George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton, 20 July 1778

From Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton

Black Point [N.J.], July 20th 1778


Inclosed I transmit your Excellency a letter from the Count Destain.1 He has had the River sounded and finds he cannot enter. He will sail for Rhode Island tomorrow evening; in the mean time he is making demonstrations to deceive the enemy and beget an opinion, that he intends to operate in this quarter. He would sail immediately but he waits the arrival, or to hear, of a frigate which carried Mr Gerard to Delaware, and which he appointed to meet him at Sandy Hook, so that he fears, his sudden and unexpected departure, before she arrives might cause her to be lost.2 He will not however wait longer than ’till tomorrow evening. We have agreed, that five cannon fired briskly shall be a signal of his arrival by day, and the same number, with five sky rockets a signal by night. In communicat⟨ing⟩ this, to General Sullivan, the Count wishes not a moment may be lost—and that he may be directed to have persons stationed on the Coast and intermediate expresses to facilitate the Communication between them. Pilots will be a material article. He begs every thing may be forwarded as much as possible; and as many troops collected as may be. He would be glad a detachment could march from your army, or could be sent by water, for which purpose he would send coverning ships, and some vessels he has taken by way of transports; but he cannot think of losing so much time as seems necessary. If the water scheme could shorten it, it would be a happy circumstance. He recommends it to your attention, and that you would take measures if the end can be better answered in this way. and meet him with information of the part he may have to act to execute the plan. I perceive he can with diff⟨iculty⟩ debark 4000 troops but he will try to do it. I am Sir Yr most Respectful & Obedt servant

Alex. Hamilton

I hope your Excellency will excuse my not being myself the bearer of these particulars the end may be answered by Letter. Mr Neville is anxious to get on—I just have heard of dispatches arrived from you; I don’t know but they may contain something new which may make the Count to wish a good conveyance, to return an answer. My stay till tomorrow morning may answer that end—I shall not delay coming forward.

ALS, DLC:GW; ALS copy, DLC: Alexander Hamilton Papers. Maj. Gen. John Sullivan submitted a copy of this letter for consideration by a council of war at Providence on 25 July (Hammond, Sullivan Papers description begins Otis G. Hammond, ed. Letters and Papers of Major-General John Sullivan, Continental Army. 3 vols. Concord, 1930-39. In Collections of the New Hampshire Historical Society, vols. 13–15. description ends , 2:113–14).

1Both the ALS and Hamilton’s translation of Vice Admiral d’Estaing’s letter to GW of this date are in DLC:GW. In that letter d’Estaing acknowledged receipt of GW’s letter of 17 July, carried by Hamilton, and continued: “The just desire, that this wise officer has to render you an account of our conversation, does not permit me to enter into very extensive details—Penetrated with gratitude for your favours I shall only think of deserving them—I will not answer by words—actions alone shall henceforth express my sentiments for you, for your country, for its interest and for our mutual glory.

“I thank you, Sir, for the distinguished manner in which you have received Mr Chouin. He signifies to me that you inspire equally attachment and admiration, into all those who have the happiness of a near and personal view of your character.

“It was not ’till after being authorised by Col: Hamilton, that I ventured to keep with me my countryman Lieutenant Col: Fleury. The certificate you have given him insures him my esteem and confidence. I thank you also for the Captains of vessels & pilots, acquainted with the Rhode of New York, and I will make use of them as soon as possible.”

2The frigate was the Chimère.

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