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To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 31 October 1779

From Major General Horatio Gates

Providence 31st October 1779


After taking an Exact View of The Works The Enemy Erected, to The Northward, & Eastward of Newport, I find it will be a much Heavier piece of Labour to Destroy them, than I immagined when I first wrote to Your Excellency.1 I have therefore earnestly Sollicited The Governour, & his Council, to give me such Assistance as the State can be prevailed on to Affored, toward Effecting the Destruction Your Excellency has so Judiciously recommended; upon communicating that part of your letter to The Governour, & a Select few of his Council, I find them extremely averse to parting with any of The State Troops, at present; and are so pointed in their Objections, that I shall defer thinking of removing them, until I receive Your further Commands.2 Nothing, indeed, but the immediate Arrival of The Fleet of Our Allies,3 would make it prudent directly to March any of the Troops out of this State, as it too plainly appears, by the manner Newport has been Evacuated, that General Clinton has by no means lost Sight of Rhode Island, or intirely renounced his pretensions there: Other Circumstances not only induce, but in a degree confirm this Opinion; I shall not, therefore, remove any of the Troops from this State, until I receive Your Excellency’s particular Directions upon that Head,4 Or, until I see a sufficient Squadron of French Ships of War to Convoy The Army to the Post Assign’d for their Debarkation. In the Circumstance of The Harbour of Newport being Secured, by the Arrival of The Fleet of Our High Allies, the Objection of The Goverment of this State, to the removal of the whole of The Army to the Westward, will Vanish; and I doubt not of Your Excellency’s being further reinforced by Militia from Hence. I am confident Your Excellency’s Candour will convince You, that I shall continue to Exert my Utmost Abillities with the most becoming Zeal, for the Benefit of the public Service.

I am this moment stepping into the boat to return to Newport, having left it the day before Yesterday to remove my papers &c. thither: I shall write again directly from thence. It would be right now, that Gen: Greene should place his Station’d Expresses in the Road immediately leading from Little rest to North Kingston;5 where I shall fix a whale Boat, ready to bring them to Newport.

ADf, NHi: Gates Papers.

1Gates apparently is referring to his letter to GW of 27 Oct., which has not been found (see GW to Gates, 2 Nov.; see also GW to Gates, 1 Nov.).

2GW had recommended demolition of most works near Newport, R.I., in his letter to Gates of 22 October. Gates’s aide-de-camp Maj. Isaac Peirce wrote Rhode Island governor William Greene from Newport on 26 Oct., 6:00 P.M.: “I am desired by General Gates, to inform Your Excellency, that he has received Dispatches from General Washington, the Nature of which, requires he should See you. The General therefore requests, that you will, if possible, Come to Newport the first Convenient Opportunity” (Gregory and Dunnings, “Gates Papers” description begins James Gregory and Thomas Dunnings, eds. “Horatio Gates Papers, 1726–1828.” Sanford, N.C., 1979. Microfilm. description ends ). During a session of the Rhode Island General Assembly begun on 25 Oct., a resolution passed “that the Honorable Jabez Bowen, Esq., James M. Varnum and Henry Ward, Esqs., be, and they are hereby, appointed a committee to draught a letter to His Excellency General Washington, and the delegates of this state in Congress, upon the subject of the troops being called from this state, and present the same to His Excellency the Governor, by him to be approved, signed and forwarded as soon as may be; and that they lay a copy of the said letters, before this Assembly, at the next session” (Bartlett, R.I. Records, description begins John Russell Bartlett, ed. Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England. 10 vols. Providence, 1856–65. description ends 8:615). The letter to GW, if written, has not been found. For other assembly actions in response to the British evacuation, see Bartlett, R.I. Records, description begins John Russell Bartlett, ed. Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England. 10 vols. Providence, 1856–65. description ends 8:598–607.

3For the unmet hopes of a rendezvous with a French fleet under Vice Admiral d’Estaing, see Planning for an Allied Attack on New York, c.3–7 Oct., editorial note.

4For such orders and their immediate fulfillment, see GW to Gates, 2 Nov., and Gates to GW, 8 November.

5Little Rest, now Kingston, R.I., was the seat of King’s County, now Washington County. Located in the northern part of South Kingstown about five miles west of Narragansett Bay, the village served as a road hub (see Wright and Sullivan, Rhode Island Atlas, 47, 154).

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