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Jamaica/Nicaragua Campaign
Report from John Dalling at Kingston

(No. 70)

Kingston, Jamaica 21st May 1780.

My Lord,

The delay which the Troops experienced for three or four weeks in gathering the necessary craft at Cape Gracias a Dios, in consequence, I am afraid, of the neglect of those, whose business it was to pay a proper attention thereto, will I fear be productive of difficulties in the execution of the plan laid down for the reduction of the Fort of St. John;

by this delay the season of the year fit for operating has been suffered to elapse, and the rainy weather of course set in, which, I am apprehensive, may prove in some degree noxious to our Troops, and particularly to our seamen in the Harbour;

The Troops, by quitting the low fenny grounds, will, as they advance into the Country, experience a moisture air, and consequently be less subject to the diseases incidental to the stagnate atmosphere of the marshy lands.

It seems to me very surprizing indeed that the Enemy, notwithstanding our delays, were totally ignorant of our intentions, as their out posts on the river were surprized by our advanced guard, and the Fort itself would probably have fallen at once had our Troops been able to push forward in force, but from the want of necessary craft, and the great distance of the Fort from the Harbour, the Troops experienced amazing difficulties in carrying up the necessary stores.

Sir Alexander LEITH, Lieutenant Colonel of the 88th is now going down with a farther supply of military Stores; as he was bred in the Artillery, I have given him the necessary instruction to regulate every thing that may be amiss in that department; from his ardour and abilities I expect much. A farther supply of Provisions (such as we can get) is now preparing.

Mr. ODELL, as major in the Island militia, an active and spirited young Officer, is forwarded to New York with the inclosed letter. I intend manifesting to the poor people on that Continent, in case our first object should be attained, the great advantages that must result to them in consequence of their settling the Province of Nicaragua, so well situated, of so excellent a Soil, and so good a Climate.

The situation of that Country, the noble Lake of Nicaragua, communicating almost from the South to the North sea by the River of St. John, will afford them the means of resisting any attack that may be carried on against them by their enemies, be they ever so numerous; besides, well armed and accoutred, and having respectable Posts well fortified, thro' which their wants may be supplied during the war, and assurance of support at the conclusion of it as far as circumstances will admit, can they have much to dread?

Another source of protection must naturally arise to them from the friendly disposition of the different tribes of neighbouring Indians, extending from the Eastern part of the Lake to the Bay of Honduras.

The moment your Lordship shall be informed of our possessing the Fort of St. John, I hope from that period, those in command on the Continent will have directions to support the inclinations of such who may wish to embrace the offered proposals, and forward them by every opportunity, and, as I am informed, that great quantities of Spare Arms are at New York and other places, I wish them to be sent armed, with as much provision as can be spared- the attention to the letter must be great from all quarters.

It is said that numbers of the rebels are constantly coming in, under pretence of contrition for their past conduct, and that they as constantly desert again, after obtaining the intelligence they wanted, being both well armed, and well cloathed.

Suppose my Lord, such gentry were at once put on board ship, to serve His Majesty in the Province of Nicaragua, they would be there as useful as any others whatever, more so indeed than the general run of Volunteers.

Give me Leave to observe, my Lord, that if numbers should flock down, experiencing what I have already mentioned, I know not how the Spaniards will be able to remove such a gangrene; it must take too deep root, and probably contaminate the whole- it will be making a noble use of the refractory spirit of the North Americans, and prove an assylum, as well as a recompence, to our poor distressed subjects who had once properties else where.

The Spaniard will doubtless you on a peace, if it should be judged adviseable, to deliver up the Country by your ordering them away; you will probably do so, but will they obey you?

I hope not, and, after having a little squabbling with the Spaniards, and shewing them an inclination to do what they require, I also hope that we shall find it right, nay necessary, to enter into a Treaty with them, and support them in their independence.

I have the honor to be with the greatest respect my Lord your Lordships most obedient and most humble Servt.

John DALLING



Great Britain, Public Record Office, Colonial Office, Class 137, Volume 77, folios 144-146.

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