George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from Samuel Huntington, 20 April 1780

From Samuel Huntington

Philadelphia April 20. 1780


By various Accounts from the West Indies it seems to be beyond a Doubt that some twelve Ships of the Line, seven Frigates and, a Number of Transports with Land Forces some Accounts say 10.000 from France are arrived at Martinique.1

I have the honour to transmit your Excellency the Extract of a Letter enclosed which was intercepted by an American Cruizer to the Southward.2

The Plan adopted by the Enemy as mentioned in the Extract when compared with their late Movements seems highly probable.

Your two Letters of the 17th were this Day received and laid before Congress. I have the honour to be with the highest Respect your Excelly’s hbble servant.

Sam. Huntington

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 14.

1In a letter written at Philadelphia on 18 April, Rhode Island delegate William Ellery informed Rhode Island governor William Greene: “A fleet of 12 ships of the line have arrived at Martinico with a number of troops, which gives the french a superiority in the W. Indias. I wish they could spare us half of them to be employed agst the enemy to the Southward” (Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 15:48–50). The New-Jersey Gazette (Trenton) for 29 March had printed reports from Charleston, S.C., dated 16 Jan.: “Part of the division of Count D’Estaing’s fleet, that was destined for Chesapeak Bay, and blown off that coast, are since arrived at Cape Francois: Eleven other ships of the line of the said fleet are also arrived at Martinique. And some of the others are said to have been gone to Havanna, to prepare for an early expedition from thence in the spring, in conjunction with the Spanish squadrons there.” A later item in this column indicated that the French “expected hourly at Martinique 11 ships of the line from Count D’Orvilliers’ fleet.”

2Huntington enclosed an item headed “Extract of a Letter from a Gentleman in London to a British Officer in Georgia dated London Jany 15. 1780” that reads: “The Plan which is now understood to be determined upon for carrying on the War, is to take a certain Number of Posts in America in such a Way as to command the Trade of the Country, and to have no other Object in America than the maintaining of these Posts, and the ruling of the Trade by our Fleets. The Posts said to be fixed upon are Hallifax Penobscott, New York, Portsmouth, (in Virginia I suppose) Charlestown, Savannah, & Augustine. To accomplish which we imagine you are now employed taking Charles Town, and establishing a Post at Portsmouth. These Objects being accomplished, we understand that 12.000 Men are to be detached to the West Indies which is to be the active Seat of the War against the French and Spaniards. It is evident that unless we can carry on an active offensive War against them abroad we never can succeed well. Last Campaign we were all defensive and everything went badly with us; I never wish to see such another Campaign. We will be anxious however to know what your wise Heads in America will think of this Plan for the American War. To be sure the more Troops you can spare from thence to drub the common Enemy the better; yet I fear the Number mentioned is more than you can give after putting the Posts mentioned in a proper Condition” (DLC:GW).

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