George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Lafayette, 20 July 1780

From Major General Lafayette

peeks kill [N.Y.] July the 20th 1780

Dear General

having heard of an express from Rhodeisland being Going through the Continental Village I sent for him as it would not delay him More than an hour1—inclosed I have the honor to send You the letter from general heath which I have oppen’d and also two letters from the french Generals to me2—it seems, My dear General, that they have Anticipated the desire you express’d Yourself of settling our plans in a private Conversation—that way indeed will do Better than hundred letters, In Case (what however I don’t Believe) they would wish to speak to Yourself, I shall immediately send an express to inform You of it—But I dare say they will be satisfied with My Coming.

I am Glad to hear they are hunting after the Cork fleet, and those frigates being out will also apprize them of the ennemy’s Naval Motions.

Adieu, My dear General, with a heart full of hopes and I think of well Grounded expectations I have the honor to be very tenderly and Respectfully Your most obedient humble Servant


I Beg my Compliments may be presented to the family.

It is Much to be lamented that paul jones din’t Come in the first Convoy,3 in case there is nothing to fear from the ennemy, I will send the Cloathing to New london,4 Be certain, my dear General, that tho’ By serious Reflexions and Calculations Which I Can prove to be Right I have Great hopes of succes, I shall however look upon, and speack of all the difficulties that May present themselves—I have on public and private Accounts Many Reasons to feel the Consequence of the plan in question, and to take the Greatest Care in Considering By Myself and explaining to others our Circumstances—the delay of the Small arms I don’t Consider as equally hurtfull to our affairs As will be the deficiency of powder—But as (even at the so much over rated Calculations) we have enough of it for one Month, I will try to Get a Supply from the fleet and then it will Come to the same point. You’ll hear from me as soon as possible after my arrival.5

ALS, PEL; Df (in French), Lafayette Papers, LaGrange, France.

1GW had sent Lafayette to Rhode Island to confer with Lieutenant General Rochambeau and Rear Admiral Ternay (see GW’s first letter to Samuel Huntington, this date).

2Lafayette most likely enclosed Maj. Gen. William Heath’s letter to GW of 16 July. The letters from Rochambeau and Ternay to Lafayette of 16 July were replies to Lafayette’s letter to them of 9 July (see GW to David Forman, 10 July, n.1). In his letter to Lafayette, written at Newport, Rochambeau declared that “either from here or from New London, we shall make a landing on Long Island together with the troops of our general, Washington, as soon as he judges that we are all prepared to act. It appears to me from your own letter that his forces will not be assembled until around August 15. This date accords perfectly with the recovery time our sick require. … During this interval, we would beseech our general to arrange to meet us at some point halfway between here and his camp, to which the admiral and I shall proceed. In an hour’s conversation we shall reach an agreement on more things than with volumes of writing.

“An army of 15,000 contained in New York necessitates unified forces and some ingenuity in our means of attack. … The Chevalier de Ternay has just been told that a privateer from Salem has taken a ship loaded with cattle which was part of a convoy of thirty-seven ships coming from Ireland. He will send out three frigates tomorrow to try to intercept the convoy before it enters New York … More than four months ago the king sent 100,000 pounds of powder and 15,000 muskets to Port Louis to be loaded on the frigate Alliance at Lorient. I sent word surreptitiously and secretly four times to Paul Jones to come and place himself in our convoy. I have heard nothing of it. I am told that there was a quarrel between his crew and the French merchants” (Lafayette Papers description begins Stanley J. Idzerda et al., eds. Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776–1790. 5 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., 1977-83. description ends , 3:96–97). For the pertinent sections of Ternay’s letter to Lafayette, in which the admiral wrote of his concerns about attempting to pass his ships over the bar at Sandy Hook, N.J., but promised to fight the British squadron if it opposed the landing of allied troops on Long Island, see Lafayette Papers description begins Stanley J. Idzerda et al., eds. Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776–1790. 5 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., 1977-83. description ends , 3:97.

3Lafayette and Rochambeau believed that Capt. John Paul Jones was in command of the Continental frigate Alliance, but Capt. Pierre Landais had seized command of the ship (see Jean-Baptiste-Lazare Théveneau de Francy to GW, 10 May 1778, n.3). For the arrival of the Alliance, see James Bowdoin to GW, 17 Aug. 1780; see also Rochambeau to GW, 21 Aug., and GW to Rochambeau, 26 August.

4For the disappointment of hopes for these supplies of clothing, see Circular to Connecticut and Massachusetts, 22 July, and Lafayette to GW, 26 July (second letter).

5GW replied to Lafayette on 22 July (first letter).

Index Entries