George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Duportail, 6 April 1779

From Brigadier General Duportail

philad. 6 april 1779


i send to your excellency a Copy of the Resolved of the Council about me. in Council philad. march 31 1779

this board taking into Consideration general du portail’s letter and the instructions Received from general washington dated 30th of june 1778 do Resolve that from the Confidence they Repose in general duportail and their opinion of his skill and jugement he be fully authorised and assisted by this board to proceed in the matters Contained in his said orders. at the same time Requesting and expecting that he will not Communicate the Knowledge he shall acquire of the depth of the River or other important Circumstances of our defence to more persons than are absolutely necessary for his assistance. and as this board have no Reason to believe, at present that the fortifications on the River will be at the expense of the united states but of this state only, that he Report his proceedings to this board and lodge with the secretary all the Rough draughts and papers Containing the soundings distance and plans except what his excellency the Command in Chief may thinck proper to be laid before him. extract from the minuts 16th March.1

i am very sorry the Council spent so much time to take this Resolution. yet as it is the intention of your excellency i will stay here till the business be done. i thinck it will in ten or twelve days, if no hindrances from the marine for boats or workmen d’ont happen.2

i beg your excellency to be pleased that Colonel la radiere and major villefranche stay here with me, the operations Requiring many persons. i wrote alreddy to you about it six weeks ago, but your silence in your last letter make me believe you did not Received my letter.3 i have the honour to be with great Respect your excellency’s the most obedi[e]nt and very humble servant


ALS, MH: Jared Sparks Collection.

1For Joseph Reed’s letter to Duportail of 31 March enclosing these resolutions, see GW to Duportail, 29 March, n.3. These apparently confidential resolutions do not appear in the council proceedings for 16 or 31 March printed in Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 11:721, 731–32. For Duportail’s dispute with the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council over how to conduct surveys of Philadelphia and the Delaware River, see Joseph Reed to GW, 29 March, and n.3 to that document.

2Duportail completed his portion of the survey work and presented a draft of fortifications proposed for Philadelphia and the Delaware River to the Pennsylvania council by 14 May. On that date the council adopted a resolution of thanks and authorized a $2,000 payment for Duportail as well as payments of $1,000 and $600 to his assistants, Colonel La Radière and Major Villefranche de Genton, respectively (see Duportail to Reed, 14 and 15 May, and Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council to Duportail, 14 May, in Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st. ser., 7:400, 403, 409, and Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council minutes, 14 May, in Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 11:776–77).

3This letter, which Duportail apparently wrote to GW in late February, has not been found. GW had written Duportail most recently on 29 March.

GW wrote to Duportail from Middlebrook on 17 April: “I am favoured with yours of the 6th—I am glad that the council have come to a resolution which will enable you to proceed; and I hope you may receive every aid necessary to execute the business with satisfaction and dispatch.

“It is agreeable to me that you retain such of the Gentlemen, as you think proper to assist you in your operations” (Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

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