George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant General Rochambeau, 29 January 1781

From Lieutenant General Rochambeau

Newport, January 29th 1781.


The Divine Providence manifests itself always for our cause. In my Last of the 26th inst. I have had the honor to acquaint your Excellency that our frigates, after having been severely beaten by three hard gales of wind were entered safe in our harbour.1 These same gales have thrown on shore two British Line of battle Ships and a frigate that had put to sea on purpose to intercept ours at their coming in. It is said that one of them is stranded at montauck point that the other is entered dismasted in Gardiner’s bay, and that the Frigate alone is safely rentered.2 The Chevalier Destouches is waiting for more exact intelligence to go out with his whole fleet. I hope, at Least, that it will enable him to send one man of war with two frigates to cruise before Chesapeak bay to break the communication from New york to the South. I take the occasion of General Knox’s return to head quarters to give to your Excellency these news which are the Latest we have.3 I am with respect and 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; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169. GW enclosed an unfound copy with his letter to Samuel Huntington of 3 February. GW replied to Rochambeau on 7 February.

2Rochambeau’s aide-de-camp Ludwig von Closen wrote in his journal entry for 27 Jan.: “Colonel Ledyard, commander of the New London forts, sent word on the 27th to the General that since the Tories of Newport had informed Admiral Arbuthnot of the departure of our two ships … the latter had ordered 2 vessels of 74 and one of 64 to leave immediately from Gardiners Bay, where his fleet is anchored; but that the violent gale from the South Southeast (so favorable for the return of our ships) had beset them, and as it was adverse to a return to their anchorage and too strong for them to risk staying near land, they had been obliged to put out to sea” (Acomb, Closen Journal description begins Evelyn M. Acomb, ed. The Revolutionary Journal of Baron Ludwig von Closen, 1780–1783. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1958. description ends , 56).

British major Frederick Mackenzie, stationed in New York City, wrote in his diary entry for 26 Jan.: “We have had an account this day from Block-Island, which mentions, that three French ships having got out of Rhode Island, Admiral Graves, as soon as he had certain information of it, detached the Culloden, Bedford, and America in pursuit of them from Gardner’s bay the 22nd. The Gale having come on before these ships could clear Montock point, the Culloden was forced ashore at Oyster pond point, where she was lost, but her men, guns, and Stores saved. The Bedford was obliged to cut away all her Masts. The America was seen safe after the gale” (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 , 2:463). The America (64 guns), the Bedford (74 guns), and the Culloden (74 guns) were all line-of-battle ships. For another report of these events, see Nathaniel Shaw to GW, 31 January.

3For Brig. Gen. Henry Knox’s mission to the New England states, see GW to Knox, 7 Jan.; see also Knox to GW, 7 February.

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