Letter from Richard Caswell to John Heritage
Caswell, Richard, 1729-1789
Volume 14, Pages 169-170
GOV. CASWELL TO COL. JOHN HERITAGE.
[From Executive Letter Book.]
Kingston, July 19th, 1779.
You are to proceed, with such expedition as may be practicable, into the County of Johnston, by the Little River road, sending forward to Smithfield a party of Light Horse to obtain intelligence from Col. John Smith whether any attempt has been made to break the Gaol there, and in what situation the British prisoners are under his charge. If any attempt has been made to break the Gaol, request Col. Smith to furnish affidavits against the persons concerned, which you will transmit to me by express, as you will do every material intelligence you receive. I have received various accounts of many persons assembling in an unlawful manner at Little River Bridge, and other parts adjacent, and of some persons exciting and stirring up persons to oppose the Laws of the State by refusing to be drafted, or marching in case of being drafted, and entering into combinations to support each other in these wicked and pernicious attempts. You are therefore to halt your Regiment in the neighborhood of Little River Bridge, and call on the Justices contiguous in the Counties of Johnston, Nash, Edgecomb and Dobbs, and let them know your Regiment is ready to assist the civil power in apprehending those offenders, and, if they appear in arms, with design to carry their traitorous designs into execution, you are at the utmost hazard to apprehend and secure them, and, if such persons, who may assemble in arms,
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do not surrender to the civil power, but do openly and avowedly oppose the same, you are, after using every means to bring them to justice, in the last instance, when every other means fail, to fire upon, and, at any rate, conquer and subdue them. But, as the spilling of human blood should, at all events, be prevented if possible, I wish you to give me the speediest and best intelligence of these peoples' designs you possibly can obtain before you proceed to extremities by sending me dispatches by expresses, in which you are required to give me the most minute information. On your march and in your encampment be as cautious as if you were passing through an Enemy's country, keep regular flankers and sentries so as, at all events, to prevent a surprise. My reasons for mentioning these things are too obvious to need further explanation. If you find these people too powerful for your force to apprehend, and they come against you before I can reinforce you with the Militia, you must rather destroy, (if you cannot carry off,) your ammunition than suffer it to fall into their hands. It will be needless for your Regiment to remain at Little River if these reports prove untrue. If you find that really to be the case, you are to proceed to Smithfield, and relieve the Militia there on Guard 'til further orders.