George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Lafayette, 8 December 1780

To Major General Lafayette

New Windsor 8th Decr 1780

Mr dear Marqs

Since mine of yesterday by the Count de Castine another oppertunity has offered of writing to you more leizurely,1 & as your departure for the Southward—if that ultimately should be your determination—may be incommoded by delay, I have taken the liberty of facilitating your journey by the inclosed dispatches. I beg you to be perswaded however, that I do not mean by this to fix your determination of serving in the Southern Army.2 It is my earnest wish (as I mentioned at Morris Town) that you shd be governed in this matter by European & Southern advices wch ought, & alone can, determine you with propriety—These you are more in the way of receiving than I am. If there is a prospect of a naval superiority in these Seas—and an augmentation of the (French) land force at Rhode Island, I shall with the freedom of a friend give it as my opinion, that your going to the Southern Army (if you expect a command in this) will answer no valuable purpose; but must be fatiegueing to yourself & embarrassing to Generl [Greene] as it may contravene a permanent arrangement to the disgust of those who considering themselves as belonging to that Army may be hurt at disappointments—On the other hand, if we are likely to remain in a state of inactivity in this quarter your seeking service to the Southward where their is a more fruitful field for enterprize is not only an evidence of your Zeal but will be supported by every rule of military reasoning—hence it is, I again repeat, that circumstances should alone decide.

In all places, and at all times, my best wishes for your health—honor & glory will accompany you3—with much truth I can add that I am—My dear Marqs Yr most Obedt & Affecte Servt

Go: Washington

ADfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1GW’s letter to Lafayette dated 7 Dec. has not been found. For Brigadier General Custine’s visit, see GW to Samuel Huntington, 27 Nov., source note, and Anthony Wayne to GW, 10 December.

2GW wrote one of his letters of introduction to Maryland governor Thomas Sim Lee from New Windsor on this date: “I have the honor of introducing to your Excellency the Marquis de la Fayette, Majr General in our Army and an Officer of rank in those of France—This Gentlemans character, illustrious birth and fortune, can not be unknown to you, though you may be unacquainted with his person.

“I should be wanting in that justice which is due to his great merit—to his early attachment to the American Cause—and to his powerful support of it here & at the Court of Versailles, was I to permit him to depart for the Southern Army without this testimony of the Sense I entertain of his worth, & recommendation of him to your attention.

“He will, probably, be accompanied by his brother in law the Viscount de Noailles, & Count Damas, Gentn of Family fortune & rank in the French Army at Rhode Island, whose zeal to serve America has prompted them to make a Winters Campaign to the Southward, if permission can be obtained from the Count de Rochambeau, to be absent from their respective Commands so long” (ALS, MWiW). GW based his letters of introduction on a draft, also written at New Windsor on this date, that he docketed: “Substance of the Letters of introduction in favor of the Marqs De la Fayette 8th Decr 1780 To Sundry Gentlemen in Virginia” (ADfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

GW apparently also wrote a letter of introduction to Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene at New Windsor on this date: “The Marquiss wonted zeal and active spirit have led him to seek Service on the Southern theatre as he Supposes we are to remain in a torpid State in this quarter during the Winter.

“You are too well acquainted with his Military talents & enterprising genious to need testimony of either from me. I shall only add that it is more than probable he will again return to a Command in this Army at the opening of the next Campaign.

“Under this information you are to consider how far circumstances will enable you to give him a temporary command in your Army worthy of his acceptance” (ALS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

GW’s letters presumably never reached their addressees, because Lafayette returned to headquarters at New Windsor before heading for Virginia in February 1781 (see Lafayette to GW, 28 Nov., and n.7).

Index Entries