The Papers of Henry Laurens

[Page 343]

William Henry Drayton to Council of Safety


I have the Honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letters of the 11th & 13th Instant. They came to hand last night forwarded by Col. Thomson.
Before this can reach you, I have the pleasure to reflect that you must have received intelligence that the Alarm respecting Augusta was without any foundation. But I am sorry to acquaint you that Thomas Brown is of such a temper of mind, that it is my opinion he is as dangerous a Man as any in this Colony. I do not believe he would stick at any thing to throw our affairs into utter confusion.
I beg leave to return my respectful thanks for your approbation of my Conduct; & I beg leave to assure you that I shall always endeavour to deserve your commendations.
I believe Mr_ Charleton expected to hold the Lieutenants commission together with that of Surgeons Mate. I had forgot the Resolution of Congress respecting one Persons holding two commissions; but I have acquainted Col: Thomson with the affair, who without doubt will transmit the explanation you expect.
I am happy that you approve of my putting off the election at Saxe Gotha; & also that you have directed me to appoint elections for those places where none had been held. In my last of the 16th from King's Creek, I had the honor to acquaint you, that neither of the Districts in the Fork between Broad & Saluda Rivers had held any election. For the lower district I have already acquainted you with the day of election; & for the upper district I have appointed[Page 344] the 23rd Instant as the day of election at the place directed by the Congress. This I did much against the Inclination of Fletcher & Cunningham.
I have to assure you that unless our friends in the Country find that the Nonsubscribers are debarred all communication with Charles Town & all trade with the Country Stores, they will be much chagrined; & bad consequences may ensue. In particular I most earnestly recommend that no more goods wer be allowed to be sent up to Mc_Laurins Store. His Partner in Town is one Mc_Curry_ or Curry_[1] some such name. This Man has signed the Association, & under this sanction, he means to supply Mc_Laurin by which means the Dutch will be encouraged to persevere in their obstinancy. And I beg leave to caution you even against Mc_Laurins signing the Association, if he should think proper to do so to procure goods; for the Dutch agree, if there should be a necessity, that he should be allowed to subscribe, & then they would be supplied as usual without their acceding to the Association.[2]
The Commissions for the Voluntier Companies are not come to hand, but I suppose they are with Col. Thomson, who in all probability will continue in his new Camp until my arrival there.
I reached Col. Fletchals last thursday morning before breakfast & I there found Brown, Cunningham, & Robinson, who had arrived the evening before; as had Mr_ Tennent & Col. Richardson. Mr_ Tennent & myself after Breakfast, engaged Col. Fletchal in a private conversation during near three hours. We endeavoured to explain every thing to him. We pressed them upon the him. We endeavoured to show him that we haed had a confidence in him. We humored him. We laughed with him. Then we recurred to argument, Remonstrances & entreaties to join his Countrymen & all America. All that we could get from him was this. He would [Page 345] never take up arms against the King, or his Countrymen; and that the Proceedings of the Congress at Philadelphia were impolitic, disrespectful & irritating to the King._ We charged him with having written to the Governor, & with having received an answer: he confessed both. We named the day (the Sunday preceeding) he received the answer, he allowed it. We named the method by which he received it; (concealed in a cain) he appeared confounded_ but after a pause, he attempted to laugh off this last particular._ Robinson brought up the letter, & Fletchal would not shew it to us. Robinson declares, he has brought up a Commission to raise Men for the King; & he even had the impudence to say before me, that he should raise Men for the defence of his Person since many People had threatened him. I answered surely the Civil Power would not allow him to go about with armed men to the terror of the Kings Subjects. He replied why did not the Civil Power prevent the Congress from having armed Men, & surely he would have armed Men, as long as they had any. This Mans looks are utterly against him. Much venom appears in Cunninghams countenance & conversation. Neither of these Men say much: But Brown is the Spokesman & his bitterness & violence is intollerable. He has in various ways insulted us during our 24 hours stay at Fletchals, as if he wanted to provoke me to violence. At length he went so far as to tell me, he believed we did not mean well to the King, & that our professions were nothing but a cloak. At this provocation after many others, I almost lost my caution. But thank God, I did not even appear to do so. In a firm tone I severely checked him_ the Colonel bid him go to bed. Before this happened, we had engaged the Colonel, in the private conversation, to call out his Regiment as on the 23 Inst. Upon our return to the House where this Brown Cunningham & Robinson were, he mentioned what he had promised. All these at once were open mouthed against the measure, & Mr_ Tennent & myself had much to do, to keep the Colonel to his promise.
This meeting of the Regiment will be at the time & place of election at Fords; & I am not without some apprehension that some violence will then be used against us.[3] I inclose a letter from Mr_[Page 346] Tennent[4] to me the day we parted at the Colonels. And besides this, it is my firm belief that Brown Cunningham & Robinson will do every thing in their power to bring things to extremities. For they are clearly of opinion they can beat the whole Colony. These Men manage Fletchal as they please when they have him to themselves. Indeed, he is so fixed, & has made so many declarations, that I firmly think, his pride & false sense of honor will never allow him to appear to think as we do, even if these Men were not about him._ Mr_ Kershaw told me, he knew the Man, & that no confidence was to be placed in him.
