George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant General Rochambeau, 13 December 1780

From Lieutenant General Rochambeau

Boston 13th Decemr 1780


I came here, to make a jou[r]ney of instruction, and to admire the brilliant Campaign which your Excellency made in this Quarters.1 On arriving at this place I found very interesting news brought by an American Vessel which left the River of Nantes the 4th of November.2 she has given me the annexed list of Vessels which are coming from Brest, destined for America, with a Convoy which is preparing at Brest3—She tells me that there is a change in our Ministry—That Mr Sartine retires and that Monsr de Castries succeeds him4—That the Mars an American Vessel of 20 Guns would depart a little time after her charged with dispatches for us.5 Although there is something extraordinary in all this news—it appears to me so circumstantial that it gives an air of truth to what regards the Armament—He adds that all the other Vessels had rejoined the Spaniards at Cadiz to attempt the Reduction of Gibralter which was short of provisions6—I shall get on Horseback tomorrow to view the Grounds where your Excellency had your successes, and I count upon returning to Newport in four days.7 I am &.


Translation, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; ALS, in French, PHi: Gratz Collection. GW replied to Rochambeau on 23 December.

1Rochambeau left Newport for Boston on 12 Dec. (see Rochambeau to Montbary, 18 Dec., in Doniol, Histoire description begins Henri Doniol. Histoire de la Participation de la France à l’établissement des États-Unis d’Amérique: Correspondance Diplomatique et Documents. 5 vols. Paris, 1886–92. description ends , 5:390–91).

GW took command near Boston on 2 July 1775 and remained in the vicinity until leaving for New York City on 4 April 1776. The British evacuated Boston on 17 March after the Continental army occupied Dorchester Heights on 4 March and brought the town under artillery fire (see also n.7 below).

2Rochambeau apparently received intelligence from a brig “28 days out” from the Loire River in Nantes, France, that reached Boston on 10 Dec. 1780 (Independent Ledger, and the American Advertiser [Boston], 11 Dec.; see also Rochambeau to GW, 19 Dec.).

3The translation omits Rochambeau’s remark that the French warships had copper bottoms.

Rochambeau’s undated French-language enclosure was translated in the writing of GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman with the heading “List of Vessels ready to depart from the Port of Brest bound to America.” The names and armament of seven French men of war precede closing remarks: “Three Vessels armed en flute laden with all sorts of Military Stores and provisions—30 Transport Vessels” (both DLC:GW; filed with Rochambeau to GW, 13 Dec. 1780). The French words “en flute” indicate a warship with reduced armament for greater storage capacity.

4For another report of a change in the French minister of marine from Sartine to Castries, see Lafayette to GW, 9 Dec., and n.3 to that document.

5The Mars arrived at Boston on 28 Feb. 1781 after sailing “11 weeks from Nantz” (Pennsylvania Packet or, the General Advertiser [Philadelphia], 13 March 1781).

6For more detailed intelligence on the same topic, see n.4 with the document referenced at n.4 above.

7The Norwich Packet; and the Weekly Advertiser (Connecticut) for 26 Dec. 1780 printed under the heading “BOSTON,” 21 Dec., that on Saturday morning, 16 Dec., Rochambeau “and a number of French officers, set out from this town on their return to Newport.—They arrived here on the preceding Wednesday, in the evening, and on the two following days they visited the castle, Bunker-hill, the lines round Boston, General Washington’s former head-quarters at Cambridge, and the university. Every respect was paid them that the time would allow, the shortness of which was much regretted.” Rochambeau had stayed in the home of Massachusetts governor John Hancock.

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