George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General John Sullivan, 23 November 1778

From Major General John Sullivan

Providence [R.I.] Novemr 23d 1778

My Dear General

I Last Evening had the Honor of Receiving Your Excellenceys favor of the 18th Instant: My Letter of the 20th Superseades the Necassety of a particular answer to that part of it which Respects the Commissarys Department—I only beg Leave to observe that My Reasons for not Troubling your Excellencey with my Situation arose from a Desire to Avoid Distressing a mind which has already Suffered (but) too much in the present Contest I heard at the Same time your Excy was Laboring under Similar Wants & I could not think of adding to your Distress—applications were made to Every other Quarter that could possibly be thought of—I Shall in future on Like ocasions take the method pointed out by your Excellencey—I am Sensible that we have a good man at the head of the Commissarys Department but many of those Deputies who had Like to have Starvd the Army Last winter Remain in & Suffer the Army to be Reduced to the Lowest State of Distress & When they have Supplied themselves with what the Commissaries Despair of Doing they Complain that the purchasers Enhance the price your Excy has Severely Suffered by them & I pledge my honor to your Excy that many of the Deputies have not mended.

I have the Honor to Inclose your Excy all the Intelligence in this Quarter & think there can remain no Doubt of an Evacuation taking place immedeately1—I must Inform your Excellencey that Sixty Sail mentioned in Capt. Garzeas Letter of the 21 went out and about forty Sail of them returned this Accounts for Crareys Letter & as they Sailed again Next Day Accounts for warners acct in Garzeas Last Letter I think the whole when taken together & Compared with former Intelligences Leaves no room to Doubt of a Speedy Evacuation of Rhode Island I think the fleet Collecting at the Hook will take all from New York. I have the Honor to be with the Highest affection & Esteem yr Excys most obedt Servt

Jno. Sullivan


1The enclosed extract of a letter from Col. Archibald Crary to Sullivan, dated 20 Nov. at Little Compton, R.I., reads: “There has a Fleet gone into Newport to day. Lieutenant Chaffey was upon the Water and counted about Forty Sail. There were 3 Ships with them and appeard to come down the Sound” (DLC:GW).

The enclosed copy of a letter from Capt. John Garzia to Sullivan, dated 21 Nov. at Warwick, R.I., reads: “I saw yesterday a large Fleet sail from Newport, and I have been inform’d by a boat from Point Judith, it consisted of about sixty Sail—mostly Ships. it now being about 2 oclock in the afternoon, & I have just come out of the Neck from which place I saw another Fleet get under sail and go out of the harbour of about twenty Sail, I saw them out between the light House and Point Judith” (DLC:GW).

Another enclosed extract of a letter from Garzia to Sullivan, dated 22 Nov. at Warwick, reads: “These inform your Honor, that agreeable to your Orders of the 20th Instant, of forwarding the Letter to Admiral Byron, Yesterday Morning at day light I sent it forward in a Flag of Truce which did not return till this Afternoon 2 OClock, They were obligd to go down to Rhode Island abreast of Newport—They rowd not less than Forty Miles—In consequence of which I have a long detail to write. They proceeded down the east Side of Prudence and then sheerd over for Rhode Island, saw no Tents about Butt’s Hill nor on any other part of the Island—He then proceeded to the Ship laying near Rhode Island, where they recd him very kindly and was exceedingly familiar with Him. much more so than formerly. He found them very busy at Work—watering their Ships and mending their Sails. The Fleet that saild yesterday consisted of Thirty seven Sail—Seven of which were Ships—the rest Brigs Schooners & Sloops—the larger part Brigs—He was Informd they were bound to N: York—They all lookd deep in the water—The Officers conversation with him was a Reconciliation and let us drub France. They gave him many Instances that they were going to leave this cold Climate—for some were damning this cold Place Others answering dont make yourselves uneasy—We will be in a warm Country in a few days—Among the rest they had the Saturday’s before last Paper, & were making observations on the mention of Congress with regard to their burning—They said they woud be more sensible in a few days, and We had seen no burning yet; and frequently in their discourse gave him to understand that there was Havock and Destruction at the door—They also enterd into various discourses and told him in plain words that it woud not be long before We shoud have possession of Newport again—They were fixing every kind of Pens on Deck for Stock. taking Sheep on Board &c. The discourse they had with the People was, that Yesterday was the day they woud have burnt Newport, only they had not got quite ready to go out. As their Ships had sufferd much in the late Gales of Wind Captn Warner and all the Men with him seem satisfied in every point that they are certainly determind to leave the Island in a few days, and all their discourses point out they are bound to the West Indies—What their Intention is otherwise is impossible to determine The observations Captn Warner made in regard to the Shipping laying there are Ten Sail of the Line One Frigate—& twelve Sail of Ships more which He took to be Transports. Those lay close to the Wharves and are all Square riggd Vessels” (DLC:GW).

Garzia, of East Greenwich, R.I., was appointed a captain-lieutenant in Col. Robert Elliott’s Rhode Island Artillery Regiment in December 1776, and was promoted to captain the following summer. During the winter of 1778–79 he commanded a detachment of 30 men in a fort at Warwick, sending Sullivan regular intelligence of enemy activity in the state. In June 1779 he was appointed captain of one of four companies of light infantry created for special service under Col. William Barton.

John Warner of Warwick was appointed a captain-lieutenant in Col. Robert Elliott’s Rhode Island Artillery Regiment in December 1776, and was promoted to captain in February 1779.

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