From Jonathan Trumbull, Sr.
Lebanon [Conn.] 27th August 1778
I received your favor of the 8th instant, requesting that the Fleet under the Command of Count D’Estaing might be supplied with Water from New-London, for which I gave immediate Orders; and sundry Vessels were employed in that business, by which conclude they were, and might still have been sufficiently supplied with that very necessary article, had they continued on that Station—but alas! contrary to our expectation, the Count, with the whole of his Fleet, are with drawn, and gone to Boston to repair the Damages they recieved in the late heavy gale, and this, notwithstanding the entreaties of General Sullivan, and the other General Officers, to the contrary—of which event Your Excellency hath undoubtedly been advised before this—The consequence I fear, will be, that we shall be obliged to evacuate Rhode Island—Thus are our raised expectations, from an Expedition, which had all the appearance of Success, damped—This shews us that we ought not to place our dependence too much on foreign Aid; but may such a disappointment teach us to place our trust and confidence in that Supreme Being who governs the Universe, and can, with infinite ease, turn those things which, we are ready to conclude, are against us, eventually to our advantage, in whose all-wise disposals may we chearfully acquiesce, and rest satisfied that whatever he doth is right.
I must now beg leave to turn Your Attention to a case of peculiar, and accumulated distress—I mean the distressed situation of the Inhabitants of Westmoreland on the Susquehanna, who survived the more than barbarian cruelty of the Indians and Tories, which, in conjunction, they wreaked1 on that unhappy place, in beginning of July last, slaying above 300 Men, and driving more than 3,000 Inhabitants, mostly Women and Children, from their before peaceful Habitations, after having stripped and plundered them of all the necessaries of Life, burning and destroying all their buildings, and carrying off all their Cattle and other Live-Stock—leaving them in the most destitute, and deplorable circumstances—a particular representation whereof hath lately been laid before me by Messrs Jenkins, Gallup and Harding—Persons of integrity, who removed from the Eastern part of this State, and settled at said Westmoreland, and had the good fortune to escape the Carnage2—they also inform, that at the time the Inhabitants came off, there was on the ground large and very valuable Crops of English and Indian Corn, which must inevitably be lost, unless speedy measures be taken to prevent it.
Your Excellency hath undoubtedly been made acquainted with the Distresses of this People, and felt the tenderest emotions for them, and a willingness to afford them all the relief in your power, consistent with the safety and good of the whole.
I have this day wrote to Congress on the Subject,3 and proposed to their consideration, whether it would not be advisable that a sufficient Force, to consist of 1500, or 2,000 men, be immediately sent into that part of the Country, under whose protection the Inhabitants would return, and secure their Crops, which would be an important acquisition, and also to pursue that detestable Banditti into their own Country—chastise them for their insolence and cruelty exercised towards the innocent Inhabitants aforementioned, and effectually prevent their making any further Depredations on that, or any other of our back settlem⟨ents.⟩ Such measure, I am persuaded, would produce ⟨ the ⟩ happiest effects—would recommend this Affair to Your Excellency’s Consideration; and wish, in case the state of the Army, and present appearances of things will permit, that Your Excellency would order a sufficient number—to be detached from the Continental Army, and employed for the purpose aforesaid. I am, with Esteem & Regard Sir your most Obedient humble Servant
ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, CtHi: Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., Papers; LB, Ct: Trumbull Papers. The cover of the ALS is marked, “Favoured Capt. Harding.” Seth Harding (1734–1814) was traveling to Philadelphia in pursuit of a naval commission and carried the letter cited in note 3 below. Where the ALS is mutilated, the characters in angle brackets have been taken from the letter-book copy.
1. Both the letter-book copy and the draft have “savagely wreaked” at this point.
2. Trumbull may have been referring to John Jenkins of the Exeter District and William Gallup (1723–1803) or Hallet Gallup of the Kingston District, each of whom signed an April 1780 petition to the Connecticut legislature praying for relief for the Wyoming refugees ( Susquehanna Company Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd and Robert J. Taylor, eds. The Susquehannah Company Papers. 11 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., and London, 1930–71. description ends , 7:59–62). There were a number of Hardings in the area, most notably Capt. Stephen Harding (1723–1789) of the Exeter District.
3. See Trumbull to Henry Laurens, 27–31 Aug. 1778, in DNA:PCC, item 66.