George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Lafayette, 23 February 1781

From Major General Lafayette

pompton [N.J.] february the 23d 1781

My dear General

Your letter of Yesterday is just Come to Hand, And its Contents Shall Be ponctually obei’d—the Addition of A pennsylvanian detachement Would Be Very Advantageous, and I will try to get it under the Circumstances and in the Way Which You Have pointed out—I Had Already writen to the Commanding officer of the jersay troops Respecting the detachement, And to Colonel dayton to Request intelligences1—Your letters to Both Will Be Sent either this Evening or to Morrow Very early—in this late Case I Shall Myself Be the Bearer As I intend to Set off at Sun Rise for Morristown.2

The detachement Had A Great trouble to Cross the ferry And Made afterwards a long March through Bad Roads—they Halted last Night Within eight Miles of the Yellow House, And Came up to it this Morning—But the Rain Was So Hard, and the Road So Bad that I Have Halted them at this place (the Hutts Being thre Miles out of the Way) where they Are getting provisions, And where the Waggons Are Collected—tomorrow they Will sett off And the day After Arrive at the Hutts in Morristown—I Have Sent Back An officer per Bataïllon With orders to get Some more Baggage for the officers who came totally Unprovided, And to Have it Carried in two impressed Waggons to Morristown where I will leave them orders for theyr jonction With us—inclosed I send to Your Excellency the Return of the Wanting Cloathes Which Have been Careffully examined By C[o]l[on]el Smith (the jersay troops excepted) and which it Would Be Very important to forward as Soon as possible.3

to morrow Morning I will Set off for Morristown, there Make proper Arrangements for the Reception of the troops, the jonction of the jersay detachement, and Such precautions as Will deceive as much as possible the ennemy—I will also write to Clel pickering, and when every thing Will Be Settled Set off Myself for philadelphia.4

Mr de Castaing Aide de Camp to General du portaïl is Arrived Here Last Night And Brought me dispatches from france Arrived By the Ariel under Command of paul jones—My letters Are of An old date excepted one from doctor franklin Which I Have the Honor to inclose5—Chevalier de la luzerne writes me Word that His dispatches Are Also of An old date and Say Nothing6—I am told there Are Some More for me at philadelphia But they Certainly Are of A private Nature—My only letter from Count de Vergennes is A Quadruplicate of the 3d of June7—Monsieur de Sartine writes an Answer to My letter from Boston Relating to Some Recommandations in favor of the officers of the frigat Hermione8—perhaps Monsieur de Rochambeau Will Be Happier than the Chevalier and Myself or Will Have letters for us—We Cannot fail to Receive Soon Answers to our letters By the Amazone.9

How disappointed I Have Been in Hearing that the Ariel Brought No Cloathing Your excellency Will easily Conceive10—This Circumstance Would Nevertheless Be in favor of what paul jones Gives As His Opinion Viz. that Monsieur de La touche treville is Coming Here with 11 Ships of the Line and 8000 Men11—He also thinks that Count d’estaing is Gone with 22 ships of the Line to the West Indias.12 mr de Castaing Will Beg Your permission to Bring the dispatches to Count de Rochambeau.

Chance or A design of the Ennemy Has thrown in My way a Man who Gives a very Bad Account of Himself—He left Newyork the day Before Yesterday and I was Going to put Him Under Guard—But I made Him previously Some Questions that Might Mislead Him Respecting My projects—in the Course of His examination He Said that Colonel Robertson Was Going with 500 Men to Reinforce Arnold.

I then Asked How Many ships of the line the Ennemy Had in Newyork—He Said five under Admiral Graves—I asked if He Heard of the Gale of wind that Had disabled the British Ships—He Answered—No.13 Upon My Asking the Name of these five Ships He Could only Make out three—The Iras who He Says Had Been Upon A Cruize towards Charleston But Has Already Been five Weeks in New york—The Bumont of 50, and the ⟨illegible⟩ french india Man of 50 also—this last is not Considered, I think, as A ship fit for Any Action, and Must Be out of the Question—I ask’d if the Hospital Ship was there—He Said Yes But Unfit for Action.

