George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Captain Destouches, 26 February 1781

To Captain Destouches

Head Quarters New Windsor Feby 26. 81


I am this day honored with your letter of the 20th.1

I beg you to be persuaded that in my propositions to you through His Excellency The Count De Rochambeau, nothing was more remote from my wish than that you should take any step, which might in the least endanger the fleet under your command.2 Supposing you to have possessed a temporary superiority if you had thought it safe to employ it in the cooperation which I had the honor to propose, the success would have been of great importance to this country in its present circumstances. Where there seemed to be a chance of effecting so desireable an object, I could not but suggest it to your consideration.

My reasons for having supposed you to possess such a superiority were these: The officer you had sent to reconnoitre the English fleet reported the Bedford to be so damaged in her hull, that after remastng her she was only fit to be conducted into port to be repaired before she would be in condition to act; and the America was not only said to have been seen dismasted before she disappeared, but the length of her absence afforded a presumption that she was either lost or so much injured as to have made it difficult to her to regain her station. After these deductions from the force of the enemy, there would have remained to them in condition for service, five ships of the line and one of fifty guns, opposed to seven ships of the line on your part.3

I have the honor to state these facts to explain to you the grounds on which my proposals were founded.

The detachment sent to Chesapeak Bay and—The return of the America uninjured make a material change in the situations of the two fleets and render ineligible what might have been before advantageous.

Under the information you had received and from the applications made to you, you had a right to expect that the detachment sent into the bay would fully answer the end, and the readiness with which you embraced the opportunity for sending it has a just claim to our acknowlegements. I shall be happy to congratulate you on its success—which if it should arrive unexpectedly I do not despair of having it in my power to do.4 With perfect, consideration and attachment I have the honor to be Sir Your most Obed. & humble servant.

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. GW wrote “The Chevr Destouches” at the conclusion of the draft and enclosed the receiver’s copy, which has not been found, in his letter to Lieutenant General Rochambeau of this date.

3For this report, see Rochambeau to GW, 3 Feb., n.2.

4GW had not yet received Destouches’s letter to him of 25 Feb. reporting the return and success of the warships he had sent to Chesapeake Bay and his intention to take his whole squadron to the bay.

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