George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Lafayette, 28 October 1780

From Major General Lafayette

Light Camp [near Cranetown, N.J.]
October the 28th 1780

My dear General

if I have properly Understood your letter you had not An immediate Occasion for me, and the Matters You wanted to talk of with me are Not to be So Soon put in Execution as to Require my Going this day to head quarters1—I have therefore defered2 the Moving of My troops and that of My person till to Morrow—if on the Contrary there Was the Least occasion for My Going to head quarters I Beg You will please to let me know it that I May immediately Go there.

inclos’d I have the honor to Send You Arnold’s Second proclamation which in point of impudence exceeds all his former Works3 if Lee Goes from me I will Apply for Some dragoons from other Corps—The difference Made By his presence in My Security is Equal to the doubling of piquets and patroles—I wish Congress Would give him a Corps of two hundred horse and three hundred foot—Was an other Commission Necessary I would Give it to him Because the poor fellow Cannot help having Abilities Superior to his Rank—he will, I think, be very Useful to the Southward.4

inclos’d Are two letters for Rhode island Which I have Receiv’d from philadelphia—The Minister has told me That one of his letters to Count de Rochambeau had been an immense Number of days along the Road, and that he has found one of his letter to me from Rhode island in I don’t know whose hands at harfort—I think the Best way is to keep those letters for the expresses or when pressing to Send expresses for them5—if an express Goes to morrow I will Send to Count de Rochambeau a project for a Contract of Flour which I will Show to You Before I Seal My dispatch.6

Adieu, My dear General, with the highest Respect and tenderest affection I have the honor to be Yours


ALS, PEL; ADf, in French, Lafayette Papers, LaGrange, France. For the camp of the Light Infantry division, which Lafayette commanded, see Lafayette to Noailles, 28 Oct., in Lafayette Papers description begins Stanley J. Idzerda et al., eds. Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776–1790. 5 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., 1977-83. description ends , 3:209–11.

1GW’s letter to Lafayette has not been found

2This word is translated from Lafayette’s draft. He wrote “differed” on his ALS.

3Lafayette presumably enclosed a broadside datelined “NEW-YORK, October 20, 1780” and titled “BY Brigadier-General Arnold, A PROCLAMATION.” The document begins: “To the Officers and Soldiers of the Continental Army who have the real Interest of their Country at Heart, and who are determined to be no longer the Tools and Dupes of Congress, or of France.

Having reason to believe that the principles I have avowed, in my address to the public of the 7th instant, animated the greatest part of this continent, I rejoice in the opportunity I have of inviting you to join His Majesty’s Arms.” Arnold’s invitation to join his “corps of cavalry and infantry” included bounties paid in guineas and the opportunity to rescue “our native country from the grasping hand of France, as well as from the ambitious and interested views of a desperate party among ourselves, who, in listening to French overtures, and rejecting those from Great-Britain, have brought the colonies to the very brink of destruction.” Arnold also inveighed against Catholicism and asked “what security remains to you even for the enjoyment of the consolations of that religion for which your fathers braved the ocean, the heathen, and the wilderness?” (Evans, American Bibliography description begins Charles Evans et al. American Bibliography and Supplement. 16 vols. Chicago, Worcester, Mass., and Charlottesville, Va., 1903–71. description ends , no. 16789; for Arnold’s first proclamation, see GW to Rochambeau, 12 Oct., postscript, and n.4 to that document). In his memoirs for 14 Oct., William Smith, royal chief justice for New York, wrote that he had “sent General Arnold Yesterday Draft of his Address to the Officers and Soldiers of the Continental Army, inviting them to ingage in a New Corps of Cavalry and Infantry” (Sabine, Smith’s Historical Memoirs description begins William H. W. Sabine, ed. Historical Memoirs . . . of William Smith, Historian of the Province of New York. 2 vols. New York, 1956–58. description ends [1971], 340; see also Smith, Narrative description begins Joshua Hett Smith. An Authentic Narrative of the Causes which Led to the Death of Major Andrè, Adjutant-General of His Majesty’s Forces in North America. 1808. Reprint. New York, 1969. description ends , 241–44).

Maj. Gen. William Heath wrote in his memoirs for 31 Oct.: “A ridiculous proclamation of the traitor Arnold made its appearance; he styled himself a Brigadier-General, and invited the officers and soldiers of the American army to join him, promising ample encouragement, &c., but it had no effect” (Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 275; see also John Jameson to GW, 31 Oct., n.3).

Samuel Romilly wrote his sister Catherine Roget from London on 12 Dec. with conflicted thoughts on Arnold and observations on his proclamation: “It abounds with invectives against France and the Congress, and, what seems to me to come less from the heart, with high professions of zeal to serve his country and assert its liberties” (Romilly Correspondence description begins Memoirs of the Life of Sir Samuel Romilly, Written by Himself; with a Selection from His Correspondence. Edited by His Sons. 3 vols. London, 1840. description ends , 1:138–44; quote on 141).

4Later in the fall, GW detached Henry Lee, Jr., promoted to lieutenant colonel, “with his Legion, to the South. This corps consisted of three troops of horse, and three companies of infantry, giving a total of three hundred and fifty effectives” (Lee, War Memoirs description begins Henry Lee. Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States. New ed. New York, 1869. description ends , 212; see also 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 , 18:997, 1023–24, and GW to the Board of War, 22 Oct., found at Lee to GW, 21 Oct., source note). Lafayette wrote Lee on 29 Oct. to wish him “all possible success” in his new field (Lee, War Memoirs description begins Henry Lee. Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States. New ed. New York, 1869. description ends , 28).

5Neither the enclosed letters for forwarding to Rhode Island nor French minister La Luzerne’s delayed correspondence have been identified.

6This letter from Lafayette to Rochambeau has not been identified.

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