George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens, 25 July 1778

From Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens

Point Judith 40 Miles from Providence
25th July 1778.


I had the honor of writing to your Excellency from Lebanon—the 23d inst.—the day following at 3 oClock in the afternoon I arrived at Providence—as soon as I had delivered Genl Sullivan Your Excellencys dispatches and instructions1—I set out for this place with Col. Wall and an ample number of Pilots whom General Sullivan had provided and put under his command—Col. Wall is a man of Character and property perfectly acquainted with the coast &ca2—those under him are experienced Pilots and men of responsibility—We arrived here at nine oClock this morning—having been detained till that time in procuring a party of militia—and making arrangements both for securing such boats as we shall want for our own immediate use—and such as without this precaution might be employed in communicating intelligence to the enemy—We have agreed with four whale-boat privateers belonging to Connecticut manned with enterprising experienced mariners—and pressed four belonging to this state—we have given them to understand that the Frigate lying at Connecticut River is to push out of the sound—and that we are to meet her with hands to enable her to go round and join the french fleet3—for which purpose their boats are necessary—the number that we have is amply sufficient for our business—and now we are in readiness—two Sentinels will be posted in an advantageous place, whose business will be to attend to whatever Signals may be given from the Sea-bord—besides which Col. Wall the Master-pilots and myself will alternately hold watch and keep our attention awake—’till last night 12 oClock unfavorable winds have prevailed—if the Gale which we have at present does not prove inconstant, it will not be long before we are called upon—Our Situation commands a view of the several entrances to New-port—and block island is directly opposite to us—so that nothing can pass to or from New-port unnoticed—Genl Sullivan estimates the enemys land force here at 7000—the State of their Shipping he informs me is as follows—in the E. Channel, (or that between Seconet Point and Rhode Island) 2 Galleys and 1 Small frigate—in the West Channel (or that between Boston neck4 and Connanicut Island) 2 Small frigates—In the Middle or main Channel 2 Frigates—at Newport 2 or 3 Frigates As Genl Sullivan will probably write to Your Excellency—I forbear descending to farther particulars—he has been indefatigable and nothing on his part will be wanting. I have the honor to be with the greatest respect Your Excellencys most obedt Servt

John Laurens Aide de Camp


2William Wall (d. 1803?) of Providence was appointed a lieutenant colonel of the Rhode Island artillery regiment in December 1776. According to a letter from Providence published in the Continental Journal, and Weekly Advertiser (Boston), 30 July, on the evening of 24 July “thirty pilots were dispatched for Point-Judith, to go on board the fleet.”

3Laurens was evidently referring to the Continental frigate Trumbull, which was launched in September 1776 but remained in the Connecticut River until 1779 because its deep draft created difficulty in crossing the bar at the river’s mouth into Long Island Sound.

4Boston Neck is on the Rhode Island mainland, north of Narragansett and west of Conanicut Island.

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