George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Jay, 22 February 1779

From John Jay

Philadelphia 22nd Feby 1779


I am this moment honored with Your Excellency’s Favor of the 19th Inst: It shall, with the Papers enclosed, be communicated to Congress this Morning, & their Orders on the Subject immediately transmitted to You.1

Your Excellency will find herewith enclosed Copies of two Acts of Congress, of the 20th Inst: One respecting Brigr General McIntosh, & the Proceedings of a Court-Martial held by his Order—The other relates to supplying the Officers with Portmanteaus &c.2

By a Vessel, which arrived Yesterday in fourteen days from Martinico, the Minister of France received a Letter; he has been so obliging as to favor me with the enclosed Extract from it.3 I have the Honor to be, with the greatest Respect & Esteem Your Excellencys most obedient & hble Servt

John Jay Presidt

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 14.

1For Congress’s action on this date regarding the letters to Maj. Gen. Charles Lee from friends in New York City that GW had enclosed in his letter to Jay of 19 Feb., see the source note to that document. For Congress’s action regarding Maj. Gen. Alexander McDougall’s request for money, which GW had conveyed in his letter to Jay of 19 Feb., see Jay to GW, 23 February.

2The enclosed copies of these two resolutions of 20 Feb. are in DLC:GW (see also JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 13:213–15). In the resolution regarding Brig. Gen. Lachlan McIntosh, Congress referred to GW the court-martial proceedings for the 1–21 Jan. trial of deputy quartermaster general Col. Archibald Steele, which McIntosh had enclosed in an unfound letter to Congress of 29 January. In that resolution Congress also directed GW “to appoint a proper officer to succeed” McIntosh as commander at Fort Pitt, McIntosh having “requested leave to retire from that command.” On being relieved, McIntosh was to “repair to the main army or to such post as shall be assigned to him by the commander in chief.” The court-martial proceedings have not been identified, but copies of numerous letters and other papers relating to Steele’s trial, which range in date from 7 June 1778 to 29 Jan. 1779, are with the documents for 1 Jan. 1779 in DLC:GW, ser. 4. For the charges of neglect, disobedience, and malfeasance on which Steele was tried and acquitted, see General Orders, 21 April 1779. GW returned the court-martial proceedings in his letter to Jay of 20 March, expressing his opinion that Steele’s acquittal ought to be confirmed, but not officially approving that verdict. On 12 April, Jay again sent the proceedings to GW (DLC:GW), this time with Congress’s explicit request that GW make a final decision in the case, which GW did by formally confirming Steele’s acquittal in the general orders for 21 April (see also Jay to GW, 25 April, DLC:GW). For GW’s appointment of Col. Daniel Brodhead as McIntosh’s successor, see his letters of 5 March to Brodhead and McIntosh.

The resolution of 20 Feb. regarding portmanteaus permitted officers to retain for their own use portmanteaus and valises issued to them by the quartermaster general, “provided that no officer shall be more than once furnished [with them] at the public expence... unless unavoidably lost or taken by the enemy in time of action.” For GW’s orders directing the quartermaster general, Nathanael Greene, to issue portmanteaus to officers as a means of contracting the army’s baggage and reducing the number of baggage wagons, see General Orders, 17 April. For Greene’s support of this measure, see Greene to Henry Laurens, 1 June 1778, to Board of War, 27 Feb. 1779, and to John Cox, 7 April 1779, Greene Papers description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends , 2:420–22, 3:318–19, 385.

3The enclosed extract from a letter, dated 27 Jan. 1779, written by an unknown person at Martinique in the West Indies to the French minister to the United States, Conrad-Alexandre Gérard, reads: “Messrs Byron & Barrington are still at St Lucie, and are paying for their Imprudence by the burial of from 12 to 15 Soldiers every day—They are endeavouring to find out the least sickly & unhealthy places for hospitals—If this continues, their Army will soon be incapacitated to preserve that Island, which is the Grave of Europeans—The two fleets are watching each other, & both keep their Stations—We are waiting for the Fleet of Mr the Count de Grasse.

“The Swift, a frigate which was sent to London with the News of the taking St Lucie, was captured by the King’s frigate La Boudeusse, commanded by the Count de Grugné [Grenier]. The dispatches, with which the Swift was charged, have fallen into our hands” (DLC:GW). The version of this extract that was published in the Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser (Philadelphia) for 23 Feb. and the Pennsylvania Evening Post (Philadelphia) for 26 Feb. is dated 29 Jan., and it differs considerably in wording but not in essential meaning from the version that was sent to GW, due most probably to the two versions being differently translated from French to English. A British expeditionary force commanded by Maj. Gen. James Grant landed on the French island of St. Lucia in the West Indies on 13–14 Dec. 1778. During the next two weeks Vice Admiral d’Estaing tried but failed to dislodge the British from the island, and on 30 Dec. the French governor surrendered (see Whinyates, Services of Francis Downman description begins F. A. Whinyates, ed. The Services of Lieut.-Colonel Francis Downman, R.A., in France, North America, and the West Indies, between the Years 1758 and 1784. Woolwich, England, 1898. description ends , 91–106). Grant’s force operated under Rear Adm. Samuel Barrington, the British commander in chief in the West Indies. Vice Adm. John Byron arrived at St. Lucia with his fleet on 6 Jan. and replaced Barrington as West Indies commander. De Grasse’s fleet arrived at Martinique in early April to reinforce the French.

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