George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Lieutenant General Rochambeau, 14 February 1781

To Lieutenant General Rochambeau

Head Quarters New Windsor 14th Feby 1781.


I have been honored with your Excellency’s favor of the 2d, and am much obliged by the confidential communication of your dispatches from St Domingo.1

It is with pleasure I transmit your Excellency the Copy of a letter from Brigadier General Morgan to Major Genl Greene, giving an account of a decisive Victory gained by him over Lt Colo. Tarleton on the 17th of January.2 I am in hopes that this fortunate stroke will, at least, retard the offensive operations of Lord Cornwallis, untill General Greene is in a better condition to oppose his progress, than he was by the last accounts from the Southward—A little time previous to this action—General Morgan having received intelligence, that a body of 250 Tories were on their march from Georgia to join the British Army, he detached Lt Colo. Washington, with the 3d Regt of Dragoons and a body of Militia Horse, to intercept them—Colo. Washington met them at a place called Hammonds Store House—immediately charged them—killed and wounded 150 and made about 40 prisoners. Not a Man on our side was killed or wounded.3

I propose setting out from hence for Newport on Friday next, if the North River should be passable, and no unforeseen circumstances intervene.4

The Count de St Mimes has not arrived, which makes me fear I shall not have the pleasure of seeing him at my quarters, untill he returns from Philada5—I am at present made very happy by the agreeable company of the Duke de Lauzun, Colo. Sheldon and Count Fierson.6 I have the honor to be with great Respect Your Excellency’s Most obt and humble Servant

Go: Washington

LS, in Tench Tilghman’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. The French translation and the letter-book copy lack the final paragraph.

On this date, GW also wrote Rochambeau: “Lt Colonels Gouvion and Gimat have obtained my permission to make a journey to Rhode Island to pay their respects to your Excellency and to see their friends in the army under your command. I had the honor of presenting these Gentlemen to you at Hartford—and take this occasion of recommending them to your attention, as officers who have served with distinction in our army, and who by their personal qualities as well as their military merit have acquired my particular esteem” (Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; see also The Hartford Conference, 20–22 Sept. 1780, editorial note).

2See Daniel Morgan to Nathanael Greene, 19 Jan., found at Greene to GW, 24 Jan. (first letter), n.3. The enclosed copy has not been identified.

3See Greene to GW, 11 Jan., n.2.

4GW’s departure for Rhode Island was delayed significantly beyond Friday, 16 Feb. (see GW to Rochambeau, 15 and 24 Feb.; see also GW to Rochambeau, 2 March).

5Colonel Saint-Maisme arrived at GW’s headquarters on this date in the evening (see GW to Rochambeau, 15 Feb.; see also Lafayette to La Luzerne, 15 Feb., 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 , 3:320–22).

6Brigadier General Lauzun, Colonel Ferson, and Col. Elisha Sheldon had visited West Point on 12 Feb. before going to GW’s headquarters at New Windsor (see the entry for that date in Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 287). Lauzun wrote in his memoirs about his visit with GW on 13 and 14 Feb.: “M. de Rochambeau sent me to New Windsor, on the North River, where General Washington had his headquarters, about two hundred miles from the French army. General Washington received me most kindly, and showed a desire to employ me straight away. He told me that he hoped to go at the earliest possible moment to Newport to visit the French army and M. de Rochambeau. He confided to me that, Mr. Arnold having gone down to work great havoc in Virginia, he had formed the plan of seizing him there; that he was going to make M. de La Fayette advance by land with all the light infantry of his army; he was asking that the King’s fleet should go and anchor in Chesapeake Bay, and there land a detachment of the French army to cut off Arnold’s retreat. He added that he would request M. de Rochambeau to give me the command of this detachment, regarding it as essential that the French and American troops should live together on good terms, as well as the men who commanded them, and that the French officer should be able to speak to the American officers, and to make himself understood by them” (Memoirs of the Duc de Lauzun description begins C. K. Scott Moncrieff, trans. Memoirs of the Duc de Lauzun. 1928. Reprint. New York, 1969. description ends , 195; see also GW to Rochambeau, 15 Feb.).

Hans Axel von Fersen (1754–1810), a native of Sweden, began his service in the French army in 1769 as a subaltern in the Royal-Bavièr regiment, but also held rank in the Swedish army as a captain. In January 1780, he was promoted to mestre de camp (colonel) in the French army, and became first aide-de-camp to Rochambeau for the campaign in America. An ardent royalist during the French Revolution, he left France after the execution of Louis XVI. Fersen returned to Sweden, where he became a lieutenant general in 1800 (he had already been named a major general in 1792) and grand marshal in 1801. In 1797 the Swedish king named him ambassador to the Imperial Diet and in 1803 to Saxony. For primary accounts of his experiences, see Fersen Diary and Correspondence. description begins Diary and Correspondence of Count Axel Fersen, Grand-Marshal of Sweden, Relating to the Court of France. Translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley. Boston, 1902. description ends

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