George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Vice Admiral d’Estaing, 31 October 1778

To Vice Admiral d’Estaing

Head Qrs Fredericksburgh October 31st 78


I have had the happiness of receiveing your Excellencys letters of the 23 and 26th. I thank you for the extract of Mr Boubees letter, which Yr Excellency so obligingly communicates. His particular enumeration of the vessels of war which sailed with the fleet he mentions, corresponds with the advices I have received; but You will have been informed before this, that the supposed sailing of a body of troops in that fleet was a mistake of the same nature into which my observers fell. It was however the most natural one, that can be imagined, and such as might impose itself on the most careful circumspection. I have the honor to inclose copies of four letters which contain the most recent and authentic information I have collected.1

I shall not be surprised if in a little time, Admiral Byron should make a demonstration before the harbour of Boston—deriving confidence from the superiority of his force. His apprehensions of your Excellency’s activity may suggest this measure to cover the movements which the enemy are making off the coast.

Your Excellency’s sentiments give value to my own on the utility of some well combined—system of fortifications for the security of our principal sea port towns—The predatory war, which the enemy threaten, and have actually carried on in several instances, and which they no doubt have the disposition, when they have the opportunity, to repeat—give additional force to the other reasons for a measure of that nature.

I impatiently expect the arrival of Mr Holker to confer with him on the important objects with which he will be charged—I shall cautiously observe the secrecy You desire—Col. Hamilton’s high respect for Your Excellency cannot permit him to be insensible to so flattering a mark of your confidence and friendship, as the exception, in his favour affords.

I received a letter yesterday from the Marquis—He gives me to hope the pleasure of seeing him tomorrow—He also intimates that Lord Carlisle has not only declined his proposition for the present, but by a prudent foresight, has provided against the necessity of reviving the question at any future period.2 With the warmest esteem and most respectful attachment I have the honor to be Yr Excellency’s Most Obedt Ser.

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman wrote on the docket of the draft manuscript: “returned by Mr Holker the Count having sailed” (see Jean Holker to GW, 6 Nov., DLC:GW).

1Hamilton wrote the following memorandum at the end of the draft manuscript: “Inclosed extract from a letter of Lord Stirling of the 29th with one inclosed from a spy signed L dated 25th—another—of the 30th & another of Major Lee of the same date.” The extracts apparently consisted of the fourth, fifth, and seventh sentences of Stirling’s letter to GW of 29 Oct.; part of the letter from “L” to Matthias Ogden of 25–26 Oct., which was enclosed in Stirling’s letter to GW of 29 Oct.; the first paragraph of Stirling’s first letter to GW of 30 Oct.; and part of the letter from Henry Lee, Jr., to Charles Scott, of 30 Oct., that was enclosed in Scott’s letter to GW of 30 October.

2This letter to GW from Lafayette has not been found. For Lafayette’s journey from Philadelphia to GW’s headquarters, see Lafayette to GW, 24 Oct., and Stirling to GW, 30 Oct. (first letter). For Lafayette’s proposed duel with Lord Carlisle, see Lafayette to GW, 24 Sept., and notes 3 and 5 to that document. For Carlisle’s letter to Lafayette of 11 Oct., refusing to be drawn into a duel with him, see Lafayette Papers description begins Stanley J. Idzerda et al., eds. Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776–1790. 5 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., 1977-83. description ends , 2:189.

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