tenders considerable, and that the prizes they were daily bringing in were selling for a song, I thought it best for his Majesty' s service to purchase a few of the fittest for that purpose. I have therefore bought five small vessels which are all now employed in that service.

Hearing a few days ago, that there were a number of well-affected subjects to his Majesty on the Eastern Shore


of Maryland, I sent immediately three of the tenders there to bring off as many as were willing to come. They last night brought me between fifty and sixty, and would have brought many more had they had room for them; directly on hearing this I sent off five small tenders and a ship to bring as many more as wished to serve his Majesty; I have inlisted those that came in the Queen' s Own Loyal Virginia Regiment.

By the Virginia Gazette, which I have just now received, I am sorry to see that the Oxford transport from Glasgow, having on board two hundred and seventeen Highlanders, was taken by two of the Rebel armed vessels on their way here; they had been taken before to the northward, by one of the Rebel vessels, who disarmed them and took the officers from on board, and put eight of their own people on board to carry her into port, but the carpenter of the vessel formed a party and retook her from these eight, and was bringing her in here to me, when they were again most unfortunately retaken; of what service would they not have been to me here!

Since I wrote your Lordship last, Mr˙ John Grymes is the only person of any consequence in this Colony, that has joined me, (who is a great acquisition.) He is of the first family in this country, of good fortune, but what is more valuable than either, he is a most amiable character, being a man of the strictest honour, of an excellent disposition, and good parts; brave, active and enterprising. The Island being between four and five miles in length, and our numbers fit to do duty very few, and finding horses on the Island, I advised Mr˙ Grymes to form a little troop, and take the command of it, which he has done, by which he (being posted in the middle of the Island) is able to give assistance to either end that should be attacked. Mr˙ Ralph Wormeley, one of the Council, and Mr˙ Philip Grymes, brother to John, are made prisoners by the Rebels, and sent to the back country.

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


To Lord George Germaine.