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Letter from Joseph Hewes to Samuel Johnston
Hewes, Joseph, 1730-1779
February 11, 1776 - February 13, 1776
Volume 10, Pages 445-448

Letter from Joseph Hewes, delegate in the Continental Congress, to Samuel Johnston.


Philadelphia, 11th Feb., 1776.

Dear Sir:

I have got a waggon made, have purchased four good Horses and expected to have sent them off yesterday, but when I went to examine the powder in the Magazine I found to my surprise there was none but cannon powder, and that very coarse and ordinary, not fit for musketry. Knowing the greatest part that is wanted for our province ought to be good musket powder I thought it best to detain the waggon till such could be obtained. Seven Tons of such I hear is in a Vessel below and will be up as soon as the Ice will suffer anything to pass. I hope in a few days to get the waggon away. The Horses come pretty high, two of them £50 each, the other two £35 each. They are all Bays and young.

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Our friend Hooper has taken an opportunity when he could be best spared from Congress to fly to the Camp at Cambridge to see his Mother, who has lately got out of Boston, he has been gone about Ten days and will return as soon as possible; he desired me to put his name to any Letters we should write to the provincial Council, I believe he would not wish they should know he was absent. Late last night I received a Letter from him dated at New York the 6th; he seems greatly alarmed at the intelligence he had received there and urged very pressingly the necessity of sending off an express to you. The substance of the information he gave, and what has been received from thence since he left it you will find in our Letter to the Counc 1 which you have herewith. The anxiety of my worthy friend for the safety, honour & happiness of our province and for his dearest connections there I imagine has induced him to paint things in the strongest colours to me; however, I wish there may not be too much truth in his suggestions. All accounts from England seem to agree that we shall have a dreadfull storm bursting on our heads thro' all America in the Spring. We must not shrink from it; we ought not to shew any simptoms of fear; the nearer it approaches and the greater the sound the more fortitude and calm, steady firmness we ought to possess. If we mean to defend our liberties, our dearest rights and privileges against the power of Britain to the last extremity, we ought to bring ourselves to such a temper of mind as to stand unmoved at the bursting of an Earthquake. Altho the storm thickens I feel myself quite composed. I have furnished myself with a good musket & Bayonet, and when I can no longer be usefull in Council I hope I shall be willing to take the field. I think I had rather fall there than be carried off by a lingering illness. In this I am pretty much of the same opinion of the French General, who, confined a long time by sickness to his bed, on hearing the Duke of Brunswick was killed by a cannon Ball, exclaimed, “Great God, how unfortunate I am; Brunswick was always a lucky fellow.”


The 13th.

I mentioned to you some time ago that a Vessel was arrived here with near Sixty tons of Saltpetre on board and that several quantities of powder had been brought in, a few days since another Vessel arrived in this River and is now kept below by the Ice. She has sixty Tons of Saltpetre, 13 Tons of powder and 1,300 Muskets on board, those supplies appear considerable and yet we find by experience

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they are quite trifling when compared with our demands, Powder Mills are scarce, the manufacturing goes on very slow, and powder wastes exceedingly in a large army even where little is fired away. Soldiers are careless, their Cartouch boxes get wet, and much is lost in dealing it out in small parcels, notwithstanding all our supplies we now find both powder & arms greatly wanted at our Camp at Cambrige, by our army in Canada, by the troops in New York; in this Province, Maryland and Virginia, applications are made every day to Congress for powder and arms, give us powder or we perish is the language from all quarters, it is astonishing to think what pains the British Court has been at to prevent every Nation in Europe from supplying us with these articles, several persons who have lately come from France, Spain, Portugal and Holland say, every Port, every Town and almost every public house has Spies from England to watch the Motions of the Merchants, so that scarcely anything can be brought away even by a Circuitous Voyage, but they find it out,—by the ingenuity of some dutch and French Smugglers a little is sometimes brought away. Americans ought to be more industrious in making those articles at home, every Family should make saltpetre, every Province have powder Mills and every body encourage the making of Arms,

It is hinted in the papers that persons will be sent from England to Negotiate with the Colonies, many people do not believe it, those who do have but little expectation from it, they are to treat under the influence of a mighty Fleet & Army, what are we to expect from the mouth of a Cannon or the point of a Bayonet, see Lord Norths motion in the House of Commons the 20th of November, what have we to expect from parliament?

You desire to know when the additional pay of the officers commenced; it was on the 4th of November last. How I neglected to mention it before I know not.

The only pamphlet that has been published here for a long time I now send you; it is a Curiosity; we have not put up any to go by the Waggon, not knowing how you might relish independency. The author is not known; some say Doctor Franklin had a hand in it, he denies it.

General Lee in a Letter to Congress received yesterday says he expects a large number of British Troops will be sent to New York as early as possible, he intends to Fortify the City in the best manner he can, calls for more Troops, and wishes to have a Battalion of

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the Philadelphia Militia that they might be instructed in village fortification, camp duty, &c., &c. His desire was immediately made known to the City, the Colonels of the four Battalions instantly applied to Congress for the command of the detachment should one be sent. The Pennsylvania Farmer Mr Dickinson, being the eldest Colonel, insisted on his right to command, and is to have it. The four Battalions were this day drawn out when it was proposed that two companies from each should turn out for that service so as to make a compleat battalion from the whole; they did it with great chearfullness; it was diverting enough to see both officers and men soliciting to be employed in the service; some of the companies will march tomorrow, today I might have said for the watchmen are this moment crying past one o'Clock, the express calls on me at eight, Hooper being gone and Penn not very well I am obliged to write all. I intended to have wrote to Mr Iredell and Mr Jones, am much fatigued and cannot do it, excuse me to them, they have my best wishes. May the grand dispenser of all good give health and happiness to you and all your dearest connections and protect you and them from all calamity is the ardent wish of

Dear Sir
Your mo. obedt hum. Servt,
JOSEPH HEWES.