George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 17 September 1781]

17th. In company with the Count de Rochambeau—the Chevr. Chastellux—Genls. Knox & Duportail, I set out for the Interview with the Admiral & arrived on board the Ville de Paris (off Cape Henry) the next day by Noon and having settled most points with him to my satisfaction except not obtaining an assurance of sending Ships above York and one that he could not continue his fleet on this Station longer than the first of November I embarked on board the Queen Charlotte (the Vessell I went down in) but by hard blowing; & contrary Winds, did not reach Williamsburg again till the 22d.1

1On 17 Sept. de Grasse sent a small vessel, the Queen Charlotte, captured from the British, to convey GW and his party to the Ville de Paris for the conference. Also accompanying GW were aides David Cobb and Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. (TRUMBULL [1] description begins “Minutes of Occurrences respecting the Siege and Capture of York in Virginia, extracted from the Journal of Colonel Jonathan Trumbull, Secretary to the General, 1781.” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society 14 (1875-76): 331–38. description ends , 333). For an amusing but perhaps apocryphal account of GW’s reception by de Grasse aboard the flagship, see CUSTIS description begins George Washington Parke Custis. Recollections and Private Memoirs of Washington. New York, 1860. description ends , 235–36. See also TRUMBULL [1] description begins “Minutes of Occurrences respecting the Siege and Capture of York in Virginia, extracted from the Journal of Colonel Jonathan Trumbull, Secretary to the General, 1781.” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society 14 (1875-76): 331–38. description ends , 333–34. GW’s revolutionary accounts record the expenses of the trip to and from the French flagship as £25 (DLC:GW).

De Grasse had already warned Rochambeau and GW that the stay on the Chesapeake of his fleet and Saint Simon’s troops would be limited, probably not extending beyond mid-October (see 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 , 5:520–22). The question uppermost in GW’s mind was whether de Grasse would be able to extend his stay until the British could be forced to surrender, particularly if the siege of Yorktown proved to be protracted. The series of questions dealing with the campaign posed by GW at the conference and de Grasse’s replies are in DNA:PCC, Item 152.

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