George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, 26 April 1781

Newport April 26th 1781.


The New-york Gazette has published a Supposed intercepted Letter wrote, as it says by your Excellency to Mr Land Washington, and in which is this Paragraph. "It is very unlikely, I say it to you in confidence that the French fleet and detachment did not undertake this present expedition at the time I proposed it. The destruction of Arnold’s corps would have been unavoidable, and over before the British squadron could have put to sea: Instead of this, they have sent the small squadron that took the Romulus and some other vessels, But as I had foreseen it, it could do nothing at Portsmouth, without the help of some Land Troops."

If really this Letter has been wrote by Your Excellency, I shall beg Leave to observe, that the result of this reflexion should seem to be, that We have had here the choice of two expeditions proposed, and that We have preferred the Least to a more considerable undertaking which your Excellency desired. If this was the case, I should beg of your Excellency to call to mind that the Battle of Line ship and the two Frigates went out of Newport on the 9th February on a demand made by Congress and the State of Virginia to the Chevalier Destouches; that your Excellency’s Letter with the plan for the going out of the Whole fleet with a detachment of 10’00. Frenchmen abo[ard] which detachment was to act conjointly with that of The Marquis de La Fayette, bears date of the 15. Febry, and that I only received it on the 19th; that having given an instant communication of it to the Chevalier Destouches, I had the honor on the 20th to send his answer to your Excellency: That no Later than the day after the gale of Wind which weakened the British fleet towards the end of January, by their Loss of the Culloden I have offered of the Land forces all that could possibly be transported by the navy, and have not ceased to do it since. I shall not mention to your Excellency the reasons that have delayed the departure of the Chevalier Destouches’s Squadron, because those he gave to your Excellency don’t fall under my cognisance; I only have made mention of these facts to call to your Excellency’s mind these epochas which I beg you’d verify in your Correspondence, that your Excellency may be entirely persuaded, that there will never be the least delay, in what concerns the Land and the small french corps which I command, for the possible execution of your Excellency’s orders, as soon as I shall receive them. On this occasion, I beg of your Excellency that you’d consider that as I have no orders to give to the navy I believe it would be suitable that your Excellency should write in direct manner to the Chevalier Destouches when you will make a proposal of an Expedition for his Squadron, sending it to me under open cover, If your Excellency desires that I should Sollicit it; as I have observed that it would please him better, if the plans in which he may be interested were adressed to him in a direct manner, your Excellency knows very well that every one is jealous of his command. as to what is of my resort, I hope that your Excellency is fully persuaded that the King having put me under your orders, I shall always follow them with as much exactness as any General Officer of your Excellency’s army, being bound to do so as much by my inclination as my duty.

Your Excellency’s Letter of the 22d inst. I received yesterday. The going of the British fleet at New york shows how much they stand in need of repair, will probably delay the embarkation announced by Mr Clinton, and will give us time to take all our measures to be ready for a movement towards the North-river, as soon as Your Excellency will look on it as necessary. Our naval engagement has at Least been productive of a real good in delaying the offensive operations to the Southward, and if Vigorous means do not arrive here in the mean time, I hope at Least to be ready to march towards the Later end of may, upon my receiving your Excellency’s orders. as to this post here, I must beg of our Excellency to appoint a General officer of your army to take the command of it and keep it with a corps of American militia; Whether the fleet be yet oblig[ed] to remain here, or it puts to sea, because in both cases, I Look on this harbour as very important for the King’s Squadrons. If your Excellency approves of this idea, would it not be usefull that the General appointed to that command should come a little time before your Excellency orders my movement to take a Local knowledge of the post.

I beg of your Excellency to give me answer to all the points, with all the candor which distinguishes your Character, that I may prepare every thing before hand, for the speediest execution of all your orders. I am with respect and very great personal attachment, Sir, Your Excellency’s most obedient and most humble Servant

le cte de rochambeau

Your Excellencys Letter for Mr Laurens is ready to go to france from New bury, with a duplicate of my dispatches, per occasion of a Brig of 20 guns going to Amsterdam, without cruizing at all, by the way of the Orkneys.

The first convoy that is announced to us, has put to sea at the end of January, at soonest, how could it be possible that the Gazette of St Kitt’s of the 1st of March, could have had intelligence of its being taken, considering the round aboutways it must have gone thro’, before it could arrive there.

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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