George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General John Sullivan, 3 September 1778

From Major General John Sullivan

Providence Septemer 3d 1778

My Dear General,

I had Last night the honor of Receiving your Excellenceys Favor of the first Instant & impatiently wait your Excellenceys Sentiments on The Steps I have taken Since the 29th ult. an Account of which has been Transmitted by Major Morris.1

The Justice of the observations in your Excellenceys Letter Respecting the Departure of the French Fleet are So obvious That if a Consciousness of my Duty to yield implicit obedience to your Excellenceys Commands did not Ever make that obedience a pleasure The Reasoning alone must have pointed out the part I have to Act—I have the pleasure to Inform your Excellencey That Though the first Struggles of passion on So important a Disappointment were Scarcly to be Restrained: Yet in a few Days by Taking advantage of the Subsiding passion I found means to Restore the former harmony between the American & French officers of the Army. The Count DEstaing & myself are in the Same friendship as heretofore. The Reason of the Protest2 has been Explained to him & he is now perfectly Satisfied he has offered to come on with his Land Forces & do every thing which I may Request of him & his Troops but This Step has become unnecessary—The Reason of Drawing the Protest was this: The Count himself wished to Remain with us but was by his Captains overruled in Council as Deviating from the voice of his Council would be attended with ill Consequences to him in Case of misfortune it was Supposed that The protest might Justify his Deviating from the voice of the Council & Acting a part agreable to his own Sentiments & those of the Coopperating Army. prudence Dictated it as our Duty to keep it Secret from all but him your Excey & the Congress & no publication of it was Ever thought of on our part & your Excy may Rely on my Exertions to prevent it—Every thing in my power Shall be Done for Repairing the Injury Sustained by the French Fleet. The Fleet off Boston Harbor of which I gave your Excy an Account yesterday are Eight Ships of the Line ten Frigates one Sloop & a Schooner There can be no Doubt of its being Lord Howes Fleet watching the motions of the French Fleet to facilitate the Relief of Rhode Island & perhaps to Cover the Retreat of the British Army from Rhode Island & New York to other places where they are more needed. Those Ships were out of Sight yesterday morning Eight of Clock but I hear they afterward hove in Sight again. The Report here is That Six thousand Troops have arrived at Newport. I know they are numerous but cannot as yet ascertain the number3 your Excellencey will please to Transmit Copy of This Letter to Congress & believe me to be with Every Sentiment of gratitude Respect & Esteem your Excellenceys most obedt & very Humble Servant

Jno. Sullivan

ALS, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, ScHi: Henry Laurens Papers; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169. The copy in DNA:PCC, item 152, was enclosed in GW to Henry Laurens, 4–5 September.

1Sullivan was referring to his letter to GW of 31 August.

2For the American officers’ protest to Vice Admiral d’Estaing of 22 Aug., see John Sullivan to GW, 23 Aug., n.2.

3The roughly four thousand British troops that arrived to relieve Newport on 1 Sept. did not disembark. They sailed off on the evening of 2 Sept. (see Mackenzie Diary description begins Diary of Frederick Mackenzie Giving a Daily Narrative of His Military Service as an Officer of the Regiment of Royal Welch Fusiliers during the Years 1775–1781 in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 1930. description ends , 2:389–91; Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends , 181).

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