George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General John Sullivan, 13 November 1778

From Major General John Sullivan

Providence [R.I.] Novemr 13th 1778

My Dear General

I this morning Received the Inclosed Intelligence from Colo. Greene and have no doubt but the Fleet he mentions is Byrons or that part of it which has Escaped The Late Storms.1 by Some Reports A part of that Fleet viz. three Ships were Cast away on Nantucket Shoals—The Newport paper gives an Account that Euleven British A Number of Foreign Regiments & Several of the New Raised Corps have Sailed from New york, Their Destination unknown. Capt. Brownrigg in a Letter to Lieut. Freeman of the 24th Regiment at Cambridge Says that the 10th 45th & 52d Regiments have Left New york for England (This Letter I Saw)2 There is therefore of Course 14 British Regiments a number of Foreign (as they Express it) & Several of the new Levies gone from New york. I Inclose your Excellency the Newport paper3 & have been thus particular That your Excy may know what Force yet Remains in <N>ew york—I think the Intelligence can admit of no Doubt—<I> have also Reced Intelligence via Newport That Dominica St <Ch>ristopher Mont Serrat Nevis & Antigua are in the hands of the French4 that the Enemy have orders to Evacuate & Burn New york <&> Newport—That all the Transports are taking in wood & water for a voyage & that the wood Fleet which was going out is ordered to Stop & take in wood & Water agreable to their Tonnage The Prisoners are Removed from the Provost on board Ships ready Riggd for Sea. This Intelligence Came through a Channel which I think can be Depended on I have taken measures to put it beyond a Doubt & will give your Excelly the Earliest Information: I Shall now while Things have this appearance make my Information more frequent. I have the Honor to be with much Respect & the highest Esteem Dr Genl yr Excellenceys most obedt Servt

Jno. Sullivan

ALS, DLC:GW. The text in angle brackets is missing from the mutilated manuscript. Sullivan endorsed the letter “To go night and day.”

1The enclosed copy of a letter from Col. Christopher Greene to Sullivan, dated 12 Nov., 10:00 p.m., at East Greenwich, R.I., reads: “I have this Moment received Intelligence that there has one large Man of War come into Newport Harbour this Afternoon and ten more large Ships discovered about Sunset off the East End of Block Island standing in supposed to be Men of War It is probable there will more follow. Shall give the earliest Notice of any Discoveries” (DLC:GW). The ships were indeed the remnants of Admiral John Byron’s weather-damaged fleet; see Sullivan to GW, 18 November.

2John Studholme Brownrigg had been appointed an ensign in the British 38th Regiment of Foot in January 1771 and was promoted to lieutenant in November 1775. He was still serving as a lieutenant at the end of the war, apparently never having been promoted to captain. Quin John Freeman was appointed an ensign in the 24th Regiment of Foot in July 1775 and was later appointed lieutenant and brigade major in the same regiment. Captured at Saratoga, he had regained his freedom by 1782, when he was serving as an aide-de-camp to Major General Riedesel. The understrength 10th, 45th, and 52d British Regiments of Foot were broken up in the summer and autumn of 1778, with many of the men transferring to other regiments and the officers returning to Great Britain.

3The enclosed copy of the Newport Gazette has not been identified.

4The French had captured the West Indian island of Dominica in September 1778, but they did not capture the islands of St. Christopher (now St. Kitts), Montserrat, and Nevis until February 1782, and they never captured Antigua; see also Stirling to GW, 3 Nov., n.2, and John Mitchell to GW, 3 Nov., n.3.

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