The Jethro Sumner papers contain 69 letters (both incoming and outgoing), and 3 militia lists, all spanning August 24, 1780, to April 1, 1781. All but two of the items date from August 24-October 20, 1780. The letters primarily concern strategic and logistical matters of the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War. Several letters in September 1780 document Cornwallis' invasion of North Carolina and the Battle of Charlotte. These include a series of letters between Sumner and Major General Horatio Gates, in which Gates promised aid to North Carolina's western counties (September 17, 1780), Sumner reported on the British occupation of Charlotte and requested orders on how to handle soldiers claiming discharge (September 29, 1780), and Gates ordered Sumner not to abandon the defense of the Yadkin Ford and criticized him for writing too infrequently (September 30, 1780). In a letter of September 23, 1780, Colonel Francis Lock wrote to Sumner from camp at Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, requesting that he send any men he could spare. Several letters from early October 1780 provide intelligence concerning the British, including their numbers, activities, and weapons; others refer to the scarcity of provisions, which Gates promised to address (October 7, 1780). On October 8, General William Lee Davidson recommended that Sumner "retain all the good Rifles from the Inhabitants who pass your Camp," judging that this might "induce some to return in Defence of their Country." Sumner and Davidson also exchanged several letters regarding the Battle of King's Mountain and the aftermath of the occupation of Charlotte, including the British departure (October 13, 1780). Sumner wrote three of the last letters in the collection to General William Smallwood, describing the condition of troops and movements, and finally, informing him of his resignation on October 20, 1780.
The collection also contains three militia records. Two identical items, dated October 12, 1780, give a statistical breakdown of officers and soldiers under Sumner by rank and function. Another document, dated October 13, 1780, provides the number of drafts and "Minute Men of the Foot" from the towns of Rowan and Mecklenburg counties in North Carolina, under Brigadier General William Lee Davidson.