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Letter from Robert Howe to the Virginia Convention [Extract]
Howe, Robert, 1732-1786
January 02, 1776
Volume 10, Pages 381-382

[Reprinted from the American Archives. Vol. 4. P. 538.]
Extract of a Letter from Colonel Howe to the Virginia Convention, dated Norfolk, January 2nd, 1776.

The Cannonade of the town began about a quarter after three, yesterday, from upwards of one hundred pieces of cannon, and continued till near ten, at night, without intermission; it then abated a little, and continued till two, this morning. Under cover of their guns they landed, and set fire to the town in several places near the water, though our men strove to prevent them all in their power; but the houses near the water being chiefly of wood, they took fire immediately, and the fire spread with amazing rapidity. It is now become general, and the whole town will, I doubt not, be consumed in a day or two. Expecting that the fire would throw us into confusion, they frequently landed; and were every time repulsed, I imagine with loss, but with what loss, I cannot tell; the burning of the town has made several avenues, which yesterday they had not, so that they may now fire with greater effect; the tide is now rising, and we expect at high water another cannonade.

I have only to wish it may be ineffectual as the last; for we have not one man killed, and but a few wounded. I cannot enter into the melancholy consideration of the women and children running through a crowd of shot to get out of the town, some of them with children at their breasts; a few have, I hear, been killed; does it not call for vengeance, both from God and man?

It is but justice to inform you, that I had the pleasure to find every officer ready to execute orders at a moment's warning, and that

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the men behaved with steadiness and spirit. Colonel Stevens went down at my command, and headed some men near the water, where he engaged a party who had landed, with a spirit and conduct of a good officer. Of my friend, Colonel Woodford, it is almost needless to speak, but I cannot avoid expressing that I received from him every assistance which conduct and spirit could give me.