George Washington Papers

To George Washington from David Forman, 14 September 1780

From David Forman

Freehold [N.J.] 14th Septr 1780 Ten oClock P.M.


I am this minute Informed that Admiral Rodney with twelve sail of the line & four frigates are Arrived off Sandy Hook from the West Indies—My Informant also says that they yesterday took a french Frigate to the southward & sent her this day up to N. York1—This Acct my informer Says may be relyd upon—He further adds (but not with Certainty) that 5,000 British Troops are to be sent in a few days His acct says to sail the 25th Inst for Carolina2—I thought the above Acct of too much importance to be delayed untill I sent twenty miles for a horseman & Prevailed on the bearer Major Longstreet to wait on Your Excelly—should it appear from further information that this intelligence is in any respect meterially Wrong I will Correct it by sending a horseman As soon as I shall be better Informed—Yet I would observe to Your Excelly that I have hardly ever been deceived by Accts through this Channell. I have the honor to be Your Excellys Most Obedt humbe servt

David Forman

P.S. there is a Report that the Combined Fleets from the West Indies are on the Coast.

Copy, in David Humphreys’s writing, enclosed in GW to Samuel Huntington, 16 Sept., DNA:PCC, item 152 (found at GW to Huntington, 15 Sept., source note); copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; LB, in French, DLC: Rochambeau Papers, vol. 7. The material between “Carolina” and “should” is omitted in the letter-book copy.

New Jersey governor William Livingston wrote GW from Trenton on 16 Sept.: “I this moment received a Letter from Collo. Holmes of the 14th of which the following is an extract.

“‘Yesterday afternoon a Fleet came to, back of Sandy hook, & by Information this day received, it is Admiral Rodney with twelve sail of the Line & 4 Frigates. The Person that gave me this Intelligence, says that the French Fleet from the West Indies are on the Coast, & that five thousand British Troops are embarking at New York destined for Virginia. They are to sail for the 25th Instant. A Ship went from the hook to New York this morning said to be a French Frigate taken by Admiral Rodney’s Fleet.’

“Tho’ your Excellency has probably had the Intelligence of Admiral Rodney’s Arrival, & undoubtedly of the rest of Collo. Holmes’s Information, I thought it my duty to the public in an affair of such Moment not to rely on Probabi[li]ties but to dispatch an Express to your Excellency on the Occasion” (ALS, DLC:GW). The letter from Col. Asher Holmes to Livingston dated 14 Sept. is in NN: William Livingston Papers.

1The Royal Gazette (New York) for 16 Sept. reported that the “Lyon, bound from Charles Town to Jamaica,” had been “recovered and brought to Sandy-Hook by Admiral Sir George Rodney’s fleet.”

Adm. George Rodney wrote Philip Stephens, secretary of the admiralty, from off Sandy Hook on 15 Sept. that he brought his squadron from the West Indies to New York to maintain British naval superiority and “anchor’d yesterday off the Hook.” Having taken measures to strengthen the blockade of French rear admiral Ternay’s fleet at Rhode Island, Rodney proposed “going up to New York to consult with Sir Henry Clinton” to “co-operate with him in whatever Enterprize he may think most beneficial” (Rodney of the White Squadron description begins Letter-books and Order-Book of George, Lord Rodney, Admiral of the White Squadron, 1780–1782. 2 vols. New York, 1932. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 65–66. description ends , 1:9–11, quotes on 11). Rodney went to New York on 18 Sept. (see Sabine, Smith’s Historical Memoirs [1971] description begins William H. W. Sabine, ed. Historical Memoirs from 26 August 1778 to 12 November 1783 of William Smith. . .. New York, 1971. description ends , 333).

2Erroneous details compromised this intelligence (see GW to Samuel Huntington, 17 Oct., n.2).

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