Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Lafayette, 13 December 1780

From Lafayette

LS: Harvard University Library, American Philosophical Society

Philadelphia December 13th. 1780.

Dear Sir,

I did myself the honor of writing to you a letter from Camp,8 wherein your Excellency will find an account of some late transactions on this side of the water— I am now to inform you, that our Army are gone into winter Quarters, & by their position effectually cover the State of New Jersey, as well as our Works on the North-River—9 From the insular situation of the Enemy, and their Naval superiority in these Seas, it became impossible for our Troops to force them to an Action, which they have constantly refused— But while we were offering to them every opportunity of meeting us with equal force, and on equal grounds, we have improved every occasion of defeating their projects, and stricking at them, upon a Smaller scale.

Some days ago Major Tallmadge of Sheldons Light Dragoons, having crossed over to Long-Island (at a place where the Sound is 20 miles wide) attacked with Sixty Men a Fort of the Enemies, that was Garrisoned by an equal Number whom he either killed or Took, and after having destroyed a Magazine of three hundred Ton of Hay and a Vessel loaded, he landed safe on our Shore with four Officers and fifty privates prisoners.—1

A letter from Major Genl. Gates dated Novemr. 14th. mentions a new advantage obtained in South-Carolina, By Sumpter, who defeated one Major Wemyh, and took him prisoner, with twenty five Men of his party—2 Genl. Gates informs also that the Enemy do not now possess a single Post east of George Town, or North of Camden and that their communication is constantly interrupted by our Militia.—

The British Corps under Genl. Leslie have evacuated Portsmouth in Virginia, where they had began to Fortify themselves, and it appears that having abandoned their Schemes of a junction by land (with Lord Cornwallis) they are gone by Water to Charles-Town—so that every one of their Plans for this Campaign has been defeated by repeated disappointments—3

The several States are exerting themselves with Vigor, in order that pursuant to the Resolution of Congress4 an Army for the War be soon compleated.

A Number of Generals, Colonels, and other Officers from the American and French Army have come together to this place, and propose soon to rejoin their respective Commands—

With the highest Regard I have the Honor to be Your Excellency’s Most Obt. Huml Sert.


His Excellency Doctor Franklin
1st. Letter

Notation: La Fayette Decr 13 1780

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8Above, Nov. 19.

9The Hudson. The army’s winter quarters extended from Morristown, N.J., to West Point: Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, XX, 337, 401, 406, 418–19.

1Benjamin Tallmadge (DAB) was an officer in Col. Elisha Sheldon’s Second Regiment of Continental Light Dragoons. His 80–man detachment captured Fort Saint George (Smith’s Point, Long Island) on Nov. 23: Burt G. Loescher, Washington’s Eyes: the Continental Light Dragoons (Fort Collins, Colo., 1977), pp. 49–52; Charles S. Hall, Benjamin Tallmadge, Revolutionary Soldier and American Businessman (New York, 1943), pp. 64–5.

2Maj. James Wemyss of the 63rd regiment was wounded and captured by a force commanded by Brigadier of South Carolina Militia Thomas Sumter (DAB) at Fishdam Ford, S.C., on the night of Nov. 9–10: John S. Pancake, This Destructive War: the British Campaign in the Carolinas 1780–1782 (University, Ala., 1985), p. 126.

3Gen. Leslie arrived in Charleston on Dec. 14: William B. Willcox, ed., The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton’s Narrative of His Campaigns, 1775–1782 (New Haven, 1954, reprinted Hamden, Conn., 1971), p. 231.

4A resolution of Oct. 3 establishing the strength of the American Army for the beginning of the year and calling on the states to complete their regiments by then: JCC, XVIII, 893–6.

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