George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Lafayette, 1 November 1780

From Major General Lafayette

Light Camp [near Cranetown, N.J.]
November the 1st 1780

Dear General

In Consequence of Your excellency’s orders I am to Give you My opinion upon these three points—1st when it Will be proper to go into winter Quarters 2d where those winter Quarters are to be taken 3dly if Any thing further May be done to oppose the ennemy’s operations in the South ward.1

the Month of November Being Generally Good in America, I would not Advise Your excellency to Go into winter Quarters Untill the first of december—I would be Sorry to leave the ennemy Any opportunity to Say that we have permitted them to take the field during this Campaign—I would Remain in Such a Situation as to prevent theyr Making Any forrage with Security—and So far Am I Convinc’d that doing Some thing will be useful to our affairs in europe, that I would Stay in the way to improve Any opportunity Which Chance or a Bad disposition of theyrs May offer—our Remaining in the field will also Retard any further detachement which they Might intend—the only objection that May be found Against this opinion of Mine, is that our Soldiers Must have time for Building Barraks—But if the arrangement Which I propose is adopted a Small addition to the Garrison of west point will be able to Make all the hutts which May be wanted for the Small Remains of our Army.

2dly West point and North River being our Most important point of defense, I would logde near that fort and posts thereto Belonging the whole of our troops (pensilvanians excepted)—these I would Send to the position of Morristown where hutts are Ready to Receive them2—it Should, I think, be very proper that the Arrangements of the Army be Settl’d when we enter into winter Quarters, So that each fie⟨ld⟩ officer, and each Regiment be in its proper place—I would Consider if upon the whole it was not bette⟨r⟩ to order that the two forts at king’s ferry be defended to the last extremity, leaving into them a very Small Garrison3—the Great Business of our winter Quarters should, I think, be to Attend to the Instruction of the officers, and particularly to the forming of Good Non Commissioned officers and putting them upon a More Respectable footing.4

3dly As to the last Article, I will not So much officially as Confidentially propose to You an idea which if executed May have the happiest effects towards Checking the progress of the ennemy.

When the expedition against Charlestown was Spoken off Count de Rochambeau offered to Send lauzun’s Legion By Land5—why Should we not get them for a winter’s Campaign of So much Consequence as that of the South ward where Regular troops Are So much wanted on our Side, where the Communications of the ennemy are So extensive as to admit of handsome strokes with A Good Corps of Caval[r]y and light infantry, and where the extention of a British post will perhaps (if there is a Mediation) determine the independency of one or two States—But this affair Requires Great deal of delicacy.

As I am too much your friend for to have Any Reserve With you, I will tell that I would not have you to Make directly the proposal, But I want the proposal to be Made and to be accepted.

Chevalier de la luzerne who as well as myself hates to See the french troops idle, and who on a political point of view wishes the ennemy to hold as little ground as possible in America when peace will be talk’d of, Will, I am Sure, be pleas’d with this idea—suppose You was to write me a Confidential private letter on the Subject, I would Send it to him, and Request him to Make in his own Name the proposals to Count de Rochambeau.

the Second Article Would be to Make it Agreable to duke de lauzun—for people who Are not use’d to our Wars, Such a long journey Would Appear tedious, But if You adopt the Mode which I am Going to propose, I am Sure that the hope of a larger Command And An Active life would Make him happy in the project—with duke de lauzun we must Not act merely upon the State of what is the Best, But in the Same time engage his wishes By Some Agreable hopes. I Would propose that duke the lauzun’s horse be March’d from hartfort By the 15th of November—they will Certainly be at hillsborough By the first of january.6

As to the infantry, those three hundred men Might be embark’d at Rhode island on Board of frigates and By the first of december take a fresh wind to go to Such a place as would be pointed out.

I would take out of our light infantry four hundred men under the Command of two Colonels, who would be embark’d at philadelphia on Board Some french flutes that are in the River and Convey’d By the Confederacy—I would in My letter to duke de lauzun Give him a Confidential assurance that four hundred men of the light infantry Should be Added to his Command with a Corps of Militia—the other wing of general Greene’s Van guard Might be under general Morgan, and they would be Commanded By a Major General.

the Manner of Sending the troops to the Southward and other details of this plan Might be Alter’d for the Best—the Great thing is that A Corps of a thousand men, as Good as ever were into the field three hundred of whom Cavalry would By the first of january be at hillsborough Where they Would Serve during january february, March, and april, and if next Campaign we get the Naval Superiority they May in eight days be Again at Rhode island. I have the honor to be Your excellency’s Most obedient humble servant


ALS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. For the location in the dateline, see Lafayette to GW, 28 Oct., source note.

2The main army had encamped the previous winter at Jockey Hollow near Morristown, N.J. (see GW to Nathanael Greene, 30 Nov. 1779, n.2).

3The forts at Stony Point and Verplanck Point, the latter known as Fort Lafayette, guarded the termini of King’s Ferry, New York.

4For the Continental army’s winter encampment, see GW to Samuel Huntington, 28 Nov., and n.12.

5During their conference at Hartford, GW and French lieutenant general Rochambeau had discussed an expedition to the southern states with the objective to recapture Charleston (see Document IV with The Hartford Conference, 20–22 Sept., editorial note).

6Lafayette refers to Hillsborough, North Carolina.

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