The Papers of Henry Laurens

[Page 390]

William Henry Drayton to Council of Safety


In answer to your favour of the 5th of September, I beg leave to attempt to reconcile, what appeared to you somewhat irregular, in my making application for new powers in my letter from Lawsons fork, & then in, my letter of the 30th of August, my declaring that I considered myself as vested with the most ample powers from your letter of the 11th of August which I had received when I wrote mine of the 30th of August.
My assuming & exercising the powers contained in your letter of the 11th, was only in consequence of the event mentioned in the letter from the Committee at Sav Augusta of the 6 of Augt. viz. "Fletchalls Men" in arms "marching to Augusta". When I received that letter there were no such Men, or any Men in Arms against us, or Augusta, therefore those powers could not be exercised, & I could not possibly from them deem myself authorized at every risque to seize such Men as I thought were enemies to the Public. But when on the 29 of August, I found Fletchalls Men, that is those who had signed his Association were, under Kirkland, actually in Arms, & by general account upon a design to of marching to Augusta or Fort Charlottee, then I thought the letter of the 11th was applicable to the time & event, & accordingly in mine of the 30th_ I declared that I thought myself authorized to exercise those[Page 391] powers, which, till that time & event, had from the nature of them slept. I flatter myself Gentlemen this conduct will shew, that I mean to execute your orders punctually; & that I am tenderly cautious not to proceed beyond the powers with which I am clearly sensible, that I have the honor to be invested by you.
In respect to your intended distribution of Powder, I beg leave to advise that no powder be distributed into the fork or ninety six District.
On tuesday I found that the 100 Men Cunningham had on Sunday were but the first of a large party that had been summoned to meet at Neals Mill about 10 Miles over Saluda. About 3 oclock on tuesday afternoon I was Joined at 96 by Col. Thomson & a few of his Militia. It was Wednesday before I was joined by any of Major Williamsons regiment, & it was thursday before I was joined by any considerable number of it. In the Mean time, the enemy encreased in numbers at least as fast as I did, & by the best accounts I could depend upon they encreased faster. Fletchall joined them on tuesday night. In the mean time on tuesday evening I placed all the troops in Camp about 3/4 of a mile from ninety six. I caused the most exact order to be observed even in an Army composed of Militia in a manner. The advanced Posts are regularly & punctually kept all around the Camp: & it is not only surprising, but it must be animating to the People of this Country that this Army, never in service before, & now about 1100 Strong, obey punctually, keep good order in Camp, are cheerful & content even altho we have had constant rains since we have been encamped. Till yesterday, this army did not exceed 900 Strong. & by the best accounts I could learn Fletchalls Camp, about removed to about 4 miles on the other Side Saluda, contained from 12, to 1400 badly armed & under no order or command. Our People were impatient to be led against them: but as I saw if I advanced to attack, many lives must be lost: & as I found I could had a perfect command over our People, & could keep them together as long as I pleased: as I had every reason to think the enemy being under no command, & having no regular supplies of provision; & the weather being bad, that they could not keep long together, & that having their greatest influx, their numbers would then ebb, and diminish. These considerations determined me with the perfect approbation[Page 392]of Col. Thomson, Major Williamson & Capn_ Hammond to continue encamped, & to watch their motions. With this view, I put every thing in practice to persuade the enemy that I would illegible persevere in this plan: I sent a and among other devices I sent a letter directed to Col. Richardson, in order that they should intercept it. I put forth a declaration on the 13th which I inclose, & also together with the affidavit on which I grounded it. The declaration was publickly read in their Camp the next day. This together with a series of negociations, procured a deputation from their camp to me: And yesterday the Deputies being in my Camp, I drew up & with them signed the inclosed instrament dated the 16 of Sepr_.[1] I beg leave to inform you, that in the Governors letter to Moses Kirkland of the 29 of August, he declares that he has twice represented to Ld_ Dartmouth, the "very meritorious conduct of the Gentlemen in the back Country", & that "he shall not fail by the next Packet to mention the fresh proof of their zeal for the Kings service"._ Is not this Governor Martin over again? Was it not in consequence of such information that Martin had orders to arm one part of his province against the other! Depend upon it this passage in the Governors letter is fact. I shall endeavour to procure an exact copy of that letter. To give the lie direct to the Governors information at home; this instrument is exactly calculated. And it will clearly demonstrate under the parties own hands that so far from their being a party in favour of the King & inimical to us, they are not even unfriendly to our designs, nor will they hold any communication with the Kings Troops. And in addition to all this they are bound neither by word, or action to censure or oppose proceedings of Congress &c. & if any offend they are bound to deliver them, or allow us to take them With this Treaty the Spirit of Discord is gone forth among them, & there is now a great quarrel between Fletchal & Cunningham. All the People in a manner approve of Fletchals conduct, & they are this morning all gone off with, him_ Cunningham is now left at their Camp with only about 60 Men who I suppose will soon disperse. I am persuaded Fletchall & his people will be true, & I make no doubt but that the affair is now crushed. I have employed people to watch[Page 393] Cunningham, & if he offends, he will be delivered up or taken by us to be proceeded against. Kirkland stands excepted from the benefit of the Treaty. They have nothing to do with him they disclaim all communication with him. And I continue to pursue him. It is apprehended he may get on board the Man of War. This Settlement of the affair, Gentlemen, I hope will meet with your approbation. At any rate, I assure you I have proceeded in it with the utmost caution & deliberation.
But after all, I assure you our Safety is utterly precarious will while the Governor is at liberty. He animates these Men: he tempts them: and altho' they are now recovered, yet their fidelity is precarious if he is at liberty to Jogg them again & lay new illegible toils for them. Gentlemen allow me in the strongest terms to recommend that you make Hostages of the Governor & the officers. To do this, is not more dangerous to us than what we have done. It will secure our Safety, which otherwise will be in danger. I would also recommend that the Trade with the Country be opened, it will give infinite satisfaction: it will convince every person of the rectitude of our designs: it will obliterate a distinction, which, now if permitted to remain will give Fletchalls People room to sell their provision &ca to the Kings troops, and thus renew a communication: and indeed if we will not Trade with them, we cannot in conscience blame them for trading with those who will trade with them. And this seems to correspond with the Spirit of the Resolution of the General Committee August 23._ "but also to give such assurances" &ca. &ca. I am clearly of opinion, that upon the instrument of the 16 of Sepr_ such a relaxation might be grounded: I am persuaded it will be attended with the most salutary consequences; & therefore, I do most heartily recommend that it may be done. But, above all things I think it is my duty most strongly to represent that the Governor should be taken into custody.
I beg leave also to represent that the Declaration of the 13th. & the Instrument of the 16th Instant, be not only printed generally in the Gazettes, & in sheets to be immediately by the Committee of Intelligence circulated throughout the Colony,[2] to give general[Page 394] notification thereof which is greedily desired, and to prevent erroneous copies; but that they be published in England for this reason, they will shew that no part of the People of this Colony are even unfriendly to the designs of Congress; that none of the People will encourage any person even by word to condemn our proceedings, that all offenders shall be delivered up to punishment; that no part of the people will even hold any communication with the Kings troops. All this will be in direct contradiction to the Governors representation of the meritorious conduct & zeal of Fletchals people for the Kings service. And for all this to appear is of infinite importance; and infinitely preferable to our having put a part of those people to the Sword; which would not only have lain the foundation for lasting animosities, but would convince the administration that the Governors representations were true, that the Kings there was a strong party here against the Congress, & all which would invite them to send a strong body of Troops here; & that very early.
I now hear that all Cunninghams Party are dispersed. I begun this letter in the morning, & I am now writing by the light of light wood; and yet I have lost no time in proceeding with my letter. To morrow I shall discharge the Militia. Today I returned the army public thanks_ they are really a fine body of Men.
I inclose a letter from Mr Wilkinson_ I mean to stay here with the Rangers some days to watch the consequences of the violence mentioned in that letter.[3] In the mean time I shall tomorrow send off a company of Rangers, in order to quiet the fears of the People above, but with orders not to advance any thing near the Indian line. I have not yet seen Paris & his Indians, but I expect to see them in a few days, after which I shall return to Charles Town._ I have sent a letter to Wilkinson assuring him that all possible enquiry[Page 395] shall be made to find the offenders against the Indians, and that justice shall be done.

