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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
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Letter from John Ashe to Richard Caswell
Ashe, John, 1725-1781
April 03, 1779
Volume 14, Pages 51-55

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GEN. JOHN ASHE TO GOVERNOR CASWELL.
[From Executive Letter Book.]

Camp, April 3rd, 1779.

Sir:

Your favour of the 23rd Ulto. was delivered to me last night by General Lincoln. This morning I had the remains of General Bryan's Brigade drawn up, and proposed to them their Continuing in the Southern States for two or three months longer, upon the encouragement you mentioned, and half a Dollar per day in addition offered by General Lincoln, but am sorry to inform you there was only one Man offered to remain. I then endeavoured to prevail on them to remain in Service till the arrival of those ordered from our State to relieve them, but without success. At the time I received orders from General Lincoln to March from Purisburg to this place, I had orders to discharge such as were sick or unfit for duty, and to have them marched by an Officer into our State. The short notice rendered it impracticable for me to attend to their examination, which obliged me to refer it to the commanding officer of each Regiment, who permitted about three hundred & forty to return home under the command of Major Poynter, two-thirds of which were not really sick. These, with fifty or sixty Deserters, amount their number to about four hundred, so that there remains not more than five hundred of the Brigade, many of which are sick, & the whole suffer greatly for the want of cloathes. I have not yet heard from Col. Saunders, who commands the western Brigade, what number of that Brigade will continue in service, as soon as I receive the account I will either inclose it or insert it at the bottom of this. I did myself the honor of writing to you on the 17th Ulto., which I sent by express by a light Horse, which I hope has reached you before this, least it should not, I have inclosed a duplicate, with the Opinion of the Court of Inquiry that was held at my request. It gives me pain to be informed that reports have been unfavourable to me, as I am not conscious of having acted to deserve it, and more so, as I know it took its rise from a scoundrel, that has neither honor nor truth, and who was so panick-struck that he was not capable of making any observations, either on my conduct or on the action. More of this when I have the pleasure of seeing you.

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When I received orders, 15 miles before I reached Purisburg, to march to the Cross Roads, ten miles above, where we should be supplied with ammunition, and from whence we were ordered to march to Augusta to prevent the Enemy crossing the river into this State, It gave me much surprise that Troops that had marched, some of them 400 miles, harrassed and without any accoutrements fit for the field, should be sent a 130 miles further in preference to the western Brigade, and a Number of Continental Troops & South Carolina militia, who was well accoutred, and had been resting for upwards of a month at Purisburg, and who were equipped with every necessary for the field, but more so, when we had effected the purpose we were sent for, to be desired to cross the River in pursuit of the Enemy, double our number, and into an enemies' Country, where they might be speedily reinforced. However, in expectation of General Lincoln's co-operation with me, as he wrote, I crossed the River, expecting, from the panic the Enemy was in, to get down low enough to cover his crossing, and to make a junction; but on the first night after my removal from Augusta I received a letter from the General informing me of the lower Bridge on Bryer Creek being burnt down by the Enemy—desiring I would march to that place, where I must necessarily halt for a few days, leave the care of the troops to Generals Bryan and Elbert for a day or two, and meet him at the Two Sisters, a place about thirty miles below. This was sent by a Confidential officer, as I had before informed him I had Matters to communicate that I did not choose to commit to writing, as the road was become too hazardous. By this officer I informed him I should pursue my orders, but that I looked upon it as an unsafe stand. At the same time I shewed the officer the plan of the Creek and the River, which I had obtained at Augusta, desired him to inform the General that I looked upon it as a very unsafe one, and that it might prove a trap, pointing out the passes by which it might be effected, which turned out afterwards as I had predicted. Notwithstanding I received a letter from the General wherein he tells me he saw no reason to alter his sentiments with regard to my taking post at Bryer Creek. We reached it 27th Feby, and on the 28th I set off for the Two Sisters, in order to meet General Lincoln. On my leaving the Camp I desired General Bryan, on whom the command devolved in my absence,

