powered by google
Documenting the American South Logo
Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Advanced Search Options
Letter from William Hooper and John Penn to the North Carolina Council of Safety
Hooper, William, 1742-1790; Penn, John, 1740 or 1-1788
September 19, 1776 - September 24, 1776
Volume 10, Pages 810-815

[From MS Records in Office of Secretary of State.]
Letter from the North Carolina Delegates in the Continental Congress to the North Carolina Council of Safety.

Gentlemen,

This will be handed to you by our worthy Colleague Mr Hewes who after a long and diligent attendance in Congress, and the different committees of which he has been a member is now upon his return home. From the large share of naval & mercantile business which has been allotted to his attention by Congress, his health has been much injured; we wish his Journey may tend to restore it & that he may enjoy in his recess from publick employment much happiness among his Countrymen whom it has been his unwearied endeavour to Serve while he has been in publick trust.

Mr Hewes will inform you by letter or in person of the State of our public affairs, of the Situation of our Army at New York and whatever else that has occurred in this quarter which may immediately or in its consequences operate importantly upon the State of North Carolina. The Check which the American Arms have lately received on Long Island reflects no dishonor upon those who bore them. The struggle was bravely maintained by our young Soldiery and to a want of Generalship in some of our inferiour officers is to be ascribed the necessity we have been under of relinquishing so important a Post. To the honor of 3000 Troops which we had that day upon the Island it will be remembered that they opposed, fought and for many hours maintained their ground against the Enemy's whole force which at the least on that day outnumberd them by 12,000. They cut their Way thro' the main body & marked their retreat with the blood of great numbers of the Enemy who we are well assured lost in killed more than fell on our side. From the Enemy's obtaining possession of some advantageous heights on the Island our works were commanded by them and were no longer tenable, under these Circumstances Genl Washington thought it prudent to draw all his Strength to New York, this retreat was effected without any loss to us and in a manner which reflects great Credit upon the Military Abilities of our commanding officer. Unfortunately for us New York being accessible to the Enemys

-------------------- page 811 --------------------
Ships, and lying much lower than Long Island was exposed to all the Enemys Batteries without a possibility of injuring them in return. This rendered the City a post which from the nature of things & the manner in which in all probability the Enemy would conduct their operations could not long be a place of Safety for our Army. Our General foresaw the difficulty & bestowed the utmost endeavours which human prudence could suggest to provide a safe retreat for his Troops & to prevent our Stores falling into the Enemys hands. The first has been effected without loss, the latter in a great measure the difficulty of removing heavy Cannon was a great obstacle to the perfect accomplishment of this. The General is now at the hights about 9 miles from New York with his Army posted advantageously. Should the Enemy attack him there we hope he will give a good account of them. Thus we have given you a general view of our military matters that you may not be alarmed with false rumors & that you may be furnished with materials to confute the misrepresentations of wicked men who are already pluming themselves with this small success and Striving to dispirit the good friends of America by falsehood and exaggeration.

Sept 19th—In obedience to your orders we have directed the several parts of Brownrigg's Essay upon making Salt by Sun Evaporation or by Culinary fire to be extracted and published so far as they would apply to the Circumstances of our State and afford information which might be useful to those who may attempt the manufacture of Salt in No: Carolina. The pamphlets have been printed with as much Economy as possible, that there being no occasion for a parsimonious distribution of them, they might fall into many hands and induce great numbers to try an experiment upon which so much at present depends & in which Success is so easily attainable.

The Salt pans are engaged tho' it has cost us much trouble to prevail upon any one to undertake them. The Blacksmith's here have such full employment in the common routine of their trade that they are averse to any Work which takes them the least out of the common course. The man who is now at work upon the pans has engaged to finish them in four Weeks, We have Some doubt whether he will not claim the allowance of an additional Week. He shall not want frequent applications from us to Stimulate him to be expeditious as we know the urgent necessity which you are under for them.

-------------------- page 812 --------------------

By this or the next Opportunity we think it would be proper that you should direct in what manner they should be transported to you, by Water or by land. The Congress have directed a packet to ply between this & our State. Should you approve of that mode of conveyance it shall be embraced as Waggonage will be very expensive. We will send you the weight & size of the pans as nearly as they can be ascertained before they are finished that you may prepare proper works to receive them.

The Pamphlets directing the mode of Salt making go in the Congress packet boat to Edenton, which sails in a few days from thence, and they will immediately be sent to you or where you shall order them.

The Military books which you ordered went with the Gunpowder, except 14 Volumes which we send packed up with the salt pamphlets. These are entitled the Field Engineer. It is thought a performance of Great merit and from the favourable reception with which it has met with here among Gentlemen in the military line we have been induced to send a few copies of them to you, as practical Engineering is but little understood amongst us and it is a science both in theory and practice essentially necessary in the conducting this war with success.

We hear with great satisfaction of your Intentions to carry on the Iron Works upon Deep River upon an extensive plan, which shall comprehend not only the manufacture of military stores but family utensils which we shall not be able to procure elsewhere but at a great expence. The design is great and if carried literally into execution will not only be attended with great advantages to ourselves, but will make us importantly useful to our southern neighbours to whom nature has not furnished the means for similar undertakings.

