George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Lieutenant General Rochambeau, 13 September 1780

To Lieutenant General Rochambeau

Head Quarters New Bridge [N.J.] Sepr 13th 1780


I have just received advices from pretty good authority, of which the inclosed is a copy.1 From the complexion and agreement of these accounts, it seems very probable, that the Count De Guichen is really approaching the coast. Should this be the case it is of so much importance to lose no time in concerting our plans, that I renew my proposal for meeting you and the Admiral the 20th instant, and shall be at Hartford accordingly. The inconveniences, which may attend our absence on the supposition mentioned in my letter of this morning are not a counterballance, for the advantages of the interview on the present supposition.2

Should the Count De Guichen arrive before the end of this month, I still recommend New York to be our object; and in this view, I cannot forbear repeating to you how essential it is, that the fleet should instantly proceed to take possession of the port, and that your troops should as soon as possible form a junction with ours by way of the Sound. The former is in my opinion the most critical point of the operation, and the advanced period of the season increases the necessity of dispatch in the execution.3 I mention this lest the arrival of the Count De Guichen should antecede our interview.

I have directed Capts. Dobbes and Shaw to hold themselves in readiness to repair to the fleet on the first notice.4 A letter from the Admiral, or from you to Capt. Dobbes at Fish Kill will be immediately obeyed. I have the honor to be with the greatest esteem Sir Your most Obedt & humble servant

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; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton wrote “Afternoon” on the docket of the draft, which he also penned.

1GW enclosed an undated intelligence report in the writing of his secretary Robert Hanson Harrison: “A Vessel just arrived at Philadelphia left port au Prince & brought Letters to several Gentlemen in Philadelphia—That Count de Guichen with 23 sail of the line & 10 Frigates, had sailed from Cape Francois having under his convoy 148 sail of Merchantmen bound to Europe. The Count was to convoy them to a certain Latitude & then to dispatch de la Mothe Piquet with 10 sail of the line & 4 frigates as a convoy to Old France.

“Count de Guichen with the remainder of the Fleet was to come directly to Rhode Island, to relieve the French fleet under the Chevalier de Ternay, who they had advice was blocked up there—This Vessel on her passage fell in with the above fleet in latitude 26° longitude 67 or 69.

“A Schooner just arrived at Christiana in the Delaware from the West Indies, sailed in company with the french Fleet under Count de Guichen, and parted with the Squadron under him five days before he got in the Capes of Delaware—the Count steering a more Northerly course, & supposed to be bound directly to Newport, Rhode Island.

“By a Vessel arrived at Baltimore, the above Account is confirmed, & that a part of the French fleet was certainly destined for this Continent.

“A sickness among the Spanish Troops prevented the intended attack of the Island of Jamaica” (CtY-BR-R; see also GW to Nathaniel Peabody, 14 Sept.). French rear admiral Guichen’s fleet sailed to Europe rather than to Rhode Island (see William Heath to GW, 6 Sept., n.3).

3For this same recommendation, see GW to David Forman, 10 July, n.1.

4GW wrote William Dobbs on this date: “By a variety of Accounts received through different channels & which from the correspondence between them appear to be probably true—it would seem as if Your & Captain Shaw’s services may be again called for, & in the course of a very few days—if not immediately. I wish You to keep th⟨e⟩ matter an entire secret, ⟨but⟩ at the same ti⟨m⟩e that You will be in readiness to proceed to Rhode Island on the shortest notice, either from Myself—Count de Rochambeau—or the Chevalier de Ternay. I inclose a Letter for Captn shaw to the same effect, which You will be pleased to forward to him” (LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, in private hands; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; mutilated material on the LS is supplied in angle brackets from the draft). The enclosure has not been found.

Dobbs replied to GW from Fishkill, N.Y., on 15 Sept.: “I Recieved Your Excellincys Letter Yesterday Evening, and Shall following Strictly its Contents, Capt. Shaw’s is sent off this Morning, I have to request that Your Excellincy will Order Payment to be made as soon as possible, Otherwise my Family must Suffer, As I Shall be Oblidged to borrow wherewith to bear my Expenses to Rhoad Island.

“If Your Excellincy Should have any messages for me, in my absensence from this, Please Direct to Capt. John Harrison at the Quartr Master Generals office, as I dont know Who May be here to Act at Deputy. … Capt. Shaw is in the same Situation as my Self” (ALS, DLC:GW). GW’s warrant book for 5 Sept. records a payment of $2,361 “To Capns Wm Dobbs & Danl shaw—ballance of expences going to & returning from Rhode Island & while there, as pilots for the French Fleet” (Revolutionary War Warrant Book 5, 1780–1783, DLC:GW, ser. 5; see also GW to Dobbs, 11 July, and Ternay to GW, 21 Aug.).

John Harrison served as a supply officer at Fishkill from May 1777 to July 1779. He later worked for Lt. Col. Udny Hay, deputy quartermaster general, and subsequently became paymaster at Fishkill.

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