George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General John Sullivan, 1 August 1778

From Major General John Sullivan

Head Qrs Providence August 1st 1778

Dear General

It is with pleasure I inform your Excellency that our preparations in this Department are as forward as Circumstances will admit, or Industry and application could make them.

I submitt’d the Plan of Operations (sometime since communicated to your Excellency) to Admiral Count D. Estaign & was happy in its receiving his approbation & concurrence.1

Upon his proceeding to put part of them in Execution the greatest Consternation apparently prevail’d on the part of the Enemy—The Crews of the Kings Fisher & two of their Gallies (at the appearance of the French fleet) abandon’d & sat them on fire, after Charging their Cannon with Grape to prevent their being Extinguish’d—they were entirely consum’d.2

I wait with Impatience the arrival of the Marquiss & the different Corps order’d to this Station. Their Motions are by no means so rapid as I could wish, but your Excellency may rely that when collected I shall proceed without delay to put them into immediate Action.

My Acknowledgments are due for your kind attention in sending Genl Green to my assistance & Council—I have the Honor likewise to acknowledge the receipt of your Commands of 27th & 28th last Month & promise your Excellency that I shall religiously observe the Recommendations they contain.

From what past in my late Interview with Count D. Estaign I think I can venture to assure your Excellency that the greatest Harmony will subsist between us, with respect to command. I have the Honor to be with the utmost Attachment & respect Your Excellency’s Oblig’d & very Hble Servant

sign’d Jno. Sullivan

P.s. The Regiments on Conanecut abandon’d it on the coming up of the french ships & retir’d to Rhode Island My best accounts of the Enemy’s strength makes them not more than 5.200 which are better warrant’d than my former Accounts.3



Copy, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169. The copy in item 152 was enclosed with GW’s letter to Henry Laurens of 3–4 August.

1Sullivan was referring to the plan of operations suggested in his letter to Vice Admiral d’Estaing of 25 July, enclosed in Sullivan’s letter to GW of 26 July (see note 3 to that letter). For d’Estaing’s reply to Sullivan’s plan, dated 30 July, see 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 , 2:151–53.

2D’Estaing wrote to Sullivan on 31 July that “The frigate [sloop] Kingfisher, having 18 nine-pounders, and 2 three-pounders, as well as the galley Spitfire, carrying two eighteens, two twelves, and six sixes, with the galley Lamb, carrying two eighteens, two nines and two sixes, were burned under an English battery at the approach of my frigates, which were … infinitely weaker, owing to the enormous difference in the calibre of the guns” (ibid., 2:154; see also Mackenzie Diary description begins Diary of Frederick Mackenzie Giving a Daily Narrative of His Military Service as an Officer of the Regiment of Royal Welch Fusiliers during the Years 1775–1781 in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 1930. description ends , 2:321; Robert Pigot to Henry Clinton, 31 July–1 Aug., P.R.O., Colonial Office, 5/96, Military Correspondence of the British Generals).

3According to the diary of Capt. Frederick Mackenzie of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, after the French fleet appeared off Rhode Island on 29 July, “Boats were immediately sent over to Connonicut, from whence the Two Battalions of Anspach and Brown’s Regiment of Provincials were withdrawn, leaving small detachments only in the Batteries on Fox-hill and The Dumplins.” Private Johann Conrad Döhla of the Anspach Regiment recorded that those detachments evacuated the island on 30 July after the French ships fired on the batteries (ibid., 2:319; Döhla, Hessian Diary description begins Johann Conrad Döhla. A Hessian Diary of the American Revolution. Translated and edited by Bruce E. Burgoyne. Norman, Okla., and London, 1990. description ends , 81; see also Prechtel, Diary description begins Johann Ernst Prechtel. A Hessian Officer’s Diary of the American Revolution. Translated and edited by Bruce E. Burgoyne. Bowie, Md., 1994. description ends , 22, 143; “Newport in the Hands of the British,” description begins “Newport in the Hands of the British. A Diary of the Revolution.” Historical Magazine, and Notes and Queries Concerning the Antiquities, History, and Biography of America, 4 (1860): 1–4, 34–38, 69–72, 105–7, 134–37, 172–73. description ends 72).

Index Entries