The American Revolution in North Carolina

NC Government During the American Revolution - 1782

On January 16th, Governor Thomas Burke escaped his confinement at James Island, just outside of Charlestown, South Carolina. While there, his life had been threatened by Loyalists who despised him just because he was a governor and a Patriot. Governor Burke wrote to the commanding officer at Charlestown, Major General Alexander Leslie, and clearly informed the general that he felt his life was in danger, but Leslie never replied. Since Governor Burke strongly believed that his captors had a duty to protect his life while in captivity, and that they have not fulfilled that obligation, then he no longer has any obligation to remain a prisoner.

After somehow making his way to the camp of Major General Nathanael Greene, the two men discussed his escape. Major General Greene understood his reasoning, but cautioned the governor that his "honor" might be impeached if people got the wrong impression. Therefore, Governor Thomas Burke decided to write a long letter to his previous captor, Major General Alexander Leslie on January 18th:

"Sir, You will please to recollect that I wrote you on the 30th of last, requesting a parole within the American lines and informing you that my person was in great danger from the refugees who were exceedingly licentious and to whom persons of my political character are peculiarly obnoxious, and, therefore, that if granting my request was inexpedient it would be necessary to remove me to some place where my person might be safe. You were not pleased to answer that letter, and I found myself still exposed to men who are but too well known to be little restrained by moral principles and whom I had seen commit even murders with entire impunity. Deeming it exceedingly probable that these might conceive some violent design against me, and knowing that fear of punishment would not restrain men who felt themselves secured even from discovery, I felt every hour during sixteen days all the apprehensions of assassination. As my representation to you had not procured your notice so far as even to induce you to answer me, I saw no prospect of being delivered from my dangerous situation, and I concluded that such neglect of my personal safety would justify my withdrawing my person. But though I carried this resolution into effect, I do not thereby intend to deprive you of the advantages which my capture, by the rights of war, entitle you to. I purpose returning to my Government, and there to expect an answer from you to the following proposition:

"I will endeavor to procure for you a just and reasonable equivalent in exchange for me, or if that cannot be effected, I will return within your lines on parole, provided, you will pledge your honor that I shall not be treated in any manner different from the officers of the Continental army when prisoners of war.

"This proposition will, I hope, be satisfactory, and will leave you no doubt that in withdrawing, I had no dishonorable intentions."

This letter began a long and drawn out dialogue among Governor Thomas Burke, Major General Nathanael Greene, and British Major General Alexander Leslie that spanned many months. This dialogue soon became quite contentious on all sides, but most importantly, it led directly to Thomas Burke deciding not to seek re-election as governor in April.

In the meantime, however, he soon retook the reigns of government and called the General Assembly back into session. They were to meet at Salem, the same location they met back in November of 1781 while the governor was a prisoner of war. On January 25th, the General Assembly convened at Salem, North Carolina, but once again they did not gather a quorum and no official busines was completed.

Governor Thomas Burke was soon re-engaged in running the ongoing war effort. He dispatched many letters to the district Brigadier Generals and encouraged them to keep refilling the NC Continental Line with new recruits. Ever mindful that his nemesis - Loyalist Col. David Fanning - was still active along the Deep River, Governor Burke redoubled his efforts to provide much better protection for the upcoming planned session of the NC General Assembly.

David Fanning was now acutely aware that his power was dwindling rapidly and he initiated a dialogue with various civil and military authorities to gain a truce between the two factions. As letters passed between Fanning and various Patriots, Governor Thomas Burke was non-stop in his efforts to field a second incarnation of the NC State Regiment along with a handful of NC Continentals to go after his nemesis. As these intrigues continued, small Patriot units of Randolph County and Chatham County went after Col. David Fanning's followers, and he soon retaliated by killing prominent leaders and burning the homes of others. Acutely aware that a truce would never materialize, David Fanning ultimately decided to take protection under the British in Charlestown.

On April 15th, the 1782 NC General Assembly convened in Hillsborough until May 18th. During this session, they elected Alexander Martin as the state's fourth governor. They also managed to pass forty-seven (47) laws. After the usual taxation laws and pay for government officials, the General Assembly also passed a law to prevent the burning of certain wood, and a law to prevent the stoppage of fish going up certain rivers. There were also many other "normal" types of laws passed, such as the authorization of new or repaired court houses.

Along military lines, the NC General Assembly again provided for the completion of all Continental regiments, and they finally approved their promise to provide for all Continental soldiers and officers. In this latter item, the General Assembly authorized back pay, and they authorized all Continentals specific amounts of land upon completion of their commitments. The NC General Assembly once again decided to split the Rowan County Regiment of Militia into two separate and distinct regiments, and these two continued until the end of the war. Finally, they divided the Salisbury District into two separate and distinct districts on May 10th. The new district was named the Morgan District, and Charles McDowell was appointed its first Brigadier General.

At the conclusion of all appropriate business, the NC General Assembly agreed to meet for a second time during 1782 during October. However, this second session never convened, much to the chagrin of Governor Alexander Martin, who was counting on the General Assembly to solve some new issues that had cropped up over the summer. Once again, problems arose concerning the collection of provisions for Major General Nathanael Greene's army in South Carolina, and once again Governor Martin had to call in personal favors.

Also during the summer, Governor Alexander Martin ordered out 1,000 Militiamen of the recently-created Morgan District to go into the Cherokee Nation and once again chastise the Chicamaugas, who were once again causing problems. Brigadier General Charles McDowell and Col. John Sevier of the Washington County Regiment of Militia followed very similar paths that had been taken during the first Cherokee Expedition of 1776 by Brigadier General Griffith Rutherford and Virginia Col. William Christian. The final significant battle with the Cherokees occurred on September 20th at Lookout Mountain in what is now Tennessee.

On December 14th, the British army finally evacuated Charlestown, SC and the entire South is now rid of enemy soldiers. There were loud rumors of a tentative peace agreement, but no official news has reached the Carolinas by the end of 1782. Although the war is not over, there are no more significant battles or skirmishes within North Carolina.

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