George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Jean Holker, 6 November 1778

From Jean Holker

Boston the 6th November 1778./.


I have the honor of returning your Excellency’s last letter to Count d’Estaing:1 I should have been glad to have open’d it & to have forwarded a vessel if necessary on purpose; But I had not positive orders on the Subject, & would not take it upon myself, though I have seen all your late correspondence with him.

I have the pleasure of forwarding to you some Coppys of the Count’s proclamation, which I dare say you’ll peruse with some satisfaction.2

Permit me to entreat your Excellency to forward the Letters for our Minister Plénipotentiary with the utmost diligence.

The Count sail’d with his whole squadron in perfect health & good order on the fourth Currant at about 10 oclock from Nantasket road: the Pilots are returned & left all well.3

we have Just learned that the somerset a British 64, is wreck’d on the south side of Cape Cod, by the late storm; the Crew is landed excepting about 40, who are Supposed to be drown’d: they are marching to this City in three divisions. four more ships were seen in the utmost distress:4 It appears that admiral Byron with 16, ship’s of the line, has been Cruizing off George’s Bank5 to Intercept his most Christian majestys squadron, & that his fleet is now dispersed: It is not unlikely that at least some Stragglers will fall in with the Count’s squadron.

I am charged By him to negotiate some important information with your Excellency, of which I Believe the Marquis of LaFayette & Mr Hamilton have had some hints: I shall therefore have the honor of waiting on your excellency on my return to Philadelphia, which is only Retarded By the distress of 200, sick Prisoners lately arrived from New york, partly here & partly at Norwich.6

I shall be proud & happy to have such an opportunity of paying you my Respects, & of Gratifying the desire I had entertained in Europe of being personaly acquainted with a Général of your distinguish’d merit, & of whom I have allways been taught & in particular By Messrs Franklin & Deane to entertain the most élevated Ideas.

In the mean while I have the honor of subscribing myself, most Respectfully, Your Excellency’s, Most obedient, humble servant

agent gnal of the Royal Marine
& Consul of France./.


2D’Estaing’s declaration of 28 Oct. to “former Frenchmen in North America” urged them to abandon Great Britain and join in common cause with the United States (DNA:PCC, item 59; see also 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 , 2:215).

3D’Estaing sailed with his fleet for the West Indies, where in December 1778 he attempted unsuccessfully to recapture the British-held island of St. Lucia. In July 1779 he captured the islands of St. Vincent and Grenada and fought an inconclusive battle with a British fleet under Vice Admiral John Byron; in October 1779 he participated in the disastrous Franco-American assault on Savannah, Georgia.

4For more on the storm and the fate of the Somerset and her crew, see John Sullivan to GW, 10 Nov., n.2.

5George’s Bank, an oval-shaped bank or shoal about 150 miles long and 75 miles wide, lay just south of the Gulf of Maine and about 75 miles off the coast of Massachusetts.

6For the “important information” to be communicated by Holker, see D’Estaing to GW, 26 Oct., and GW to D’Estaing, 31 October. Holker left Boston at the beginning of December (see William Heath to GW, 1 Dec.).

Index Entries