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Letter from William Purviance to the North Carolina Provincial Council
Purviance, William
February 29, 1776
Volume 11, Pages 279-282

[From Ms. Records in Office of Secretary of State.]

Colo Purveances proceeding at Wilmington.

Wilmington, 29th Feb. 1776.


Since I had the Honer to write to you last Saturday, the Cruiser Sloop of War with three other armed vessels arrived in view of this Town, on monday evening. The next morning Governor Martin made a demand of One thousand Pounds of Flour. And Captain Perry Informed the Inhabitants that he should come up in the Evening to know the reason why the King's Shipes had not been supplied with Provisions, as usual. The Committees gave answer to both these Messages. The Governor replyed and was again answered, and Captain Perry sent a Note Yesterday for some fresh Beef. I have transmitted you Copies of the papers which past on this occasion and I hope what have been wrote by the Committee will meet with your approbation. It is worthy your notice the different Styles in which Mr. Perry writes first and last the first is an imposing demand, the last a request. These Vessels are lying here with intention to cover the landing of their highland Friends, whom they expect to come down in triumph. How sensible must be their disappointment when they hear that all their hopes are frustrated. The inclosed is a Copy of a Letter rec'd from Colo

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Moore and contains one of the fullest Account of the Battle we have yet received One of our Expresses that returned today from the Camp informs us that the highlanders broke down their Waggons, and many of them rode away three upon an horse. We impatiently wait for all the particulars of this action which tho' it may appear trifling, will I doubt not be attended with the most important consequences, for as two of the Tory leaders and particularly the second in Command fell in the Action I think it very improbable that the Principal Officers will be able, were they ever so willing to unite the Army again. Indeed we are assured that the few Regulars they had among them have left them and that they discharged what Prisoners they had, and I have no doubt but many of the poor highlanders will be pleased to get home, being, as they confessed forced and persuaded, contrary to their inclinations into the Service.

I have inclosed you, Gentlemen, a return of the Men under my Command. You will perceive we are far from being powerful and Col. Salters men arrived only yesterday Evening the men I have being very insufficient considering the Cost I have to maintain, and the almost numberless preparations for defence which I have got to make. I shall tomorrow have a Battery prepared, and a nine pounder mounted, and as soon as it can be affected, I shall a few Six pounders. After this I shall have it in my power to compleat the fire Rafts, from which I was obliged to desist on the arrival of the armed Vessels. Col. Ashe and his party has been here since Saturday, without having done any Duty. He had told Col. Rhodes, that he would let me have 58 men or more to assist in compleating the Battery. I had sent a civil message for that purpose, but before it could be delivered Mr Wm Robeson came, and said it would be necessary to have it in writing. I accordingly sent a written Message which is enclosed and which I thought could not give offence even to the self important Col. Ashe. He thought proper however to return it with a verbal answer, that he did not obey any orders.

I had found it necessary to supply the men under my command with some Spirits, as they complained much and frequently that they had not the Allowance of the different Articles allowed the Regulars by a resolve of your Honble Board? What those articles are to consist of I cannot possibly say—as there is not a single News paper,

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in which the resolves is published to be found. Mr. Ward who acts as my Lieut. Col. had under taken to distribute Rum to the different Companies and when he was applied to for Col. Ashe's Volunteers they demanded the daily Allowance of half pint for each man from the 9th instant inclusive, which he complyed with, tho they were not embodied that day, and had been some part of the time with the main Body consequently not in my Department. I have taken care to let Mr Ward know, that he must apply to the Volunteers for payment of the quantity he delivered as I shall not account it in his Accts. Col. Ashe advised me on the appearance of the Cruiser and other armed Vessels to abandon the Town and join Col. Moore. The few men I had would have been of little service to the main body and I had not the least idea of deserting a Post of so much importance, and which I knew the Enemy intended to occupy. On the 27th inst. his people applied for six rounds of Cartridges declaring their intention of joining the main body. They had that additional supply of Ammunition, yet they are still in Town. I have told the Commissary that they are no longer to eat at the publick Expence.

This moment Col. Salter arrived from the N. East Bridges, having yesterday Evening received orders to march his men upwards to intercept the Enemy, so that I must once more part with some of the little Army I have but the occasion is so pressing, among hopes so sanguine, that I can see them march without regret. General Macdonald is taken Prisoner. He was drawn out of a lurking hole, where he had been concealed by a free Negro. The main body of the Highlanders keep together, but are already almost destitute of Provisions. They are now almost surrounded by Col. Moore & Col. Caswell and Expresses are gone to Col. Martin to come down upon them, so that there scarce can be a doubt of subduing them at once.

I have dispatched a Messenger with this important intelligence so necessary to be known whilst your Honble Board are convened.

I have the honor to be with great respect
Your most humble Servt.

P. S.

Macdonalds Baggages with the military Chest containing a considerable Sum are fallen into our hands. A Sailor that deserted from

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one of the King's ships of war, lately come from Boston, has been examined on Oath and declares that he saw three thousand men drawn up which were destined for the Carolinas. They were to land here, and after they had effected their purposes were to go by land to So. Carolina. He further added that some of their Officers are on board the Ships now in this Harbour. This Account is confirmed by a Captain Erskin, who lately arrived from Newbern by land, says he intended to go to So. Carolina & that he fled from England for committing a Rape. He has severel Letters and papers which appear to confirm this Circumstance, but I thought it necessary to detain him, for tho' in that he may have spoke truth it is no wise improbable that he may be employed by a pious ministry for another purpose