Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from William Carmichael, 13 July 1781

From William Carmichael

ALS: American Philosophical Society; copy: Library of Congress

Madrid July 13th. 1781

Dear Sir

I send you the last Spanish Gazettes in this inclosure by a Courier which the French Ambassador dispatches this with the news of the arrival of Monsr. de Guichen at Cadiz.8 The United fleet by this Junction amts to 52 sail of the Line, besides 3 other Spanish ships which are in the vicinage of the above-mentioned Port. The General rumer & beleif is that Gibraltar is the principal Object of this important armament. I must own however that I am still an Infidel on this Subject, altho’ I do not pretend to say which way it will be directed— By an American vessel from Philadelphia Mr Galvez received a letter from the Governor of the Havanna advising the Capture of Pensacola.9 No Particulars of this affair have yet been Published, but it gives general Joy, & Particular satisfaction to the King. We are to have Te Deums & Illuminations,1 In the Latter of which Mr Jay will bear his part, a circumstance that will be pleasing to Mr Galvez as a Minister & as a Man, for you know that he has the honor of the Enterprise & his Nephew the glory of executing it, which is worth to him a Lieutenant Generals Commission—2 The same vessel brought Letters for Mr Jay & newspapers to the 6th of June— These contain a relation of the affair of the 25th of April in which General3 was worsted, but still kept his ground— His loss in men was not considerable, In many other Skirmishes it appears the advantage was on our side. In Virginia, The Enemy have lost General Philips by sickness & the Command by that means Devolved on Arnold who by the last advices was at Petersburg, in the neighbourhood of which place The Marquis de la Fayette commanded the Force assembled to oppose Him—4 There are flying reports that Ld. Cornwallis was at Halifax in North Carolina on his march to form a junction with the former—5 The Same papers contain a relation published at N. York of the Ct de Grasses engagement with Sir Samuel Hood, which is much the Same as that published in the English Papers—6 This is I think the Substance of what by a very cursory perusal of our Gazettes, I have been able to remember, for Mr Jay immediately sent them to the Minister, To whom he has lately made overtures,7 which with the Answer He will in due time Communicate— I beg you to have the goodness to mention me in the proper manner to the Family of the Marquis de la Fayette at the same time that you communicate to them that he was well in the middle of May & greatly respected & beloved by his Troops— Mr Jay will draw upon you probably next week for 16 or 20000 dollars & I much fear will be obliged to have recourse to you for future assistance. I am with sincere esteem & great respect Your Excellencys Most obliged & Most Humble Sert

Wm. Carmichael

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8On July 6 the French admiral arrived at Cadiz with 18 ships of the line after a fifteen-day passage from Brest. The combined fleet, containing 49 ships of the line, sailed on the 21st for the Azores and the Isles of Scilly. Two other ships of the line accompanied the invasion force for Minorca which sailed two days later: Dull, French Navy, pp. 228–34.

9Bernardo de Gálvez’s army captured Pensacola (and more than a thousand British prisoners) on May 10. For an account of the siege see Francisco Morales Padrón, ed., Journal of Don Francisco Saavedra de Sangronis … (Gainesville, Fla., 1989), pp. 145–73.

1The July 31 issues of the Gaz. de Leyde and the Courier de l’Europe reported the celebrations in Madrid and Havana.

2Gálvez was the nephew of Minister of the Indies José de Gálvez. The King promoted him to lieutenant general, named him governor of West Florida (in addition to being governor of Louisiana) and made him a count: John W. Caughey, Bernardo de Gálvez in Louisiana, 1776–1783 (Berkeley, 1934), p. 214.

3“Greene” is meant. He did retreat after his defeat at Hobkirk’s Hill on that date. For Greene’s account of the battle see Richard K. Showman et al., eds., The Papers of General Nathanael Greene (10 vols. to date, Chapel Hill, 1976–), VIII, 155–60.

4On May 1 Greene named Lafayette military commander in Virginia: Idzerda, Lafayette Papers, IV, 74–5.

5Cornwallis did join Arnold at Petersburg, Va., on May 19, a few days after the death of Maj. Gen. William Phillips: William B. Willcox, ed., The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton’s Narrative of His Campaigns … (New Haven, 1954, reprinted Hamden, Conn., 1971), pp. 281, 296–8, 512–13; Willcox, Portrait of a General, pp. 385–6.

6On April 29–30, Sir Samuel Hood’s 17 ships of the line skirmished with de Grasse’s 20 of the line; de Grasse proceeded to Martinique, while Hood retreated to the north: W.M. James, The British Navy in Adversity: a Study of the War of American Independence (London, New York, Toronto, 1926), pp. 258–9.

7Jay wrote Floridablanca on July 13 requesting a meeting (to discuss an alliance) but Floridablanca claimed he was too busy. The two did not meet until September: Morris, Jay: Peace, pp. 25–6.

Index Entries