Things wearing so unfavourable an appearance, Colonel Richardson, Mr_ Kershaw, Mr_ Tennent & myself unanimously, thoug[ht] it absolutely expedient, to direct Captain Polk to raise an additional Troop of Rangers immediately to lie on th[e] back of these People. And Mr_ Tennent & myself have given directions accordingly, not doubting but that the necessity of the case will induce you to approve the measure. Captain Polk came to us, appeared much concerned for his past conduct, attributing it to a mistake touching the Station of the Rangers, which he had thought, had been by the Congress fixed to the Back Country & Frontiers. He has been since active in our favor; is a Person of influence in his part of the Country on the back of Fletchal; his Brother[5] is a Man of great influence in Mecklinburgh, & ready to march to our assistance when called upon; and already Fletchal look'd upon Captain Polk as an acquisition to his party. Hence, to bind Captain Polks Brother, & all the friends of both to us; to quash Fletchals expectation from the Captain, & to have a troop of Rangers on the back of Fletchals People to watch their motions, we all thought it absolutely necesssary to direct the raising of this additional troop, as we apprehended you would consider Captain Polks letter & conduct as a resignation of his Commission & that you had already disposed of [Page 347] it. In short we have given Captain Polk such a lesson, which he has received with all due submission, as I believe will render him more obedient to orders, than he has been.
In consequence of the Affidavit taken by Captain Polk, I have dispatched an Express to the Commanding Officer at Fort Charlotte,[6] & directions to Major Williamson, to throw into the illegible Fort a reinforcement of 30 Militia, to be continued there by proper relieves during one Month: In which time I make no doubt, the whole Colony will be in a state of perfect security against internal commotion. The garrison there will now consist of seventy odd Men. I have also given Major Williamson directions to hold the Militia in readiness to march in case of any commotion.
I had this day a meeting with the People in this frontier, many present were of the other party; but I have the pleasure to acquaint you that these became voluntary converts. Every Person received satisfaction & departed with Pleasure. I finished the day with a Barbequed Beef. I have so ordered matters here, that this whole frontier will be formed into voluntier companies, but as they are at present under Fletchals command, they insist upon being formed into a Regiment independent of him & I flatter myself you will think this method of weakening Fletchal to be consistent with sound Policy. These People are active & Spirited; they are stanch in our favour, are capable of forming a good barrier against the Indians, & of being a severe check upon Fletchals People (upon whom they border) if they should think of quitting their habitations under the banners of Fletchal or his companions. For these reasons, & to enable them to act with vigor, I shall take the liberty to supply them from Fort Charlotte with a small quantity of amunition, for now they have not one ounce, when they shall be formed into regular companies. Several companies will be formed by this day week.
I inclose to you an affidavit, by which you will see there is no dependence upon Cameron.[7] I have sent up a short talk to the Cher-[Page 348]okees inviting them to come down to me within twelve days to Amelia.[8] Mr Pearis[9] has undertaken to conduct six of their head Men to me, & I should be glad within the time mentioned to receive from you £70. or £80. worth of Shirts, Watch Coats, Blankets, linen, Strouds & paints: and your instructions if you choose I should say any thing in particular to them. Within On Wednesday, I shall with Mr_ Tennent, Mr_ Hart & Mr_ Reise,[10] attend the election & review of Fletchals Regiment at Fords at the mouth of Cedar creek upon Ennoree. You will see the place in the small map. What the event of the day will be, I am at a loss to say. I do not expect any success. I apprehend some insults. I may be mistaken in both opinions. Within twelve days, I purpose to be at Col. Thomson's Camp, where I think it will be advisable that I should remain till I shall see every spark of insurrection extinguished: but in regard to this, I shall regulate myself by your orders on the subject which I hope to receive by the time I arrive at the Camp. If Kirkland shall be seized, without doubt a commotion will follow, & if he goes off with [Page 349] impunity & without question, it will be fatal to the discipline of the Army_ especially the Rangers. But this is not all. Vigorous measures are absolutely necessary. If a dozen Persons are allowed to be at large, our progress has been in vain, & we shall be involved in a Civil War in spite of our teeth. In giving you this information, I tell a melancholy truth_ but I do my duty. If certain persons should be secured, some commotion in all probability will follow, but I am so well acquainted with the situation of the disaffected parts of the Country & with such parts as may be brought against them, that I am under no apprehensions for the consequences, provided prompt & vigorous measures attend every appearance of insurrection. I would beg leave to observe that as this business is of the highest importance, so your orders on the subject clear & general to vest proper authority to take such measures as may tend to suppress this threatening insurrection that will assuredly break out by delay & come upon us unexpectedly. Perhaps my being arrived at the Camp in my return home, may be construed an expiration of the Powers vested in Mr_ Tennent & myself, & his return to Charles Town may work an annihilation of Powers to be exercised by us together. For as our continuance in the Country will be of but little benefit in the Dutch Settlements & the disaffected quarters while under the influence of Fletchals people, so I make no doubt but that Mr_ Tennent will choose to return to Town sensible that his presence in the country will not be of any advantage in the way of expounding our political texts to the People._ I have the honor to lay all these things fully before you, that you may regulate yourselves thereupon, & send orders to me at Amelia by which I shall either remain with the Camp or return to Charles Town. But I pray you to be expeditious, for a delay on your parts will allow the enemy to recover many of our converts; and I know they are active, malicious & bent upon mischief.

