George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant General Rochambeau, 1 January 1781

From Lieutenant General Rochambeau

Newport, January 1st 1781.


Your Excellency’s Letter of the 23d last,1 I received Last night. I received Likewise one from Governor Trumbull to which I made the Answer Of which I send you here a copy. I Wish that the 2d Division may be numerous enough to oblige us to extend as far as New-haven.2 Mr Meyers, nephew of Mr Gerard is gone on the 26th with the Duplicates of our Dispatches, I hope he will have got clear.3 Major Gibbs is arrived here yesterday in good health, and I will endeavour to Contribute to make his stay here as agreable as possible4 I need not tell to your Excellency that I expect news from France with great impatience and that I’ll forward them to you with all possible Speed. I Am with respect Your Excellency’s Most obedient and most humble servant

le cte de rochambeau

I beg of you to forward the inclosed box and papers to the Ch. de La Luzerne. it is for the Philanthropic society for the recovery of the Drowned persons, in Philadelphy.5

LS, DLC:GW; LB, in French, DLC: Rochambeau Papers, vol. 7; LB, in French, DLC: Rochambeau Papers, vol. 8.

1The word “last” is written over “instant” in the LS; Rochambeau refers to GW’s letter of 23 Dec. 1780.

2Rochambeau enclosed a copy of his letter to Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., of this date: “Your Excellency’s Letters of the 29. and 30. Last, I received this morning. I have not been able to go myself to New-haven but I had sent there one in whom I could trust. The Place would be exceeding fine for Troops and certainly we shall make use of it in the spring, and when the operations will begin, it will very Likely be one of our best and principal marts, which is a reason for not draining it in this moment.

“I own to your Excellency that I have the greatest repugnancy for the winter quarter, to put there a regiment of two batali⟨ons.⟩ I make it a constant rule in war a[s] well as in morality never to tempt the Devil, and If I were in Clinton’s place I would have a great hankering to fall upon a corps that would be with so much difficulty succoured, by its distance from the rest of the Troops and the difficulty of the Ferrys upon the river of Connecticut. I would Like much better, (if your Excellency and the Council find that New-London, Norwich and Windham are too much troubled by the Troops,) that they were put towards Hadham and Middletown, any where in short that your Excellency chuses, between The Thames and Connecticut rivers. These are the military reasons that ought to guide the winter quartering of Troops, and I beg of your Excellency to consider them, in case of the arrival of the second Division, this season.

“As to the supplies proposed by public contract by the 4. N[ew] E[ngland] and N.Y. states, I am ready to Listen to all the propositions that will be made. I wish to have the honor of observing to your Excellency that ’till now, I have been extremely satisfied with Colonel Wadsworth, who has our principal confid⟨ence⟩ that the formalities and the Delays unavoidable in the Administration of the States, have wherewith to make me fear for an army whose needs are always urgent, that the Example of What I have had here by the Different troops during the campaign, from the States of Boston and rhode-isla⟨nd⟩ is not encouraging, because I have been obliged five or six times to send them provisions that they were in want of, several times. However Your Excellency may be persuaded that We will Listen, the Admiral and I to all the proposals that will be made, from the great desire, we have to agree to all that can be beneficial to the common cause” (DLC:GW; for a transcription of the recipient’s copy, see Trumbull Papers description begins The Trumbull Papers. 4 vols. Boston, 1885-1902. In Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 5th ser., vols. 9–10; 7th ser., vols. 2–3. description ends , 3:177–79; see also Rochambeau to GW, 8 Dec., and n.3 to that document).

Trumbull’s letters to Rochambeau have not been identified, but on 29 Dec. the Connecticut council debated Rochambeau’s request to Trumbull that the troops of the expected second division of the French expeditionary force be quartered in that state: two regiments at New London, three at Norwich, and one at Windham. The council determined that two regiments should be quartered at New London, two at Norwich, and two at New Haven, but desired further information from the French commander if he found that arrangement unsatisfactory. The council’s records for that date also note that “a letter on the subject &c. was prepared and sent to the C. de Rochambeau” (Conn. Public Records description begins The Public Records of the State of Connecticut . . . with the Journal of the Council of Safety . . . and an Appendix. 18 vols. to date. Hartford, 1894–. description ends , 3:284–85).

Map 2. In 1781, the area surrounding Long Island Sound became an important theater of army and naval operations. (Illustrated by Rick Britton. Copyright Rick Britton 2021)

3Pierre Prothais Meyer carried duplicates of GW and Rochambeau’s dispatches to the French court concerning their discussions at the Hartford Conference (see Rochambeau to GW, 25 Dec., and n.5 to that document; see also The Hartford Conference, 20–22 Sept., editorial note).

4Maj. Caleb Gibbs, the former commandant of GW’s guard, had recently been transferred to the 2d Massachusetts Regiment. Gibbs was a native of Newport (see Godfrey, Commander-in-Chief’s Guard description begins Carlos E. Godfrey. The Commander-in-Chief’s Guard: Revolutionary War. Washington, D.C., 1904. description ends , 170–71).

5GW sent these materials to Philadelphia on 9 Jan. 1781 (see his reply to Rochambeau of that date).

Rochambeau refers to a benevolent society formed the previous year. The Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser (Philadelphia) for 5 Sept. 1780 ran a notice dated Friday, 1 Sept.: “A FEW gentlemen having lately met together at the University Hall, for the purpose of forming a Society, in imitation of those in Paris, London, and Amsterdam, for recovering drowned persons, are desirous of promoting so useful an institution in this city, and will hold a meeting in the Hall of the University, on Tuesday next, at five o’clock in the afternoon, in order to choose the proper officers, and approve some rules for the government of the society, which will then be presented them, and at which time and place, those gentlemen who were proposed for Members are earnestly requested to attend.” The society continued to operate into the nineteenth century as The Humane Society for the Recovery of Drowned Persons.

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