George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Rear Admiral Ternay, 16 September 1780

To Rear Admiral Ternay

Head Quarters Bergen County
16th Sepr 1780 10 OClock A.M.


I have this moment recd a letter of which the inclosed is a Copy.1 It is possible that this may be the Fleet of Admiral Arbuthnot, and that the person who discovered them may have mistaken his larger Frigates for ships of the line,2 but of this you will be able to form a judgment by the time this letter reaches you—I will communicate any further intelligence which I may receive—I thought the present of too much importance to delay. I have the honor to be Sir Yr most obt and humble Servt.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; LB, in French, DLC: Rochambeau Papers, vol. 7; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman addressed the draft to Ternay or “in his Absence The officer commanding the Fleet [at] Newport.”

Ternay had departed to confer wtih GW at Hartford, leaving Captain Destouches to reply to GW from Newport Harbor on 19 Sept. that he would obtain intelligence about Adm. George Rodney’s British fleet and put the French squadron in the best defensive state (LS, in French, PHi: Gratz Collection; see also The Hartford Conference, 20–22 Sept., editorial note, and Balch, Blanchard Journal description begins Thomas Balch, ed. The Journal of Claude Blanchard, Commissary of the French Auxiliary Army Sent to the United States during the American Revolution. 1780–1783. Translated from a French Manuscript, by William Duane. Albany, 1876. description ends , 66–67).

Charles-René-Dominique Sochet, chevalier Destouches (Des Touches; 1727–c.1794), was born to a French noble family and became a naval captain in 1772. He sailed with Ternay’s fleet to Rhode Island in July 1780 and commanded that fleet after Ternay’s death in December. Although replaced in May 1781 as commander of France’s North American naval forces, Destouches contributed to the British defeat at Yorktown, Va., that October. He then served in the West Indies and returned to France in 1782. Promoted to chef d’escadre (rear admiral) in 1784, Destouches retired in 1793 and supported royalists during the French Revolution.

1A margin note at this point on the draft reads: “General Formans letter of the 14 sepr.” The enclosed copy of David Forman’s letter to GW on 14 Sept. has not been found, but it was translated by the French (see the letterbook cited in the source note above).

2For Vice Adm. Marriot Arbuthnot’s fleet, see William Heath to GW, 19 Sept., n.2.

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