George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Samuel Huntington, 3 June 1781

Philadelphia June 3. 1781


Your Excellency’s Letter of the 24th Ulto hath been duly received, previous thereto Congress had adopted the Resolution of the 31st Ulto, recommending to the States of Pennsylvania Maryland & Delaware respectively to raise and equip a Number of Troops. The more immediate Object Congress had in View from this Resolution (Copy of which is enclosed) was to give speedy Assistance to those Parts of Virginia at present invaded, or exposed to Invasion by the Enemy, but the Troops are to be wholly subject to your Direction.

I have also herewith enclosed for your Information a Copy of my circular Letter of the first Instant addressed to the several supreme Executives, accompanied with a Request that the Intelligence it contained might not be disclosed at present. Governor Jefferson’s Letter which your Excellency will receive by the same Messenger who will deliver this, will, I presume, give you the latest Intelligence we have received of the Motions of the Enemy in Virginia.

Enclosed are Extracts of Letters from Martinique of the 3d & 8th of May announcing the Arrival of the French Fleet under Count de Grasse &c. I have the Honor to be, with the greatest Respect & Esteem Your Excellency’s Most obedient & most humble Servant

Sam. Huntington Presidt

DLC: Papers of George Washington.


Our numerous & much desired Convoy has at length arrived under Circumstances the most fortunate & flattering.

To have a passage from Brest but of 34 Days without losing a single Vessel of the Convoy, to find the Enemy at the Port ready to oppose the Entrance of it, to engage them, force them to fly & then pursue them are Events which cannot but be glorious to the Count de Grass.

The active Spirit of our General impells him to the Field. Orders are given for the Embarkation of 40 large Cannon 12 Mortars & all the Apparatus for a Seige with all kinds of Ammunition—Nine hundred of the Regiment of — will embarke tomorrow & the rest of the Troops immediately follow. The intended Expedition is against St Lucia where there remains but a Garrison of 1200 Men the Fleet having taken on Board [800] to compleat its Compliment. The english Squadron was stationed at that Island to cover & protect it, but our Fleet from a happy Man[ou]vre has deprived them of this Advantage It was expected they would have arrived by the Dominica Channel where the english waited to receive them, but to their great Disappointment they came the contrary Way & drove the English from their Station. Rodney is now at [Statia] dividing the Spoil of the poor Dutch & Americans & Hood who commanded the english Fleet is gone down to inform him of his Miscarriage and make him tremble for the Fate of his Capture. This Island is garrisoned by 1300 Men under the command of General Vaughan who have fortified the Hill in such a Manner that it is now deemed impregnable. It is expected the lower Town will be set fire to.

The Division of Monsr de Barras consisting of [5] ships of the Line with 14 Battallions, left this Fleet in the Latitude of the western Islands, destined for America to reinforce the Army on that Station.

May 8.

Count de Grasse has returned from his Pursuit of the Enemy. It was not consistent with the intended Operations of the Fleet to continue the Chace, from the Difficulty & Delay that would attend the beating up to windward.

The Troops destined for the Attack of St Lucia are all embarked, & got under way yesterday evening.

They consist of 4000 Men.—The Fleet take their Departure this Morning—May Heaven ensure the Success of this Expedition If abilities as a General & merit as a Man can command it we have nothing to fear for our brave Commander.

It is expected that Rodney will soon make his Appearance with his whole Fleet, in Order to attempt the Salvation of St Lucia.


In Congress June 1st 1781


I am directed to inform you that Congress have received undoubted Intelligence, come from their Minister at the court of Versailles and the Minister of France in America by order of his Court, that the Courts of Vienna and Petersburgh have offered their mediation to the belligerent powers for the reestablishment of Peace. That these overtures had been eagerly embraced on the part of Great Britain. That France had declined her full acceptation thereof until the concurrence of her Allies could be obtained for that purpose, at the same time observing that should she again be pressed on this head she would be obliged to enter into a previous plan of negotiation conditionally for herself and allies. That Spain had answered in such manner to the proposals of the mediating powers as to show her eventual acceptance. The intervention of such formidable powers will undoubtedly prove an event the most favourable to these United States, if by a great and timely exertion we sufficiently reduce the force of the Enemy now operating in our country: but should languor and inaction subject us to the contempt of the negociators all the consequences will be chargeable upon ourselves. This is a conjuncture that calls for the most serious consideration of these States. Congress have not a doubt in their minds but that each State in the Union is determined to support the confederacy that has been so solemnly entered into through every difficulty and hand it down unimpaired to their posterity. Under these impressions Congress can with confidence call on their constituents for such exertions as are proportionate to the truly critical situation of our Affairs. the plan of operations for the present campaign having been preconcerted on the principle of obliging the Enemy to abandon their possessions in every part of these States; therefore an unequivocal compliance with the demands heretofore made by Congress for provisions, men, and money, are what we have at present to ask for, should these means be expeditiously and punctually put into our hands, we have the most pleasing prospect of putting a speedy and happy issue to the war by driving the Enemy from their present possessions in every part of these States, but at all events to confine them to the sea coasts in order to give as little room as possible to the Enemy’s claim of uti possidetis which will undoubtedly be most strenuously insisted on by them in the course of the Negotiation. A Claim totally inadmissable on our part. Of Course then nothing should be left unessayed by these states to prevent the embarassment that such a claim must inevitably produce. Of consequence it is become indispensably necessary by our immediate and under providence successful efforts to place ourselves in such a situation as to enable our Negociators to speak a firm and decided language becoming the characters of Ministers of the sovereign and Independent States. we conclude with observing, that from the foregoing communications we are so thoroughly convinced of the most strenuous exertions of every State in the Union to accomplish the great objects herein pointed out that Congress will immediately proceed to carry into full execution their plans adopted for defeating the ambitious views of our Enemies and be prepared to accept of peace upon no other terms than the Independence of the thirteen United States of America in all their parts. By order of Congress

Sam. Huntington President

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