George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 25 June 1781]

25th. A Letter from Genl. Heath of the 18th. holds up favourable Ideas of the disposition prevaling in the State of Massachusetts Bay to comply with every thing required of them.1

Joined the Army at its Encampment at Peekskill. Mrs. Washington set out at the same time towards Virginia but with an intention to Halt at Philadelphia if from information & circumstances it was not likely she should remain quietly at Mt. Vernon.2

A Letter from Count de Rochambeau informs me that he shall be with his first division at Newtown on the 28th. where he purposed to assemble his force & March in Brigades while the Duke de Lauzens Legion continues to move on his Left flank.3

Had an interview with Govr. Clinton, Lieut. Govr. Courtlandt,4 & Generals Schuyler & Tenbrook;5 in which I pressed the necessity of my recalling the Continental Regiments from Albany, & the Posts above, & of the States hastening up their Levies for 3 Years & Nine months and agreed to order 600 Militia (part of the quota required of Massachusetts bay) from the Counties of Berkshire and Hampshire to March immediately to Albany which was accordingly done & Govr. Hancock advised of it.6

Genl. Stark was directed to repair to Saratoga & take command of the Troops on the Northern & western frontier and Genl. Clinton called upon in pointed terms to have the Continental Troops under his command in the most perfect readiness to join the Army.7

Recd. a Letter from the Minister of France advising me of the arrival of between 3 & 4000 Troops abt. the 4th. Inst. at Charles Town8—that 2000 of them had debarked & that the rest were said to be destined for St. Augustine & New York—that George Town was evacuated & the Enemy in Charles town weak (not exceeding 450 Men before the reinforcement arrived—which latter must be a mistake, as the Ministers informant added, that Lord Rawden had got there after a precipitate retreat from a Post above and that the American parties were within 5 Miles of the Town. Lord Rawdens Troops alone amounted to more than the Number here mentioned).

Having suggested to the Count de Rochambeau the advantages which might be derived to the common cause in general and the Southern States in particular, if by arming the Fantasque & bringing the 50 gun ship to Rhode Isld. (which then lay at Boston) the fleet of his most Christian Majesty at Newport could appear in Chesapeak bay.9 I received an answer from the French Admiral through the General that he was disposed to the measure provided he could obtain a loan of the French Guard (of 400 Men which were left at Newport & which were granted) and 4 pieces of heavy artillery at Brentons point10 which the Count could not spare but that the fleet could not be ready to Sail under 20 days from the date of his letter (the 21st.)—thus, uncertain, the matter stands.

1William Heath to GW, 18 June 1781 (DLC:GW).

2On 17 June 1781 GW wrote Joseph Webb that “Upon my return from Weathersfield I found Mrs. Washington extremely unwell, she still continues low & weak, but will set out for the Southward as soon as she can bear the fatigue of the journey” (DLC:GW). By 21 June she had “so perfectly recovered, as to be able to set out for Virginia in a day or two” (GW to Martha Mortier, 21 June 1781, MiU-C: Clinton Papers). Although she was well enough to start south on 25 June, GW wrote Fielding Lewis on 28 June that she “left me on Monday last in a very low and weak state having been sick for more than a Month with a kind of Jaundice” (NjP: Armstrong Photostats).

3Rochambeau to GW, 23 June 1781 (DLC:GW).

4Pierre Van Cortlandt (1721–1814) was lieutenant governor of New York from 1777 to 1795.

5Abraham Ten Broeck (d. 1810) was mayor of Albany.

6GW wrote John Hancock 25 June 1781 (M-Ar). See entries for 18, 25 May, 1, 20 June 1781.

7When rumors of a threatened British invasion of the New York frontier had proved unfounded, GW had recalled the reinforcements which had been sent to the area (see entry for 20 June 1781). In informing Gov. George Clinton of the withdrawal, GW noted that the recall of the Continental troops might be ameliorated by sending a Continental officer to superintend military activities in the area and suggested Brig. Gen. John Stark (1728–1822) of New Hampshire as “a proper person [to] employ on this service” (GW to Clinton, 21 June 1781, CSmH).

8Anne César, chevalier de La Luzerne (1741–1791), served as French minister plenipotentiary to the United States 1779–84. His undated letter to GW enclosing an intelligence report with this information is in DLC:GW.

9GW to Rochambeau, 17 June 1781 (DLC:GW). Rochambeau had already informed GW that the French admiral de Grasse had confirmed his intention of bringing his fleet north from the West Indies during the summer to aid the French and American armies in an attack against the British and had estimated the fleet would arrive in American waters around 15 July at the earliest (Rochambeau to GW, 10 June 1781, 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 , 5:487–88). On 13 June, in addition to urging Rochambeau to march as rapidly as possible to join the American army at White Plains, GW requested that Rochambeau persuade de Grasse not only to use his fleet to support the attack on New York but to bring a substantial body of troops with him (DLC:GW). A similar request was made to La Luzerne, the French minister in the United States (GW to La Luzerne, 13 June 1781, Aff. Etr., Mémoires et Documents, Etats-Unis, vol. 6). Rochambeau replied, 20 June, that de Grasse had been informed “that Your Excellency preferred that he should make his first appearance at New York . . . that I submitted, as I ought, my opinion to yours” (DLC:GW). In expressing his own views to de Grasse, however, Rochambeau was not as submissive as his letter to GW would indicate. He had not given up his preference for a Virginia campaign and clearly hoped that his apprehensions for the success of operations against the British in New York City would influence de Grasse to make the Chesapeake his destination (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 , 5:395).

For information on French maneuvers at this time, see also 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 , 5:489–90, 495; WEELEN description begins Jean-Edmond Weelen. Rochambeau, Father and Son: A Life of the Maréchal de Rochambeau. Translated by Lawrence Lee. New York, 1936. description ends , 104–5, 217–19; WHITRIDGE description begins Arnold Whitridge. Rochambeau. New York, 1965. description ends , 131–40; FREEMAN description begins Douglas Southall Freeman. George Washington: A Biography. 7 vols. New York, 1948–57. description ends , 5:296. Barras’s reply to GW’s request to arm the Fantasque is in Barras to Rochambeau, 23 June 1781, enclosed in Rochambeau to GW, 23 June 1781 (DLC:GW).

10Brenton’s Point is at the entrance of Newport harbor.

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