George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General John Sullivan, 16 September 1778

From Major General John Sullivan

Providence Septemr [16]th1 1778

My Dear General

This Day affords nothing new—I have been Honoured with your Excellenceys favor of the 13th Instant—I am well Convinced that the Enemy will Evacuate Newyork both by your Excys Letters and Every other Circumstance; Some persons who have Lately been Releasd from that City Declare that the Enemy are Laying up no forage and are Selling the wood on hand at half price: than which nothing can be better Evidence of an Intended Departure—My opinion is that they have not in Contemplation an Attack upon the Grand Army if they had General Gray with four or five thousd of their best Troops would not be Sent & kept this way to Plunder &ca2 as to General Clintons Returning it is Easy to be Accounted for he at first Expected to have the Honor of Relieving Rhode Island but being too Late he Returned to take off his army & knowing that no further attempt could be made on Rhode Island without an additional French Fleet, he Left Gray to Ravage the Coast while he brought on the Rest of the Force. Lord Howes Hovering about the East End of Long Island Shows that their Fleet is to be made up there3—where they may Either try for Boston & the French Fleet or Evacuate America altogether I rather Incline to think the former Though Reason Should point out to them the Latter. I have made Every preparation in my power to oppose their Designs (but my numbers are Small) I Inclose your Excellencey a List of officers in Colo. Henlys Regt who have Received no Commissions with the Date they Say their Commissions ought to bear4 Colo. Henly can Satisfy your Excy on this point the officers are Earnest for their Commissions—General Glover Desires me to mention to your Excellencey That he Lost a Horse in the Action of the 29th of August & to know whether he may Expect pay Some other officers are in the Same Situation. I have often heard that This is Customary in the British Army & I find by the orderly Book of General Clinton That after the Battle of monmouth he Called for Returns of Horses killed in Action That they might be paid by the Quarter master which Confirms me in opinion that it is a Settled Rule with them—I am told it is So in all other Armies but dont know Enough of their Regulations to Say it is or is not So Sure I am that nothing can be more Reasonable—I must beg your Excellencey as the Clouds Seem to gather in this Quarter to permit General Green to Remain with me if the affairs of the Grand Army will permit: otherwise I would not wish it though his absence would be most Sensibly felt by me—a midshipman of one of the British Frigates which was Burned at Rhode Island Deserted he Commanded the Sailors Battery in the Siege; & was in the Action of the 29th. he Says that their Loss was nearly the Same as Reported & adds that Pigott is in Arrest for misconduct on the 29th in Suffering Some Regts to be cut to pieces without giving them proper Support he Says the 22d 43 & 38 of the British are Ruined. I have heard the Report of Pigots arrest from various other Quarters but can Scarcely credit it as he continues to write me & answer the Letters I Send Respecting prisoners &c. The Deserter was taken master of a Ship from Newbury & (as he Says) forced into their Service he has a wife at Newburey Port.

In my Letter to Congress of the 31 Instant I forgot to mention the Gallant behaviour of Major Tousard of the marquis De La Fayettes Family; who in taking a Field piece from the Enemy gave the most Striking proofs of his Bravery he Lost his Right Arm in the Attempt & has born his Loss with the most Heroic Fortitude—your Excellencey will please to make Such mention of him to Congress as you Shall think proper.5 I with pleasure Inform your Excellencey that Such has been the unwearied pains of Doctr Tillotson & his Surgeons that our wounded are in the most promising Situation: from upward of a hundred & Forty wounds many of which were through the Body head &c. not five will in all probability Die many who were Even Shot through the Breast are now walking about & all in a fair way of Recovery. I have the honor to be my Dear General yours most Sincerely

Jno. Sullivan


1Sullivan wrote “15th” on the manuscript, but in his letter to GW of 17 Sept. he says: “I think my Letter of Yesterday bears Date the 15th which your Excellency will please to Rectify.” Although GW replied to Sullivan on 20 Sept. that the misdated letter would be changed as requested, no letter from Sullivan to GW dated 16 Sept. has been found. Of the two letters from Sullivan to GW dated 15 Sept. in the Washington Papers at DLC, this letter seems most likely to be the one written on 16 Sept., because the context of Sullivan’s other letter and his changing of its date to 15 Sept. indicate that it was written on that day rather than on the 16th.

2British troops under the command of Maj. Gen. Charles Grey had recently raided New Bedford and Fairhaven, Mass., and Martha’s Vineyard (see d’Estaing to GW, 8 Sept., n.3, and Gruber, Peebles’ American War description begins Ira D. Gruber, ed. John Peebles’ American War: The Diary of a Scottish Grenadier, 1776–1782. Mechanicsburg, Pa., 1998. description ends , 215–20).

3Lord Howe’s fleet had arrived at New York on 11 Sept. (see Kemble Papers description begins [Stephen Kemble]. The Kemble Papers. 2 vols. New York, 1884-85. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 16–17. description ends , 1:162, and Laughton, “Journals of Henry Duncan,” description begins John Knox Laughton, ed. “Journals of Henry Duncan, Captain, Royal Navy, 1776–1782.” The Naval Miscellany 1 (London, 1902): 105–219. In Publications of the Navy Records Society, vol. 20. description ends 164).

4The enclosed return, which is dated 8 Sept. at Providence and is signed by Capt. Lemuel Trescott as commanding officer of Col. David Henley’s regiment, lists five captains, six lieutenants, two ensigns, and a paymaster who claimed various dates of appointment in 1777 (DLC:GW). On 19 December 1778 GW sent Trescott a commission as major of Henley’s regiment backdated to 20 May 1778 (Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

5For Sullivan’s letter to Henry Laurens of 31 Aug., 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 , 2:280–86; see also Sullivan to GW, 31 August. For an account of the wounding of Anne-Louis, chevalier de Tousard, at the Battle of Rhode Island on 29 Aug., see Lafayette to GW, 1 September. For Congress’s subsequent breveting of Tousard as a lieutenant colonel and granting him a pension, see Henry Laurens to GW, 30 October.

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