George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Samuel Huntington, 10 April 1780

To Samuel Huntington

Head Quarters Morris Town 10th April 1780


I do myself the honor of inclosing a New York paper of the 8th which gives a more particular account of Admiral Rodney’s success than any we have yet seen. I cannot but hope that the enemy have dressed it in the most unfavorable Colours for us.1 I have the honor to be with very great Respect Your Excellency’s Most obt Servt

Go: Washington

P.S. since my last I have recd information from New York that another division of transports is watering, and that a further embarkation is talked of.2

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read GW’s letter on 11 April (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 , 16:348–49).

1GW enclosed the Loyalist Royal Gazette (New York) for 8 April. An item under the heading “New-York, April 6” reported the arrival of a ship from Lisbon that carried a letter dated 8 Feb. from a merchant house in that city. The letter related how British admiral George Rodney had led “twenty-two sail of the line” to the relief of Gibraltar and captured a Spanish convoy “amounting to twenty-four sail, some of which large vessels laden with provisions, stores, &c. And off Cadiz they fell in with eleven sail of Spanish men of war of the line of battle, all of which struck to the BRITISH FLAG.” A more detailed account of the British successes over the Spanish follows this letter in the newspaper report. That account ends with the assertion that “the loss of the royal navy of Spain amounts to one-fourth of the whole, with near 12,000 seamen.” An editorial comment concludes the reports: “With the heartfelt Gratulations we salute our Fellow-Subjects upon the signal Advantages recently gained, through the Blessing of Providence by the Arms of our most gracious Sovereign over the Spanish Monarch, whose unprovoked and unjustifiable union of force with France against Britain, (at a juncture when she was employed in reducing her revolted Subjects) justly merits all the severe Castigations & heavy Losses he has already met with; And we humbly hope these glorious Successes now presented to the Public, will prove as happy Prologues to the swelling Act of decided Victory over the whole House of Bourbon.” The intelligence was largely true (see Rodney to Philip Stephens, 27 Jan., and to Rodney’s wife, 7 Feb., in Rodney Papers description begins David Syrett, ed. The Rodney Papers: Selections from the Correspondence of Admiral Lord Rodney, 1742–1780. 2 vols. Hants, England, and Burlington, Vt., 2005–7. In Publications of the Navy Records Society, vols. 148 and 151. description ends , 2:320–23, 347–48; and Earl of Sandwich to Rodney, 8 March, in Barnes and Owen, Sandwich Papers description begins G. R. Barnes and J. H. Owen, eds. The Private Papers of John, Earl of Sandwich, First Lord of the Admiralty, 1771–1782. 4 vols. London, 1932-38. In Publications of the Navy Records Society, vols. 69, 71, 75, 78. description ends , 3:205–7).

George Bridges (Brydges) Rodney (1717 or 1718–1792) entered the Royal Navy as a volunteer in 1732 and rose quickly through the ranks from midshipman to captain. He continued his ascent to rear admiral in 1759 on the strength of political connections, as well as successful sea commands and colonial assignments. After controversial service in the West Indies during 1762 and 1763, Rodney spent the remainder of the decade in England dealing with unsettled personal finances rooted in his penchant for gambling. Threats of imprisonment for debts compelled his removal to France after 1774. The French alliance with the United States and a loan from a friend enabled Rodney to be named commander over the Leeward Islands in 1779. En route to the West Indies, Rodney brilliantly brought a relief convoy to Gibraltar, but his subsequent service in North American waters provoked dissension with other senior officers and proved uneven. Although Rodney left for England in August 1781 for health reasons, he became embroiled in the recriminations that followed the British surrender at Yorktown, Va., that October. Sent back to the West Indies with the rank of vice admiral, Rodney won a signal victory over a French fleet at the Battle of the Saints in April 1782 that kept Jamaica under British control and recovered naval prestige. Relieved of his command prior to this victory, Rodney returned to England in September 1782. A “mortified” Earl of Sandwich wrote Rodney on 2 Oct.: “I was obliged to leave London before I had an opportunity of congratulating you in person, upon the great and repeated services you have done your country, and upon the marks you have received of the king’s favour, which, however, I shall always think greatly inadequate to your just pretensions” (Mundy, Rodney description begins [Godfrey Basil] Mundy. The Life and Correspondence of the Late Admiral Lord Rodney. 2 vols. London, 1830. description ends , 2:338–39). Family and financial difficulties troubled Rodney’s retirement years.

2GW likely received this intelligence from John Mercereau (see GW to Mercereau, 13 April). GW previously had written Huntington on 7 April.

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