George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant General Rochambeau, 20 November 1780

From Lieutenant General Rochambeau

Newport, November the 20th 1780


I have the honor to inform your Excellency of the return of two of our Frigates, to Boston: They Left the Amazoune and our Letter-bearer on the 30th at Night, at an hundred Leagues distance from there, sailing fast before the wind, after being chaced by a ship of the Line and a frigate that were a cruising, and having taken in view of them the ship I mentioned in my Last.1

We have an intelligence from Boston that the American ship that carried our first Letters Was arrived at Bilboa in spain, on the 12th of September, and that our Letters were dispatched away to Versailles the next day. It is a vessel belonging to the same Trader that brought this piece of News.2

Another Ship coming from Gottenburg assures that the Russian, Danish and Swedish combined fleets has convoyed in a French Port a Large convoy of Materials and woods for the Navy, but that the Dutch had not yet Joined themselves to this combined fleet.3 I am with Respect, sir, Your Excellency’s Most obedient and most humble servant

le Cte de Rochambeau

LS, DLC:GW; LB, in French, DLC: Rochambeau Papers, vol. 7. GW acknowledged this letter when he wrote Rochambeau on 27 November.

1The French frigates Surveillante and Hermione had escorted the Amazone, which carried Rochambeau’s son and aide-de-camp vicomte de Rochambeau to France (see Rochambeau to GW, 29 Oct., and n.1). The Hermione had taken a prize (see Rochambeau to GW, 18 Nov., found at Rochambeau to GW, 16 Nov., n.1).

2Rochambeau’s aide-de-camp Ludwig von Closen had written in his journal for 11 Nov.: “We learned on the 11th that, fortunately, our first letters had arrived in Spain” (Acomb, Closen Journal description begins Evelyn M. Acomb, ed. The Revolutionary Journal of Baron Ludwig von Closen, 1780–1783. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1958. description ends , 45). The French had experienced problems dispatching news of their arrival at Rhode Island to officials in France (see Rochambeau to GW, 22 July, and n.2).

3An item datelined “BOSTON, November 16,” in The Independent Chronicle and the Universal Advertiser (Boston) for the same date, related that on 14 Nov. “the letter of marque brig Amsterdam” had arrived “in 44 days” from Gothenburg, Sweden. A passenger on the Amsterdam reported “that the Northern maritime powers in Europe had been strengthening their alliance formed with a view to defend their rights of neutrality on the high seas, against the lawless power of Britain . … The combined fleets of Russia, Sweeden, and Denmark, exclusive of those belonging to the States of Holland, amounted to upwards of 40 men of war, which had put to sea, and, after being joined, had convoyed a large quantity of stores to France, where they had arrived, and in the ports of which they were left when the last advices were received at Gottenburgh.” For the League of Armed Neutrality, see GW to Samuel Huntington, 6 July, and n.6.

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