George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General John Sullivan, 24 July 1778

From Major General John Sullivan

Providence July 24th 1778

My Dear General

I had Last Evening the honor of Receiving your Excellencys favor of the 17th Instant & Shall immediately make Every preparation mentioned.1 I had previous to the Receipt Sent two Expresses Informing your Excy of the Reinforcements Sent by the Enemy to Rhode Island & Inclosed you the Intelligence I had obtained Those Letters must Reach Yr Excy before this.2 by the Last of which you will find that the Militia are already Called for the Reasons therein mentioned; which Steps I hope will meet your Excys approbation. So that the Number of troops your Excy mentions will be on the Ground the magazines were forming & I hope will Soon be adequate to the purpose the Pilots will be Ingaged & Every thing Shall be in perfect Readiness. I Inclose your Excellencey The Intelligence Received from the Island Since the Last Express was Sent off.3 I Should more frequently have informed Your Excellencey of my Situation but nothing material had Turned up on Either Side from the time I gave Information to the time I Sent the Two Last mentioned Expresses. & as I Sensibly felt for your Excellecy ⟨in⟩ y⟨o⟩ur perplexed Situation I did not wish to Deprive you of a Single moment That might offer itself to Releve you from your weight of Business By any Relation from this Quarter which was not material your Excellencey will therefore please to attribute my Silence to the Cause above mentioned which will be Sufficiently Evident from the Letters Sent upon the first Change of affairs in this Quarter & which you must be possessed of before this Reaches you My own Interest & Inclinations would Induce me in Every Instance to write your Excellencey & Claim a Share of that advice which you are Ever Ready to give & of which I have So often Availed myself. But I cannot add to the weight on your Excellencys mind Except when it becomes absolutely necessary. In Every Such Case your Excy will hear from me Let my Situation be in whatever Quarter of America it may. My other two Letters & the Inclosed papers will Enable Your Excy to form as Just an opinion of the Enemys & my Situation as can be come at. They had on the Island before General Browns arrival 3717 his & the arrivals Since have Increased them to near 7000. Should the French Fleet arrive here I can Soon have a Sufficient number of troops to Coopperate with them & I trust to give a Decisive Blow to our Enemies I have the Honor to be Dear General with the most perfect Sentiment of Esteem & Respect your Excys most obedt Servant

Jno. Sullivan

E⟨v⟩ery movement of the Enemy in this Quarter Shall be immediately Communicated. I Inclose the Last New port paper.4


1Elsewhere Sullivan wrote that he received GW’s letter of 17 July “the 22d Inst. after Noon” (Sullivan to Vice Admiral d’Estaing, 25 July, DLC:GW). On 24 July, Sullivan wrote to Massachusetts council president Jeremiah Dummer Powell and to Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., citing GW’s letter as authority to call out 1,000 militia from Massachusetts and 500 from Connecticut. He also wrote a second letter to each, adding a request for volunteers (Hammond, Sullivan Papers description begins Otis G. Hammond, ed. Letters and Papers of Major-General John Sullivan, Continental Army. 3 vols. Concord, 1930-39. In Collections of the New Hampshire Historical Society, vols. 13–15. description ends , 2:107–8, 110–11).

2See Sullivan to GW, 20 and 22 July.

3Sullivan enclosed an unsigned letter from Little Compton, R.I., dated 23 July: “We have at last obtained a Memorial from the Island, our Correspondent has endeavour’d to take a Plan, but was fustrated by the Enemy who are excessive zealous, and watchful, the Bearer was both Nights on with my Sns and has taken the greatest pains imaginable to procure all possible intelligence—The last Paper will accompany the Memorial, which contains a just account of their last Reinforcement, tho the Inhabitants in general don’t believe it—The Officers in the Army Declare publicly the superiorety of the Frence fleet, which they Say is now at Sandy Hook, and has effectually Blocked up Lord Howe, which from their own account must be the Case the rest the Bearer will communicate” (DLC:GW). The “Memorial” may have been the following undated intelligence, which was probably enclosed as well: “It is impossible, on Account of the distracted Condition of the Enemy, to obtain anny correct Account of their Situation in Force; because what may hold good for to Day, may be useless to Morrow; they being under dreadful apprehensions of a French Fleet here, are making Preparations accordingly. they are fortifying Brenton’s Point and Rose Island, strenghtening Fort Island, and repairing the North Battery. their Transports have fallen down Town, within the Fort, and have moved their Provisions up the Hill. they are bringing heavy Cannon into Town, and the same Day carrying them out. In short all is confusion.

“The Number of their Troops they say is 6000, which is not true, nor can I say with certainty what their Numbers are But exclusive of the Troops that were here before suppose to be about 3000 effective Men there have arrived Colonel Brown’s Regiment of Rebel⟨s⟩ consisting of 344 Men; and since have arrived 2 Regiments of Anspach, the 38th of British, and Colonel Fanning’s Regiment of Rebels, the four Regments making about 1400.

“I have made several Attem⟨pts⟩ to discover what Works they have, where they a⟨re⟩ and what Guns are in them; but in Vain they have so increased their Number of Forts and Redoubts, and grown so suspicious and watchful, and I having twice narrowly escaped being taken, that I despair of being able to accomplish that Matter. I shall therefore only men⟨ti⟩on what comes within my Knowledge; which is that 2 Regiments are at connanicut, one at G. Irish’s, one Company of Hessians in the Fort at yaminy [Miantonomi] Hill, one Regiment down Neck, at Harris’s Mill, one Company of Hessians near the Road, half way between the Town and and James Coggeshal’s, where they have a Breast Work, with two Field Pieces mounted pointing West. they have a Guard at Codington’s Cove and Point, and Centinels placed down the Neck near the Road, within Call of each other, as far as Churches, also on the Hill at Brenton’s Wood, so as to overlook the Beach.

“N.B. This is wrote by a Person that cannot read a word of English. If my Name is not mentioned no Accident can discover me. It is as unsafe for my Name to be spoke of there, as it would be here” (DLC:GW).

4Sullivan was probably referring to the Newport Gazette, published from January 1777 until October 1779.

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