George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Reed, 23 March 1776

From Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Reed

Philad. March 23d 1776

My dear General

The great Changes which have taken Place with you will I doubt scarcely leave you Time to read a Letter, but as it coveys a piece of good News, I will venture to interrupt you for a few Moments. I dare say you have heard how troublesome & dangerous the back Inhabitants of North Carolina were growing—Genl Gage sent some Scotch Officers there last Summer who pretending a Disgust to the ministerial Service went among their Countrymen there & fomented a Spirit of Dissaffection & when they thought Matters sufficiently ripened they headed a large Body of Men & were marching down to meet the Governour—However they were met by Col. Caswell & totally defeated: above 30 left dead on the Spot a great Number of Prison⟨ers⟩ taken & their Commander a Mr McDonald. The whole Party is said to be so crushed & disappointed that nothing more is to be apprehended from them.1

We have no News from Virginia since I wrote you last. No Account yet of our Fleet & as no Member of Congress expresses any Concern on the Subject we begin to suspect they are gone upon some distant Enterprize Some conjecture to lay in the Way of the East India Ships a few of whom would soon reimburse us the Expence of the War—However it is all Supposition.2

It has happened as I expected that many who were impatient to have Howe driven from Boston are now alarmed with the Appre⟨hension of the⟩ Seat of War being removed to the Middle Colonies—General Lee is gone off to Virginia & we hope will be there in time to meet the Troops expected from England—The Congress have at length granted Letters of Marque, but there is such a Difficulty in procuring Ammunition that I imagine little Use will be made of them at least for some Time3—The Prussian General is made a Brigadier & ordered to Canada.4 By some late Accounts from England we are led to expect that the Scheme of sending Commissioners will be wholly laid aside—If it should I think we shall have no Reason to regret it, as it does not seem calculated to produce any real Benefit.

Adieu my dear Sir, that Health & Honour may ever attend you is the Sincere Wish of my dear Genl Your most Obed. & Affec. Hbble Serv.

Jos. Reed


1Reed is referring to the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge which occurred in eastern North Carolina on 27 Feb. 1776. The colony’s royal governor Josiah Martin commissioned Donald McDonald as a brigadier general on 10 Jan. 1776 and authorized him to raise a force of Loyalists which was to rendezvous with Gen. Henry Clinton’s British regulars at Brunswick, N.C., on 15 February. Although the British troops were delayed in their arrival from Ireland, McDonald’s Loyalists, consisting chiefly of Highlanders, assembled at Cross Creek (now Fayetteville) in February and began marching to the coast. At Moore’s Creek Bridge, 17 miles from Wilmington, they encountered Patriot troops led by Alexander Lillington, John Ashe, and Richard Caswell. Attacking the Patriots, the Loyalists were caught in a heavy fire, and within a few minutes about fifty of them were killed or wounded. McDonald and about eight hundred and fifty of his men were captured in the ensuing rout.

2For the activities of the Continental navy, see Reed to GW, 15 Mar. 1776, n.11.

3For Congress’s authorizing of privateers, see Reed to GW, 7 Mar. 1776, n.5.

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