George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette, 11 April 1781

Head Quarters New Windsor 11th April 1781.

My dear Marquis

Your favor dated at Elk the 8th instant reached me at ten OClock the last Evening. While I give you credit for the maneuvre by which you removed the British Ships from before Annapolis, I am sorry, as matters are circumstanced, that you have put yourself so much further from the point, which now, of necessity, becomes the object of your destination. Whether General Phillips remains in Virginia or goes further southward he must be opposed by a force more substantial than Militia alone, and you will for that reason immediately open a communication with Genl Greene—inform him of the numbers. situation and probable views of the enemy in Virginia and take his directions as to marching forward to join him, or remaining there to keep a watch upon the motions of Phillips should he have formed a junction with Arnold at Portsmouth.

Every difficulty, so far as respects the wants of the Officers and Men, and the uneasiness which might arise upon their being ordered upon a more distant service than they expected, was foreseen, and would have been removed by recalling the detachment and forming another, had not the reasons of a public nature, which were mentioned in my letter of the 6th outweighed all private considerations.

You must endeavour to get Shoes, which will be essentially necessary before you can move, from Philada and if you will cause a return to be made of such Articles as will probably be wanting in the course of the Campaign I will endeavour to forward them from hence, with a proportion of any stores which may have been sent on by the States for their troops—If the Officers will write back to their Friends here for any additional Baggage of which they may stand in need, it shall be forwarded under careful conductors—The difficulties which you will experience on the score of provision and transportation would have been common to any other Body of Troops—They will I know be great, but I depend much upon your assiduity and activity.

Had I have had the most distant prospect of such a operation, as you speak off, I should have looked upon your detachment as essential to the undertaking, but I can assure you, without entering into a detail of reasons (which I cannot commit to paper) that I have not at present an Idea of being able to effect such a matter. This had very considerable weight in influencing the determination of the General Officers and myself, for we would have been very happy in an opportunity of succouring the southern States by a diversion, could it have been attempted with any tolerable hope of success.

The small remains of the Jersey line seems necessary to form a head to which the Recruits, if any are obtained, may unite themselves—That Line stands next for detachment and therefore it is more than probable that it may soon become necessary to send the whole to the southward—But the reason which I have just mentioned operates in favr of keeping the remainder as long as possible.

I shall be glad to hear from you—the time of your setting out from Elk—your prospects of getting on and the temper of the Troops, and above all I shall ever be happy in knowing that you are well and that every thing contributes to your happiness and satisfaction, being very truly and sincerily My dear Marquis Yr most obt and hble Servt.

P.S. You seem aware of the danger of attempting a passage down the Chesapeak by water—I will add my opinion that it is not on any account to be attempted.

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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