George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, 23 June 1781

Hartford June 23d 1781.


I arrived here yesterday with the first Regiment, which has been followed this day by the 2d and will be so to morrow by the 3d and the day after by the 4th. I stay here this day and to morrow to give time to our broken chariots to be mended, and our young artillery horses and oxen to refresh themselves. I will set off after to morrow with the 1st Regt for Newtown, upon 4. divisions as before, and shall probably stay there, (arriving the 28.) the 29th and 30th to assemble in Brigades and march in two divisions, to the North river.

I would have wished it would have been in my power to go and wait on your Excellency at New-Windsor, but I have thought it would be best to stay and oversee what is a doing, and refer that pleasure till a less busy time. I think if your Excellency chose to come and see this part of your army, and give me your orders, it would be best it should be at Newtown where it will begin to gather together. If you desire that the French corps should keep on the Left side of the North river, would not the seeking for a position between Crompond and Croton’s river, to encamp militarily, meet with your Excellency’s approbation? instead of going to Peek’s kill. I hope your Excellincy will send me orders what to do, either verbally or by writing, during my stay at Newtown. ’Till now we have travelled thro’ Connecticut without hearing the least complaint, on the contrary, we have been Loaded with blessings on our way down here.

I have received your Excellency’s Letter of the 19th of June: The camp that is to be formed at East Chester, strenghens me in my resolution to assemble my army, in Brigades at Newtown—I wish that General Sullivan’s news be false, and we may hope that the corps of Troops announced as coming from England to Chesapeak bay is not so strong, as it is said: It would be extraordinary that 4000. men had had their destination for this country, and that we should have had no intelligence of it From Europa. The corps of Lauzun will march as far advanced, as my first division, through Middletown, Wallingford, North haven, Ripton and North Stratford, in which last place it will be on the 28th.

I have the honor to send to your Excellency, a copy of Count de Barras’s answer to your Letter of the 17th instant, which I had sent you. I believe you will be satisfied with the desire he has to do all that lies in his power. I sent you likewise a copy of my answer by which I help him as much as my means can allow me. I am with respect and personal attachment, Sir, Your Excellency’s most obedient humble Servant

le Cte de Rochambeau

DLC: Papers of George Washington.


Newport June 21[st] 1781.

I receive this moment your Letter, my dear General, and the copy therein inclosed of General Washington’s. I send my answer, and what is wrote me from Boston.

All the vessels of the Convoy are arrived at Boston, excepting the Stanislas, who was one of the two that have been obliged to put under sail, whilst they were anchored near Boston.

Mr De La Perouse sends me word that the man of war the Sagittaire, has 220 sick at the hospital. In addition to that misfortune, the Privateers at Boston take away the Seamen of the Convoy. Mr De La Perouse has complained of it to Govr Hancock, and has asked leave to visit these vessels. The Govr has made answer that he must assemble his counsel to deliberate on it. You must be sensible that that is a good way to let these desertors make their Escape. We are here for the Service of the Americans, if they don’t make their best to hinder Desertion and if on the contrary, the Privateers take away our people, there are no means left to make the fleet go to out. however I shall employ all possible means to put it in a condition to go to sea. But that cannot be done, unless the Americans furnish me with four men and you help me. I desire only to be usefull if I can. You know very well that I am in a want of a great many seamen on the fleet. The Sagittary alone needs more than 220. men. The Fantasque will need as many. If you are willing, I should take all the garrison at New port, to be imbarked on the Squadron, with the four 24 pounders you have Left there at Brenton’s point. I will give two canons from every ship to arm the Fantasque. With all these helps and that of the crew of the Gentille, which I shall unarm, the ships will want a great many men. However I will make ready to go to chesapeak. But I don’t see I can, before 25, days, before I will be obliged to wait for the convoy from Boston, then to take what will be necessary from these Ships and afterwards to send them up the river before I can take away their crews which will be absolutely necessary to me.

I have wrote to Boston, to do all that is possible to arm the Sagittaire, which will not be easy. I expect at Newport, in a few days that part of the convoy which arrives from Boston.

The Cuttor the Prudence is arrived this day from New London and reports that an American Privateer had made declaration that eight days before, he had met with 14. sail at the Southward of Long island. I don’t write to General Washington, because I can announce him nothing positive, when my dispositions will be made, I’ll inform him of it, unless, the arrival of Count de Grasse being announced very surely and very soon puts a stop to their execution and to the desire of doing myself something usefull to America. In that case, I would not hesitate sacrificing to the General good all the projets that could appear to have my own personal glory for principal object. I have the honor

Signed de Barras


hartford June 23d 1781.

I have received, my dear Admiral, the Letter which you did me the honor to write me of the 21st instant, and I send it to General Washington, whom certainly it will please very much. You must have received a Letter from him which I sent you before yesterday, relative to a piece of news which wants confirmation, and that I cannot as yet make clear, about the arrival of a corps of 4000. Troops with a 64. gun Ship, coming from Cork to Chesapeak bay; as soon as it will be assuredly confirmated or proved false, I’ll send you word of it directly. It would be very extraordinary that this corps of Troops should arrive from Europe and that neither Congress nor the French Minister nor We should not have heard any thing of it. When your fleet, my dear Admiral, sets sail for the expedition that you propose against Chesapeak bay, I give you entire Liberty to make use of the 400. men under the orders of Mr De Choisy, It being understood that you will give me them again, when the circumstances shall put you in the way of making some operation combinated with us, and that you shall not take them to no other foreign part. As to the 4. pieces of canon of Siege, I own to you that of 12. pieces that I have, I never could have thought that the Navy which has so many, would have needed them. I beg of you, then to send them back to Providence with the 4. mortars, that they may be ready, at all events to help us in our Land operations. I desire likewise, my dear Admiral, that the Major of Deux ponts may go to Providence, (when the fleet Leaves Rhode island,) with all the Valetudinarians either those that have staid behind at Boston, or at the hospital at Providence, or at Newport, that they may form a Troop, to put them selves with the company of Artillery at Providence, in a condition of defending our Artillery of siege, our magazines and specially the transports which you will be obliged to send up the river, and which I believe, can only anchor betwixt Patuxet and the Bar of Providence.

If the militia of Boston have joined you by the time of the departure of the fleet, you will examine with Mr de Choisy, whether it would not be suitable to Leave these Boston militia alone for the guard of Newport, where there will be no more important objects, and to send to Patuxet with the Major of Deux ponts the Rhode island militia to cover and defend that post, jointly with the french Valetudinarians. With this disposition, and by placing some canon in the batteries of Patuxet, the transports anchored, and our deposite at Providence would be perfectly secure, because the only practicable place for the Enemy to attack Providence, would be by making a descent at Patuxet.

Index Entries