George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 7 August 1781]

7th. Urged Governor Greene of Rhode Island to keep up the number of Militia required of that State at Newport & to have such arrangements made of the rest as to give instant & effectual support to the Post, & the Shipping in the harbour, in case any thing should be enterprized against the latter upon the arrival of Rodney; who, with the British fleet, is said to be expected at New York, & in conjuction with the Troops which are Embarked in Virginia & their own Marines are sufficient to create alarms.1

1GW to William Greene, 7 Aug. 1781 (DLC:GW). GW wrote Greene that “It is reported in New York, perhaps not without foundation, that Rodney’s Fleet may be expected upon this Coast. In such case we may suppose that the Count de Grasse would follow him: But can we say which would arrive first.” At this time Admiral Sir George Rodney (1719–1792) was in command of the British fleet in the West Indies. Although British intelligence reports indicated that the French fleet was about to sail for the Chesapeake, Rodney gambled on the assumption that de Grasse would divide his fleet, taking part to the Chesapeake and leaving the remaining ships to guard the French West Indies. When de Grasse left the West Indies (6 Aug.), taking with him his entire fleet, Rodney had already (1 Aug.) sailed for England, leaving command of the fleet in southern waters to Rear Admiral Sir Samuel Hood. For the circumstances surrounding the British failure to pursue de Grasse’s fleet in force to American waters, see WILLCOX [2] description begins William B. Willcox. “The British Road to Yorktown: A Study in Divided Command.” American Historical Review 52 (1946–47): 1–35. description ends , 21–23.

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