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From the Papers of John Steele, a 1781 Letter

The following is a letter among the “Papers of John Steele,” from Elizabeth Steele (his mother) to Ephraim Steele (his uncle.)1 The letter was addressed to Ephraim Steele of Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

John Steele was the son of Elizabeth Maxwell Steele and her second husband, William Steele.

“Salisbury 19th April, 1781

Dear Brother

            Your obliging letter by Mr. Beard has come to hand.  I most sincerely congratulate you on your Matrimonial connections; May your lives be long and happy.  I beg you to mention me most affectionately to Mrs. Steel, tho unacquainted with her person or family.  I hope to mention me also to Master Billey.

            In Feby last the Brittish were so kind as to pay us a visit[i], at a time when my little family were ill with the small pox, in which my little youngest grand daughter died – the rest have all happily recovered.

            I was plundered of all my horses, dry cattle, horse forage, liquors, and family provisions, and thought I escaped well with my house furniture and milch cattle, when some in this county were stript of all these things.

            It comforts me to think that the enemy will probably never return.  His Lordship soon after the 14th of March[ii] moved to Wilmington and Gen. Greene by a masterly stroke has turned rapidly towards Camden in his rear which I hope will fall into his hands before Cornwallis can reinforce the place.  At least it will take the war out of this State, and leave his Lordship not one step further than before Gates defeat.

            Please remember me in the most affectionate manner to Sister Nancy.  I have never been able to hear from our brother since the fall of Charleston, nor have I any way of writing to him. 

                                                I am with great respect your affectionate Sister”

i. The British forces under Lord Cornwallis, in their pursuit of Greene Northeastward across North Carolina, were in Salisbury from Saturday, Feb. 3, to Monday, Feb. 4, 1781. 

ii. At Guilford Courthouse on the 14th of March Greene turned to face his pursuer and on the 15th fought a drawn battle with Cornwallis that so reduced the strength of the latter that he turned to South to Wilmington, N.C., to establish a contact with British naval forces.  In the latter part of April he crossed North Carolina into Virginia.

  1. John Steele and Henry McGilbert Wagstaff, The Papers of John Steele, (Raleigh, North Carolina: Edwards & Broughton Print. Co., 1924), 10; digital books, Google Books ( : accessed 12 November 2019).