George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette, 14 April 1781

Susquehana Ferry April the 14th 1781

My Dear General

Your Excellency’s Letter of the 11th Has Overtaken me at this Place, and Having Given to You an Account of Every Measure I thought Proper to take, I will only Add that I am Still at the ferry where the troops Have Crossed the River, But the Wind Blows so High that it Has Been Impossible to take the Waggons over, and I am obliged to Have others Impressed on the Southern Side of the Susquehana.

Your Excellency Mentions the Propriety of Remaining at the Head of Elk Untill shoes Can Be Collected—But the prospects I Have from the Board of War Are Not flattering Enough to Encourage this Measure—on the other Side General Greene is pressing in His Advices, and will soon Be so in His orders to Me—I Cannot obtain Any Good Account of Phillips’s Motions, Nor oppose the Schemes He May Have formed Untill I am Much farther Advanced—And Disatisfaction and Desertion Being two Greater Evils than Any other We Have to fear, I am Anxious to Have Rivers, Countrys, And Every kind of Barrier to Stop the Inclination of Men to Return Home.

Many Men Have Already Deserted—Many More will I am affraid take the Same Course—Whatever Sense of duty, ties of Affection, and Severity of discipline May Operate shall Be Emploied Most Earnestly By me, and I wish we Might soon Come Near the Ennemy which is the only Means of putting a stop to that spirit of desertion.

I am Sorry to Inform Your Excellency that the Uneasiness in Clel Vose’s Bataillon Has Increased to the Highest pitch. Their Hatred to Major Galvan is not without foundationn as He does not treat them with the Even temper which troops Have Right to Expect—But should Not prove So prejudiciable Had the officers and Men the least Confidence in Clel Vose, or Colonel Vose the least firmness to superintend the Conduct of His Major and other officers—These last Have Complained to me, But I did not think it Consistent With discipline to Give them a Redress when Clel Vose is present and is to answer for the Maintenance of Good order and A proper Conduct in His Corps—in the Mean while the Men desert, the officers are dissatisfied, Major Galvan goes on in the same Way, which He thinks to Be the Best, and I Cannot punish this officer who is Active, zealous, But plagues the Bataillon with a peculiar line of Conduct which Cannot Bring Any charge upon Him and is Not Cheked By His Colonel.

Many Articles, and Indeed Every one which Compose the Apparatus of a soldier will Be Wanting for this Detachement—But shoes, Linnen Over alls, Hunting shirts, shirts And Ammunition will Be the Most Necessary supplies for which I Request Your Excellency’s Most pressing orders to people Concerned and Most warm Entreaties to the Board of War—I wish it was possible to Have the Men Equipped at Once, and this would Be a Great Saving of Expense.

While I am writing to Your Excellency the Wind Rises More and More which will Much Impede our passage for Such stores as were to Cross over With the Waggons and the Guard Appointed to stay with them——At such A distance from the Ennemy, I Cannot Give Your Excellency Any Account of their Movements, But By the last Intelligences General Phillips was Still at Porsmouth.

Should the french Get a Naval Superiority An Expedition Against Porsmouth is Very Practicable—These Compagnies filled up to their proper Number, and some other troops to Increase the Corps to two thousand would with a detachement of Artillery from Philadelphia Be Equal to the Attak of that post—3000 Militia Can with the Greatest Ease Be Collected—In Case the Remainder of Duke de Lanzun’s Legion arrives that Corps Could Come in the fleet—But should the french Become superior at sea, the British fleet in Chesapaeke would Be in danger, and in Every Case if Your Excellency thinks of Sending Any Reinforcement this Way (let it Be the Jersay troops or Recruits) their Coming By water to James or York River May Save an Immense trouble and Expense.

My Heart and Every faculty of My Mind Have Been these last Years so much Concerned in the plan of an Expedition against [          ] that I am very desirous to Hear By the first safe Opportunity what Reasons Can Have Overthrown the Project.

Some disputes that Have at first Happened Between the Jersay and New England troops make me think that these Last Must Be as much as possible separated from the Pennsulvanians.

While I was writing this, Accounts Have Been Brought to me that a Great desertion Had taken Place Last Night—Nine of the Rhodeisland Campagny—and the Best men they Had who Have made Many Campaigns and Never were suspected—these men say that they like Better Hundred Lashes than a journey to the Southward . As long as they Had an expedition in View, they were very well satisfied—But the idea of Remaining in the southern states appear to them Intolerable and they are Amazingly averse to the people and climate—I shall do my Best, But if this Disposition Lasts, I am affraid we will Be Reduced Lower than I dare Express. With the Highest and Most affectionate Respect I have the Honor to Be Dear General Your Most obedient Humble servant

Lafayette M.G.

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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