George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General John Sullivan, 28 August 1778

To Major General John Sullivan

Head Quarters White plains
28 Augt 1778 12 OClock Noon

Dear Sir

I am exceedingly anxious to hear the determination of yourself and the General Officers upon the great reverse of your prospects, since the French Fleet left you. I however think it incumbent upon me to inform you, that from a variety of intelligence, Lord Howe put to sea again on Tuesday,1 his design no doubt to attempt the relief of New port, which will be easily effected, either by throwing in a reinforcement or withdrawing the Garrison, as I take it for granted the French Fleet would not have returned, had your protest reached them. I also yesterday received information from Long Island, that looks like a great and general move among the British Army, the real intent I have not been able to learn, but I think part of it must be meant to cooperate with their fleet, especially as many transports are drawn into the sound. You will more than probable have come to a decisive resolution either to abandon the enterprise or to attack long before this reaches you, but lest you should not, I have given you all the information that I have been able to obtain, that you may judge more fully of the propriety of remaining upon the Island under such appearances. The Wind is now contrary and if it continues a short time, this will reach you before the transports can, should they be bound Eastward.

supposing you should remove from the Island, I desire you will keep as many of your troops together as you possibly can. We do not know the views of the enemy, should they be Eastward, you may be able with a force already collected, and the assistance of the Militia, to keep them from making much progress, untill a reinforcement from this army would join you.

I will just add a hint, which, made use of in time, may prove important, and answer a very salutary purpose. Should the expedition fail, thro’ the abandonment of the French Fleet, the Officers concerned will be apt2 to complain loudly. But prudence dictates that we should put the best face upon the matter and, to the World, attribute the removal to Boston, to necessity. The Reasons are too obvious to need explaining. The principal one is, that our British and internal enemies would be glad to improve the least matter of complaint and disgust against and between us and our new Allies into a serious rupture. I am &c.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1The previous Tuesday was 25 August.

2At this point on the draft Tilghman wrote “and not without reason,” but that phrase was struck out.

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