George Washington Papers
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From George Washington to Major General John Sullivan, 22 July 1778

To Major General John Sullivan

Head Quarters [White Plains] 22d July 1778

Dear Sir

When I had the pleasure of writing to you on the 17th Inst.—I mentioned the probability of an enterprize being meditated against Rhode Island, as the next capital object, in case the shallow entrance at Sandy Hook, should frustrate admiral d’Estaings first design of an attack, upon the Enemys Fleet, in new York Harbour, The most experienced Pilots have been employed in sounding, and after the deepest consideration of what might be effected by lightening the Ships and the like, the attempt has been determined unadvisable—nothing detained the admiral from sailing immediately to Newport, but the absence of a Frigate which he was daily expecting from the Delaware. But as she has probably joined him by this time—I think it proper to apprise you, that the instructions which were given in my last, relative to collecting a proper force &ca, are to be regarded as having an immediate object,1 I have this morning detached two Brigades to reinforce your strength, and am this moment instructed of the sailing of the fleet for Rhode Island. You will, I am well assured, pursue every measure in your power that can render the enterprize happy and fortunate, and as its success will depend in a great degree on the promptness & energy of its execution, I trust the conduct will answer the spirit & hopes of the expedition.2

The inclosure will shew you the demonstrations of the admirals arrival on the coast, and point out to you what is to be done on your part.3

This Letter is entrusted to one of my aids Lt Colo. Laurens, he has had an interview with the Count D’Estaing, and is fully possessed of all such information, as concerns the present enterprize. I am Dr Sir Yr Most Obet Servt

Go: Washington

P.s. In my letter of the 17th I mentioned the drawing together as many men as would make up 5,000 including your present force—I do not mean to restrict you to that number—but wish you to get as many as will insure your success. I should suppose there will be many Volunteers on this occasion.

I opened the letter after it was sealed to subjoin this Postscript.

Go: Washingto⟨n⟩

LS (photocopy), in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, DLC:GW, series 9; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. GW signed the cover of the LS. Sullivan submitted this letter for consideration by a council of war on 25 July (Hammond, Sullivan Papers description begins Otis G. Hammond, ed. Letters and Papers of Major-General John Sullivan, Continental Army. 3 vols. Concord, 1930-39. In Collections of the New Hampshire Historical Society, vols. 13–15. description ends , 2:113–14).

1On the draft, the preceding text was written by John Laurens, who continued: “and that your exertions should be the more vigorous, as the success of the Enterprise in great measure depends upon the promptness and energy of the execution.” That text was struck out, and the remainder of the draft is in James McHenry’s writing.

2On the draft, McHenry initially closed the letter at this point.

3GW likely enclosed an extract of Alexander Hamilton’s letter to him of 20 July, describing the signals agreed upon.

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