George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 22 May 1781]

22nd. Fixed with Count de Rochambeau upon a plan of Campaign—in Substance as follows. That the French Land force (except 200 Men) should March so soon as the Squadron could Sail for Boston—to the North River & there, in conjunction with the American, to commence an operation against New York (which in the present reduced State of the Garrison it was thought would fall, unless relieved; the doing which wd. enfeeble their Southern operations, and in either case be productive of capital advantages) or to extend our views to the Southward as circumstances and a Naval superiority might render more necessary & eligable. The aid which would be given to such an operation in this quarter—the tardiness with which the Regiments would be filled for any other—the insurmountable difficulty & expence of Land transportation—the waste of Men in long marches (especially where there is a disinclination to the Service—objections to the climate &ca.) with other reasons too numerous to detail, induced to this opinion. The heavy Stores & Baggage of the French Army were to be deposited at Providence under Guard of 200 Men (before mentioned) & Newport Harbour & Works were to be secured by 500 Militia.1

1The Wethersfield Conference was held in the Webb House. Rochambeau informed GW of the probability that the combined French and American forces would be able to count on the arrival of de Grasse’s fleet in American waters later in the summer. The main question to be considered at Wethersfield was where the summer campaign should take place. Rochambeau contended that Virginia offered the best hope for a successful campaign, while GW stressed the advantages of an attack on the British in New York. “The Enemy by several detachments from New York having reduced their force at that Post to less than one half of the number which they had at the time of the former conference at Hartford in September last; it is thought advisable to form a junction of the French & American Armies upon the North [Hudson] River as soon as possible, and move down to the vicinity of New York to be ready to take advantage of any oppertunity which the weakness of the enemy may afford” (“Conference with Comte de Rochambeau,” 23 May 1781, DLC:GW). See also the more complete report of the interview in the Rochambeau Papers, Paul Mellon Collection, Upperville, Va.; KEIM description begins DeB. Randolph Keim. Rochambeau: A Commemoration by the Congress of the United States of America of the Services of the French Auxiliary Forces in the War of Independence. Washington, D.C., 1907. description ends , 381–83; and an account in Arch. des Aff. Etr., Corr. Pol., Etats-Unis, supp. vol. 15. In Mar. 1781 GW and Rochambeau had determined at a conference at Hartford that the French fleet would remain at Newport, a decision that conflicted with Admiral Barras’s orders which had stipulated that after Rochambeau marched to join GW the fleet would sail for Boston. In light of the possible transfer of the fleet it was decided at the meeting that the entensive stores and munitions which had been collected at Providence for the use of the fleet at Newport “may safely remain there under the Guard of 200 French Troops” (DLC:GW). Later, however, a council of war of French officers at Newport decided that Barras’s fleet would remain at Newport rather than move operations to Boston. See also Rochambeau to GW, 31 May 1781, DLC:GW; DONIOL description begins Henri Doniol. Histoire de la Participation de la France à l’établissement des États-Unis d’Amérique: Correspondance Diplomatique et Documents. 5 vols. Paris, 1886–92. description ends , 5:477–86.

Governor Trumbull dined with GW on 22 May (WEBB [2] description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed. Correspondence and Journals of Samuel Blachley Webb. 3 vols. New York, 1893–94. description ends , 2:340–41).

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