George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General John Sullivan, 14 September 1778

From Major General John Sullivan

Providence Septemr 14th 1778

Dear General

I was this morning Honoured with your Excellencys favor of the 12th Instant; The Directions in which I Shall Carefully Comply with & give Constant & the most Explicit Information of Every thing which may occur in this Department. I Inclose your Excellencey a piece of Intelligence Reced from General Heath this morning.1 There is a Rumor here that an Express is arrived at Boston Informing that the Enemy has Landed at Falmouth Casco Bay & Burnt the remaining part of the Town.2 I have not been able to find out how it came or what party of the Enemy was Employd in this Laudable Business or Even how far the Report may be Relied on. General Gray with his Fleet has been gone from Bedford Several Days it is possible that he might have done it but he must have been favored with remarkable good winds. Lord Howes Fleet was a few Days agow Anchored under Block Island they are Cruising about Block Island Sound Constantly for what purpose I know not. A man has Arrived at this place (one Jacob Westcoat) who Governor Bowen Says is a man of great veracity3 he Says that he Sailed from the west Indias with an English Fleet of Merchantmen bound home—under Convoy That the vessel he was on was Cleared out for Hallifax That after parting from the Fleet & Coming upon this Coast They were brought to by a Privateer from New york The Captain was ordered on Board with his papers which being Examined the vessel was Suffered to proceed The Captain of the Privateer Informed the Captain of the merchantman That the Enemy was going to Evacuate New york & bring all their Land and Naval Force against Boston to possess themselves of That Town and Destroy the French Fleet—I make no Doubt of the Captain of the Privateer having given this Information but how far his Authority is to be Relied on your Excellencey will Determine This is all the Information I have in this Department I Shall write your Excellencey Every Day in future—The Arms are all taken out of the hands of the Militia And Shall be forwarded to Springfield with all possible Dispatch I have the honor to be Dear General with the greatest Respect your Excellenceys most obedt Servt

Jno. Sullivan

ALS, DLC:GW. A note on the cover indicates that this letter was sent “pr Express.”

1For discussion of the intelligence from John Peck Rathbun, see Maj. Gen. William Heath’s first letter to GW of 12 Sept., n.4. There are two copies in DLC:GW.

2Falmouth, in what is now Maine, had been largely destroyed by a British raid in October 1775. The source of this rumor was probably the presence near Falmouth, Mass., of the British fleet carrying Maj. Gen. Charles Grey’s troops (see William Heath to GW, 15 Sept., and for more detail on the British movements, Gruber, Peebles’ American War description begins Ira D. Gruber, ed. John Peebles’ American War: The Diary of a Scottish Grenadier, 1776–1782. Mechanicsburg, Pa., 1998. description ends , 217–18).

3Jabez Bowen (1739–1815) of Providence was elected deputy governor of Rhode Island in May 1778 and remained in that post until 1786. Jacob Westcott, a mariner, was master of the Rhode Island privateer Sally in 1782.

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