George Washington Papers
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From George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, 11 December 1779

To Thomas Jefferson

Head Qrs Morristown Decr 11th 1779.1

Sir,

I have the honor to inform Yr Excellency that I have received advice from New York that a very la[r]ge embarkation had taken place (said to amount to 8000) and that the fleet containing them was at the Hook on the point of sailing—their destination reported to be for Chesapæk bay, on a combined operation in the 1st place against the French Squadron there, and afterwards to attempt the rescue of the Convention troops—Their naval force may consist of five sail of the line and two frigates of 44s besides a 50 Gun ship2—The separation of the French Squadron mentioned by our last accounts from the Southward may have been a temptation to the enemy to undertake an enterprise against that part which had arrived.3 But it is not perhaps very probable that the Convention troops enter into the plan; nethertheless I think it prudent to communicate the intelligence to your Excellency, that you may have the goodness to direct your attention towards their security, and take any precautions which may appear to you necessary without conveying an alarm4—For this purpose I request the favour of you to give immediate information to the Officer commanding at Charlotteville.

By the report of a deserter and the firing of signal guns a great part of yesterday, I am led to conclude the fleet sailed at that time.5 I have the honor to be With the greatest respect & esteem Yr Excellencys Most Obedt ser.

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1GW wrote the dateline on the draft.

2GW wrote the previous seven words on the draft. For the intelligence communicated to Jefferson, see Henry Lee, Jr., to GW, 30 Nov., and n.3 to that document, and Anthony Wayne’s two letters to GW, 9 Dec., and n.4 to the first document and n.2 to the second document; see also GW to Samuel Huntington, 7 December.

3For reports, which proved erroneous, of French warships reaching Chesapeake Bay, see Philip Schuyler to GW, 18 Nov., and n.2 to that document.

In his diary entry for 6 Dec., British captain John Peebles noted “doubtfull intelligence about the french fleets being in Chesapeak on which depends our motions” (Gruber, Peebles’ American War, description begins Ira D. Gruber, ed. John Peebles’ American War: The Diary of a Scottish Grenadier, 1776–1782. Mechanicsburg, Pa., 1998. description ends 313–14). Peebles then recorded in his diary entry for 10 Dec.: “The Roebuck come in from a cruise to Chesapeak—saw no french fleet” (Gruber, Peebles’ American War, description begins Ira D. Gruber, ed. John Peebles’ American War: The Diary of a Scottish Grenadier, 1776–1782. Mechanicsburg, Pa., 1998. description ends 314).

4GW inserted the previous four words above the line in his own writing.

5For evidence that Jefferson responded to GW’s cautions, see his “Notes on Threatened British Invasion,” almost certainly dating from December, in Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 3:252–53; see also GW to Jefferson, 25 December.

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