We have given every possible assistance to Mr Milles while he has been here to make his journey hither successful and to comply with the views of your honble body. We regret that our endeavours have not met with that success which our Industry and exertions seem to entitle them to. We have yet been able to procure only one workman, and he is ignorant of the casting of Cannon. Mr Milles on his way home has some expectations of of procuring a German who has the reputation of being skilled in the latter branch. If he is so fortunate we shall congratulate you upon the consequences of his embassy. We have yet been able to procure no patterns for casting pots, without which the work cannot proceed. We are flattered with

-------------------- page 813 --------------------
the expectation of Mr Milles finding a set at Lancaster. If he gets them he must pay a great price as we are told that they are the only set now for sale in this State. We should not do justice to Mr Milles if we did not assure you that he has been extremely assiduous to comply with the intentions which you had in sending him here. From the best judgment we can form of his abilities as well as the observation of others he is well qualified to superintend the works you propose to erect and seems to have the undertaking very near his heart. Indeed he has done everything here that you could expect from the utmost fidelity skill and Industry. The zeal with which all the Iron works are prosecuted here leaves very little opportunity to prevail on workmen to go abroad when their services are so well rewarded at home. We have bought a waggon and two horses to transport the man he has employed & his baggage and the patterns. You will learn the Expence from Mr Hewes, and we doubt not the articles will sell with you at least for what they cost. Should that be the case our views will be answered, which are to consult all possible Economy in this as in every other matter committed to our care.

24th.—Mr Milles left this yesterday. He takes with him one Ball who has undertaken to cast pots and other open ware for us. Milles on his way in the neighborhood of Lancaster expects to procure a Cannon founder. There he takes up the patterns. We have advanced him 100 dollars which we beg you to note in your settlement with him.

26th.—Yesterday Evening we applied to the man employed to make the salt pans. He, notwithstanding his most solemn engagements to us, has not yet begun them. We feel ourselves much hurt by this disappointment, but must submit with patience to the caprice of the Blacksmith, as he is the only person in the City who will undertake this Business. We shall not cease to stimulate him to his duty if the most pressing importunity will avail anything.

We inclose you herewith the plan for raising the new army, from which you will observe what proportion of strength the Continent expects to derive from the State of North Carolina in the next ensuing year. We shall perhaps meet some difficulty in accomplishing the whole of what is required of us, but considering the great advantages which must result to us in point of local provincial security and defence against our Enemies in case we should effect it, I doubt not our utmost endeavours will be exerted for this desirable

-------------------- page 814 --------------------
purpose. To possess within ourselves a strength competent for our defence without calling upon our neighbours, will give us an Independance and self Importance which must rank us high in the scale of the States. It will save us the necessity of drawing forth the militia to a service peculiarly burdensome to men the subsistence of whose families and of the State at large depends upon their continuance at their homes and the Cultivation of their lands. It will give circulation to the vast quantity of paper currency which we have amongst us and which without this will become a dead weight upon us, a medium infinitely beyond the Exigencies of Trade and commerce, checked as they are within our State. This is not all; the Farmer will find a ready sale for his commodities, and so many craving mouths will go far to consume the great quantities of provisions which would otherwise perish on the hands of the Planters. It will give occupation to many who in the present stagnation of trade would be without employment, and from being Idle might become disorderly and dangerous to society. But to comprehend in one a thousand substantial goods which will be produced by it, It will lodge amongst us, or give us a Credit with the Treasury of the United States for a large sum which will tend to assist us in the discharge of that immense load of debt which the struggle for our liberties hath already and must hereafter cost us. We beg pardon for dwelling upon a subject which you have already anticipated. We feel so forcibly the prudence of the measure we urge, that our earnest wishes for the happiness of our State have perhaps led us beyond the rules of strict propriety.

We cannot conclude this matter of Military arrangements without hinting to you the great probability there is that Lord Howe will attempt a descent upon some part of your State during the winter Season. The happy temperature of our Climate at that season of the year is exceedingly well calculated for a campaign, without endangering their health, when otherways in an Eastern State they must lie idle in Winter quarters expensive to Britain & without any Employment. From General Howe's large Army He can spare a very considerable force. His Object during the Winter will in the Eastern Colonies be only to secure the Conquests which he has made, and with works to defend him & the necessity our army must be under to go into Winter quarters, a part of his Army will be fully competent to that purpose. The Southern Colonies are a tempting morsel to them & they have not forgot their disgraceful expedition at Charlestown

-------------------- page 815 --------------------
and no doubt will strain every nerve to retrieve their Honour. This calls for our most serious attention that in this day of leisure and safety nothing may be unessayed which may tend hereafter to repel the Efforts of our unrelenting Enemies. Batteries where they can be erected to advantage, Obstructions in rivers which nature has made most accessible to Shipping, works thrown up at defiles and narrow passes—Redoubts—Block houses & many other preparations familiar to military Gentlemen would be a proper employment for our Soldiery while an Enemy is at a distance and render him less formidable when near us. We need say nothing more inducing an attention to these concerns, than that if General Howe should get a firm footing in Carolina and be able to establish there again the Government of Britain It would affect the Continent at large and go far to the subjugation of America & the total ruin of our Cause.

We shall send Cloathing for the soldiers as soon as Waggons and Horses can be procured. We think the Risque too great by Water, as in case of a Capture or loss they could not be replaced from the present scarcity of materials. We refer you for the matters which we have omitted to our friend Mr Hewes & beg leave to subscribe ourselves with great respect

Your obedt Humble Servants
Wm HOOPER
JOHN PENN.

P. S. We wrote you by Mr Wyriott & Milles, since which Genl Washington has had a Skirmish with the Enemy—defeated them, drove them from their ground & killed wounded & taken about 80 or 90. This tho' trifling in itself will we hope be important in its consequences as it has given great spirits to our soldiery.

Yours &c.,