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Letter from Thomas Burke to Samuel Huntington
Burke, Thomas, ca. 1747-1783
July 1780
Volume 15, Pages 770-773



Upon my arrival in this Country I found things in a situation very different from what I expected, and far from affording any agreeable prospects.

No provisions had been made for the reception of the Troops, and when they arrived in this State they lived nearly on free Quarter. Their supplies were procured under circumstances of great oppression, devastation and licentious outrage, nor was the least regard

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paid to the Civil Magistrate, the Laws of the State or the rights of Individuals. The Light Dragoons, having lost most of their Horses in South Carolina, assumed a right of pressing Horses to recruit their Corps and of Quartering themselves on any man they pleased, and compelled the Quarter Master (as he alledges) to assign to them for Barracks any private Houses they thought proper.

I found every mouth filled with Complaints, every Countenance expressing apprehensions, dejection, Indignation and despair, which had taken place of an animated zeal, that before, it gave me great pleasure to observe and to improve. I immediately interposed to check those abuses, which I considered as gross insults to and violations of the Magistracy of the State, as well as highly dangerous to the Interests of the United States, because the people harrassed, oppressed and provoked by such unworthy treatment, tho' heretofore extremely well affected, will, but too probably in despair, open their arms to any Enemy who will promise them greater security, and because, by turning Horses into the fields of standing grain, (a common practice,) the resources of the Country are ineffectually wasted, and the expense becomes extremely high to the public in proportion to the benefit they receive, nor is the Individual indemnified by any Compensation he receives. I have found it necessary also to interpose in another line in order to induce the people to furnish supplies willingly, and to take away all color of necessity for those dangerous outrages under which they have lately suffered, and which would sooner effect the Conquest of this State, for the Enemy, than any force they could apply.

I have undertaken that all who shall furnish supplies, willingly and speedily, shall be paid for them without depreciation and with Interest during non-payment, and I have undertaken to interpose for the protection of all such as shall thus furnish supplies from all violence and injury. These Engagements extend at present no farther than the County I reside in, where the necessity immediately presses, but I am persuaded it will be necessary to extend them through the whole State, because all its resources will be requisite for carrying on the operations of the campaign, and, unfortunately, money will not procure them.

I attribute this to the effect of some Acts passed by the Assembly with a view to restrain speculation. Those acts have laid the retailers under such restrictions and subjected them to such heavy

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penalties as have amounted to a prohibition. The importers live at the remote maritime parts of the State, and so far removed from the Interior part of the Country that they cannot send the necessary supplies of foreign commodities. Their commodities are no longer taken off by the inland retailers and they have, of course, discontinued Importations into this State, thus both an actual and artificial scarcity are produced. That channel in which the money used to circulate is obstructed and the people find that the money will no longer procure them necessaries at any price. It is not therefore to be wondered that the people are unwilling to receive that from the public for the produce of their labor and Industry which they cannot exchange for the necessaries of life.

It is easy to perceive what evil effects this must have on the operations of the campaign, and a remedy certainly ought speedily to be applied. I have ventured on that which I have above mentioned, and find my own neighbors very willingly comply with my requests and confide in my Engagements. When I recollected that Congress had empowered the Committee at Camp to make such Engagements with the people of other States, and that the same Equity was intended to all who furnished supplies, I could not entertain a doubt that it would extend to the people of this State who should furnish necessaries for the Armies and operations of the Confederacy. Nor could I doubt that Congress would ratify such an Engagement, tho' made without express power, since it evidently appeared necessary of the public service, and it is without a shadow of personal Interest. But should the Congress think otherwise, I must submit to make good my present Engagements out of my private property, to which I believe the whole of it may be equal, and I shall forbear all further Engagements or Interpositions for the public.

The wants of this department are extremely numerous and Important. There is neither money for the pay chest, tents, arms or accountrements for the Troops.

This State has ordered eight thousand men into the field, and the first Division has been some time in Service. The Second is now on its march from the different Counties to the rendevzous. It cannot possibly supply money enough for the pay and contingencies, and they have yet received no aid from any other. The arms and equipments which were ordered have not yet arrived and their deficiencies

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cannot be supplied here. A supply of Waggons and draft horses are very much wanted, and I fear every exertion that can be made will not procure a sufficiency within the State, for in truth, we have them not. We have been exceedingly exhausted of those articles by our frequent Southern Expeditions, by the wear and destruction of our old stock and want of means to recruit it. Every exertion that is possible will be attempted, and I hope Congress will give orders that will prevent disappointment or ill success to the General operations through the failure of the resources of the State.

General Gates is now here and is altogether occupied in endeavoring to correct all the arrangements of the department, which, indeed, he has found in the utmost disorder. His arrival has given the highest satisfaction to all orders, and I am convinced his reputation, and the confidence of success founded thereon, will call forth the most animated exertions of our people. I hope he will be supported also by Congress so effectually as to enable him to find other Saratogas here to acquire more honors for himself and advantages for the United States.

Yours Most Obdt. Servt.,