George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant General Rochambeau, 10 January 1781

From Lieutenant General Rochambeau

Newport, January, 10th 1781.


I receive this moment Your Excellency’s Letter of the 3d instant.1 I am very much surprised that you had not yet received the one which I had wrote to you on the 22d of Last month as an answer to your Excellency’s Letter of the 15th;2 This is certainly occasioned by the carelessness of the Post rider at Hartford. I believe that Your Excellency will be able to judge better than I, that after the hurricane that the Spanish fleet has undergone, and from the orders that they seem to have from their court, to accomplish their expedition against Pensacola and St Augustine,3 We cannot expect that they will Leave these two objects that are prescribed to them, to come and fetch us: I am then of opinion, Since Your Excellency asks it, that it would be better to wait for the arrival of the News and reinforcements from France, with a plan made by our different allied powers for the next campaign, and that the Frigate that would be sent hence to propose to the Spaniards to come to disembogue us, would not have a favorable Audience, and would not hinder them from following the plan that has been fixed for them by their court: In Lieu of which, if we wait for the news from France with a plan which I suppose has been combined with Spain, then we will make sure work of it, and we will prepare every thing consequently. In the Same Letter of the 22d I shewed to your Excellency the Little reliance we were to make upon Mr De Monteil because from the Last Letter I had from the Governor of St Domingo, he had been obliged to send 4. Ships of the Line to Martinico and to keep 5. at the Cape, that in that position he was obliged to keep himself On the defensive, as well as We, specially since the return of Rodney to the West Indies.

The regiment of Colonel Greene is gone, near a month ago, from this island. I am not knowing what can keep him in the continent, and I beg of your Excellency to be persuaded that I immediately gave him Your Excellency’s orders for his departure, as soon as they came to hand, in the Beginning of December.4 I did not in my Last Letter, make any compliments to your Excellency, upon the New year, not knowing whether it was customary in this country; but I beg of your Excellency to be assured that my wishes are very sincere for his glory, his happiness and the success of his arms. I am with respect and a sincere personal attachment Sir, Your Excellency’s Most obedient & most humble Servant.

le cte de rochambeau

LS, DLC:GW; LB, in French, DLC: Rochambeau Papers, vol. 7; LB, in French, DLC: Rochambeau Papers, vol. 8. GW acknowledged this letter when he wrote Rochambeau on 24 January.

Map 4. With the French army established at Newport, defending southern Rhode Island remained a vital objective for the allies. (Illustrated by Rick Britton. Copyright Rick Britton 2021)

3In late February, the Spanish mounted a major expedition against Pensacola that eventually involved over 5,000 troops and 16 ships of the line. The British garrison surrendered on 9 May. For details, see Dull, French Navy description begins Jonathan R. Dull. The French Navy and American Independence: A Study of Arms and Diplomacy, 1774-1787. Princeton, 1975. description ends , 233–34. The Spanish never captured St. Augustine.

4For the orders to send Col. Christopher Greene’s 1st Rhode Island Regiment to West Point, see GW to Rochambeau, 27 Nov. 1780.

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