George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Vice Admiral d’Estaing, 19 September 1778

To Vice Admiral d’Estaing

Fishkill [N.Y.] 19th Sepr 1778.


I had the honor of writing to your Excellency on the 11th instant.

I take the earliest oppertunity of transmitting you the following intelligence, which I have reason to think is authentic—That Lord Howe’s fleet has returned to New York, and that the seamen, which he had taken from the transports to reinforce his Crews, are remanded to their respective Ships.1

The day before yesterday, a considerable fleet of Transports returned from the Eastward to New York. It is presumed they had on board the Reinforcement that was destined for the releif of Newport. since the destruction of Bedford, that force has been employed in collecting Cattle and Sheep upon Martha’s Vineyard and other places in the Sound.2

I have other information, upon which I cannot place so much dependance, that all the Transports in the Harbour of New York are ordered to be got ready, 47000 Tons of which are to be hastened in an extraordinary manner.

I have repeatedly received accounts that ten Regiments were held ready to embark. My Spies say that they are destined for the West Indies: But this they are obliged to take up from what is given out in New York, which may perhaps be contrary to their real design—purposely to amuse and deceive. One peice of intelligence, if true, strongly evinces an intention to send a Body of Troops to the West Indies. it is—that they are taking the heavy linings out of a number of the soldiers Coats and making up their Waistcoats and Breeches. I shall by every mean endeavour to ascertain the truth of the foregoing, and if confirmed, you may depend that I shall not fail to advise you.3 It is my wish to give you no intelligence but that which may be perfectly relied on: But as that, from the nature of things, is impossible, I shall always carefully distinguish between that which is certain, and that which admits of a doubt.

Deserters, from the six ships of Byrons Fleet which arrived at New York some time since, mention the extreme sickliness of the Crews of those Ships. Some of them say that 2000 have been landed upon Staten Island, and are there in Hospital Tents. perhaps this may be an exaggerated account, but from a variety of information, I am inclined to think that an uncommon degree of sickness has prevailed on board them.

A general embargo has been laid on all Ves<sels in the port of New York. Liberty has been within a few days granted to those, that would engage to carry coarse Woolens and Salt to Canada, to sail. I have not heard that any troops are ordered to Canada.

I am on my way to Fredericksburg, at which place I purpose to establish my Head Quarters, and where I shall be happy to receive> your favors. I have the honor to be with the greatest Respect & Esteem Yr Excellency’s most obt Servant

Go: Washington

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, FrPNA, Fonds de la Marine, ser. B4, vol. 146, ff. 273–74; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. In his letter to d’Estaing of 20 Sept., GW refers to this letter as having been written at Fort Clinton (West Point).

George Clinton wrote Robert R. Livingston on 23 Sept. that GW’s new headquarters was located “at Frederickburgh, for which Place Genl. Washington after having visited the Forts, passed thro Fishkill on Sunday last [20 Sept.]” (Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 4:76–77). Clinton may be mistaken about the date of GW’s presence at Fishkill, or it may be that GW stayed there on the night of 19 Sept. and proceeded to Fredericksburg the next day. The expense account for GW’s trip from White Plains to Fredericksburg that his aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman submitted on 21 Nov. 1778 shows that $4 was spent at West Point and $20 at Fishkill, but Tilghman gives no dates for those or the other expenditures on this trip (Revolutionary War Accounts, Vouchers, and Receipted Accounts, 1776–1780, DLC:GW, ser. 5). GW arrived in the Fredericksburg area by 20 Sept. (see GW to John Sullivan, that date).

1Lord Howe’s fleet had arrived at New York on 11 Sept. (see Kemble Papers description begins [Stephen Kemble]. The Kemble Papers. 2 vols. New York, 1884-85. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 16–17. description ends , 1:162, and Laughton, “Journals of Henry Duncan,” description begins John Knox Laughton, ed. “Journals of Henry Duncan, Captain, Royal Navy, 1776–1782.” The Naval Miscellany 1 (London, 1902): 105–219. In Publications of the Navy Records Society, vol. 20. description ends 164).

2The British fleet carrying Maj. Gen. Charles Grey’s troops back to New York from their recent raids on New Bedford and Fairhaven, Mass., and Martha’s Vineyard arrived on 17 Sept. at Whitestone, Long Island, where the troops landed two days later (see 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 , 220; see also Charles Scott to GW, 20 Sept., and Baurmeister, Revolution in America description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends , 214–15).

3Maj. Gen. James Grant’s West Indies expedition sailed from Sandy Hook on 3 November.

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