George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant General Rochambeau, 20 August 1780

From Lieutenant General Rochambeau

Newport, August. 20th 1780


It is with a great pleasure, that I inform Your Excellency, of the arrival of the Frigate The Alliance, at Boston. You will see in the Newspaper herein included, the news that she brings.1 they are all very good; All I fear, is Least the Departure of the 2d Division should not have taken place, until the Junction of the Spanish fleet, that was not effectuated, when the Frigate set sail. She assures that the Grand British fleet, was blocking Brest, when she went off.2 It was composed of 32. sail of the Line. She adds to the News that the Irish Troops, militia, have driven the English from all the forts, and obliged them to encamp upon the Glacis.3

Your Excellency’s favor of the 16th instant, I received this morning. I Learn by it the Embarkment of 2. thousand men with waggons intended for a coactive Expedition. I had Likewise the morning, an intelligence from New London that 12. sail of Transports had joined the British fleet, and steered Eastward.4 I desired Directly General Heath to send advices of it to Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and Noman’s Islands to tell them to be on the watch as to their cattle.5 This afternoon, the English fleet of the Line, amounting to 18. sail has doubled Point Judith, cruized till night between this & Block island a Little Eastward, and as soon as night came on, steered Southeast, then we Lost sight of it; I am much afraid Least the Expedition be carried on, before they have time enough to set themselves on their guard. I am with respect, Sir, Your Excellency’s Most obedient, and most humble servant,

le Comte de rochambeau

The consul of Boston writes to The Chevalier de Ternay that on board the Alliance, there is a Packet for The Chevalier De La Luzerne, I think, all our Letters may be inclosed therein, and I wish the Consul may send it here if he should see that there are others included in it.6

LS, DLC:GW; LB (in French), DLC: Rochambeau Papers, vol. 7; LB (in French), DLC: Rochambeau Papers, vol. 8; French translation, FrPBN; French translation, without postscript, FrPBN. All the translations are dated 19 August.

1The newspaper was a Boston paper of 17 Aug. (see William Heath’s second letter to GW, 19 Aug.). Both The Independent Chronicle and the Universal Advertiser (Boston) of 17 Aug. and The Continental Journal, and Weekly Advertiser (Boston) of 17 Aug. reported information received from persons onboard the Continental frigate Alliance. For a summary of this intelligence, see James Bowdoin to GW, 17 August.

2The ships of the second division of the French expeditionary force were expected to sail from Brest, France.

3The source of this reference to actions of Irish militia has not been identified. Rochambeau may be referring to the Irish voluntary armed associations, or volunteers, of this period (see McDowell, Ireland description begins R. B. McDowell. Ireland in the Age of Imperialism and Revolution, 1760–1801. Oxford, England, 1979. description ends , 254–74).

4The letter conveying this intelligence has not been identified.

5Nomans Land, Mass., is a small island several miles off the southwest coast of Martha’s Vineyard island.

6GW replied to Rochambeau on 26 August.

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