powered by google
Documenting the American South Logo
Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Advanced Search Options
Letter from Arthur Dobbs to John Campbell, Earl of Loudoun
Dobbs, Arthur, 1689-1765
July 10, 1756
Volume 05, Pages 594-601

[B. P. R. O. North Carolina. B. T. Vol. 12. C. 111.]
Letter from Governor Dobbs to the Earl of Loudoun.

Newbern 10th July 1756

My Lord,

Having received Orders from His Majesty by Mr. Secretary Fox to correspond with your Excellency frequently and to give you a full state and condition of this Province with respect to its number of inhabitants, and militia, how armed, what quantity of Cannon small arms ammunition Ordnance and other military stores belonging to the Province in public magazines or belonging to the militia or in private hands, with what forts are built or now building, or proper and necessary to be built

-------------------- page 595 --------------------
for the safety & defence of the Province, with my opinion at large upon the whole; I shall give your Excellency the best information I can as to every point above mentioned.

I therefore beg leave to inform you that upon my entring into this Province, I found it had been divided into Parties, and in a very low state; and one half of the Province not obeying the laws made by the other, nor attending their Assemblies, refusing to pay the Taxes which the Assembly raised, so that the Colony was in debt, and obliged upon the present breaking out of this war to raise £40000 in paper of this Currency (£30000. sterling) which half of this Province would not receive nor circulate— And found they had only raised one small square fort with 4. little bastions and a Fosse, the ramparts and Parapets of a Sandy earth faced with upright pines which were all rotten, in which they had only 6. or 7. small ship iron guns all honey-combed, 3. or 4. of which were 2. pounders and the rest 4. pounders and no garrison but 2. or 3. men to keep the fort and this was all the safety in the Province to defend the most navigable river in the Province, the river of Cape Fear, and upon enquiry I found there was no publick magazine or store in the Province, and that there was not 8. barrels of Gunpowder and proportional lead in all the merchants hands in the Province to supply the Hunters and Indian Traders all being imported as it were from hand to mouth and nothing in store for the militia, the Gunpowder duty being for some years expired, nor did I find one publick Office erected for records in all the Province, the jayls, only little paltry Houses mostly of wood, and not one jayler in the Province to take care of them—So that all publick papers were removed from place to place as Assemblies were changed and held in four different Vallages at the pleasure of the Governor, as he was obliged or disobliged with the people in the Province, so that almost all the publick records were in a manner lost or destroyed, for each person coming into Office kept his Papers in his house or cabbin, or in any small room he could hire and at his death no enquiry was made and his executors embezzled or destroyed most of the papers, so that very few came into the hands of his successor, nor had the Governor any house and not above one Church roofed and seated in the Province. Thus I found the Province upon my arrival.

The Assembly before I arrived had out of their new Paper Currency appropriated £2000. Currency to repair Fort Johnston on Cape Fear river, and had appropriated £2000. to be added to £2000. before granted to erect a Fort at or near Ocacock Bar, by which all ships must pass who trade to Neuse, Pamplico & Roanoak rivers, upon which the Towns of Newbern, Bath and Edenton are situated, the Harbour of Ports-mouth

-------------------- page 596 --------------------
near the Bar being so exposed that every Privateer sailing along the coast could from their mast head see every vessel in the Harbour, and go in and cut them out, or destroy them They had also appropriated £1500 Currency to erect a battery at old Topsail Inlet or Port Beaufort, to defend that Harbour, there being deep water on the barr—But no step had been taken to erect any of them when I arrived, the Assembly having only appointed Commissioners to erect the Forts & expend the money.

When I arrived I was elected a Commissioner in the room of the late Governor to finish Fort Johnston at Cape Fear, and in ten days after my arrival went down to view it, and agreed to proceed upon it as soon as the season wou'd permit, as far as the money wou'd answer and to cover the Curtain and two Bastions next the river, which commanded the channel, with a wall upon a stone foundation made of cement, which they call here tabby work, composed of broken oyster shells, lime and sand, which is stronger and more lasting than brick, there being no stone to be had but what comes in ballast in ships—and also to finish the lower Battery on the Counterscarp I went down to view what had been done last May, & found the wall round the two bastions had been raised about 5 feet high except a place left for a sally Port the bricks for the arch not being then arrived, and in a few weeks it will be as high as the rampart and parapet, and the lower Battery will soon be made, having only the Glacis to make and the platform for the guns. I have ordered the Counterscarp of the other curtains and batteries to be pallesaded until we can get money to finish the remainder. As this is our principal and most navigable river for Trade, it will be necessary to have 14 eighteen pounders for the lower Battery, and 16 nine pounders for the Curtain and two Bastions next the river, with a suitable number of men for the artillery and a sufficient quantity of Ordnance Stores and Ammunition, and we can't have less than 50 men to garrison it, who upon an alarm may be joined by the County militia—in case of any foreign attack, and 30 Swivel guns or wall pieces will be wanting for the other Curtains & Bastions next the Country.

