George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant General Rochambeau, 3–4 September 1780

From Lieutenant General Rochambeau

Newport Septer 3d[–4] 1780 at 4: P.M.


By a Vessel from Boston, that passed by the Vineyard, I hear that the English fleet sailed off, Southwestward, on the 30th P.M. which account confirms my Last Letter saying that they had not appeared since that time.1 I had not spoken to Your Excellency about the works going on at Howland’s ferry, to assure our communication with the Continent, because the militia have been very slow at it, and that they have scarcely half done that fort which ought to have been finished eight days ago.2 I often have made use of Your Excellency’s name to encourage them, General Heath has done the same, but all is in vain, unless they were to see the Ennemy near at hand. I have Engineers and Minors there, to facilitate their business, if they would but do it. However, I must except Colonel Green and Colonel Thyer who are very zealous and active in promoting it.3 As your Excellency may need Colonel Green’s regiment, General Heath will order him to join the army,4 and the three month men from Boston State Commanded by Colonel Jacobs and Colonel Thyer, whose time is almost expired, would then stay to finish Howland’s ferry Fort.

For the same reason, I have sent back one half of the Waggons which Colonel Mitchell had hired for Us at Philadelphy for three months their time is out to day, and most of them are either just arriving, or even are not arrived yet. they have not been the least useful to Us. But that the Campaign may not be thought to be over They are gone in Brigades, with a view of going to fetch flour From Jersey, and I write at the same time to the Chevalier de La Luzerne to dismiss them Immediately upon their arrival.5 I likewise have wrote to the rhode island states, that tho’ the campaign be not over, and tho’ this army was always ready to act according to your Excellency’s orders, and to the circumstances, it would however be prudent and wise to prepare before hand the places and provisions necessary to the winter quarters, that two Plans had been presented to me, 1: Baracking the Troops, 2d: Lodging them in Newport and in Bristol. Tho’ my desire of keeping the severest discipline, and of having my Troops together made me prefer the first Plan, yet I think that the second will be more agreable to the King my master, because in the first case, all the expences for Baracking, would be of no use to the Country, and in the second case, As the British have destroyed the greatest part of these two towns, the King would have the Pleasure of contributing to their Repairing, and that his money would be useful to his faithfull allies. I desired the States to help me as far as their means &ca will allow them. I expect their answer, which I hope will prove favorable, if I may judge by the one I received from Governor Green.6 I am with respect Sir, Your Excellency’s Most obedient humble servant

Le Cte de Rochambeau

4th, 5 o clock, A.M.

A Sudden squall hindered Yesterday the Packet from crossing the Ferry Last night arrived here a Truce flag from the Vineyard with thirty Prisoners from the Fargés. Their report was that the British fleet did not Leave the Vineyard untill Thursday afternoon, which contradicts the Information of the Boston man.7

LS, DLC:GW; LB, in French, DLC: Rochambeau Papers, vol. 7; LB, in French, DLC: Rochambeau Papers, vol. 8; copy, FrPBN. Only the LS includes the postscript. GW acknowledged this letter when he wrote Rochambeau on 8 September.

1Vice Adm. Marriot Arbuthnot’s fleet had sailed away on 30 Aug. (see Rochambeau to GW, 31 Aug.,; see also n.7 below and William Heath to GW, 19 Sept., n.2).

3Ebenezer Thayer, Jr. (1721–1794) of Braintree, Mass., became a militia lieutenant in April 1775 and eventually rose to colonel in May 1777. He became a Massachusetts militia major general in 1792 and several times served as a Massachusetts legislator.

5See Rochambeau to La Luzerne, this date, in French, in vol. 8, DLC: Rochambeau Papers; see also Lafayette to La Luzerne, 30 June, in 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 , 3:62–67.

6Rhode Island governor William Greene’s letter to Rochambeau has not been identified, but the state legislature recommended that Ephraim Bowen, Jr., deputy quartermaster general, “immediately” provide barracks in Newport for the Continental and French forces (Bartlett, R.I. Records description begins John Russell Bartlett, ed. Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England. 10 vols. Providence, 1856–65. description ends , 9:221–22; see also Tarlé to William Greene, 29 Aug., in Bartlett, R.I. Records description begins John Russell Bartlett, ed. Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England. 10 vols. Providence, 1856–65. description ends , 9:305, and Green, Campaigns in America description begins Samuel Abbott Green, ed. My Campaigns in America: A Journal Kept by Count William de Deux-Ponts, 1780–81. Boston, 1868. description ends , 96–97).

7The previous Thursday was 31 August. For Arbuthnot’s fleet at Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., see Heath to GW, 31 August. For the prisoner exchange, see the journal entry for 3 Sept. in Acomb, Closen Journal description begins Evelyn M. Acomb, ed. The Revolutionary Journal of Baron Ludwig von Closen, 1780–1783. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1958. description ends , 40–41; see also Winfield Halton to Heath, and Heath to Ternay, both 6 Sept. (MHi: Heath Papers).

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