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LACHLAN MCINTOSH TO GENERAL WASHINGTON.
Savannah, in Georgia, March 8, 1776.
SIR: I did myself the honour to write to your Excellency the 16th ult., which, for want of conveyance, lies here still, as our Continental post is not well regulated this length yet. It is hardly worth troubling you with any report of our battalion, as I have heard from very few of our recruiting officers, and we have only between twenty and thirty men of them in town; but the transactions here since that time may deserve some notice. The men-of-war at Tybee, though still giving out they had no hostile intentions against this Colony, were encouraging our slaves to desert to them, pilfering our Sea-Islands for provisions, and our Governour broke his parole of honour, and went privately in the night with his family aboard the Scarborough, Captain Barclay, which gave us every reason to expect they meant to land at or near the town, destroy it, and carry off about twenty sail of shipping lying in the river, having, among other articles, near three thousand tierces of rice on board.
Between three and four hundred of our own Militia, and one hundred from South-Carolina, were all that could be got to defend an open, straggling, defenceless, and deserted town, with numberless avenues leading to it, and those men under no control or command whatsoever; and, to add to the anarchy and confusion we were in, our Council of Safety had not met for some time, having differed about the meaning of a resolve of the Continental Congress respecting the ships sailing the 1st of March. In this desperate state of affairs, I ventured to take the command of the Militia, lest the Colony should be tamely given up, though, I must acknowledge, with some reluctance; and, after examining very particularly, as I was unacquainted, around the town, I placed guards everywhere the enemy could land, and ambushes in the different roads leading to it, which made the duty very severe, and reduced our number in town greatly. In the mean time, the Cherokee, the two transports, the armed vessels and boats, came up the river within two and a half miles of town, near where we sunk a hulk in the channel of the river, and opposite to Brewtons plantation, where I placed a detachment of one hundred and fifty men, under command of Colonel Bullock, expecting they would attempt to land there. The enemy were parading with their boats for several days within gunshot of our sentinels, who, though they were ordered not to fire unless they were fired upon first, or they attempted to land, gave them several shot, but were not returned.
Our Council of Safety were got together, and resolved the shipping should not sail, and ordered they should be unrigged. The evening of the 2d of March, one of the transport ships, (the Schooner Hinchinbrook,) and Sloop St. John, of eight or ten guns each, with some boats, sailed in our sight up the North River, back of Hutchinsons Island, lying opposite to the Town of Savannah, but so far off that a little battery we had below the town, which played upon them, could do no damage to them. Expecting the enemy intended coming round Hutchinsons Island, and down the south side of it, to make their landing good at Yamacraw, (a village three or four hundred yards above the town,) I had three four-pounders carried there, a little battery erected in haste, and threw up intrenchments, and withdrew part of the guard at Brewtons, without weakening too much, or withdrawing any of our ambushes on that side, lest it might be a feint to deceive us. About the middle of the same night (as we were afterwards informed) the Commodore, Barclay, and Majors Grant and Maitland, with about three hundred men, as it was said, landed on the back of Hutchinsons Island, with some howitzers and field-pieces, and, with the assistance and contrivance of all our own seafaring people, and many from the town, crossed the Island and hid themselves aboard of our merchant ships, which were previously hauled close to the Island, a little above our battery at Yamacraw, for that purpose. Early on Sunday, the 3d, the two armed vessels, intending to cover the enemy s landing, had come round the Island, and, coming down on the south side, were attacked by parties of riflers ordered for that purpose, and kept smartly engaged on both sides most of the day, until they lost the tide and got aground; while two sailors, ( Americans, ) at the risk of their lives, stole ashore and informed me the enemy were hid on board our merchantmen, and had taken Joseph Rice prisoner, who was employed to unrig them that morning. To confirm this intelligence, Messrs. Demere and Roberts were ordered to go only alongside the vessels, and, without arms, to demand our fellow-citizen, Mr. Rice; but, to our astonishment, they were also forced on board and kept, which convinced us our information was true; and immediately our little battery of three guns began to play upon them, which they returned, and was continued very smartly with ball, langrage, and small-arms, from both sides for several hours. Our men were inflamed, particularly at our own people who had treacherously joined the enemy against us, and were eager to board them; but we had neither boats, sailors, or arms, proper for the attempt, and the oars of the few boats we had were previously stolen away. The general cry then was, to set all the shipping on fire; in attempting of which, many of our people showed great resolution and bravery; but, unfortunately, the first ship set fire to, (valued at twenty thousand pounds sterling,) was so large that she grounded before she got up to the others. Afterwards a sloop was fired, which burned two others, while the rest were cutting away, amidst the shot of our rifles and langrage, and slipping higher up the river, out of our reach, with the last of the flood. In the mean time, many of the soldiers hastily landed on the Island, in great confusion, running in the marsh in a laughable manner, for fear of our rifles, though far past their reach, until they got aboard a tire of ships higher up the river, and out of the reach of our guns, near the armed vessels. In this manner ten sail of our vessels went along with the enemy round the upper end of the Island (a channel never known before) with sixteen hundred barrels of rice, with the utmost anxiety and fear.
After being foiled in their scheme upon the town, the Commodore and Majors eagerly and repeatedly solicited a cessation of hostilities, for which they promised immediately to repair to Tybee, and not molest us again; which was at length granted them with seeming difficulty, though the truth was, we had no means of annoying them by water. The rest of the shipping we hauled close to the wharves, confined some of their Captains for acting against us, with our Chief-Justice and some Counsellors, until they released our fellow-citizens, Demere, Roberts, and Rice, and send them up from Tybee, where our enemies are all now gone. Whether they intend to try us again or not, I am not able to inform your Excellency. In this, I think, they rather lost, than gained any reputation, and have done us great honour, by being the second Province on the Continent which they attacked, and were shamefully foiled. We had, in all our different engagements, but two white men and one Indian wounded slightly. They must have many both killed and wounded, though they acknowledge but six. Several were seen to fall.
I have the honour to be, your Excellencys most obedient and most humble servant,
To His Excellency George Washington, Esquire, Captain-General and Commander-in-Chief of all the Continental Forces in America.
P. S. The ships-of-war have taken all the rice (sixteen hundred barrels) out of the merchantmen that so treacherously went down with them, and put it aboard their two transport ships, without paying a farthing for it. They claim one-eighth for wresting them out of the hands of the Rebels, as the Commodore s certificate expresses it; but I doubt they will keep the other seven-eighths also.
Williamsburgh, Virginia, March 8, 1776.
Yesterday thirty-two Members of the Assembly met at the Capitol, pursuant to adjournment; which not being a sufficient number to proceed on business, and no Representative of the King appearing, they thought proper farther to adjourn to the first Thursday in May next, when that honourable body will meet, as well as the General Convention, for the discussion of sundry important matters tending to the safety and well-being of the Colony, and of America in general.
At this time the saltpetre works at Warwick, Petersburgh, and Blandford, produce full two hundred weight per day; and two other works now erecting on James-River will increase the quantity to upwards of three hundred and fifty