I have the honor to be Gentlemen
Your most obedt_ Servt_

Wm Hy_ Drayton.

P.S. Mr_ Tennent & Col. Richardson were successful in their journey beyond Broad River. Mr_ Tennent is now in Neyles quarters where they are very hearty in our cause. Mr_ Kershaw & Col. Rich-[Page 350]ardson took their leave of us when we quitted Fletchal, being sensible they could not in these parts, be of any assistance to us. They have been very diligent.
ALS, Gibbes Collection, ScA; addressed above salutation "To the Honourable the Council of Safety"; dated below close "Lawsons Fork August 21st 1775"; docketed "Wm H. Drayton. at Lawson's / Fork_ 21 Augt. 1775. Rec¯d 30 Read / [in] Council & an[swer'd] Þ 31st_ "; numbered "25-4".
[1.] William Currie, a native of Scotland, who had come to South Carolina in 1772 and owned a store between the Broad and Saluda Rivers. Although he sold to both patriots and Loyalists he eventually supported the latter cause and fled to Britain. Loyalist Transcripts, LVI, 105-115; South Carolina Historical Magazine, IV (1903), 6.
[2.] Drayton recognized as early as August 16, that the local leaders had more influence with the "stiff necked" German population than he could ever hope to obtain. After describing his "mortification of preaching to a people who were obstinate and would not hear" he concluded "the Dutch are not with us." William Henry Drayton to Council of Safety, Aug. 16, 1775, Gibbes, Documentary History, I, 140-143.
[3.] Drayton and Tennent arrived at James Ford's plantation on the Enoree River Aug. 23, 1775. This was the time and place scheduled for a general election of members to the Second Provincial Congress. But, because of the intervention of Thomas Brown, Moses Kirkland, and the Cunningham brothers, only about 250 of an anticipated 1000 men turned out for the muster. The emissaries from Charleston "waited so long for the assembling of the people . . . that no election could be held." William Henry Drayton and William Tennent to Council of Safety, Aug. 24, 1775, Gibbes, Documentary History, I, 156-157; Journals of S.C. Provincial Congress, p. 57.
[4.] This letter from Tennent was dated "on the road, near Fair Forest" and was written on August 18 or 19. Gibbes, Documentary History, I, 147, 228.
[5.] Col. Thomas Polk of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.
[6.] Capt. John Caldwell.
[7.] Jonathan Clark, who resided on the Saluda River in the Cherokee country, swore in an Aug. 21, 1775, affidavit, that he had "conversed with John Garwick, an intimate friend and country man of Alexander Cameron." The deputy Indian Superintendent, he reported, had held a meeting with the Cherokees in late July and had successfully maintained their loyalty to the Crown. However, Clark's affidavit indicated that there was no immediate danger of a Cherokee attack. Gibbes, Documentary History, I, 147-148.
[8.] Drayton did not meet the Cherokee head men until September 25. Drayton, Memoirs, I, 407-408, 419-428.
[9.] Richard Pearis (Paris, Pares), a native of Ireland, had come to South Carolina by way of Virginia where, during the 1750s and 1760s, he had gained a reputation as an Indian trader and frontier soldier. Known for his influence with the Cherokees his assistance and advice were sought in dealings with the tribe. He obtained a 150,000 acre tract from the Cherokee at the head waters of the Enoree River through methods deemed illegal by the provincial government. Pearis desired an official position from the patriots and became disaffected when George Galphin and Edward Wilkinson became Indian commissioners. In November 1775, after a brief honeymoon with the patriots during which he served as an interpreter for William Henry Drayton, he joined the Loyalists. He immediately caused great unrest in the backcountry by accusing Drayton of attempting to enrich himself in Indian lands and the Council of Safety of sending ammunition to the Cherokee, not to appease them, but to unleash them on the frontier whites who had refused to join the patriot cause. Captured December 1775, at the Battle of Great Canebreak, he was imprisoned at Charleston for nine months. In the fall of 1776 with his property destroyed or confiscated and his family deported he signed a neutrality oath but soon returned to the Loyalists. Participating in several southern campaigns including Mobile, St. Augustine, Savannah, and Charleston, he was commissioned lieutenant colonel by Sir Henry Clinton, May 1780, and returned to the Ninety Six District to raise troops. Captured at Augusta he retired after the war to Abaco in the Bahamas where he received a grant of 140 acres, a military pension of £70 a year, and a Loyalist claim of £5,624. South Carolina Historical Magazine, XVIII (1917), 97-99; Richard Pearis, Affidavit, Nov. 11, 1775, Kendall Collection; William Henry Drayton, "An address to the inhabitants of the frontier settlements," Dec. 6, 1775, Collections of the South Carolina Historical Society, III, 53-56; Loyalist Transcripts, XXVI, 362-385.
[10.] Joseph Rees.