George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Laurens, 29 September 1779

To Henry Laurens

West-point Sepr 29th 79

Dear Sir,

You will permit me to beg your protection to the inclosed Carolina letters—Should you know of any conveyance shorter than the established Post I shall be obliged by your sending them in that line.1

We have little from this quarter to engage your attention, unless we should give you report and conjecture.

By a Vessel in 52 days from Amsterdam to Boston, we are told that before the Captn left that place a packet had arrived from England which brought the Kings proclamation ordering the Inhabitants along the Sea-Coast to drive all their stock to a certain distance—The Captain says further, that 50,000 french Troops had landed in England—and that the combined fleets of the House of Bourbon had blocked up the English fleet in Torbay.2

The different advices we have had of Count D’Estaings having been seen in approaching our Coast, leaves us little room to doubt of its truth—By a Vessel arrived at Dartmouth he was spoke with to the Northward of Burmuda3—but so much time has elapsed since, that one would suppose he has passed us for Hallifax. Imbarkation, and fortification keep equal pace at New York, and go forward briskly. I have the honor to be with the most perfect esteem & regard Dr Sir Yr Most Obedt & Affecte Hble Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, PWacD: Sol Feinstone Collection, on deposit at PPAmP; DfS, with text inserted by GW, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; copy, ScHi: Henry Laurens Papers.

1GW enclosed his letters to Lt. Col. John Laurens and to Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, both dated 28 Sept. (see Henry Laurens to GW, 7–9 Oct.).

2The king’s proclamation, dated 9 July, ordered horses and cattle driven from the coasts in case of invasion. In August, after the delivery of the Spanish manifesto in June (see GW to John Jay, 29 Aug., n.1), the combined French and Spanish fleets (numbering sixty-seven ships of the line) had appeared in the English Channel. The British home fleet of thirty-five ships of the line had already left port and was cruising in the Atlantic, but it managed to avoid combat with the greatly superior allied fleet. At Le Havre and St. Malo, the French had 50,000 troops and 400 transports waiting to invade southern England, but the allies could not bring on an engagement with the British fleet to secure the channel crossing. In early September, the allies were forced to return to Brest, and the invasion plan was postponed and eventually canceled. See Mahan, Operations of the Navies, description begins A. T. Mahan. The Major Operations of the Navies in the War of American Independence with Portraits, Maps, and Battle Plans. 1913. Reprint. New York, 1969. description ends 116–120.

3For GW’s dispatch of an officer to investigate this report, see GW to William Heath, 26 September.

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