George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens, 13 October 1780

To Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens

Hd Qrs Passaic Falls 13th Oct. 1780.

My dear Laurens

Your friendly & Affectione letter of the 4th came to my hands on the 10th1 & would have been acknowledged yesterday by the Baron de Steuben but for some important business I was preparing for Congress.

In no instance since the commencement of the War has the interposition of Providence appeared more conspicuous than in the rescue of the Post & Garrison of West point from Arnolds villainous perfidy. How far he meant to involve me in the catastrophe of this place does not appear by any indubitable evidence—and I am rather inclined to think he did not wish to hazard the more important object of his treachery by attempting to combine two events the lesser of which might have marred the greater.

A combination of extraordinary circumstances—An unaccountable deprivation of presence of Mind in a man of the first abilities—and the virtuous conduct of three Militia men2—threw the Adjutant General of the British forces in America (wi⟨th⟩ full proofs of Arnolds treachery) in to our hands—and but for the egregious folly—or the bewildered conception of Lieutt Colo. Jameson who seemed lost in astonishment and not to have known what he was doing I should as certainly have got Arnold.3

André has met his fate—and with that fortitude which was to be expected from an accomplished Man—and gallant Officer4—But I am mistaken if at this time, Arnold is undergoing the torments of a mental Hell. He wants feeling! From some traits of his character which have lately come to my knowledge he seems to have been so hackneyed in villainy—& so lost to all sense of honor and shame that while his faculties will enable him to contin⟨ue⟩ his sordid pursuits there will be no time for remorse.

Believe me sincere when ⟨I⟩ assure you, that my warmest wi⟨sh⟩es accompany Captn Wallops ende⟨a⟩vours & your expectations of an exchange—and that nothing but the principle of Justice & policy wch I have religiously adhered to of exchanging Officers in the order of their Captivity (where rank would apply) has prevented my every exertion to obtain your release & restoration to a family where you will be receiv’d with open arms by every individua⟨l⟩ of it—but from none with more cordiality & true affection than you⟨r⟩ Sincere friend and obliged Servant

Go: Washington

P.S. The Baron not setting out as I expected becomes the bearer of this letter.5

ALS, PHi: Conarroe Collection; ADfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Only the ALS contains the postscript. Mutilated or obscured material on the ALS is supplied in angle brackets from GW’s draft.

3Lt. Col. John Jameson tried to explain his actions that led to Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold’s escape (see Jameson to GW, 27 Sept.).

5GW wrote Samuel Huntington, president of Congress, from headquarters at Preakness on this date: “Major General Baron De Steuben has signified to me his wish to go to Philadelphia to obtain some determination on his department, which for want of a proper establishment is in confusion—I cannot suffer him to depart, without adding new testimonies of his exertions and usefulness in the course of the last campaign; and begging that his business may receive the earliest attention. If Congress should desire information with respect to any particular circumstances of the Army, The Baron will have it fully in his power to comply with their Orders” (LS, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Hamilton wrote on the LS cover: “By favor of Major General Baron de Steuben”). Congress read this letter on 16 Oct. (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 18:931).

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