George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Laurens, 24 August 1778

To Henry Laurens

Head Qrs White plains Aug. 24: 1778


I had yesterday the honor to receive your favor of the 20th Instant.1 I take the liberty of transmitting you a Copy of a Letter, which this minute came to hand from Genl Sullivan, advising of the Count D’Estaing’s arrival. He omitted to inclose the Admirals Letter to which he refers and therefore, I can give no further intelligence than what the Copy contains.2 From the suffering of the fleet the Storm must have been exceedingly severe at Sea. I also inclose Two york papers of the 19th & 20th. These mention an engagement off Sandy Hook on the 16th. It could only have been partial on the side of the French Squadron at any rate, as the Languedoc & the Seventy four Gun ship must have lost their Masts before that time. It would seem by the account given in the papers—that the Isis & some other ships on the part of the Enemy had been damaged.3 I have the Honor to be with the greatest respect sir yr Most Obedt st

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 27 Aug. (see JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 11:843).

1GW is apparently referring to Laurens’s first letter to him of 20 August.

2See John Sullivan to GW, 21 Aug., and note 2 to that document.

3James Rivington’s Royal Gazette (New York) of 19 Aug. printed an “Extract from the Journal of Mr. Alexander McPherson, Commander of the ship Elderslie, of Glasgow,” which described an encounter between HMS Isis and a French ship mounting “at least 80 guns” on the afternoon of 16 August. The Isis reportedly gave the larger French ship several broadsides and forced her to flee, but “The situation of the Isis, having her masts rigging and sails shattered to pieces, particularly her yards, having neither lifts nor braces standing, and her foremast without a shroud, prevented her giving chace.” The Royal American Gazette (New York) of 20 Aug. reported that “the Zele [actually the César], of 74 guns, a French Rear-Admiral’s ship, bore down upon his Majesty’s ship Isis of 50 guns,” but she was driven off and “would have struck” had the Isis been able to pursue. That paper also described an engagement of 15 Aug. in which the British warship Renown attacked the French Languedoc, “which had been dismasted in the late storm.” Darkness intervened, and the appearance of “six large French ships” the next morning at “day-break” caused the Renown to bear off.

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