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to order such guards and sentries as he should judge necessary for the security of the Camp, and as I had heard of 200 horse from the State of South Carolina that was to join us that day, I recommended to him to send a part to Paris's Mill. When I returned on the 2nd of March I fell in with the rear of the South Carolina Horse, who informed me they were going after forage. When I arrived in Camp I found several dispatches from General Williamson, Mr. Rea, the Commissary General, and others, which I was obliged immediately to answer; by the time I had finished it was late in the afternoon, when I enquired for Generals Bryan and Elbert, and was informed the former was at the bridge, the latter at his Marquee, where I immediately went to enquire for Colo. Masbury, of the Light Horse, as I had orders from Genl. Lincoln to send an express for him to join me. He shewed me a letter he had just received from the Col., dated near Paris's Mill, informing him that he waited there to cover some Georgia Militia that were assembling; that he should be in Camp next day. After this I walked to the Bridge, in order to view a place to fix a piece or two of cannon on, to Cover the retreat of any party that might be sent over the Creek. Afterwards, walking up in the evening to our encampment, I fell in discourse with General Bryan, who informed me of the several Posts that he had ordered Guards to, particularly Paris's Mill, where he had ordered sixty South Carolina Horse; that the South Carolina Horse had gone out for forage, and threatened to return home, if they could not get provisions both for themselves and horses; that they had been two days without; that the Soldiery in Camp had been the like time drawing half a Dozen small potatoe slips Rations per Day. When we got up to camp, I received a note from Lieut. Moore, of a small Guard on the South Carolina side, informing me of the arrival of 40 barrels of Flour from Genl. Williamson, and that he would send a Pilot with the boat up a certain Creek in the River Swamp, for the greater convenience of the waggons taking out the Flour. I immediately sent off the waggons, with a party to clear the Road, and got the flour into Camp about the time of the return of the South Carolina horse, viz., between 11 & 12 o'clock at night. I considered that it would be too late an hour, before they would draw their provisions and have it Cooked, to send them (Strangers) to Paris's Mill; nor, indeed, I do not nor never did think intelligence
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to be had from thence would be of any real service, because, when once they had obtained that pass, they must very effectually hem us in the Point before we could take any steps to prevent it. I therefore judged it most advisable to give orders to Major Ross, who commanded the Horse, to hold them in Readiness to cross the creek very early next morning, in order to reconnoitre as far down as Hudson's Ferry, a post possessed by the Enemy, with whom I sent Major De Brahm, an Engineer in the Continental Service, with instructions to examine the heights that command that post, as I intended, if feasible, when in force, to endeavor to dislodge them.

It was from this detachment, and this only, that we could receive any useful intelligence, and I am informed since by Major De Brahm that soon after crossing they discovered that a great number, both of horse and foot, had marched up the creek on the lower side, and that a little after they came to an encampment, where the fires were still burning, with nine or ten fresh Bullocks' heads, which they never sent me the least intelligence of, but proceeded on towards Hudson's. I had but a few horse with me from our State, and such of those as were fit for service, amounting to about half a dozen, I had taken down with me to the Two Sisters, as an escort, and their horses were too much fatigued on my return. To have dared to have thus sent a party of foot across the Creek, or to the Mill, 8 or 10 miles above, would only have been throwing them into the hands of the Enemy, that were strong in Cavalry and were hourly scouring the woods. I have been thus circumstantial to show that it was not in my power, for want of horse, to take that necessary precaution to gain timely intelligence of the movements and approach of the Enemy which the Court of Enquiry in their report think I ought to have done. I have annexed the report of the Court for your Perusal. As to the accusation of my being a Traytor, they thought it too absurd to take notice of. I likewise inclose a list of the prisoners from General Bryan's Brigade, taken on the 3rd Ulto.

Col. Saunders has just left me. He informs me that few or none of General Rutherford's Brigade will continue in this service longer than the 10th of April.

Things here wear a melancholy appearance. As I expect to

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see you in a few days, I shall only add that

I am, with Great Truth and Esteem,
Your Excellency's most obedient Hum. Servant,
JOHN ASHE.