George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Lafayette, 27 October 1780

From Major General Lafayette

Light Camp [near Totowa]
October 27th 1780

My dear General

I Am Sorry to hear from Major Gibs that My letter of last Night did not Reach You Before your departure from head quarters—it had been writen at one o’clock, as Soon as I took My position for the Night, and intrusted to Clel ogden who promis’d to Send it By An officer Acquainted with the Roads.1

depending upon your Communication of the Sad intelligence to Chevalier de la luzerne, I did not Send to Morristown where he was to wait for the News of the Succes.

Among the Many Blunders which have been Committed in the quarter Master’s departement, I Shall extract from that Compleat Assortement Some instances which (not for this Glorious occasion that is forever lost), But on any future one will Shew you how far you May depend upon their Abilities.

You May Remember that after a long Time mr pickerin assur’d to You that the Boats were in Compleat Readiness,2 whilst they had No oars—he Afterwards positively told that he had only three Boats with him at Camp, when two hours Before I had Seen five of them with my own Eyes—The Sending of those five Boats two hours after that Which you had appointed you have been Early Appriz’d of—But you don’t perhaps know that instead of Being at dod’s the Night Before last the Boats from Suffrans Arriv’d there last Evening about Sunset—to this Report the Man who Receiv’d them eight Miles this Side of Sufferans Adds, That they Wanted Their double trees, and Spread chains, So that he was oblig’d to look About two hours in taking those Things from Continental waggons and the inhabitants—When our affairs will be thus Manag’d your Best projects Cannot fail of Being defeated.

had Mister pickering follow’d the example of General Knox, every thing would have been here in proper time and proper order as was the Artillery from the park3—I Confess, my dear General, That I Cannot Reconcile My feelings to the idea that By this Neglect I have lost A Most happy opportunity Bless’d with all the little Circumstances which May insure Success—our expedition has taken the most foolish turn in the eyes of Any one who is unaquainted with this Circumstance of the Boats.

When I was in hopes of Seeing in time at least five of them, I Gave up the watering place, to think only of Richmont4—But when I Saw that We should not be there Before the Break of the day, I did not hesitate to Relinquish an Expedition which on that footing would have occasion’d a Great profusion of Blood for little or No purpose—But you will easely Guess what I have felt on the occasion—I Never have been So deeply wounded By Any disappointement.

By Mercereau and Clel ogden I hear that The Ennemy are Collecting Boats and intend a forrage into the jersays—I would be very happy to know if You have Got the like intelligence—Suppose they were to Come out in force and at a distance from us, would not this be an opportunity for [us] to execute Your Grand plan?

I Beg You will let me know this evening if I Am to March to Morrow to our old Ground at totawa—if the Ennemy were likely to Come out, or if You thought of A Certain plan, I would advise to keep Major Lee for Some days as in Both Cases he will be a Capital man—he is a Most Charming officer.

Arnold has issued a Second proclamation wherein he invites the officers and Soldiers of our Army to join him, promising them Equal Ranks to those they hold in the American Service.5

I Am told Expresses were Sent to me to Acquaint me of the delay of the Boats—But Excepting doctor hagen I have not Seen one of them—the Boats have been Sent to the two Bridges By Mjor Gibs, I had Brought them up with me, and in passing By them Both Conductors and Waggoners have Receiv’d The Curses of Every officer and Soldier in the division—The Men March’d last Night very fast with Such Silence, good order, and desire of fighting as would have highly pleas’d you—The Activity and Ressources of Major Lee have been on that occasion display’d in Such a way as entitles him to my eternal esteem and Gratitude—I felt not only for me But for all the officers and men who had promis’d themselves So much Glory on the occasion. With the Most tender affection and high Respect I have the honor to be My dear General Yours


Clel ogden has Remain’d Behind to get intelligences—So that Being Uncertain if my first letter has Reach’d you I would be happy to know in the Course of the Night if I am to march to morrw morning to the old ground.6

ALS, PEL; ADf, in French, Lafayette Papers, LaGrange, France.

2See Timothy Pickering to GW, 15 Oct., found at Lafayette to GW, 12 Oct., n.3.

3Q.M. Gen. Timothy Pickering defended his actions when he wrote GW on 28 Oct. (MHi: Pickering Papers).

4“Richmond” appears in the draft.

5When he wrote GW on 28 Oct., Lafayette enclosed a broadside with British brigadier general Benedict Arnold’s second proclamation (PEL).

6Lafayette’s next letter to GW indicates a reply that has not been found (see n.5 above).

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