I have the Honor to be
Gentlemen, Your most obd_ Servt_

Wm Hy_ Drayton.

ALS, Gibbes Collection, ScA; addressed above salutation "To The Honourable The Council of Safety"; dated below close "Camp near ninety six / Sepr_ 17. 1775."; docketed by HL "Wm. Hy. Drayton / 17 Septem 1775_ / Recd. & Read in Council / 24th. / in GC. 25th_ / Answd. 27th_ Refered by Ge¯n Com / Council of Safety to Gen¯ / Committee with"; numbered "25-2".
[1.] This document, known as the Treaty of Ninety Six, was signed by Drayton, Fletchall, John Ford, Thomas Greer, Evan McLaurin, and Benjamin Wofford. S.C. Gazette, Oct. 3, 1775.
[2.] Drayton's "Declaration" of September 13 set forth a justification for his assembling troops in the backcountry, declared the "terms upon which peace and safety may be had" by the backcountry residents, and ended with an avowal to "march and attack, as public enemies, all and every person in arms, or to be in arms . . . in opposition to the measures of Congress." The declaration was printed in the S.C. Gazette, Oct. 17, 1775, and also in separate handbills. For a copy from the printed circulars, see Gibbes, Documentary History, I, 180-182.
[3.] On September 12, four Cherokee Indians were attacked by whites "near the Buffaloe Lick on the new ceded lands in Georgia." One was killed, two were wounded, and the fourth, unhurt, "set up the war-hoop . . . upon which the white people ran off." Three brothers named Cloud were arrested for the crime and imprisoned in Georgia. "Intelligence from Alexander Cameron," Nov. 8, 1775, Documents of the American Revolution (Davies), XI, 177.