Benjamin Franklin Papers
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To Benjamin Franklin from James Lovell, 31 March 1781

From James Lovell

ALS: American Philosophical Society; copy and transcript: National Archives

March 31st. 1781

Hond. Sir

I send you a few News papers and the last monthly Journals which have come from the Press. The Enemy will tell their own Story of the naval Engagement on the 16th. They have ventured nearer to Truth in Rivingtons royal Gazette than almost at any one time before, since the very Commencement of Hostilities.3 Our Allies conducted most gallantly: And the Enemy are so convinced of the Activity of the french Commander that they have not ventured to remain in Chesapeak Bay to do all the Damage which the Event of the Battle had put into their Power.— I send you Genl. Greene’s Acct. of an Affair between him & Cornwallis.4 I will endeavor to have it struck at the Press. You shall have it at least with our Secretary’s Attestation which is in the best Credit even with the Enemy. The Opportunity of sending is too precarious to allow of my enlarging. Your most humble Servt

James Lovell

Honble. Doctr. Franklin

Addressed: Honble. / Doctor Franklin / Minister plenipoy. / of the U Ss. of America / France

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3At the Battle of Cape Henry, fought on March 16, Rear Adm. Arbuthnot’s eight ships of the line prevented Captain Destouches’ seven French ships of the line from entering Chesapeake Bay. The French inflicted considerable damage and returned safely to Newport: Rice and Brown, eds., Rochambeau’s Army, I, 24, 126–9; John A. Tilley, The British Navy and the American Revolution (Columbia, S.C., 1987), pp. 215–26. A letter from a midshipman aboard one of the British ships of the line was published in the March 28 issue of James Rivington’s Royal Gazette, published in British-held New York. Charles-René-Dominique Sochet, dit chevalier Destouches (1727–1794) was Ternay’s interim successor: DBF; Rice and Brown, eds., Rochambeau’s Army, I, 126n.

4Greene’s March 16 letter to Congress described the Battle of Guilford Court House of the previous day. The British were victorious, but at a prohibitively heavy cost: Richard K. Showman et al., eds., The Papers of General Nathanael Greene (9 vols. to date, Chapel Hill, 1976–), VII, 433–41; Ward, War of the Revolution, II, 784–94. The letter was read in Congress on March 31: JCC, XIX, 335.

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