Last summer I went down with the Commissioners to fix upon a place to build a Fort near Ocacock Bar, and agreed to erect a Battery with two faces on Core Banks at Portsmouth, where one face wou'd play upon all Vessels coming in from the Bar, and the other scour the channel to the Harbour as I found a violent storm about 5 years ago had carried away Beacon Island, which was near two miles long, and all the Banks here in time may be lyable to the like fate, I thought it more prudent to erect a large battery upon Piles, and to raise it 5 feet above the usual

-------------------- page 597 --------------------
spring tides, than to risque the building a Fort, and to build a strong House to defend the Battery, I went down about a Fortnight ago to see how far they had proceeded, and I find the whole almost piled and filled, and the house ready to be framed, and as I propose it to be a fascine Battery, it will soon be ready We shall want 8 eighteen pounders for the face next the bar and 12 twelve pounders for to defend the Harbour with suitable Ordnance Stores Gunner &c. and about 40 men to defend the House and Battery, which with the seamen in the ships and people of the Town may be sufficient against any Privateers which may infest the Coast.

I went also to Port Beaufort to fix upon a place for a Battery there upon Bogue Banks, the house is already up and covering, and as it will be a fascine Battery and wants no raising or piling, it will be soon finished, it has also two faces, one which commands the entrance from the Bar and the other defends the Harbour. We purpose only 8 twelve pounders for the face next the Bar, and six six pounders for the other face with a Gunner Ordnance Stores &c. and about 30 men to defend the Battery & House against any small Privateers, these altogether will require an independant Company of 120 men or 2 Companies of 60 each which will be more expensive, this Colony has never yet had an Independent Company nor any assistance from Britain, altho' we have an extensive sea Coast and about 300 vessels great and small which enter here in a year—And these I think may secure our four great rivers and chief Inlets. We are also erecting a small Fort upon our western or Indian Frontier, where we have a Company of 50 men, but as I hope when this war is over our Frontier will be extended beyond the mountains this is only occasional at present. But besides these necessary for this Province there is a large strong Fort absolutely necessary, to be immediately built at the expence of Britain, for the safety of the British Trade & Navigation to all these Northern Colonies, and also to the West Indies, which pass through the Gulphe stream and Windward Passage, which ought to be maintained by Britain or be supported by all the Colonies when the present Affairs are settled and the several Garrisons & Forts to be maintained are fixed, when our frontiers are setled. Which is at Cape Lookout Harbour, which I last year went to view, & this summer have again viewed & surveyed, having last year recommended the building of it at the expense of Britain to the Board of Trade, with my reasons for it, which His Majesty in Council approved of, and ordered me to get an engineer to draw a plan & make an estimate of the expence, as I have no Engineer here, nor know how to get one, I was obliged to act as Engineer myself & rub up my former knowledge in

-------------------- page 598 --------------------
fortifications when I was in the Army, and have accordingly drawn a plan for a square Fort to contain 2 or 300 men in time of Peace, and 500 in time of war, which I inclose to your Excellency, which will be sufficient to maintain it against any small squadron, or to be taken without a formal seige. I have therefore sent your Excellency a plan of the Harbour, which is the best and safest from Boston to the Capes of Florida, where a large squadron may lie as safe as in a mill pond, and a safe Bay without it where the whole British navy might ride in safety from all but southerly & south westerly winds, when they might slip and run into the Harbour. This was a receptacle all the last French and Spanish war, where their Privateers resorted, to wood, water and clean there being in part of the Harbour 27 to 3 fathom water steep to the bank, here they lay, got fresh Provisions from the Banks, and great plenty of the best fish and good water with wood for firing, & from their mast head could see every Vessel that passed along the Coast and could in an hour's time be at sea after them Here wou'd be a proper station for our Cruizers and station'd ships of war, which in twenty four hours might be at the Capes of Virginia or at Charles Town Bar, or at Port Royal and Georgia, as the wind permitted, and wou'd be at sea in an hour, when they may be kept within the Capes of Virginia or at Cape Fear, or in Charles Town some days before the wind might serve to put to sea; By this your Excellency will see how necessary it is to have this sufficiently secured for the benefit of the whole Continent and British Trade and that it must be so strong and well garrisoned as to stand a small siege, for if the French should surprise or take it they would soon make it another Louisburg, or a Gibraltar, to disturb the whole Colony Trade even from Jamaica & the Leeward Islands, as they wou'd soon run to windward of St Kits or to the windward passage This your Excellency may transmit to His Majesty with your Observations upon it, which if it strikes you in the same light it does me, you will think it highly advisable immediately to undertake by an Engineer from Britain and Artificers, labour is here so extravagantly dear that they must send over masons & carpenters from Europe and if any other are sent over to protect them, they may assist by adding to their pay, and negro labourers may be hired here at £10 per annum, they being maintained by the publick The Place where the Fort will stand to advantage must be where they can have good water among sand hills, several of which must be levelled or lowered, so as not to overlook the Fort, and the whole must be built upon piles which may be had here of right red pine, cedar or cypress which under ground will last for ages, and may be brought in floats or upon flat boats within ½ a mile of the Fort. Bricks may be
-------------------- page 599 --------------------
had at 20s Currency per 1000 which is 15 shillings sterling, to face the works or it may be made of Tabby work, oyster shells being to be had in immense quantities, such as the walls were made at Bocca Chica near Carthagena, the bullets making no larger a breach than the diameter of the ball—a wall which once made will never want repair being as firm as a rock.

