From Vice Admiral d’Estaing
At sea the 3. of August 1778.
It is difficult to console ones self for the obstacles as numerous as insurmountable which stopped me at Sandy-Hook. The importance of New York, the happiness of fighting the English fleet and the extreme satisfaction of acting directly with you made me desire with the greatest ardor the possibility of entring. I offered, to too little purpose, in an Assembly of your experienced pilots a recompense of fifty thousand crowns, to him who should find us a sufficiency of water. Tis only by action, that my regret can be diminished, and as yet we do nothing—your foresight and your orders have nevertheless, anticipated my wants and rendered my delays less long. The reinforcement you have so properly sent, will, as I am informed, arrive this evening; and it will most assuredly be on the part you have so wisely and expeditiously taken, that our success will depend.
General Sullivan has done me the honor to come and see me and to communicate his views; I will second them with all my power. He is full of that spirit of activity and combination, with which you inspire all those, who have served under your orders—I believe him as fully persuaded as I am of the necessity of acting: The intrenchments that are visible above Conanicut increase dayly; they are numerous. The time I have been at sea begins to make me lose a number of men with the scurvy. The extreme difficulty of procuring water at Shrewsbury, and the tardiness with which it is collected here from different places, have long since obliged me to retrench our allowance The officers and men support this terrible privation with courage and patience; and we have acquired a virtue which has been hitherto refused us—the virtue of perseverance. We doub[t]less owe it to the flattering hope of being useful to allies whom our national taste had itself given us; before the orders of the king had prescribed it.
The Gentlemen, your Generals, will acquit themselves better than I, of the duty, of rendering you an account of the certain state of the preparations going on, and of the small burning of three English vessels, which guarded the Eastern channel.1 I will confine myself to repeating to you, what I cannot well describe, the zeal and the infinite pains of Lieutenant Colonel Laurens. He is on the wing the four and twenty hours round, to procure us refreshments; and when this is done, remains on board during very long days with all the patience of an old sailor. We are indebted to him for a hospital established on shore and for disembarrasing us of our prisonners; which in our situation form two important articles.
I desire much that the present expedition may be speedily terminated, to give me leisure to employ myself with purging the Sound of the English Vessels which now infest the navigation. I have received Col: Sears, with all the consideration and all the confidence, which those merit, whom you are pleased to send me, and when it shall be time for it, I will consult him with the greatest eagerness.
Accept the homage of the attachment & respect with which I have the honor to be—Sir.
P.S: Since writing my letter, I received that which you had the goodness to address me the 26 of July, by Major General Greene—I am going to look for him on shore, that he may not lose any of the present precious moments. The reputation of this General Officer made his arrival to be wished. His influence on his countrymen and his knowledge of the country will render him formidable to our common enemy. You know how to divine whatever we stand in need of; and from what I have seen, the discerning and employing men proper to the business in hand, seem to be one of the qualities which compose the illustrious character you bear. This is perhaps the most important part of the Great General.
Translation, DLC:GW; LS (in French), DLC:GW; Df (in French), FrPNA: Marine, B4, I46; copy (in French), FrPNA: Marine, B4, I46; copy (in French), DNA:PCC, item 152; translation, DNA:PCC, item 59; copy (of DNA translation), ScHi: Henry Laurens Papers; copy (in French), DNA:PCC, item 169; copy (extract in French), FrPBN. The copy in DNA:PCC, item 152, was enclosed with GW’s second letter to Henry Laurens of 7 August. The extract omits the discussion of Colonel Sears and the complimentary closing.