George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Lieutenant General Rochambeau, 3 September 1780

To Lieutenant General Rochambeau

Head Quarters Liberty Pole in Bergen County
Sepr 3d 1780


I have been successively honored with your letters of the 25th 28th and 31st of the past month.

A few days ago I moved the army to this place to cover a forage which we thought it adviseable to make in the lower parts of this county; which by its proximity to New York has afforded the enemy considerable supplies. Having effected our purpose, we shall tomorrow take a new position about two miles from this and about five miles from the North River,1 where we shall remain till there is a solution of the present demonstrations of the enemy;2 as soon as possible after which, I shall do myself the honor to meet you at one of the places, you mention.3

The accounts from New York of preparations for some capital movement increase. A large number of transports have fallen down, first to the narrows, and since were falling down to Sandy Hook. A body of troops crossed over from Long Island to Staten Island; yesterday our pickets on the North River opposite the Island of New York saw a large train of waggons moving from the upper part of the Island towards the city, supposed to be baggage waggons. The weather was too hazy to discover, if there were any troops in march. There is no doubt a fleet of empty victuallers and transports on the point of taking their departure for Europe; but the number of transports at the narrows and Hook, said to exceed an hundred is too large to be well explained into that fleet.4

I have pretty good information that General Clinton endeavoured lately to engage a person to go to Rhode Island as a spy, who was to be met by a frigate in some part of the Sound, after having collected all the knowlege he could of your situation and that of the fleet. The person declined the errand; but the circumstance leads to a suspicion, that Clintons movements look your way. I cannot however easily persuade myself that this is the case—Nor am I yet satisfied, notwithstanding the appearances, that he can be making a detachment to the West Indies. In all probability the fate of Jamaica will be decided before it could arrive. If the object should be to save the other Islands, a month hence would answer the purpose, as the season will not till the latter end of October, admit of operations in the Windward Islands; and New York would be less exposed in the meantime. Indeed I cannot easily believe, that the enemy will venture at this period to make any considerable division of their force at New York—Yet I confess their affairs have somewhat this aspect.

In consequence of the advices brought by the Alliance, I have dismissed the principal part of the Militia which were called out for three months. From the position of the fleets in Europe, there is reason to apprehend the second division would arrive too late to enable us to avail ourselves of their services, which, with respect to a great part of them would expire in October. If fortunate events should bring the second division here sooner than I now expect, and in time for an operation against New York, we must assemble all the Militia in the neighbouring country, till those more remote can come to our aid. Another inducement for dismissing the Militia is to œconomise our supplies.5

The visit you have had from the Indians, gives me great pleasure. I felicitate you on that which you must [have] had in the company of such agreeable and respectable guests. I dare say the reception they met with will have a good effect. It has been the policy of the English to discredit the accounts of an alliance between France and America; a conviction of which on the substantial evidence of your army and fleet, and not less of your presents and good cheer will not fail to have an happy influence.6 I am Sir, with the greatest esteem Your most Obedt servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, CtY-BR-R; Df, DLC:GW; Rochambeau’s French translation, CtY-BR-R; LB, in French, DLC: Rochambeau Papers, vol. 7; French translation, FrPBN; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Rochambeau replied to GW on 6 September.

1Col. Israel Angell wrote in his diary entry for 4 Sept.: “Clear and Cooler then it had ben for Some time past, the Army got under way by ten oClock, but met with Some Obstructions by Bridges breaking, which detaind the rear till Eleven when the whole moved off the ground, we marched by the right, Crost what is called New bridg. over hackensack River, turnd to the right up the River towards Toppan and Encamped on a high Ridge of land in a place Calld Stenrappie” (Field, Angell Diary description begins Edward Field, ed. Diary of Colonel Israel Angell, Commanding the Second Rhode Island Continental Regiment during the American Revolution, 1778–1781. Providence, 1899. description ends , 111).

The area in Bergen County called Steenrapie was west of the Hackensack River between New Bridge to the south and Kinderkamack to the north.

4See David Forman to GW, 1 Sept., and n.1 to that document.

5See GW to William Greene, 28 Aug., and n.2 to that document.

6See Rochambeau to GW, 31 Aug., and n.3 to that document; see also General Orders, 12 Sept., n.6.

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