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Letter from the Virginia Committee of Safety to Maryland Convention


Williamsburgh, December 29,1775

GENTLEMEN: We are this moment favoured with yours of the 22d, by Captain Hyde, to whom we have endeavoured to give the assistance he required in the course of his inquiry, as well as to show him the civility due to a gentleman on the very friendly errand he came. We have, perhaps, been remiss in not communicating to you a full account of our situation, and that of our enemy. We had transmitted to our Delegates in Congress the state of our affairs, from time to time, and imagined it would, from thence, be communicated to our sister Colonies, as far as was necessary, and we saw no occasion to call on our neighbours for assistance, by land, and did not, till late, hope for any by water; however, on the arrival of the Liverpool, man-of-war, with a store-ship, we thought it proper to communicate that intelligence to your Committee of Safety, which we did by express, on Saturday last, and which we hope has reached you ere now. The disgraceful circumstance, to the Colony, of seizing the Printer' s materials and servants, in Norfolk; the captivating our friends at Kemp' s Landing, and the cowardly behaviour of a party of Militia in that neighbourhood, afterwards, proceeded from the defenceless state of that part of the country, and our inability, for sometime, to send them protection, for want of arms and ammunition. As soon as we had despatched a respectable body of men across James River, for this purpose, Lord Dunmore issued his proclamation, and dispersed his standards and oaths, in Norfolk and Princess Anne, to which the bulk of the people in those Counties resorted and, subscribed, and a number of slaves ran away to Norfolk and joined the enemy. Our Army continued their march without interruption till they got to a place called the Great Bridge, between Suffolk and Norfolk; there the enemy had raised a stockade fort to intercept their passage. After some skirmishing for several days, Lord Dunmore' s whole regulars, consisting of about two hundred, sallied out, and passed the bridge to attack our party. They met a defeat so complete, and sustained so large a carnage, that they have not yet appeared in action. They retreated on board the ships, and our Army marched into Norfolk without opposition, where there are about twelve hundred of Virginians and North-Carolinians, masters of the land, for Colonel Howe being convenient to the place, and hearing of the state of things there, had kindly marched with about five hundred men to our assistance. The notorious Tories, and some blacks, are gone on board the vessels in the harbour, and have embarked effects to the amount of one hundred and fifty thousand pounds, as estimated.

Our Convention have under examination some suspected persons of property; others have come in, and remain neuter; all the slaves, except what are on board the vessels, have surrendered, on promise of pardon, or been taken in arms, out of whom some examples will be made; and the apprehensions of danger, from that quarter, seem to have subsided. Besides the Liverpool and store-ship, which are supposed to have about four hundred seamen and marines, the naval force of our enemy consists of the Otter, of twelve six, and two four-pounders; the Kingfisher, of fourteen six, and four four-pounders; the Eilbeck, pierced for twenty-two guns, and, perhaps, now recruited from the store-ship, she had, however, only seven, three and four-pounders, badly mounted; the William, of six guns, size unknown; and several tenders, consisting of four schooners, four sloops, with small pilot boats, none of them very considerable, except a sloop belonging to, and commanded by, a Captain Stewart, which is said to mount ten carriage guns. The men belonging to all these ships of war and tenders, do not exceed two hundred, and these mostly


pressed. We have at Hampton, at present, about two hundred men only, who have so obstructed the navigation up that river, by sinking boats, that none can get up but those well acquainted with it, and have raised some breastworks for defence. A reinforcement to them of two hundred men is ordered, and will be there in a day or two; beside those, there is a Captain Barron, a brave, experienced seaman, whose company of Militia, being also stationed there, has been very active in small excursions of vessels, in Hampton Roads, from which he has brought in several vessels belonging to Tories, protected others, the properly of friends, from falling into the enemy' s hands, and has taken two tenders, on their way to the Eastern-Shore for provisions, manned with Americans and slaves. We have strengthened his hands, by empowering him to fit out three armed vessels, to be employed in this way, and have great confidence in his prudence and valour. We have recommended it to Captain Hyde, that, should any vessels of yours be passing through the Road, they give a signal, to be settled by him with Captain Barron and the commanding officer at Hampton, which may produce some useful pilots, and, perhaps, other assistance from thence. We have, also, about three hundred troops in this city.

We are informed of a considerable cannonade, heard this day towards Norfolk, and suppose the gust may have produced some effects of consequence there. If either should occasion any material intelligence from thence, we will endeavour to put it into the way of Captain Hyde, on his return from Hampton. In the mean time, we have particularly mentioned every thing which occurs to us as material, and are, with regard and esteem, gentlemen, your most obedient servants,


To the Honourable Matthew Tilghman, Thomas Johnson, Jun˙, and Samuel Chase, Esquires.