Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from George Washington, 20 December 1780

From George Washington

ALS: American Philosophical Society; AL (draft): Library of Congress

New Windsor 20th. Decr. 1780


A few days since—by the Chevr. De Chatteleaux I had the honor to receive your favor of the 19th. of March introductory of him,4 and thank you for bringing me acquainted with a Gentleman of his merit, knowledge, and agreeable manners.— I spent several days very happily with him at our Camp near the Great Falls of Passaic in New Jersey5 before the Army removed to its places of Cantonment the principle of which is at West point in the vicinity of this Village where I make my Quarters.—

Disappointed of the second division of French Troops—6 but more especially in the expected Naval superiority which was the pivot upon which every thing turned, we have been compelled to make an inactive campaign after a flattering prospect at the opening of it, and vigorous struggles to make it a decisive one on our part.— Latterly, we have been obliged to become spectators of a succession of detachments from the Army at New York in aid of Lord Cornwallis, while our Naval weakness and the political dissolution of a large part of our Army puts it out of our power to counteract them to the Southward, or take the advantage of them here.—

The movements of Lord Cornwallis during the last Month or two, have been retrograde—what turn the late reinforcements which have been sent to him7 may give to his affairs—remains to be known— I have reinforced also, principally with Horse,8 but the length of the March is so much opposed to the measure that every Corps, in a greater or lesser degree is ruined that encounters it.—

I am happy however in assuring you that a better disposition never prevailed in the Legislatures of the several States than does at this time.— The folly of temporary expedients are seen into & exploded—and vigorous efforts will be used to obtain a permanent Army & carry on the War systematically if the obstinacy of Great Britain should compel us to continue it.— We want nothing but the aid of a Loan to enable us to put our Finance into a tolerable train.— The Country does not want Resources—but we [lack] the means of drawing them forth.

It is unnecessary for me to go into a more detail acct. of our Affairs as you are doubtless officially advised of every material occurrence.— I shall therefore only add my compliments to Mr. Adams—and the strongest assurances of being With the greatest esteem & respect—Dr: Sir Yr. most Obt. & H: Ser

Go: Washington

The Honble Doctr. Franklin Ministr. Plenipy.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4XXXII, 135.

5Chastellux was greatly impressed by Washington, whom he visited from Nov. 23 to Nov. 27: Marquis de Chastellux, Travels in North America in the Years 1780, 1781, and 1782 (Howard C. Rice, Jr., ed. and trans., 2 vols., Chapel Hill, 1963), I, 105–14.

6The fifth and sixth of Rochambeau’s regiments. Lack of shipping had prevented their sailing with him. Subsequently the British blockade of the French coast had prevented their joining him: XXXII, 71n.

7Presumably a reference to Leslie’s Chesapeake force, which had proceeded to Charleston.

8These reinforcements were not large; he sent Nathanael Greene, the new American commander in the south, only the 300 men of Lee’s legion, half of them cavalry: John S. Pancake, This Destructive War: the British Campaign in the Carolinas 1780–1782 (University, Al., 1985), p. 131; Richard K. Showman et al., eds., The Papers of General Nathanael Greene (9 vols. to date, Chapel Hill, 1976–), VI, 430–1n.

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