George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Parke Custis, 4–8 August 1778

To John Parke Custis

[White Plains, c.4–8 August 1778]

I thank you for your cordial and affectionate congratulations on our late success at Monmouth, and the arrival of the French Fleet at the hook1—the first might, I think, have been a glorious day, if matters had begun well in the Morning; but as the Court Martial which has been setting upwards of a Month for the tryal of Genl Lee, is not yet over, I do not choose to say any thing on the subject, further, than that there evidently appeared a capitol blunder, or something else, somewhere. the truth, it is to be hoped, will come out, after so long an investigation of it. If it had not been for the long passage of the French Fleet, which prevented their arrival till after the evacuation of Philadelphia—or the shallowness of the Water at the entrance of the Harbour at New York, which prevented their getting in their, one of the greatest strokes might have been aimed, that ever was; and, if successful, wch I think, would have been reduced to moral certainty, the ruin of great Britain must have followed; as both army & Fleet must, undoubtedly, have fallen. Count D. Estaign with his Squadron are now at Rhode Island to which place I have detached Troops, and hope soon to hear of some favourable Adventure there as an attempt will be made upon the Enemy at that place.

After the Battle of Monmouth I Marched for this place, where I have been Incamped more than a fortnight. We cut off by the present position of the Army, all Land supply’s to the City of New York; and had the best reasons to beleive that the Troops there were suffering greatly for want of Provisions, but the French Fleet leaving the Hook, opens a door to the Sea, through which no doubt they will endeavour to avail themselves.

Give my love to Nelly Colo. Bassett and the rest of our friends & be assured that I am with sincere regards & affectn Yrs

Go: Washington

ALS (fragment), ViHi. GW learned of the French fleet’s arrival at Rhode Island on the evening of 3 Aug., on which date he completed a fortnight at the White Plains camp, so this letter could not have been written before 4 August. It could not have been written later than 12 Aug., when Maj. Gen. Charles Lee’s court-martial was completed, and it was almost certainly written before GW learned, on 8 Aug., that a British fleet had sailed from Sandy Hook. As both this text and GW’s draft letter to Custis of 3 Aug. (above) respond to Custis’s letter of 15 July, it is possible that the two texts were joined to form a single ALS, which might have been dated on the third and continued or redated to reflect the date that it was completed and sent.

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