George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Horatio Gates, 28 August 1779

To Major General Horatio Gates

Head Quarters West-point 28th Augt 1779.


On the 24th instant a New-York paper announced the arrival of a 74 Ship—(one of Admiral Arbuthnot’s) and that the whole fleet were about 30 leagues Eastward. Our advices since confirm their arrival in the Hook on the 25th.1 I have not yet learned what regiments, it has brought, or the general amount of the reinforcement.2

I have been favored with your account to Col. Hay.3 I wish for a confirmation of the West-India captures. It serves to lessen in some measure our misfortune at Ponobscut.4 I am sir Your most obt hbl. servt

Go: Washington

LS, in James McHenry’s and GW’s writing, NHi: Gates Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1GW inserted the last three words on the LS.

2For GW’s receipt of intelligence on the arrival of the long-expected fleet of British vice admiral Marriot Arbuthnot, which was convoying transports with British reinforcements, see GW to John Jay, 24–27 Aug., and n.8 to that document. For GW’s defensive preparations for the arrival of the reinforcements, see GW to Jay, 11 Aug., n.5.

3A copy of a letter from Gates to Lt. Col. Udny Hay, dated 24 Aug. at Providence, R.I., reads: “Your Charming Little mercury came Yesterday evening with the well on news You So obligingly Sent us—I wish in Return I Could Say Your Conjectures in regard to penobscot were not too well founded I have it not officially but I fear too Certainly that a Line of Battle Ships Viz/ the Raiso[n]able and four frigates appeared Suddenly at Penobscut—and caused the Destruction of our fleet—& the Retreat of our Army I do not find we have Lost any men at least any Considerable number as the Crews Got on Shore and Burnt the Vessels the Army Effected a Good Retreat by fort pounell [Pownal]—& Cambden Report Says further that Sir Geo. Collier Carried Two Regiments to the Succour of his friend General McLean—Our friends in Boston Were too Long prepairing their armament, Not Withstanding the enemy never thought of reinforcing untill the prisoners who made their Escape in the Virginia Pilote Boat arrived at new york as I have not proper official information of this affair I Cannot write Possitively to the General but wish you may shew him this Letter—Colo. Jacksons Regiment are safe arrived at Portsmouth.” Gates added a postcript to the letter: “To Counterballance this bad News our three frigates, the Ranger the Queen of france & Providence are Returned to Boston with six of Ten west india men they lately took out of a fleet of 60—Sail near the Banks of new found Land the other four are hourly expected Cargoes estimated at—5000—Hhds Rum & Sugar with other Valuable Goods.” This copy was apparently sent to Maj. Gen. William Heath. The letter is docketed by Heath: “From Genl Gates to Colo. Hay respectg the Ponobscote Expedition and prizes Sent into Boston” and addressed: “From Maj. Campbell for Maj. General Heath” (MHi: Heath Papers).

4For the disastrous defeat of the Massachusetts expedition sent to attack the British outpost on Penobscot Bay, in the district of Maine, see GW to the Massachusetts Council, 3 Aug., n.3. For a Continental naval squadron’s capture of ten merchant ships that were part of a Jamaican convoy, an incident to which GW seems to refer, see William Gordon to GW, 25 August.

Index Entries