George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant General Rochambeau, 2 February 1781

From Lieutenant General Rochambeau

Newport. February 2d 1781


I have received your Excellency’s Letter of the 23d Last month.1 I cannot too much admire, on one part the wisdom of the means employed by your Excellency to Leave to congrés an affair in which the military Discipline could not interfere without using rigorous measures that would not have been Well timed. on the other part, all the Sentiments of Patriotism of Virtue, of reason, existing among a number of men exasperated and revolted, under the most reprehensible and most dangerous forms. I am in hopes that the causes of the want of Provisions, and most necessary things that your army Labours under, are going to be compleatly removed, and that your Excellency will have a favorable moment to come and see this corps under your orders, that expects you with the greatest impatience, from the general down to the soldier.

The chain of communication of Lauzun’s huzzards is to be pushed as far as Hartford according to the orders of your Excellency. I have seen the Lieutenant Colonel Laurens. I have talked to him, with all the Truth and openness of my soul, and I have specially recommended to him to do the same, and to speak freely and with an open heart about the Distress of this unhappy country, unless it be strongly and powerfully succoured.

But the forms of Congress are very slow, it comes rather Late. They should have sent him with my son, or at Least, immediately after.2 he will arrive too late to have any influency upon the success of next campaign if our ministry has not resolved beforehand to send us powerfull reinforcements.

I join here for the Perusal of your Excellency a copy of a Letter that I have received from the Governor of St Domingo, Your Excellency will see that the affairs in that country are not more shining at this present moment than ours are.3 There are various reports about the Loss of the British in Gardner’s bay The Chevalier Destouches has sent an officer to Plumb island, he is very expert and capable to decide him about the measures that he is to follow in consequence of that event.4

Mr De Corny, Commissary at war, well known to your Excellency has an asthma that torments him very much, he had strongly sollicited my Leave to return to France with Mr Laurens, upon the frigate the Alliance. The State of his health and the speedy departure of the Frigate does not give me time to wait for the return of the Expresses, for your agreement to it, But I hope your Excellency will Approve my having given him Leave; he will be very usefull to Mr Laurens, at his first appearance and Launching out in that country.5 I am with respect, and great personal attachment Sir, Your Excellency’s Most humble most obedient Servant,

le cte de rochambeau

The Count de St Memes, Colonel of the Soissonnois regiment setts off to morrow for head quarters to wait on Your Excellency and thence to go to Philadelphy, if Your Excellency gives him Leave.6

LS, DLC:GW; LB, in French, DLC: Rochambeau Papers, vol. 7; LB, in French, DLC: Rochambeau Papers, vol. 8. The postscript appears only on the LS. GW replied to Rochambeau on 14 Feb. (first letter).

1Rochambeau refers to GW’s letter to him of 20 Jan.; both letter-book copies have “20” for the date. GW wrote no letter to Rochambeau on 23 January.

2For the departure of the vicomte de Rochambeau to appeal to the French court for additional military and financial assistance, see Rochambeau to GW, 29 Oct. 1780, and n.1 to that document.

3Rochambeau enclosed a letter to him from “Mr reynaud Commander in chief at St Domingo.” That copy, dated 6 Jan. 1781 at Cap Français, Saint Domingue, reads: “I received, Sir, on the 2d instt the Letter that you wrote me, of the 10th December Last. I beg you will accept my sincere thanks for the news you give me about your position & that of the United States. It is to be hoped they’ll send you reinforcements from Europa, that you may next campaign assure the Independence of New-England, that is the only way to procure peace, an event that is very desirable for our Colonies.

“The newest intelligence from Europa and from France, is of the end of October, We Learn by it, that Count d’Estaing has taken the command of the Combined armies of Cadiz and that Mr de Castries had succeeded to Mr De Sartine in the department of the navy. We have not yet had Dispatches from that minister. The Letters from Mr De Bouillé at the Windward islands are of the 20th Xber, he writes me that the only sea forces that he has, are the 4. men of war that Mr De Monteil sent him, and that luckily they had arrived in time to hinder the enemy from intercepting a convoy that had just arrived at the Windward islands. Admiral Rodney was at St Lucia with thirteen or fourteen men of War and he expected eight more from Europa with Troops, so that it is much to be feared that Some islands will be taken from Mr De Bouillé, unless they send him reinforcements without Loss of time. We are here without any navy, the only man of war that remains is blocked up at St Louis by two men of war and two frigates, as Mr De Monteil is gone to join Mr De Bonnet who had asked for him, as he did not think himself strong enough to protect a Valuable convoy that he expected from Vera-cruz—The Last intelligences from Havannah are of the 18th 9ber. You very likely know that the Expedition against Pensacola has not been successfull, as Mr De Solano’s fleet that was to protect it has been dispersed as well as the convoy by the hurricane of the month of October Last. Of that Expedition only three men of War and one frigate were returned to the Havannah, on the 18th 9ber” (DLC:GW). For newspaper accounts of this hurricane, see GW to Rochambeau, 10 Dec. 1780, and n.5 to that document; see also Francisco Rendon to GW, 26 December.

4For the report from this officer, see Rochambeau to GW, 3 Feb. 1781, and n.2 to that document.

5GW already had approved French war commissary Corny’s departure for France (see GW to Corny, 22 Dec. 1780, found at Corny to GW, 4 Dec.).

6Jean-Baptiste-Louis-Phillipe-Félix d’Ollières, Comte de Saint-Maisme (Saint-Maime; from 22 May 1784, Du Muy; 1755–1820) entered the French army in 1769 as a cavalry officer, rose to captain in 1771, and then to colonel of the Soissonais Regiment in June 1775. Honored with the cross of the military order of Saint-Louis for his service in America, he became a brigadier general in 1784, a maréchal de camp in 1788, and a lieutenant general in 1792. Saint-Maisme served in the army of the French Republic and Empire, and he was made a baron of the empire in 1808. He retired at the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy and was made a peer of France in August 1815.

For his appearance at GW’s headquarters, see GW to Rochambeau, 15 Feb., and n.1 to that document.

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