George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General John Sullivan, 5 October 1778

To Major General John Sullivan

Head Quarters at Fish kill 5th Otbr [1778]1

Dear sir

I had the pleasure of your letter of the 3d Inst. with its inclosure.

In a letter from Gen. Gates of yesterdays date he has the following paragraph. “Two sailors belonging to Cape Cod who made their escape from the prison ship last monday night arrived here; they declare, that the British fleet of men of war, sailed ten days ago in quest of the french fleet.”2 There is some shew of a correspondence between the sailing of Byron in a 90 gun ship with the 74 and of Lord Howe—in 50. and the relation of these two seamen.3 But as I have had no intelligence from persons whose particular business it is to watch the motions of the fleet, and to collect information it lessens very much the credibility of the narration. However you will use it in such a manner as to provide against measures which the enemy may have in view by such a movement. I mean that you may4 put yourself in a condition to afford every assistance in your power to the Count to prevent the enemy from possessing those hights which command his fleet, for there is little doubt, in case they attempt his squadron, of a land co-operation for its destruction.

You will give the inclosure to the Count d’Estaing the speediest conveyance.5 I am Dr Sir &c.

Df, in James McHenry’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1McHenry docketed the draft: “5 Octr 1778—To Gen. Sullivan.”

2This intelligence was included in Horatio Gates’s second letter to GW of 4 October. The previous Monday was 28 September.

3Admiral Byron had sailed from Newport, R.I., for New York in the 90-gun Princess Royal accompanied by the 74-gun Culloden on 28 September. Admiral Howe had sailed from Newport for England in the 64-gun Eagle two days earlier (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 , 2:398–99).

4At this place on the draft manuscript, McHenry first wrote: “will.” He then struck out that word and wrote “may” above the line.

5GW apparently is referring to his letter to d’Estaing of this date.

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