New York 29th January 1783
Observing by the General Orders of yesterday, that His Excellency the Commander in Chief, is pleased to Order the Church Bells of Charlestown; to be delivered to the Commissary General for the purpose of being returned to that place.
I have the Honor to acquaint you, as Commanding Officer of the Royal Artillery in America; for the information of His Excellency, the reason why, that Order cannot be complied with.
Soon after the Reduction of Charlestown, the ring of Bells belonging to St. Michaels Church, were taken down, by the consent, & approbation, of Earl CORNWALLIS, and Brigadier General PATERSON, then Commandant of the Garrison.
A short time had elaps’d, when Twenty of the Principal inhabitants entered into a Bond of Six Hundred Guineas, payable at Six Months after date, for the redemption of those Bells, which I consented to.
But about a Month before the Evacuation took place, (having then only received Two Hundred & Forty Guineas in part payment) I was applied to, by several of the Principal Subscribers to the Bond, requesting, that I would take down the Bells, and release them from their engagement entirely, upon which I thought it my duty to consult Lieut. General LESLIE, and Lieut. Colonel [Isaac] ALLEN the Commandant, and they both approved of my ordering them to be taken down.
This Ring of Bells were sent to England, by the last fleet from Charlestown.
I have now in my possession the Original Bond, as also a receipt in full, for the Money advanced me on account of it, which I returned.
On Earl CORNWALLIS’s intimating a wish, that some Bell might be left, to give an Alarm in case of fire, I gave orders that the Bells of St. Phillips (the other English Church) might remain, which they did at the Evacuation of the Garrison.
I must observe to you that Alexander Wright, & James Johnston Esqrs. who had been to treat of some matters relating to themselves, and the inhabitants with General Green, and the Rebel Governor a few days after the Bells were taken down, waited on me with a Message from the Enemy in General terms, without mentioning names purporting that if I would delay sending away the Bells, they would endeavour to raise the money to redeem them before our departure, but I was soon after informed, by Mr. Maurice Simmons, that they could not accomplish it.
So far as the General Order relates to private property, I can assure you I am not possess’d of any, and indeed Governor Bee’s Letter to me will clearly elucidate that matter as far as regards myself; and from the strict Orders I gave, I am perswaded, that no person under my command would presume to meddle with private property, or in any manner, infringe Lieut. General LESLIE’s Orders on that subject.
I trust you will do me the justice to believe that, in the matter of the Bells, I have not been actuated by Avarice, but by a desire to Assert, that prerogative which our Corps have always maintained, at Towns, or Garrisons conquered from the Enemy.
I hope you will have the goodness to excuse the trouble, I request you will take, in explaining this business to the Adjutant General, as my indisposition prevents my going out
I have the Honor to be with great respect Sir
Brigadier General MARTIN
[docketed on reverse]
Great Britain, Public Record Office, Headquarters Papers of the British Army in America, PRO 30/55/6835.
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