George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Vice Admiral d’Estaing, 2 September 1778

To Vice Admiral d’Estaing

Head Quarters White plains 2d Sepr 17781


The importance of the fleet under your command to the common cause, and the interest I take in your personal concerns would not permit me, but to be deeply affected with the information of the disappointment and injuries, you sustaind in the late unfortunate storm. I flatter myself, and I most ardently hope, my countrymen will exert themselves to give you every aid in their power, that you may as soon as possible recover from the damage you have suffered and be in a condition to renew your efforts against the common enemy.

Inclosed I do myself the honor to send you an extract from the journal, from an officer stationed in the vicinity of Black-point, to watch the motions of the enemy’s fleet; which I have just receivd. He is an officer of vigilance and discernment, but from his situation it is possible he may be mistaken in the size of the ships. Part of his intelligence too from the nature of it must have been received from others, and is so far fallible.2 I think it my duty to communicate to you as I receive it; and shall immediately give you notice of any thing that comes to my knowledge, which may either confirm or contradict.3

I am informed there is a considerable quantity of provisions on the way from Philadelphia for the use of your fleet—4 part crossed the North River several days since.

you may be assured so far as it shall depend upon me, every method will be taken to forward them with dispatch. I have the honor to be With the greatest respect & esteem Sir Your most obedt serv.

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1The dateline on the draft is in Tench Tilghman’s writing.

2At this point on the draft, Hamilton marked a sentence for insertion that was later struck out: “Some accounts by different channels also mention the arrival of a part of Byron’s fleet.”

3GW enclosed an extract of Maj. Richard Howell’s letter to William Maxwell of 30 Aug., giving his journal of ship movements from 26 to 30 Aug. (DLC:GW). Howell reported no movement on 26 or 27 Aug., but on 28 Aug. “one small Vessel came in and a large Ship thought an 84,” and on 29 Aug. “Two transports went up under Convoy of a very large Ship suppos’d to be a 74 same Day 2 other Ships came in esteemd 1. 74. & one 84 went up to the Hook.” Howell’s entry for 30 Aug. reported: “2 ships 1 Sloop & a Brig came in not ships of Force unless one might have been a frigate And now I am to remark that one of Biron’s fleet which had ⟨halted⟩ in a Gale of Wind did certainly Join Ld How & sail with him. The ships mentioned above are Birons fleet who is now in the Bay taking in water & will sail very shortly in Comp’y with a rear Admiral name unknown, who was a shore at the Hook in that Charecter. … It was reported in York that Rhoad Island was attack’d both by sea & land but they think they can maintain the place if our Troops do not amount to more than 40000. Certainly General Clinton was marchd to the East end of Long-Island with 8000 men there to embark on board Transports which were ready to receive them, & supposed to design for Rhoad Island. By an express to York, the french Fleet were Join’d by a small reinforcement from Chessopeak Bay 1. 50. 1. 40. & 3 frigates. I am told here that the Day before yesterday 2 ships, appeard off the Land near long-Branch, under french Co⟨lors.⟩ A ship call’d the Leviathan lays off the Hook with one tier of Guns as a Battery.” Howell added information that was probably not included in the extract: “I am in haste as my party are now on their Marc⟨h⟩ and I must over take them before Night. A fiew Days past the wood Tories attack’d a Man and robbed him. They have said they would make their fortunes tomorrow out of the Inhabitants on their way to the Sale of a Ship and Cargo at Toms River, I shall march all Night and may perhaps mar their Sport in the Morning.”

4At this point on the draft, Hamilton wrote and struck out the words “near forty waggon loads.”

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