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From George Washington to John Armstrong, 10 August 1779

To John Armstrong

West-point Augt 10th 1779.

Dear Sir,

Among the number of Letters which I am continually receiving & the multiplicity of papers which are put into my hands to peruse, your favor of the 25th of June was mixed, & for a time lost—nor did it come to light again till yesterday. this, though a bad excuse, is the truth, & consequently the best apology I can make for delaying so long an answer to the quære in behalf of your Son. I wish it was in my power to accomodate the Doctr1 with a piece of Land in Berkeley upon such terms as would be agreeable to him, but several years ago I leased every foot I had in that County and wish with all my heart he had happened to have been one of the Lessee’s, as I let them for Cash on very moderate terms for lives, which under the present depreciated state of the currency, is not worth collecting.2

Such a flood of good news is pouring in upon us at this Instant that (not forgetting the late Charlestown accts3) I am induced to suspend my belief of (at least) part of them till more authentic information arrives. The taking of St Vincents & the Grenad[in]es wants no further confirmation—the relation of these matters seem pointed & clear; but the true issue, & the consequences of the engagement between the two fleets are not (to us at this place) well ascertained. nor is the acct of the enemys retreat from South Carolina, and the Surrender of the Troops at penobscot & destruction of their fleet at that place direct, nor the latter well related, but a few days more will remove all doubts on these several heads.4

The enemy, excepting their Garrisons at Stony & Verplanks points, & a few light Troops without Kings bridge5 & those on Staten Island are removed to York Island. what may be the design, under the present appearances of things, is not easy to decide but a little time will disclose this also. In the mean while I am endeavouring by the erection of New works, & an alteration of the old, to put this Post in the best posture of defence I can. In sincerity & truth I have the honor to be—Dr Sir Yr Most Obedt & Affec⟨te⟩ Hble Servt

Go: Washington

ADfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1GW is referring to Armstrong’s eldest son, Dr. James Armstrong.

2For GW’s leasing of his lands in Berkeley County, Va., see Cash Accounts, March 1774, n.1, in Papers, Colonial Series, description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series. 10 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1983–95. description ends 9:504–5, and Cash Accounts, May 1774, n.4, in Papers, Colonial Series, description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series. 10 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1983–95. description ends 10:41.

3GW is apparently referring to erroneous reports of victories from South Carolina that had been contradicted over the course of the summer (see GW to John Augustine Washington, 20 June, n.7). For the operations that may have given rise to the erroneous reports, see GW to John Jay, 26 May, n.1.

4For the operations of the British and French forces in the West Indies, see GW to John Jay, 5 Aug. (first letter), and notes 13 and 15 to that document, and Jay to GW, 10 Aug., n.1. For the accounts which GW had received of a British retreat in South Carolina, see GW to Benjamin Lincoln, 30 July. On 7 July, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln reported the details of his attack on the British outpost at Stono Ferry, S.C., and the subsequent British withdrawal from Stono Ferry and Johns Island, S.C., but GW did not receive that letter until September (see GW to Lincoln, 28 Sept.).

The accounts GW had received of the success of the expedition of the Massachusetts militia to capture the British outpost on Penobscot Bay in what is now Maine were erroneous. The expedition had failed to take the fort and was soon disastrously defeated (see GW to the Massachusetts Council, 3 Aug., n.3). By 28 Aug., GW had learned of the expedition’s failure (see GW to Horatio Gates, that date).

5Maj. Gen. William Heath had forwarded a report to GW that only Hessian and provincial light forces remained in the outposts above King’s Bridge, N.Y. (see Heath to GW, 8 Aug. [first letter], and n.1 to that document).

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