George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Duportail, 2 September 1778

From Brigadier General Duportail

[2 September 1778]

General Du Portail’s opinion

The English fleet finding itself by the arrival of six vessels greatly superior to the French fleet, it seems to me that the English may now project a decisive operation. This is to block up the port of Boston with their fleet—to embark all the troops at NewYork—conduct them to Rhode Island—debark them there and march directly towards Boston. To prevent them—this is briefly what I should think proper for us to do.

  • 1st To give orders to General Sullivan to take all the necessary measures to hinder their debarkation.
  • 2 To reconnoitre a succession of positions to be occupied on the route to Boston; to have cut up, or hold himself ready to cut up, all the parallel and detour roads leading there—If any place can be found favourable for fighting the English army to have it fortified beforehand.
  • 3—His Excellency to send towards Connecticut river three or four thousand men ready to pass when there shall be occasion and reinforce General Sullivan. That the rest of the army hold itself on such a position, that these three or four thousand men may be able to join it, in case the enemy, instead of going towards Boston should march against us; and that it may be at the same time as far advanced towards a junct⟨ion⟩ with General Sullivan, as the security of the North River will permit. I suppose that the Militia of the State of Boston are ready to assemble.

I would also propose to His Excellency with regard to myself—

That I should go immediately to General Sullivan’s army to assist in choosing and fortifying a good position on the route to Boston.

When that should be done—That I should go myself to Boston to see what may be done for the defence of the town itself—I would even precede myself by Mr De la Radiere to whom I will write (if His Excellency judges it proper) to repair there immediately.

Du Portail

Translation, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; ADS, in French, DLC:GW; Varick transcript of translation, DLC:GW. The date is taken from the Varick dockets on the ADS and translation. This is Duportail’s response to the questions GW posed at a council of war on the evening of 1 September.

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