George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Lieutenant General Rochambeau, 20 January 1781

To Lieutenant General Rochambeau

Head Quarters New Windsor Janry 20th 1781


I should have done myself the honor of writing sooner to your Excellency on the late disturbance in the Pennsylvania Line, had I not relied, that General Knox first, and afterwards Count Des Deux ponts would give you the most accurate account of this affair1—and had I not been waiting to hear the event of it and collect the particulars to enable me to give you a more perfect idea of it. The causes of complaint of this Line, mostly composed of Foreigners, and having even some British Deserters, must in great part be known to your Excellency. The absolute want of pay & cloathing—the great scarcity of provisions were too severe a trial for men, a great proportion of whom, could not be deeply impressed with the feelings of Citizens. Some cause of complaint as to their inlistments, and perhaps the instigations of internal Enemies added to their discontents, and contributed to bring them to so disagreeable an issue. The beginning of the disturbance you had from General Knox, and the subsequent proceedings have no doubt been related to your Excellency by the Count Des Deux ponts, who being an eye witness had an opportunity of knowing all circumstances. I shall therefore content myself with adding, that the Civil Authority having undertaken to settle the dispute, there would have been an impropriety in my interfering in their conciliatory Measures, which would not have suited the principles of Military discipline; and that the matter is in a train of being terminated, as well as the manner in which it was taken up, gave us reason to expect.

It is somewhat extraordinary, that these men, however lost to a sense of duty, had so far retained that of honor, as to reject the most advantageous propositions from the Enemy. The rest of our Army (the Jersey Troops excepted) being cheifly composed of Natives, I would flatter myself, will continue to struggle under the same difficulties, they have hitherto endured, which I cannot help remarking, seem to reach the bounds of human patience.

I had last evening the pleasure of seeing at my quarters Count De Charlus, Count De Dillon and Monsr Du Mat.2 The first of these Gentlemen acquainted me with the object of his Journey to Philadelphia, which he is preparing to pursue agreeable to your desire.

I cannot forbear lamenting, Sir, that the absolute want of Money, an evil too well known in our Army, obliged me to interrupt the chain of communication3—But the conveyance by the Post is so dilatory, and it is so important that we should speedily hear from each other, that I am going to renew the chain from this place to Hartford, and propose to you the expediency of having it continued to Rhode Island.4

Nothing could give me greater pleasure than to have the honor of waiting on you at New Port, and improving the opportunity to make a more extensive acquaintance with the Troops under your Orders.5 Besides the satisfaction I should feel in seeing you again, I think it would be very useful that we should have a further conversation on our affairs, in which I might avail myself of your opinion.6 But our circumstances have been such, that it has hitherto been out of my power to execute this favorite project of mine. The moment I do not think my presence at West Point essential, shall be devoted to a visit to your Excellency.7

The reduction of my family by various contingencies, so that I had for some days but a single Aide, and the additional weight of business which of course devolved upon me, have prevented my writing to your Excellency lately as often as I wished.

By intelligence from New York, we hear the Enemy have collected transports in the North River. It is probable that hearing of discontents among our Troops, they mean to be in a situation to improve any opening that may offer.8

Leiutenant Colonel Laurens one of my Aides De Camp, having been appointed by Congress to repair to the Court of France to negotiate matters relative to our finances, as well as to other articles of great importance to our Army; they have directed him to confer before his departure, with your Excellency and Monsier Des Touches. In consequence of his instructions, I expect he will be shortly at New Port, where he will both receive your Order for France, and avail himself of any advice your Excellency may be pleased to favor him with.9 With sentiments of the most perfect regard and attachment I have the honor to be Your Excellencys Most Obedient and Humble Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in David Humphreys’s writing, 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.

1For Brig. Gen. Henry Knox’s mission to the New England states, see GW to Knox, 7 January.

Colonel Deux-Ponts of the Royal-Deux-Ponts Regiment, had been in Philadelphia and had recently passed through Trenton, where the Pennsylvania mutiny had been settled, on his way back to Newport (see Rochambeau to GW, 10 and 16 Nov. 1780; GW to Rochambeau, 16 Nov. and 10 Dec.; and Lafayette to La Luzerne, 4 Jan. 1781, in Lafayette Papers description begins Stanley J. Idzerda et al., eds. Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776–1790. 5 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., 1977-83. description ends , 3:276–78).

2Captain Damas was an aide-de-camp to Rochambeau.

Robert-Guillaume, comte de Dillon (1754–1837), entered the French army as a sub-lieutenant in the Lorraine regiment of dragoons and rose to captain in June 1778. Dillon became colonel en second of Brigadier General Lauzun’s legion in April 1780. When Lauzun returned to France after the siege of Yorktown in 1781, Dillon served as commandant of the legion. He became mestre de camp en second of Lauzun’s corps of hussars in October 1783 and mestre de camp and commandant of the corps in July 1784. A hunting accident that took away his left arm resulted in his resignation from the cavalry, but he continued his military career, rising to colonel in 1788 and marechal de camp in 1791. Under the Empire, he served as mayor of Livry (Seine-et-Oise) and ended his career as an honorary lieutenant general in 1816.

3For the establishment of a chain of express riders between GW’s headquarters and Rhode Island, see GW to Nathaniel Shaw, 31 July 1780, and GW to Elisha Sheldon, same date. For the recent termination of the chain, see GW to Sheldon, 8 Dec., and to Rochambeau, 10 December.

5Rochambeau had invited GW to visit the French army at Newport (see his letter to GW of 14 Nov. 1780).

6For GW’s previous conference with Rochambeau, see The Hartford Conference, 20–22 Sept. 1780, editorial note.

7For GW’s departure for Newport on 2 March, see GW to William Heath, 1 March, and his second letter to Samuel Huntington of that date.

8By 13 Jan., the British had moved twenty-seven transports into the Hudson River. They still remained in the river on 17 Jan., but the British moved them into the East River on 18 January. Gen. Henry Clinton had intended to use the transports as part of a feint to prevent GW from moving Continental army troops from West Point to New Jersey in response to Clinton’s projected move into that state to aid the Pennsylvania mutineers (see the entries for 9, 13, and 17–18 Jan. in Mackenzie Diary description begins Diary of Frederick Mackenzie Giving a Daily Narrative of His Military Service as an Officer of the Regiment of Royal Welch Fusiliers during the Years 1775–1781 in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 1930. description ends , 2:448, 452, 454–55).

9For Lt. Col. John Laurens’s mission to France, see Laurens to GW, 7 Jan., n.2, and GW to Laurens, 15 Jan. (first letter).

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