George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Lieutenant General Rochambeau, 27 November 1780

To Lieutenant General Rochambeau

Head Qrs Passaic Falls 27th Novr 1780


I am much obliged to your Excellency for the interesting particulars you do me the honor to communicate in your letters of the 18th & 20th.1 We may now hope everything for the safety of your valuable envoy and the important dispatches2 with which he is charged.3

Since the confirmation of Ferguson’s defeat & the retreat of Cornwallis to Camden, we have nothing new from the South, except an intercepted letter of Leslie’s to Cornwallis informing of the time he had been at Portsmouth (in Virginia)4 and that he waited his Orders.5 The affairs of the enemy to the South seem at present to decline—they will probably continue to do so unless Clinton sends a re-inforcement from New York—This I fear he will shortly do, as near one half of our Army will leave us in a little time—From the temper now prevailing in the States, I hope we shall not experience this inconvenience again.6

I have kept the Army thus long in the Field to shorten the Transportation of the Supplies from Pensylvania and avoid consuming those in New York on which we must materially depend through the Winter; and at the same time in some measure restrain General Clinton from making detachments. The advanced Season obliges us to retire and tomorrow we march for Winter Quarters.

The principal part of the Army will be at West-point and its dependencies. A Corps will be Cantoned in the Jerseys at Morris Town Pompton &ca for the protection of the Country and Communication—My own Quarters will be at New Windsor7—If circumstances should permit you to honor me with your Company there, in the course of the Winter it will make me particularly happy.8

As the two Rhode Island Regiments are to be incorporated into one by a new arrangement of the Army, I would wish to unite them at West point for the purpose of the incorporation—If their Services should be of no use to you, I shall be obliged to you to give Orders to Colonel Greene to March to West-point.9

As it is improbable any operations can now take place which will often require sudden communications between the two Armies, I have ordered the Dragoons hitherto stationed to form the Chain of Expresses to be withdrawn. The Post will serve for common occasions and Special Expresses may be employed on emergencies.10

I have been very happy for these three days past in the Company of the Chevr De Chatteleaux & family—The Viscount De Noailles—the Count De Damas & our old acquaintance Du Plessis—I find in these Gentlemen everything that can command my esteem.11 I am—very respectfully—& with the warmest esteem, Yr Excellys Most Obedt & H. Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, CtY-BR:R; Df, DLC:GW; Rochambeau’s French translation, CtY-BR:R; LB, in French, DLC: Rochambeau papers, vol. 7; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Rochambeau replied to GW on 1 Dec.; see also n.9 below.

1For Rochambeau’s letter to GW dated 18 Nov., see Rochambeau to GW, 16 Nov., n.1; see also Rochambeau to GW, 20 November.

2This word is taken from the draft, which is in the writing of GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton.

3GW comments on Rochambeau’s son and aide-de-camp vicomte de Rochambeau (see Rochambeau to GW, 29 Oct., and n.1 to that document.

4GW interlineated the previous two words within parentheses on the draft.

5See Thomas Jefferson to GW, 10 Nov., and n.1 to that document. For the Battle of Kings Mountain, see General Orders, 27 Oct., and n.2 to that document.

6The six-month levies in Continental service were scheduled for discharge before 1 Jan. 1781.

7For the Continental army’s winter encampment, see GW to Samuel Huntington, 28 Nov., and n.12.

8Rochambeau did not visit GW at New Windsor.

9GW also wrote Col. Christopher Greene from headquarters at Preakness on this date: “It is probable you will receive The Count De Rochambeau’s orders to march with your regiment to West Point. Should this be the case, you will only come on with such officers as are to remain in service, on the new-arrangement and such men as are engaged for the war, or at least for a term, that will last through the next campaign. The other men you may dismiss, unless The Count De Rochambeau should find any employment, for them where they now are. In this you will perceive it is presumed you have already agreed upon the arrangement. … Since writing the above I have received your letter of the 18th” (LS [photocopy], in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW, ser. 9; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; see also Israel Angell to GW, 1 Jan. 1781, DLC:GW, and Lovell, Israel Angell description begins Louise Lewis Lovell. Israel Angell, Colonel of the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment. [New York,] 1921. description ends , 180–81).

Greene had written GW from Newport on 18 Nov. 1780: “By The Govrs Request I have made Application to Genl Rochambeau for his consent for dischargeing the Six months Livies the last of This Month; He has agreed to it. I hope it will meet your Excellency’s Approbation. It will undoubtedly be a Small Saving to the public, and perhaps forward recruiting” (ALS, DLC:GW). At its session begun on 27 Nov., the Rhode Island General Assembly passed a resolution “that the commanding officer of the new levies, who were raised to serve for six months, and whose times expire on the 1st day of January next, be, and he is hereby, required and directed to discharge them on the last day of this month” (Bartlett, R.I. Records description begins John Russell Bartlett, ed. Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England. 10 vols. Providence, 1856–65. description ends , 9:263–64).

Rochambeau wrote Rhode Island governor William Greene from Providence on 4 Dec.: “I received at New London in a little journey I made there, a letter from Gen. Washington, of the 27th of November, in which he sent me orders for Colonel Greene, to march with his regiment to West Point; as I have given them to the French cutter that was to go to Newport, and that I fear the wind has hindered him to arrive, I have the honor to send you the extract of Gen. Washington. …

“I beg Your Excellency will give him his orders, and to relieve with other troops the posts of Providence, Butt’s Hill and Point Judith, if you think it proper. I will send twenty-four men to guard Butt’s Hill, and spare your troops that post. I think it necessary to have always a detachment at Point Judith, in order to hinder the communication of the ill-intentioned with the enemy” (Bartlett, R.I. Records description begins John Russell Bartlett, ed. Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England. 10 vols. Providence, 1856–65. description ends , 9:312–13).

Governor Greene replied to Rochambeau from Warwick, R.I., on 6 Dec. that the General Assembly had “made provision” for sending Colonel Greene’s regiment “to West Point, agreeably to the requisition of His Excellency General Washington” (Bartlett, R.I. Records description begins John Russell Bartlett, ed. Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England. 10 vols. Providence, 1856–65. description ends , 9:313).

For congressional reform of the Continental army, see General Orders, 1 November.

10See GW to Elisha Sheldon, 10 Nov.; see also GW to Rochambeau, 10 Dec., and n.4 to that document.

11See GW’s first letter to Huntington, this date, and the notes to that document.

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