George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Samuel Huntington, 9 October 1779

To Samuel Huntington

Head Quarters West-point 9th Octr 1779.


I have been honored with your Excellency’s favor inclosing two acts of Congress of the 24th and 25th Ulto.1

While I express my sense of the approbation with which Congress have honored me, and my pleasure from the manner in which it has been communicated, permit me to congratulate you on the presidency with which you are vested.2

The army must feel the motives to a discharge of their duty encreased, by the flattering marks of honor and attention, with which their endeavours have been received.

Since my last intelligence which I communicated to Congress,3 I have been advised from New-York, of the sudden return of the division of troops under Lord Cornwallis. A number of Transports on his Lordships return to the Hook, were immediately ordered for Rhode Islands; part of which sailed on the 27th, and the rest on the 29th Ulto. My correspondent supposes to withdraw that garrison. The advice says further that the troops under Lord Cornwallis were still on ship-board; and that the re-inforcement, in the fleet under convoy of Sir Andrew Hammond, which arrived the 22d of last month, does not exceed, six hundred men, and these chiefly Hessian recruits4—Other accounts speak of them much higher.

In order to give the Count d’Estaing a more comprehensive detail of my intentions in case a co-operation can be undertaken against New-York; and to obtain the necessary information of his views, I have dispatched General du Portail, and one of my aides (Lt Col. Hamilton) to meet him off Lewis town, for this purpose.5 I have to regret that circumstances would not admit of some definite, or preconcerted plan, that might have enabled us to proceed with certainty in our measures. In the mean time, however, I am taking every necessary step for a co-operation, as far as our conjectures of his designs, and our situation will authorise.6

The inclosed letter from Major General Sullivan, and the other papers herewith transmitted, came to hand on the 6th instant.7 I have taken the first moment of leisure since their receipt to send them forward. I congratulate Congress on his having completed, so effectually, the destruction of the whole of the Towns and settlements, of the hostile Indians, in so short a time, and with so inconsiderable a loss in men. I have the honor to be with the greatest respect your Excellency’s most obedient and hble servt

Go: Washington

LS, in James McHenry’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA: PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 14 Oct. (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 15:1169).

1See Huntington to GW, 28 Sept., which enclosed acts of Congress of 24 and 28 Sept.; see also JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 15:1099–1102, 1114. On the draft, also in the writing of GW’s assistant secretary James McHenry, the date of the second act reads “28th.”

2Congress had elected Huntington president of that body on 28 Sept.; see JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 15:1114.

4GW received this intelligence from his spy in New York, Robert Townsend. A copy of a letter from Robert Townsend (“Samuel Culper, Jr.”) to Benjamin Tallmadge, dated 29 Sept. from New York, in the writing of GW’s aide Tench Tilghman, reads: “In my last I informed you that a number of the enemy were under orders for embarkation part of which consisting of about 3000 embarked in the fore part of last Week and sailed from the Hook on friday last but returned the next day. It is said and generally beleived that it was in consequence of some intelligence they got from some Vessel at sea. some say from a spanish prize, the Master of which reports that he left the French fleet on the Bahama Banks and that they were steering for this Continent. This is certain that a number of transports were immediately ordered for Rhode Island, part of which sailed on Monday 27, and the rest sailed this day 29. It is positively asserted that it will be evacuated immediately. The troops returned not yet disembarked. The Works at the Battery are now nearly compleated and a number of Guns mounted. The Forts on Bayards Hill and back of Jones’s House nearly compleated. The Gorge of Fort Kniphausen (or Washington) very strongly fortified. The Militia of King & Queen’s County are still at Work on the fort at Brooklyn. All the operations of the Enemy indicate their fears of a speedy attack—The fleet under Convoy of Sir Andrew Hammond arrived the 22d Inst. The number of troops does not exceed six hundred mostly Hessian Recruits.” Tilghman wrote a note at the end of the document: “Copy from the original wrote with the Stain” (DLC:GW). For Townsend’s last letter to Tallmadge, dated 18 Sept., see GW to Tallmadge, 24 Sept., n.1. For the sailing and sudden return of Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis’s expedition, see GW to John Jay, 25 Sept., n.5.

6For GW’s preparations for joint operations with Vice Admiral d’Estaing’s fleet, see Planning for an Allied Attack on New York, c.3–7 October.

7See John Sullivan to GW, 28 Sept., and the notes to that document.

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