George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens, 8 August 1778

To Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens

Head Quarters White plains 8 Augt 1778

⟨My dear Sir

Yesterday Afternoon I recd your favr of the 4th inst. You have my warmest thanks for your indefatigable exertions to promote the intended enterprise agt the Enemy, and my sincerest wishes that you may see them crowned with the fullest success. I shall be happy if things are in a proper train at the time you mention to begin our operation.

About an hour ago I recd a letter from General Maxwell, dated at Elizabeth Town the 7th at 9 oClock A.M. which contains the following paragraphs “I have to inform your Excellency that early yesterday Morning Lord Howe sailed out of the Hook, with his whole Fleet of armed Vessels. They were out of sight in the Afternoon and supposed to be going to Rhode Island. No troops nor transports were thought to be with them.”

“some transports are drawn up between Governors Island and Yellow Hook, supplied with wood, water and provisions. their Number sufficient to carry three Regiments to the West Indies. The Regiments supposed to be going are the 7th 29th and 71st but they were not embarking.” He adds a Nota bene “No British Fleet is arrived yet, that we can hear of.”1

I have written to Count D’Estaing by this Conveyance and⟩ communicated the above advices. I have also transmitted him a York paper of the 5th Instant containing British intelligence to the 4th of June, from which it would appear that Adml Keppel was then watching the Brest fleet.2

Your Journal & Map were very satisfactory and as I am deeply interested in the success of our Operations, I need not urge to you my wishes for constant information respecting them. What is & what is not are both very material.

I shall not write to Genl Sullivan by this opportunity. You will be pleased to remember me to him. I am Dr Sir with great regard & esteem Yr Most Obt servant

Go: Washington

P.S. In a Letter from Genl Greene which came when yours did,3 he mentions one from Genl Sullivan. If he wrote his Letter miscarried.

I dare say the Count DEstaing has taken the wisest precautions in his power to obtain information of any Sea-movements of the Enemy on our Coast—& particularly of the approach of any fleet towards him. I hint however to you—that if he has not already done it, I think he might employ light Cruizers off Rhode Island & the South side of Long Island to answer important purposes.

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, Sotheby, Parke-Bernet, sale no. 4184, Printed Books and Autograph Letters, 28–29 Nov. 1978, item 93; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Because only a portion of the LS was reproduced in the sale catalog, the text in angle brackets is taken from the draft, which is in Tench Tilghman’s writing.

1Brig. Gen. William Maxwell’s letter to GW of 7 Aug. has not been found.

2See GW to Vice Admiral d’Estaing, this date. Rivington’s Royal Gazette of 5 Aug. printed “A LIST of Admiral KEPPEL’S FLEET, which has blocked up the principal part of the French Navy assembled at Brest.”

3Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene’s letter to GW of 4 Aug. has not been found.

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