George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant General Rochambeau, 12 February 1781

From Lieutenant General Rochambeau

Newport, February 12th 1781.


The Line of battle ship and two Frigates set sail on the 9th instt in the evening, with a very fresh wind and the fairest departure. The hermione having Lost her Bowsprit in the Last Gale, could not go with them, But as soon as She is refitted, she will set sail to join that fast Sailing Squadron. If Arnold is not by this time out of the Rivers of Virginia I believe he will not have the best of the game.1 It is useless to tell Your Excellency that I have offered to Mr Destouches all the assistance which the Land army could procure to him for that expedition, but that the rapidity of the movements has been preferred, rather than Land forces which would have rendered it Less expeditious. The Virginia militia is sufficient to destroy the 1600. men that Arnold has with him, if We can but destroy his ships. I beg of your Excellency to send this intelligence to the Chevalier de La Luzerne, recommending always to him the utmost Secrecy even for Congress.

Yesterday was the Anniversary of your Excellency’s birth day, We have put off celebrating that holiday till to-day, by reason of the Lord’s day and we will celebrate it with the sole regret that your Excellency be not a Witness of the effusion and gladness of our hearts.2 But I cannot help repeating to your Excellency that I hope it won’t be Long before, every thing being settled to your wishes, we shall have the honor to see your Excellency here. I am with respect and personal attachment, Sir, Your Excellency’s Most humble and most obedient Servant

le Cte de Rochambeau

I receive just now a Letter from the Chevalier de La Luzerne. As I have an answer to make, I will write him about those matters which I have desired Your Excellency to communicate to him.3

LS, DLC:GW; LB, in French, DLC: Rochambeau Papers, vol. 7; LB, in French, DLC: Rochambeau Papers, vol. 8. Although the LS is docketed “Ansd 22d,” GW replied to Rochambeau on 24 February.

1Rochambeau’s aide-de-camp Ludwig von Closen wrote in his journal that “the Éveillé of 64, the Gentille and the Hermione (two frigates), and the Guêpe set sail the 9th. … M. de Tilly, commander of this flotilla, was ordered to proceed directly to Chesapeake Bay, to try to burn Arnold’s convoy and to capture, if possible, the two frigates that were protecting it” (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 , 57; see also Rochambeau to GW, 8 Feb.). The Guêpe was an 18-gun sloop of war.

2According to the Julian (Old Style) calendar, GW’s birthday fell on 11 Feb., instead of 22 Feb. in the Gregorian (New Style) calendar adopted by England, Ireland, and the American colonies in 1752.

3La Luzerne’s letter to Rochambeau, dated 21 Jan., is in CtY-BR:R. Rochambeau replied to La Luzerne on this date (FrVinSHD).

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