When I came over His Majesty was pleased to give 1000. stand of arms and accoutrements for the use of the Province you will see by the return of the militia that they are not half armed and those they have very bad. The Companies we raised here together with the arms which were carried off by Deserters have taken of these near 400. and I sent 150 to the western Frontier to arm the militia of two Counties there, and another frontier County will want half as much, and I have sent & ordered to be sent near 100. more to the Batteries and Militia at Cape Fear, and the remainder will be wanted to distribute to the Militia along the Sea Coast, so that there will not then be any spare arms in any publick store, and the militia who wou'd purchase arms can get none to purchase, so that it would be necessary to have a supply of 2000. arms at least to supply the militia, many would be willing to pay for them, as they wou'd expect to get good arms at a reasonable price from the Crown—and we ought to have an immediate supply of 20. barrils of Gunpowder at least to be able to make a proper defense if attacked, as you will see by the return of the powder duty This my Lord is the state of this Colony, and therefore your Excellency may judge whether we don't want an immediate supply, and until the Artillery & Stores arrive, whether a 20. gun ship stationed at Cape Lookout to cruize along the Coast and to prevent French Privateers from making use of that Harbour and distressing our Trade wou'd not be a proper measure to be immediately ordered here whilst the Colony is in so defenceless a state.

Having so far given your Excellency a state of our military Affairs in this Province—it may be proper to inform you the state of our funds by which you will see it is almost impracticable to maintain any troops out of this Province as we have no Cash, and our paper Currency at great Discount, and of no credit out of the Colony, and we have hitherto lost above 40. or 50. per cent upon any goods we send to market before we can get specie or good Bills to pay our troops. The Province three years ago struck notes to £40000. our Currency 22000. of which were then issued and 18000. reserved until His Majesty's pleasure was known, and there was old notes then outstanding for about £20000 more, of this sum £30000 has been expended for the maintenance of the Companies sent out of the Province & one Company sent of 50. men to guard our

-------------------- page 600 --------------------
Indian Frontier, so that all our taxes raised go to sink these notes in order to keep up their credit, and if any more is wanted next year we shall be at a loss how to raise it unless His Majesty allows us to strike as many notes as the publick service of the Colonies requires, or to suspend the payment of the notes already issued, I shall find great difficulties in procuring Provisions to sell at New York to pay the 4. Companies I have sent there, as there are additional charges not provided for, such as tents, camps, furniture, Batteaus, Provisions and ammunition, & if we cant send over in time what is necessary to pay our Troops I must beg the favour of your Excellency to allow pay to the Troops, if wanted, until we can send returns to New York when you shall be repaid; otherwise we shall be obliged to disband our troops before the Assembly meets which will be before the end of September, and if so, must turn over the private men to other regiments, and bring back the Officers to raise men here, if more are wanted.

This hath made me consider in what way this Province may be of service to the Publick if we can't maintain troops abroad—and that is to make this Province as it were a recruiting Colony, to raise, pay, give cloathes, and Provisions, to the Officers & soldiers as long as they remain in the Province, and to transport when required, and as soon as landed then to be taken off the Colony pay, and be paid by Britain during the Campaign & then let the private men be turned over to recruit the regular troops, & the Officers to return to recruit or new raise their Companies for next Campaign, if this shou'd be approved we might probably get a good recruiting Law, as also to prevent desertion by fining the Harbourers, which might go towards raising the soldiers, by which this Colony might be of service to the other Colonies, I have the more reason to hope that your Excellency will advance money to pay our Provincial Troops as his Majesty has been so kind as to reimburse the Northern Colonies, & in our circumstances we have exerted our force even beyond what we can support out of the Province Your Excellency will observe the return made of the militia, altho' not so compleat as I would wish it, the Officers being so negligent in their returns, that it exceeds 13000. if Cumberland County had been returned, but upon the whole they are not half armed, you will see also the list of Taxables is not compleat, for altho' I gave orders 6 months ago, yet all have not returned & many of these incorrect by the neglect of the Magistrates; if they had been properly returned I believe the whites who are males above 16 would be about 18000 as many are concealed, so that our number of souls, whites, would be at least 72000. When the Assembly meets I shall endeavour to get a good recruiting Bill & to prevent desertion We have

-------------------- page 601 --------------------
not 100. families of foreigners in this Province, so that the German Officers can expect few or none from home but you may be assured I shall assist the military Officers to the utmost of my power & cooperate with your Excellency in all your operations. I wish you the greatest success in all your undertakings & am with great respect,

My Lords, &c.,
ARTHUR DOBBS.