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Letter from Alexander Martin to William Bryan
Martin, Alexander, 1740-1807
August 16, 1782
Volume 16, Pages 702-705

[From Executive Letter Book.]

Guilford, 16th August, 1782.


I am favored with Mr. Coor’s Letter informing me you have accepted the appointment of Superintendent Commissioner for New Berne District, which gives me particular satisfaction in having you at the head of a department that requires not only abilities but influence to carry into effect, measures absolutely necessary for the support of the Southern Army.

The enclosed copy of a Letter from General Greene together with that of an extract from Governor Matthews of South Carolina to him on that subject evince the necessity of an immediate supply of Cattle from this State. Last winter the executive on an application from General Greene directed Colonel Davie to collect if possible

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by contribution 3,000 head from the Districts of Edenton, Newbern and Wilmington and forward them on to Camp. He accordingly made return that he had in the Hands of the County Commissioners, by whose means this business was to have been conducted and other persons, near the quantity required, but that they were too poor to drive at that Season which occasioned a delay from Edenton and New-Bern, but about seven hundred went on from Wilmington District. On my appointment to the Government, the first Letter I received from General Greene was on that subject. I called on Colonel Davie for the Cattle he made return of, and Directed him before he closed his accounts to collect those Cattle and forward them on to General Greene as it became properly his duty.

I have the Mortification to hear from Colonel Davie that my orders for this purpose to him, are generally disputed and opposed suggesting the mode of procuring this supply of provision illegal and oppressive to the people. As there is not any particular Act of Assembly to warrant it, some few Commissioners have complied and delivered what Cattle they had on hand (which I am told are gone on) others have not collected any, and what they collected have sent them back to the owners.

I am sensible that the above objections at first sight have weight among the populace, and to make the measure palatable I required Colonel Davie in the first place, to appeal to the patriotism of the Inhabitants of those Districts to make voluntary contributions either agreeable to their taxable property, or of what Cattle they could spare on that particular occasion rather than make use of impressments; a measure abhorrent to me, as well as every free mind: a power the executive was at that time, and, is still armed with, under the direction of the Law, and which I shall be sorry to exercise but in the last necessity.

General Greene is still in great distress for Beef, which the exhausted States of South Carolina and Georgia cannot supply him with. What is to be done? Must General Greene retreat before a conquered and despairing Enemy, abandon all his conquests, give up South Carolina for want of food, and return to this State, which in one of his Letters he suggests must shortly be the case unless he is supported from it, at a time the Brightest prospect presents of terminating the War with honor to our arms, since the commencement

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of it? Rather than he should be compelled to this alternative, which would Disgrace the State to Eternity, I would through all opposition drive to him every thing in the shape of a Cow or a Steer.

I flatter myself however there is no occasion yet for these violent measures, there are many and worthy Citizens in your District, ready and willing to contribute on the former plan of Taxable property, their stock or a reasonable part on this occasion if this business is conducted by men of proper address, in assistance to the County Commissioners, who are either to barter the Specific Tax for Cattle or to grant Certificates of the value according to the late Act. To you, Sir, therefore I am happy to appeal for aid on this important affair at this junction, that one thousand head of Cattle be collected from your District, deducting from that number whatever may have been received by Colonel Davie, or his assistants for the use of the Army since the last meeting of the Assembly. That not more than 200 in a drove under a careful assistant be sent to Camp at a time agreeable to the General’s request. That application be made to Brigadier General Caswell for Militia Horsemen to drive said Cattle, who has my instructions to aid this service, by ordering a Draught from each County of the number necessary. The like requisition I have sent to Edenton and Wilmington but have omitted Salisbury, Hillsborough and Morgan Districts being quite exhausted by the number of Troops marchiug and counter-marching through that section of the State. Lieutenant Colonel Carrington, Q. Master and Contractor General for the Southern Army, proposes such of our Specific Supplies the army want, as from an individual, but will not allow the prices of Congress as by our late Act, and will make payment in Mr. Morris’ notes, which have, at Philidelphia, credit equal to Specie. If private adventurers will undertake some part of this business, assure them of the contractor’s proposals. The public cattle sent to Camp must be averaged in weight, a recept for which must be had, from the Contractor or Commissary General, that we may have proper credit with Congress, or otherwise, that payment be made to the owners in Mr. Morris’ said Notes, as shall be hereafter agreed, a matter the Council will discuss at Salisbury the 15th September next, and endeavour to do something upon until the meeting of the Legislature.

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But if Cattle cannot be procured by barter, purchase on Certificates, contributions or by private persons undertaking to supply the Army, you then Sir, will be drove to the last odious and disagreeable measure of impressment which you will please to order agreeable to the Taxable property of the owners in the respective Counties, that the Burthen may be as equal as possible, conforming yourself to the 9th section of the Act of Assembly for abolishing the late Commissarial and Quarter Master General’s Departments.

The Marquis of Bretigny having arrived from Martinique, is importunate to have remittances made to the Merchants in that Island for the supplies he has procured for the Army. Please to receive his accounts and adjust the balances.

There are I am told some provisions of last year’s collection still on hand with the County Commissioners. You will please to have returns made and appropriate the same to the payment thereof to his order, either by barter or sale; and should that not be sufficient, you will order as much of this year’s Specific Tax to be delivered, or sold for the purpose aforesaid.

You will please to hand me a line on the above subjects by the Bearer. I have ordered one of the State horsemen to attend at the County Commis. of Craven, as an occasional express from you and other officers in Newbern District.

I am, Sir, &c.,