Head Quarters Newburgh Decr 18th 1782
My dear Sir
By the southern Mail of last Week I received your Letter of the 4th of Octr enclosing the Returns of your Army: and I am just now favored with that of the 11th of Novr covering the Returns for the Month of October—As I find by the latter, you had received Mine of the 23d of Septr. I can have no occasion to suggest any thing farther at this time respecting the disposition of the Troops after the Enemy shall have abandoned the southern States—the latitude already given, will in a sufficient manner I believe, enable you to act for the public good, as the State of affairs may then seem to demand.
There had been during the summer much speculation & many conjectures that New York would be evacuated before winter, as I informed you in my last letter which was dated the 18th of Octr—but at the same time I mentioned "I had no such idea"; and the event has justified my opinion. I am not without expectations, however, that a detachment will be made in the course of the Winter to the West Indies: indeed many appearances strongly indicate this, or at least that some Orders of embarkation are expected, such as the great preparation of Transports, there being now about 120, collected from various quarters, lying in the east River, compleatly fitted for sea; and Reports still continue to assert that several thousand British Troops will yet be detached.
The sailing of the Fleet from New York in two divisions, I suppose must have been well known in Carolina, as in all probability the last squadron served to convoy a part of the Garrison of Charles Town to the W. Indies agreeably to your expectation—But, I imagine you could not have learned, (it having been a secret to this time, which it was not prudent to commit to paper) that the Orders of the Court of Versailles to the Count de Rochambeau (who is himself about to sail for France) were that the Corps under his Orders should go to the West Indies, in case the evacuation of New York or Charles Town should take place. In expectation that the latter would happen, the French Army marched into the eastern States, towards the last of Octr, under pretext of taking winter Quarters there; but in fact, with the design of embarking on board the Fleet of the Marquis de Vaudrieul at Boston, whenever the event on which their ultimate movement depended, became sufficiently ascertained. From the general concurrence of intelligence and a variety of circumstances the Enemy’s intention to leave Charles Town has approached so near to a certainty, that all the Army of His Most Christian Majesty (excepting the Legion of Lauzun which remains behind) have embarked and are to sail in two day’s from this time. As soon as this Fleet is clear of the Coast, and the destination of the Troops shall be positively known at N. York, (as I observed before) it appears not improbable a considerable Corps of British will be sent to Jamaica; for the safety of which Island the apprehensions of the Enemy appear to be very much alarmed, on account of the large force at the Havanna and the arrival of the Marquis de Bouillé with a reinforcement from France. How far the Combined Powers will in reality prosecute a serious Operation in that Quarter, since the failure of the attempt against Gibralter (of the relief of which by the Fleet under Lord Howe, you will, I dare say, have heard before this reaches you), or how far the last mentioned circumstance will end to hasten or retard a general Pacification: I cannot undertake to determine with certainty—Many Politicians imagine, that the fewer capital advantages either of the Belligerent Powers in Europe has over the other, the smaller will be the obstacles that will present themselves in the course of the negociation for Peace—— but almost every thing respecting this business, in my opinion, will rather depend on the strength or weakness of Shelburne’s and Fox’s Parties in the British Parliament.
To wait Events, & profit by the Occasions which may occur, I have concentred the Army to a point as much as possible. At West Point and the Cantonment 4 Miles from this place is our whole force, except the Rhode Island Regt at the Northwd and one or two Corps on the Lines. This Army indeed is not numerous, but the efficient strength is greater in proportion to the total Numbers, than ever it has been; the Troops are tolerably well appointed, and have improved very much in their discipline during the last Campaign.
The Enemy’s force in New York I compute to be between ten and eleven thousand. Should they weaken themselves by a detachment of 4 or 5000 Men and still attempt to hold that Garrison another Campaign, it would be an indelible blot to the reputation of this Country, not to furnish sufficient means for enabling us to expel them from the Continent. And yet I am free to confess, I have accustomed myself not to be over sanguine in any of my calculations, especially when I consider the want of energy in government, and the want of that disposition in too many of the People, which once influenced them chearfully to yield a part to defend the remainder of their property.
Thus, My dear Sir, have I given for your own private satisfaction, a pretty general detail of the affairs of our Allies, Ourselves, & our Enemies, in this part of the Continent—Hoping & expecting the Southern States will be restored to perfect tranquility before this is delivered to you: I have only to add that Mrs Washington joins me in requesting Mrs Greene and yourself to accept our best wishes & Compliments—It will ever give me pleasure to hear from you on matters of business or friendship, being with Sentiments of perfect esteem and regard My Dear Sr Your Most Obedt and Humble Servant
NjP: DeCoppet Collection.