George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Lieutenant General Rochambeau, 29 January 1781

To Lieutenant General Rochambeau

Head Qrs New Windsor 29th Jany 1781.


I have the pleasure to inform your Excellency that the detachment sent against the Mutineers as Mentioned in my last,1 surrounded them in their Quarters on the Morning of the 27th and demanded an immediate surrender, which was complied with on their part without the least attempt to resist—Two of the principal actors were executed on the spot & the remainder pardoned. From the appearances of penitence & submission among them, it was deemed unnecessary and inexpedient to extend the punishment to a greater Number.2

I believe I may venture to assure your Excellency that the spirit of Mutiny is now completely subdued and will not again shew itself. In the present instance indeed it was very partial; for the Mutineers amounted to only two hundred, a great part of the line having refused to participate in their crime.

I requested Mr Dumat to inform you of the success of a little enterprise against a Corps of the enemy at Westchester. I have since received an official account. Fifty two of them were made Prisoners, a large quantity of Forage destroyed & a considerable number of Horses & Cattle brought off—with scarcely any loss on our side. The execution required hardiness and address the position of the Corps attacked being three or four miles within the Enemy’s redoubts—A bridge across Harlaem under the protection of one of the Redoubts was burnt to prevent reenforcements coming speedily from the Island.3

Recent letters from Virginia give me the particulars of Arnolds incursion to Richmond—He burnt there some public & private Stores & buildings, a foundery and some other public works in the vicinity; and afterwards retired to Westover, where he first landed, five & twenty miles from Richmond—This part of the Country is so thinly inhabited, that no force could be assembled in time sufficient to give him any material opposition. It was expected he would immediately reimbark from Westover.4 Virginia intersected as it is with large navigable rivers is greatly exposed to these kinds of predatory Expeditions—nor is there any remedy against them but a Naval superiority—I think it probable the Enemy will continue to disquiet that State & divert its force from the Southern extremity—while they push their operations there.

Leslie with his detachment having landed at Charles Town was marching to form a junction with Cornwallis—This being performed will enable him to recommence the offensive; and we have to apprehend with too much success, as General Greene’s accounts of his situation are far from being flattering. He had taken a new position on the left of Charlottesburg at a place called Checaws on the East side of the river Pedee which gives the command of a Country more abundant in itself & less exhausted by Military operations—He had previously established a Post on the Southside of the Catawba near the forks of Broad river to straiten the limits of the enemy and cover the upper Country.5 His disposition as far as I can judge at this distance and with an imperfect knowledge of the Country seems judicious. I have the honor to be with perfect attachment Yr Excellency’s Most Obedt & Hble Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, 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.

3Another sentence appears at the end of this paragraph on the draft, which is in the writing of GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton: “The success would in all probability have been more complete had not a heavy rain the preceding night rendered a particular pass so difficult as to make it necessary to transport the infantry across on horse back, which produced a delay that accidentally gave notice of the approach.”

For the report of the attack on this Loyalist corps, see William Heath to GW, 28 January. Rochambeau’s aide-de-camp Dumas had visited GW (see GW to Samuel Huntington, 24 Jan., source note).

5GW refers to Brig. Gen. Daniel Morgan’s detachment, which Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene had dispatched from Charlotte, N.C., before moving the main southern army to the Cheraws district in South Carolina (see Greene to GW, 28 Dec. 1780).

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