My Confidence in this Man is But Small, and He was not even Consistent in What He Said Since He Had So much exagerated His first Accounts—I don’t even like the History He Gives of Himself—But thought the Matter too important Not to Have Him Sent to Head Quarters to Which monsieur de Castaing will Conduct Him immediately—if My informations at Morristown Corroborate this Account, I shall Be able to forward it to philadelphia and from thence to the Commander of the french ships with less Uncertainty.

Supposing the Account to Be true it Would make the British force about equal to ours, and the Naval Commanders at Chesapeak Bay and Rhode island ought to know it that they May Govern themselves Accordingly—the Iras whom (By the way) I did not Hear of Before this time, and the 50 if existant Would Be Superior to the french 64 and the frigats—But Having Never Heard of that ship, and as the Iris frigat May Be Mistaken for a ship of the Line By that Man, I do not Credit an Account which You would Have Got Heretofore. With every Sentiment of Respect and the most tender attachement I have the honor to be der general Your Most Humble Servant And affectionate friend


Will Your excellency please to present My Respects to Mistress Washington, Mistress Hamilton, and Compliments to the family.14

ALS, enclosed in Lafayette to GW, this date (second letter), DLC:GW; copy, PEL.

1Lafayette’s letter to the commander of the New Jersey Brigade has not been identified. For his letter of this date to Col. Elias Dayton, see 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 , 3:341.

2Lafayette refers to GW’s letter to Dayton of 22 February. For GW’s letter to the commanding officer of the New Jersey Brigade, see GW to Lafayette, 22 Feb., n.3.

3The enclosed “Return of Cloathing wanting in the Light Infantry,” dated 20 Feb. at Peekskill, N.Y., and signed by Lt. Col. William Stephens Smith, inspector and deputy adjutant general of the light infantry division, shows the following were needed: in Col. Joseph Vose’s regiment, 57 hats, 70 stocks, 1 shirt, 204 coats, 5 vests, 13 overalls, and 160 shoe buckles; in Lieutenant Colonel Gimat’s regiment, 51 hats, 72 stocks, 2 shirts, 69 coats, 1 vest, 13 overalls, 1 blanket, and 117 shoe buckles; and in Maj. James Randolph Reid’s regiment, 27 hats, 37 stocks, 16 shirts, 39 coats, 1 vest, 6 overalls, 11 blankets, and 65 shoe buckles (DLC:GW).

4Lafayette wrote to Q.M. Gen. Timothy Pickering on 24 Feb. (see 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 , 3:554).

5When he wrote on 9 Dec. 1780 from Passy, France, Benjamin Franklin, U.S. minister in France, informed Lafayette that “unforeseen & unaccountable Accidents” had delayed the sending of clothing for the Continental army, but that it would soon be shipped, along with arms and powder (Franklin Papers description begins William B. Willcox et al., eds. The Papers of Benjamin Franklin. 42 vols. to date. New Haven, 1959–. description ends , 34:142–43).

6French minister La Luzerne’s letter to Lafayette has not been identified.

7See Vergennes to Lafayette, 3 June 1780, 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 , 3:50–52.

8Neither Lafayette’s letter to former French minister of marine Sartine nor Sartine’s reply has been identified.

9For the sailing of the French frigate Amazone on 28 Oct. 1780, see Rochambeau to GW, 29 Oct. 1780, and n.1 to that document.

10For the arrival of the Continental frigate Ariel under the command of Capt. John Paul Jones, see Edward Hand to GW, 18 Feb. 1781.

11Charles-Augustin comte Le Vassor de La Touche de Tréville (d. 1788), the uncle of Captain La Touche-Tréville, became a captain in the French navy in 1757 and a chef d’escadre in 1776. In 1781 he rose to lieutenant general, but he never brought a fleet to North America.

12Vice Admiral de Grasse, not d’Estaing, sailed with a French fleet for the West Indies, arriving on 6 May.

13For this storm, see Rochambeau to GW, 29 January.

14GW replied to Lafayette on 25 Feb. and gave “Hagarty” as the name of Lafayette’s questionable informer.

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