George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General John Sullivan, 26 October 1778

From Major General John Sullivan

Providence October 26th 1778

My Dear General

Since my Last1 I had the Honor of Receiving your Excellenceys favor of the 22d Instant giving an Account of two Divisions of the Fleet having Sailed I am far from thinking their Design is to operate in this Quarter yet your Excellenceys Instructions (to be prepared) Like all your other orders have with me a weight which I Trust will Ever witness how Little Influence my own Judgment has in the Scale when your Excellenceys orders point out what is Necessary My Troops are all ready to move at a minutes warning to whatever place The Enemy may Discover an Intention to Attack I Shall if an appearance take place before Boston be able to Judge from the number & Size of the Ships whether a real Attack or only a Demonstration is Intended I have the Honor to Inclose your Excellencey all the Intelligence from Rhode Island2 & have the Honor to be with much Esteem & Respect your Excys most obedt Servt

Jno. Sullivan


2Sullivan enclosed two intelligence reports from a spy, dated 23 and 25 Oct., both of which are in DLC:GW. The report of 23 Oct. reads: “I have sent the Newport Paper, and what Intelligence, that I could concerning the Enemy.

“There is a Packett from Newyork, a [on] Wednesday [21 Oct.] he says that the Enemy are about to leave Newyork very soon, also that the fleet at Sandy Hook is taking in wood and water to go to Sea, also says they are for Hallifax, and the West Indias, and some for to go to the Northward, but thinks they mean to Garrisson Newport, till spring; they say no more fighting this way, but buisness enough with the French soon—the Packett has brought some news that the forces dont like, but dont know what at present.

“The wood fleet is to go to Long Island for Wood again soon—The Enemy are in great confusion at Newport since the Packett came in—He has told that there are Transports coming, for all the Troops at york from London—Sir, I shall go on again soon—Sir, my friend says that there are no Troops on Conanicutt, but Coll Browns Regiment of New Levies—They wish that they may be brought off, it might be done very easy if no alteration—Sir—you shall know their situation, and number soon, if your honor think proper, I will go on there to a friend that is there, and know how they are Encamp’d—Sir—I shall be glad if I might have my Orders inlarged—Sir if I had Orders so that I could go with two, or three Boats, I could brought off and destroy’d, a great number of their Sheep, they lye so, that it is easy done—my orders are only one Boat—here are Boats Enough—Sir—the Intelligence that I get off from the Island, is from two, or three principle men in Newport town, your honor knows them well, but dont name them at present. . . .N.B. Sir—they do drive the sheep on Scehewest every Day, and night drive them off—I know where they drive them to.”

The report of 25 Oct., which was written at Little Compton, R.I., reads: “I was on the Island last night, and my friend told me that ten Thousand of the Enemy are gone to the West Indias, from Newyork, and some part of their Ships of force, the number, dont know, also say, that some are to go to Hallifax, some to Newport, that is their Orders by the Packet from home, he is inform’d since Thirsday Night [22 Oct.].

“Sir—I was very particular, concerning the Shipping, and their destination they are very private, the above lines came from a Corpl that is in Newport, belonging to the train, my friend says, this we may depend on is the Case.

“Sir—the number of Shipping that is in Newport, is, one 28, two 32, one 36, Guns Each, 30, or 40, Transports—one 32, and the transports were to have gone before this after wood, but are order’d not to Sail till further orders, the meaning of it, dont know, but hope that they are going to leave Newport; also if we dont come and sign the proclamation, they tell them there is a great number at york has, and say if not, they mean to drive the Country soon—the Corpl says the driving will be in the West Indias next—the Corpl says assoon as the whole of the fleet sails from york, they expect the French will come to Newport, and we shall be on the Island again—Sir—I was very particular concerning their going to Boston, he says there is no talk of that—The Situation of the Troops on the Island is as usual—Sir if the Fleet come this way, I shall go on directly and enquire. . . . N.B. Sir—after I had been on, I receiv’d your Letter, I shall go on soon, and shall be very particular concerning the shipping—Sir—Beg that your Honor would be very Private of these lines I mention the Corpl, my friend is very great with him.”

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