George Washington Papers
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From George Washington to Brigadier General Duportail and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton, 11 November 1779

To Brigadier General Duportail and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton

Head Qrs West point Nov. 11th 1779


Being absent from Head Qrs on a visit to the several Outposts of the Army, when your favor of the 2d Instant arrived—and not returning till last night—it was not in my power to answer it before.1

I am precisely in the predicament you are—with respect to the Count—his intentions or ultimate operations. I have not heard a single syllable about either since your departure, except what was transmitted in my Letter of the 30th Ulto—a similar account to which you will have seen in the public prints. From this circumstance and the lateness of the season—I do not expect myself, that he will arrive in this quarter—or if he should—that the Enterprize which was proposed—could now be prosecuted. It is too late to begin it. However, as I received my advices from Congress, of the Count’s intention to cooperate—and considered myself as bound by their direction to prepare for it—I have not thought myself at liberty to desist from my preparations—or to fix upon a day—when they should cease. I have written to them to day upon the subject—stating the incertainty I am under with respect to His Excellency’s coming—the great expence which must necessarily attend the continuing of our measures for a cooperation—and the difficulties—supposing it undertaken—from the advanced season—and requested their earliest decision as to the part I am to pursue.2 I have also requested the favor of General Schuyler, who is at Congress, to transmit You the Result of their deliberations—upon the occasion—as soon as they are ended—by which you will be pleased to govern yourselves—either as to your returning or remaining—as their decision may point.3 In the mean time—You will withhold all my dispatches to the Count—even if he should arrive—till you receive their Answer—and endeavour to recover such as may have been lodged by You or Others—along the Coast towards the Capes of Delaware. I have written to Major Lee, with respect to the Letters—in his hands.4 When You have received the determination of Congress—if it is against a Cooperation—It will be necessary for You to recall the pilots except such a number as may be thought material—for general purposes in case of the Count’s arrival for the security of his Fleet. and such as were employed here or immediately in consequence of any of my Letters—you will desire to send in their Accounts.5 I have the Honor to be with great respect & regard Gentn Yr Most Obedt st

Go: Washington

Df, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1For GW’s departure from West Point on 7 Nov., see James McHenry to Clement Biddle, that date, found at GW to Moses Hazen, 6 Nov., n.5.

2No letter from GW to Congress on this date has been found, but see GW to Samuel Huntington, 14 November.

3GW likely communicated this request while Schuyler visited headquarters during later October and early November (see GW to Schuyler, 12 Oct., and n.1 to that document; see also Schuyler to GW, 18 Nov., and GW to Schuyler, 24 Nov.).

4GW wrote Maj. Henry Lee, Jr., from West Point on this date: “Being absent from Head Quarters, on a visit to the several Out posts of the Army, when Your favor of the 3d arrived, and not returning till last night, it was not in my power to acknowledge it before. I thank You for the intelligence it contains. I have nothing in particular to communicate at present—besides a request, that You will withhold the dispatches in your hands for Count D’Estaing—till You hear farther from me—even if he should arrive” (Df, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

5GW enclosed this letter in one of this date that he wrote John Mitchell: “I request that You will forward the inclosed by Express, to General Duportail and Colo. Hamilton—at Great Egg Harbour” (Df, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

GW did not abandon preparations for combined operations with the French fleet under Vice Admiral d’Estaing until he received official notice from Congress (see Huntington to GW, 10 Nov., and GW to Huntington, 20 and 24 Nov.; see also Planning for an Allied Attack on New York, c.3–7 Oct., editorial note).

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