George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Lieutenant General Rochambeau, 26 February 1781

To Lieutenant General Rochambeau

New Windsor Feby 26th 1781


I have the honor to inclose Your Excellency under a flying seal my letter to the Chevalier Des Touches in answer to his of the 20th instant, in which I explain more precisely the grounds and import of the propositions which I had the honor to make to him through you.1

I shall add to the observations contained in this letter, that so far as related to my proposition for a detachment of land Troops, that also turned upon the supposition of a maritime superiority. in which case the enemy would certainly not have enterprized any thing against the garrison or Transports at Rhode Island—And I beg leave at the same time to assure your Excellency that I made it under the perswasion, that you would be able to secure your transports under your land batteries—or by sending them up Providence River; and that the enemy, even acquiring a naval superiority before the conclusion of the Expedition could not detach from their present force in New York, a force sufficient to endanger the remaining Troops under your Command aided by the Militia of the Neighbouring Country who could, and would fly to your assistance at a moments warning—or on the appearance of an enemy.2 I entreat you also to believe that I should have been sorry you would have accepted my proposition under a belief that it might have been attended with ill consequences to your Army.

I have an increase of happiness from the subsequent intelligence you do me the favor to communicate respecting Count D’Estaing’s success—This repetition of advices justifies a confidence in their truth—which I pray God may be confirmed in its greatest extent.3

By recent accts from North Carolina it appears that a body of the enemy had arrived in Cape Fear river, had landed, and, joined by some of the disaffected, had penetrated forty miles into the Country. This Corps is supposed to be one announced to us by Mr Adams, one of our Ministers, which was to come from England under General Provost.4 I have reason to believe that Cornwallis is at the same time operating vigorously in his quarter.

The Southern States are in a very disagreeable situation pressed on all sides, and destitute of the means of resistance, Arms Ammunition Clothing &ca, which a scarcity here & the great distance makes it almost impossible for us to send them. The Pensylvania line will march to the Southward as fast as it can be recruited and reorganized.

Congress influenced by the danger to which the Southern States are exposed, and believing that the Chevalier Des touches is superior to the enemy have desired me if not incompatible with the general projects of the next Campaign to urge your attempting with your Army or a part of it the succour of those States, or a diversion in their favor.5

I have replied to them that Mr Des-touches not having the superiority, which they imagine, the possibility of attempting the relief of the Southern States from Your Army ceases.6 The Corps which has ascended Cape Fear rivr from the nature of the Navigation can only be covered by small Frigates. With perfect respect—and the truest personal Attachment I have the honor to be Sir Yr most Obedt & Most Hble Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, 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.

2GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton penned the draft, but GW wrote the previous nineteen words.

3On the draft, GW wrote the previous eleven words. For the report, which eventually proved erroneous, see Rochambeau to GW, 20 February.

4See Samuel Huntington to GW, 20 Feb. (second letter); see also Thomas Jefferson to GW, 8 Feb., and n.1 to that document, and Huntington to GW, 2 Jan., and n.2 to that document.

6See GW to Huntington, this date. The French commanders had just changed their plans (see Rochambeau to GW, 25 Feb.).

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