George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Cox, Jr., 4 October 1779

To John Cox, Jr.

Head Quarters West Point Octobr 4th 1779


By advices I have received it is highly probable His Excellency Count D’Estaing will very speedily appear on this coast to cooperate with us;1 it will be of great importance that he should be met with intelligence of the enemy’s situation and with good pilots to conduct him into the harbour—For this purpose I am to request you will without loss of time take effectual measures to engage at least half a Dozen fast sailing boats, to be kept constantly out from the Jersey shore to endeavour if possible to fall in with the Count—I am preparing dispatches to be sent by them, which shall be forwarded to you the moment they are finished and I hope by the time you receive them the vessels will be ready. You will see the vast importance of dispatch and will take your measures accordingly—If the Count comes at all, he may be hourly expected and a very few days can at any rate elapse before he will appear.2 I am with great esteem Sir Your most Obedt serv.

The Commanders of these boats ought to be men on whose fidelity we can absolutely rely, as the miscarriage of the dispatches would be a very serious misfortune.

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1See John Jay to GW, 26 Sept., and Planning for an Allied Attack on New York, c.3–7 October.

2GW wrote to Cox the next day from headquarters at West Point: “I wrote to you yesterday requesting you to prepare a certain number of Boats upon the Coast of Jersey to be ready to carry off dispatches for His Excellency Count D’Estaing. From some later advices I find that my letters will reach him sooner by another Channel—You will therefore be pleased to countermand any orders that may have been given respecting the Boats. I have directed as many Hook pilots as can be collected to rendezvous at Trenton, and upon their arrival report themselves to you. You will be pleased to have them accommodated and held ready to repair to whatever quarter they may be ordered.” GW added the following postscript: “As the pilots are sent in to you be pleased to send them immediately forward to the Marine Committee in Philada with a line certifying their being proper men” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW). For GW’s directions to the pilots, see Circular to Pilots, 5 October. GW had apparently been informed by Conrad-Alexandre Gérard, the outgoing French minister, that Vice Admiral d’Estaing was to call at the Capes of Delaware rather than at New York (see Planning for an Allied Attack on New York, c.3–7 Oct.).

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