George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Livingston, 16 August 1779

To William Livingston

West point August the 16. 1779

Dear Sir

I had not the Honor till two days ago, to receive Your Excellency’s Letter of the 5th Instant.1 The whole of the Officers belonging to the Three Jersey Regiments are employed on the Western expedition with General Sullivan, which circumstance puts it intirely out of my power, to comply with Your Excellency’s request for Officers for the recruiting service. If this were not the case, I should fear as Your Excellency does, that the business would not be attended with any great success.

I congratulate Your Excellency on the very favourable and interesting successes of Count D’Estaing in the West Indies.2 They are very important and the more so—as they may possibly be the means of detaining for the security of the Islands—that part of the reinforcement expected by Sir Henry Clinton from thence which will be a circumstance of great moment to us, especially if the remainder said to be coming from Europe with Adml Arbuthnot and daily looked for—is as considerable as several advices make it.3 I hope our next intelligence from the West Indies will announce farther successes on the part of our Allies, and that they will gain a decisive superiority over Adl Biron. I have the Honor to be with great respect & esteem Yr Excellency’s Most Obedt sert

Go: Washington

P.S. I would beg leave to remind Your Excellency of the Beacons—They should be attended to—as possibly some measures I have heard of on the part of the Enemy—may be preparatory to a movement—and may make it necessary eventually for the Militia to assemble suddenly.4

Df, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1This letter has not been found.

2For Vice Admiral d’Estaing’s capture of the West Indian islands of St. Vincent and Grenada and the subsequent engagement between his fleet and that of British vice admiral John Byron, see Jay to GW, 10 Aug., n.1.

3For GW’s defensive preparations for the arrival of reinforcements carried by the fleet of Vice Adm. Marriot Arbuthnot, see GW to John Jay, 11 Aug., n.5. The reinforcements that Gen. Henry Clinton anticipated from the West Indies were indeed retained there (see Davies, Documents of the American Revolution, description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends 17: 92–93, 170, 177, and 224; see also Willcox, American Rebellion, description begins William B. Willcox, ed. The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton’s Narrative of His Campaigns, 1775–1782, with an Appendix of Original Documents. New Haven, 1954. description ends 138).

4In March, while the army was in winter encampment in New Jersey, GW had arranged a system of signal beacons to call the militia of New Jersey into the field in case of emergency (see Stirling to GW, 20 and 22 March; GW to William Livingston, to Arthur St. Clair, and to William Smallwood, 23 March; and Livingston to GW, 30 March).

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