George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Heath, 9 September 1780

Newport September 9th 1780

Dear General

Yesterday I was honored with yours of the 28th Ultimo per post. I immediately acquainted General Count de Rochambeau with your Wishes respecting the militia doing duty here. He wishes to retain them a little longer; partly on account of the intelligence you were pleased to communicate to him in your Letter of the 3d Instant, of the motions of the Enemy at New York, and also in consequence of the French fleet’s having Sail’d from the West Indies. the intention and the destination of both these he supposes will be soon known. the Militia Shall be discharged the moment his consent can be obtaind. they are now closely employed at Butts’s hill which is a very heavy piece of Work. My sentiments perfectly coincide with your Excellency’s with respect to this and all other works which have been repair’d or constructed here. I have therefore in every instance been avoiding as much as possible putting the United States to Expense. this occasioned my addressing your Excellency on the Pallisading or friezing the works at Butts’s hill. The Count is incessantly urging the importance of that post and the necessity of it’s works being compleated.

The enclosed intelligence I have taken this morning from Capt. Earl’s own mouth. He is a man of Strict veracity and full credit may be given to his Account. Many of the french officers are of opinion that the Fleet is bound here. Capt. Earl informs me that Count de Guichen had received information before he sail’d that Admiral de Ternay was block’d up by Admiral Arbuthnot that they were under Some apprehensions for the fate of the Fleet but none for the Army, which they Supposed capable of defending itself. The Brittish fleet which Captain Earl Saw I think beyond a doubt, was Admiral Arbuthnot, and furnishes grounds for Several conjectures. I have the honor to be, With the greatest respect Your Excellency’s Most obedient Servant

W. Heath

DLC: Papers of George Washington.


Newport Sepr 9th 1780

This morning Capt. John Earl in the Schooner Polly arrived here from Cape Francois, which place he left the 13th Ulto, with part of the French Fleet under the Command of Count de Guichen and off Tortoga the remainder of the Fleet Joined, makeing in the whole 27 Men of war, 24 of which were of the Line, and about 100 Sail of merchant-Ships. Capt. Earl left the Fleet on the 28th Ulto in Latitude 23 Steering north close by the wind, but could learn nothing of their distination he afterwards discovered them in Lat. 27 altogether. In Lat. 39, Long. 69 Capt. Earl passed a British Fleet consisting of 24 Sail, nine of which he took to be men of War, Standing to the South west, wind E.N.E. Four of the Ships Chased Capt. Earl for Six hours, but not being able to Come up with him returned to the Fleet. In Latitude 40 Longitude 70 Capt. Earl Saw a Frigate and Schooner which gave him Chase, the former Six and the Latter 18 hours Saw no other Ships at the Coast.

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