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Letter from Thomas Burke to Horatio Gates
Burke, Thomas, ca. 1747-1783
July 1780
Volume 15, Pages 769-770

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Tyaquin, July, 1780.

Dear Sir:

I left Congress with intention to visit you at your Camp immediately after my arrival at home, but find it absolutely necessary to stay some time to prevent what remains of my property from falling a prey to the wasteful ravages of the Troops in and about this neighborhood.

No provision has been made for their reception, and they arrived in circumstances of great distress for want of every species of provision and forrage. The Commissary has, by great and extraordinary exertions, procured them provisions, but not without having recourse, in some instances to threats, and not before some violence had been committed upon the property of the People; but the Quarter Master has committed the most wanton destruction in this neighborhood, laying to waste fields of grain by turning Horses into them while standing. These violences have been attended with much Insolence, and a conduct extremely disgusting to the people, which have produced much murmuring, indignation and complaint, and, I fear, have even shaken the attachment of some of our very well affected Whigs.

The Calamities of War are grievous enough even when mitigated by every possible care and attention, but when acts of power are wantonly and Insolently committed, and when persons employed in the exercise of them are worthless, base and contemptible, they become too grievous for a people to bear. Such I am told is the case with respect to a person authorized, as he says, by you to procure some waggons and Horses. He himself remains about the town of Hillsborough and sends out some very worthless persons who take People's Horses and other property without even leaving it in the power of the People to demand the value from the public. Such abuse of office must, if continued, greatly prejudice any cause and dispose the people to open their arms to an Enemy who offers them greater security. In this view, every one must see the consequences and how necessary it must be to give speedy relief.

-------------------- page 770 --------------------

This subject has detained me too long from that which I first proposed in writing to you.

I am persuaded, from Informations I have received and observations I have made, that the present Campaign is exceedingly important; that whatever the Enemy may possess, at the conclusion thereof, will remain to them, at least until some future War shall wrest it from them. This points out the necessity of the most vigorous exertions for compelling them to leave all parts of the United States before that period; and on us, it, in a great measure, depends to expell them from this part of the Continent. Every move ought now to be strained, and yet I am sorry to find essentials so exceedingly neglected. I am desirous of lending what assistance I can, either in Council or in action, and wish for an opportunity of Communicating my ideas in such a manner as that whatever way possible they might be rendered efficient. I see at present no clue; nothing seems doing, and yet much is to be done.

In my opinion there will be occasion for all the Provisions which can be spared from the support of the Inhabitants, and measures ought now to be taken for Clothing them equally and impartially. Surely, Sir, it is high time a plan of operations should be concerted and means provided for carrying it into Execution. My anxiety for our success will, I hope, excuse me for troubling you with this letter, and I doubt not, you will afford it that Indulgence with which you are accustomed to receive the addresses of.

Dear Sir, You Very Obedient,