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Letter from Lord Dunmore to General Howe



On board the Ship William, off Norfolk, in Virginia, November 30, 1775.

DEAR GENERAL: The report here is, that General Gage is gone home, and that you are appointed to succeed him; if so, from my heart I wish you joy, and am well persuaded you will soon evince to the world that you are well deserving the honour conferred on you by your Sovereign. I must inform you that, with our little corps, I think we have done wonders. We have taken and destroyed above four score pieces of ordnance, and, by landing in the different parts of the country, we keep them in continual hot water; but, as Captain Leslie tells me he means to write you on this subject, I have no doubt he will give you particulars enough, so shall say no more on that subject.

Amongst the prisoners we have taken are Oliver Porter and Simeon Deane, two natives of Boston. The former was taken, as you see by his own deposition, (No˙ 1.) bringing in gunpowder to North-Carolina; the latter was sent from Boston to influence the minds of the people, in which he has been but too successful. He was taken from on board a schooner going from this place to the Western-Islands, to bring powder to this Colony; and the others have carried arms against His Majesty in this Province. I have sent them more with a view of intimidating others than to punish them, as they expect here that so sure as they are sent to Boston they are to be hanged. Robinson is a Delegate of out Convention, as you see by his deposition, (No˙ 2.) Matthews was a Captain of their Minute-men. Perhaps they may be of use to you in exchanging them for good men. There is a vacancy in the Fourteenth Regiment, by the death of Captain Blackett. I really should not do them justice, if I did not recommend it to you to let the promotion go in the corps, which I hope you will do.

The sloop not sailing so soon as I expected, I have to inform you, that on the 14th instant I had information that a party of about a hundred of the North-Carolina Rebels had marched to the assistance of those in this Colony, and were posted at a place called the Great-Bridge, a very essential pass into this part of the country. I accordingly embarked our little corps of the Fourteenth in boats in the night, with between twenty and thirty volunteers from


Norfolk. We landed within four miles of the bridge, and arrived there a little after daylight; but, to our great mortification, found the birds had flown the evening before. But hearing that a body of between two and three hundred of our Rebels were within about ten miles of us, we determined to beat up their quarters, and accordingly proceeded about eight miles, when they fired on our advanced guard from the woods; on which, I immediately ordered our people to rush in upon them, and at the same time sent a part of the regulars with the volunteers to outflank them. The enemy immediately fled on all quarters, and our people pursued them for a mile or more, killed a few, drove others into a creek, where they were drowned, and took nine prisoners, among whom is one of their Colonels. We only had one man wounded, who is recovering. I cannot conclude without again informing you that my friends of the Fourteenth, both officers and soldiers, have, in this late, as well as on all former occasions, behaved with that good conduct and spirit becoming British soldiers. Immediately on this, I issued the enclosed proclamation; which has had a wonderful effect, as there are no less than three thousand that have already taken and signd the enclosed oath. The negroes are flocking in, also, from all quarters, which, I hope, will oblige the Rebels to disperse, to take care of their families and property; and had I but a few more men here, I would march immediately to Williamsburgh, my former place of residence, by which I should soon compel the whole Colony to submit.

We are in great want of small-arms, and if two or three light field-pieces and their carriages could be spared, they would be of great service to us; also some cartridge paper, of which not a sheet is to be got here, and all our cartridges are expended.

Since the 18th of May last, I have not received a single line from any one in Administration, though I have wrote volumes to them, in each of which I have prayed to be instructed, but to no purpose. I am therefore determined to go on doing the best of my power for His Majesty' s service. I have accordingly ordered a Regiment, called the Queen' s Own Loyal Virginia Regiment, of five hundred men, to be raised immediately, consisting of a Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant, Major, and ten Companies; each of which is to consist of one Captain, two Lieutenants, one Ensign, and fifty Privates, with non-commissioned officers in proportion. You may observe, by my proclamation, that I offer freedom to the slaves of all Rebels that join me; in consequence of which, there are between two and three hundred already come in, and those I form into a corps as fast as they come in, giving them white officers and non-commissioned officers in proportion; and, from these two plans, I make no doubt of getting men enough to reduce this Colony to a proper sense of their duty. But my next distress will be the want of arms, accoutrements, and money; all of which, perhaps, you may be able to relieve me from. The latter I am sure you can, as there are many merchants here who are ready to supply me, on my giving them bills on you; which you will have to withdraw, and give your own m their place. I hope this mode will be agreeable to you; it is the same that General Gage proposed. I have now, in order to carry on the recruiting business, victualling, clothing, &c, drawn on you for five thousand Pounds sterling, and have appointed a Paymaster, who will keep exact accounts. I wish you would, by the return of the sloop, inform me what bounty money may be given to those who enlist.

Having heard that a thousand chosen men belonging to the Rebels, great part of whom were riflemen, were on their march to attack us here, or to cut off our provisions, I determined to take possession of the pass at the Great-Bridge, which secures us the greatest part of two Counties to supply us with provisions. I accordingly ordered a stockade fort to be erected there, which was done in a few days; and I put an officer and twenty-five men to garrison it, with some volunteers and negroes, who have defended it against all the efforts of the Rebels for these eight days past. We have killed several of their men, and I make no doubt we shall now be able to maintain our ground there; but should we be obliged to abandon it, we have thrown up an intrenchment on the land side of Norfolk, which I hope they never will be able to force. Here


we are, with only a very small part of a Regiment, contending against the extensive Colony of Virginia. If you would but spare me, for a few months, the Sixty-Fourth Regiment, now in the castle, and the remaining part of the Fourteenth, I really believe we should reduce this Colony to a proper sense of their duty.

I am, dear General, your most obedient humble servant,


His Excellency General Howe.



*Folio 1385.

† Folio 1671.