George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette, 5 December 1780

My dear General

By My letter of yesterday I have Mentionn’d to You that a Spanish Expedition was intended Against St Augustine—They Mean to set out at theEnd of december which will Certainly delay them till the Middle of january—it consists of twelve ships of the line, some frigats, Bomb ketches, and a large Number of troops—I have advis’d the Minister to Communicate officialy to you this intelligence, and also to Count de Rochambeau that proper means, if Convenient, might be taken to improve it.

For my part, my dear General, I have conducted myself agreably to what you said to me in our last Conversations. That if in the Course of the winter a Naval superiority was obtain’d our Business was to push for the South Ward, and that you would take for that purpose Fore thousand French and two thousand Americans—Nothing Against Newyork may be undertaken Before theEnd of May. Any thing therefore that Could employ us during February, March, and April is worthy of our Attention.

The Confederacy was going to sail for some cloathing which we have in the West indias—No time was left to waït for an answer from you—I knew perfectly your sense of this affair—I therefore, with the Advice of Chevalier de la Luzerne, wrote him a letter dated from camp, wherein I explain to him that some thing might be made in conjunction for the public good, and wherein I strengthen my opinion By your sentiments on this matter, without however Bringing myself, and you still less in any formal application to the Spanish Generals.

Inclos’d you will find a copy of this letter, the first part of which mentions that if after having landed theyr troops in Floridas they would send theyr ships of the line for us, we might on three weeks notice Before the departure of the Squadron have in Readiness Six thousand men for a powerfull diversion in Carolina—Theyr own interest is the only thing I seem to Consider in this Business, and I endeavour to invite Spanish Caution into this measure—But unless a more Particular Application is made, I do not Believe that this part of My letter will have Any effect.

The Second part will, I hope, be productive of some good for America—I urge the necessity immediately to open a Correspondance with General Greene that he may By his Maneuvres facilitate the operations of Spain—I tell them that unless they land a Corps of troops on the Boundaries of Georgia with a wiew as least to threaten Augusta and Savahna theyr Expedition will Run a great Risk—I advise the measure of Cruizing off Charlestown harbour, the whole under theyr idea of theyr own interest.

I have also writen to the Naval French Commander of the West indias, Advising him to Succour Chevalier de Ternay which I know he will not do—But I take this opportunity of damning theyr foolish neglect in not appearing on our Coasts when they Return to Europe—And I do also advise that in theyr Cruizes from St domingo they may some times appear off Savahna and Charlestown harbour—Inclos’d you will find a copy of this letter.

Tho’ I do alwaïs speack of the Beggining of February, it is however certain that any time in February would be Convenient to go to the South ward—March and April are more than Sufficient to the taking of Charlestown—And in all Cases, I know from our last Conversations that you wish for a Naval superiority this winter in order to succour the southern States.

I had this morning, My dear General, a long Conversation with the Chevalier de la Luzerne Relating to a southern operation. He is as well as myself clearly of opinion that unless a formal application and a plan of Campaign are propos’d to them, they will not send theyr ships to us—in this late case theyr coming ought still to be questionn’d—But if you thought it Better to try, you might propose to the FrenchGenerals to send there a frigat and see with them what might be done in Conjonction—Suppose they were to take four thousand men, leaving some and the militia at Rhode island—We could on our part muster two thousand Americans—However the Spaniards are so positive and Strict in following litteraly theyr instructions that I don’t Believe any thing will engage them to Come—But my letter which I look upon as a mere Cipher on the first proposition will, I hope, engage them to impart theyr projects to Gal Greene, and of couse this diversion will Become useful to us.

Suppose Count de Rochambeau and Cher de Ternay were to send to Havana a Copy of your letter I think they ought to intrust it to Vicomte de Noailles who will soon Return to Rhode island and whose name is highly Respected By the Court of Spain for many particular Reasons too long to be here mentionn’d.

I have seen Mr Ross and find that very little cloathing is to be immedately expected—They have some Arms on Board the Alliance, and I think hundred Balis of cloth on Board a vessel under Jones’s Convoy—The Remainder will Come with the Serapis—Unless the storms has Forc’d Jones to put in some French harbour, he May be expected every Minute.

The Assembly of Pennsilvania have Before them the Affair of the Recruits—But proper arrangements are not properly supported—They are fond of Volontary inlistements—I have an appointement for to morrow with Gal Mifflin where I will debate this Matter with him.

To Morrow, My dear General, I will go to Brandiwine withChe de Chattelux, and also to Red Bank, Fort Mifflin &c. On my Return, I hope to find news from France, and I will write you my determination about My Going to the South Ward.

Inclos’d you will find a newspaper wherein Congress have printed a letter from Gal Gates Relating to a new Success of Sumpter.

Congress have lately Receiv’d letters from Mr Jay and Mr Adams But nothing very particular. They have more fully writen By other opportunities that are expected—Portugal have entered into the Convention of Neutrality, and with such Conditions as seem to show theyr partiality to our side of the Question. Adieu, my dear General, Most Respectfully and Affectionately Your


My Respects to Mrs Washington and Compliments to the Family—Mr Washington is gone to day.


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