George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant General Rochambeau, 1 March 1781

From Lieutenant General Rochambeau

Newport. March the 1st 1781.


I have the honor to send to your Excellency, an Extract from the Ministerial Letters which I have received by the Frigate commanded by Mr De La Perouse. You will see that my son has staid, by orders of his Majesty to wait for the result of a definitive project.1

By Private Letters of the 20th [Decem]ber2 all from Versailles, We Learn that the Pce de Montbarey has given his resignation, that he is succeeded by the Marquis de Segur, one of our most distinguished Lieutenant Generals, an intimate of the Marquis de Castries, and that there are great movements in the Ministry.3 These circumstances, with the death of the Empress queen, the Expectation they were in of the arrival of the Count d’Estaing, who was not yet arrived at Brest, when the Frigate Sailed; tho’ he had Left Cadix on the 8th [Novem]ber4 have been the necessary causes of the Suspension arrived in the affairs.5 I had sent word to your Excellency, in my Last that the Count d’Estaing was arrived at Brest with 150. Sail;6 a Letter from a Marine,7 who had Landed to bring a pilot to the Frigate was the occasion of the Mistake; he was expected at Brest with the greatest impatience and all that the Frigate knew of him, was that she reported that she had met with a Dutch vessel, that said that he had seen the Count, in a Latitude, about a 100. Leagues distant from Brest.8

All our preparations here a[re] a-making with the greatest diligence, and I hope that the fleet will be ready to set sail, the 6th or the 7th according to my Last dispatches to your Excellency.9 I am With respect and personal attachment, Sir, Your Excellency’s Most obedient humble servant

le Cte de Rochambeau

LS, DLC:GW; LB, in French, DLC: Rochambeau Papers, vol. 7; LB, in French, DLC: Rochambeau Papers, vol. 8.

1For the arrival of the French frigate commanded by Captain La Pérouse, see Rochambeau to GW, 27 Feb., postscript.

Rochambeau enclosed “An Extract from the Letters of the Prince de Montbarey, dated from 9th to 11th xber,” which reads: “Exact account about the Money and Letters of exchange which the King sends on the frigate commanded by Mr De La Perouse, as a succour very urgent, but that succour is only a part of more powerful means expected, and to be sent immediately.

“‘The objetts contained in the result of the conference at hartford, have seemed to his Majesty to be of too great importance to be Lightly treated[.] the King orders me to write you that as soon as he will have taken his determination about the projects of the campaign in 1781, he will Send his orders to you and will provide all the necessary things of every kind, which he will Judge necessary to the execution of his will.’

“Extract of the Letter of the 9th:

“‘You may be assured, my dear General, of my extream attention to your position and your needs; All that can be necessary will always be ready, as soon as his Majesty will have given me to know his orders. We are all here very busy about what concerns You and the Count de Maurepas is as much as We. I keep here your son whom I will Send back, When the orders of his Majesty Will be definitive, to bring them to You. All the King’s Council is likewise concerned in providing all which you will stand in need of.’

“‘The Death of the Empress Queen, which We heard of three days ago is a very great event’” (DLC:GW).

2The writer of the LS penned this word as “xber,” the common French abbreviation for December. The letter-book versions have “decembre” written at this point.

3Alexandre-Marie-Léonor de Saint-Mauris, prince de Montbarey (1732–1796), had served as French war minister since the fall of 1777.

Phillipe-Henri, marquis de Ségur (1724–1801), who already held the rank of lieutenant general, became marshal of France and minister of war on 23 Dec. 1780.

4The writer of the LS penned this word as “9ber,” the common French abbreviation for November. The LB in DLC: Rochambeau Papers, vol. 8, has “novembre” written at this point.

5Maria Theresa (1717–1780), ruling archduchess of Austria, ruling queen of Hungary, and former empress of the Holy Roman Empire, had died on 29 Nov. 1780.

6See Rochambeau to GW, 27 Feb., and n.8 to that document.

7Rochambeau refers to a French naval cadet.

8A league at sea is three nautical miles.

9See Rochambeau to GW, 25 and 27 February.

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