George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 24 October 1781]

24th. Received advice, by Express from General Forman, of the British Fleet in the Harbour of New York consisting of 26 Sail of the line, some 50s. & 44s.—Many frigates—fire Ships & Transports mounting in the whole to 99 Sail had passed the Narrows for the hook, & were as he supposd, upon the point of Sailing for Chesapeak.1 Notice was immediately communicated to the Count de grasse.

From this time to the 28th. was employed in collecting and taking an acct. of the different species of Stores which were much dispersed and in great disorder.

All the Vessels in public employ in the James River were ordered round for the purpose of receiving and transporting Stores &ca. to the Head of Elk.

1David Forman to GW, 17 Oct. 1781 (DLC:GW). In New York, Clinton and Graves, increasingly alarmed by Cornwallis’s reports from Yorktown, had since mid-October been in the midst of preparations to send a fleet to his relief. For the difficulties and delays surrounding these preparations, see WILLCOX [3] description begins William B. Willcox. Portrait of a General: Sir Henry Clinton in the War of Independence. New York, 1964. description ends , 436–39; CLINTON description begins William B. Willcox, ed. The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton’s Narrative of His Campaigns, 1775–1782, with an Appendix of Original Documents. New Haven, 1954. description ends , 338–46. Vessels of the British navy and transports carrying British troops began straggling out of New York on 17 Oct., but it was the 19th before the fleet was completely under way. By the 24th, when Graves had arrived at the Chesapeake, “he found Comte de Grasse’s superior fleet of thirty-three ships of the line and two fifty-gun ships at anchor in a position of defense. Since they were so stationed that he could not attack them without first running past a formidable land battery, he thought it foolhardy to stake everything” (BAURMEISTER description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends , 475–76). The fleet was back in New York by 3 Nov. (MACKENZIE [2] description begins Diary of Frederick Mackenzie Giving a Daily Narrative of His Military Service as an Officer of the Regiment of Royal Welch Fusiliers during the Years 1775–1781 in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 1930. description ends , 686).

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