George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from John Mitchell, 30 October 1779

From John Mitchell

Philada October 30th 1779

Dear Sir,

I have this day taken lodgings for Mrs Washington, at Mrs Roche’s who has Rented the late Mr Israil Pembertons house & Garden, Mrs Washington is to have a handsome front Parlour, a good Bed Chamber, Kitchen, & Rooms for Servants,1 I shall order wood to be laid in, & get some of the best Tea, Sugar, Coffee &ca for her before she arrives in this City, I hope this will be agreable to your Excellency & Your Lady, Nothing shall be wanting in my power to make everything as agreable & Convenient as possible, and will meet Mrs Washington on the Road as far as in my power.

Mrs Mitchell will do everything to render her Accomodations convenient & agreable, and as it is near me it will be more Easy & Convenient.2

No News from the Southward, nor of the Count De Estang, since I had the Honor to write you last,3 the Account of the French & British Fleets having had an Engagement in the Channell in which the British Fleet is said to have been Defeated, and Admiral Gambier’s Ship Sunk &ca has been sent to your Excellency this Morning, but doubt not you had it before, as the Intellegence is said to have Come by a Packet Arrived at New York.4 I have the Honor to be with great respect—Your Excellencys Most Obedt Humble Servt

Jno. Mitchell


1Israel Pemberton, Jr. (1715–1779), a prosperous Quaker merchant controversially exiled by local officials for suspected Loyalist sentiments, had died on 22 April. His wife, Mary, had predeceased him on 25 Oct. 1778 (see Mary Pemberton to GW, 31 March 1778; GW to Thomas Wharton, Jr., 5 and 6 April 1778; Wharton to GW, 6 April 1778; Crane, Elizabeth Drinker Diary, description begins Elaine Forman Crane et al., eds. The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker. 3 vols. Boston, 1991. description ends 1:333, 343–44; Theodore Thayer, Israel Pemberton: King of the Quakers [Philadelphia, 1943], 26–27, 207–33; and Robert F. Oaks, “Philadelphians in Exile: The Problem of Loyalty During the American Revolution,” Pa. Mag. description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 139 vols. to date. 1877–. description ends 96 [1972]: 298–325). For the Pemberton home and gardens, which occupied the southwest corner of Third and Chestnut streets in Philadelphia and stood out “as the nonpareil of the city,” see Watson, Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, description begins John F. Watson. Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, in the Olden Time; Being a Collection of Memoirs, Anecdotes, and Incidents of the City and Its Inhabitants, and of the Earliest Settlements of the Inland Part of Pennsylvania, from the Days of the Founders. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1850. description ends 1:374–75; see also Alice G. B. Lockwood, comp., Gardens of Colony and State: Gardens and Gardeners of the American Colonies and of the Republic Before 1840 (n.p., 1931), 1:340.

“Mrs Roche’s” may have been a misrendering, with “Mrs Bache’s” being the likely correct rendering. That person presumably would have been Sarah Franklin Bache (1743–1808), the only daughter of Benjamin Franklin and the wife of Philadelphia merchant Richard Bache. Sarah Bache monitored her father’s property in Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War and held a social standing that made it plausible for her to secure control over a substantial and elegant house. No married woman or widow named “Roche” then active in Philadelphia society or affairs has been identified.

2In a letter written at West Point on 17 Oct., GW had asked Mitchell to look into lodgings for Martha Washington “in some genteel (but not a common[)] boarding house in Phila. till I know where I shall be fixed for the Winter.”

3Mitchell probably is referring to his letter to GW of 24 Oct., which has not been found (see GW to Mitchell, 6 Nov.). For a letter from Mitchell to GW written on 26 Sept., also not found, that contained intelligence on military operations in the southern states, see GW to George Clinton, 1 Oct., and n.2 to that document.

4Mitchell conveyed erroneous intelligence that eventually appeared in newspapers like The Connecticut Journal (New Haven) for Wednesday, 17 Nov.: “BOSTON, November 11. Monday last Capt. [John] Adams arrived here, in 25 days from Martinico, by whom we have advice, That a fleet of 14 sail, under convoy were arrived at that port, from France, before he sailed, and ’twas said brought an account that there had been a general engagement between the united fleets of France and Spain, and the English squadron under Admiral Hardy, which was long and bloody; and that the former were victorious, having taken two or three of their capital ships, and sunk one or two more, with the loss of one of the French ships, which sunk before she could be got into port, and that a great number of men were killed on both sides. …

“It is said that the sea battle between the two fleets was fought on the 4th of September.” A Franco-Spanish fleet had operated in the English Channel during spring and summer 1779, but it withdrew in September without any notable engagements (see Mahan, Operations of the Navies, description begins A. T. Mahan. The Major Operations of the Navies in the War of American Independence with Portraits, Maps, and Battle Plans. 1913. Reprint. New York, 1969. description ends 116–20).

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