Front Page Titles (by Subject) du portail and hamilton to washington 1 - The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 9
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du portail and hamilton to washington 1 - Alexander Hamilton, The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 9 
The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (Federal Edition) (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). In 12 vols. Vol. 9.
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du portail and hamilton to washington1
Oct. 26, 1779.
We are honored with two letters from your Excellency of the 10th and 21st, to the contents of which we beg leave to assure you of our strictest attention.
That of the 18th has not yet come to hand. It is not improbable it has gone round by Lewistown, which has occasioned the delay.
Colonel Hamilton wrote to your Excellency from Philadelphia, acquainting you with our arrival there and our intention to proceed to Lewistown, Cape Henlopen, and from Great Egg Harbor, communicating our progress since, and our determination to establish ourselves at Batsto Furnace. We have since fixed on this place, about forty-four miles from the extremity of Cape May (eighteen miles short of the Furnace, which we found to be more remote than had been represented), and, as far as we have been able to learn, from one hundred to one hundred and ten miles from Sandy Hook, and about fifty from Philadelphia. Your Excellency will easily perceive the reason of our choosing this station. It did not appear to us, from our inquiries in Philadelphia, to be a point well ascertained that the fleet would stop at the Delaware, and the time which had elapsed made it more possible, if the Count should be determined to prosecute any further operations on the Continent, that he would not lose time by a procedure of this sort, but might content himself with sending some transports, under escort of a few frigates, to receive the provisions for the fleet, and proceed himself directly on to the Hook. On this supposition our position at Lewistown was entirely ineligible. The distance at which we were from the city as well as from the Hook, the delays that would consequently attend our intelligence from every quarter, the difficulty and impossibility, sometimes, of traversing the bay, made our first situation inconvenient in every respect in the event of the fleet’s proceeding immediately to the Hook. These considerations induced us to cross the Delaware and take the position at which we now are, where, or in the vicinity, we propose to remain till the arrival of the Count, till intelligence from him decides the inutility of a longer stay, or till we receive your Excellency’s orders of recall.
We have now a better relation to the different points in which we are interested, and have taken the necessary precautions to gain the earliest notice of whatever happens. We have stationed expresses at the pitch of the Cape, and have established a regular communication with Major Lee, and with the city. If the fleet should appear off the Delaware, we can be there in twelve hours after its first appearance; and if at the Hook, in less than four days; provided Major Lee is punctual in conveying the intelligence, and the expresses from either side, in bringing it.
By recent information from Philadelphia (though not quite so distinct and accurate as we could wish), we find, that so late as the fourth of this month, the Count, as yet, was to open his batteries against the enemy at Savannah. The time that will probably intervene between this and the final reduction, the re-embarkation of the Count’s troops, the dispositions for sailing, and his arrival on this coast, may, we fear, exhaust the season too much to permit of the co-operation to which our mission relates.
We do not, however, despair; for if the Count has been fully successful to the southward, and should shortly arrive (which may be the case), the enterprise may possibly go on.1
In a letter from Major Lee, of the 22d, he informs us, that a vessel from Georgia arrived on the 16th; since which the two sixty-fours, and the Renown, which were at the Hook, had fallen down towards New York; and the troops at the Hook had embarked and gone to the city. At first sight, this account alarmed us, and made us apprehensive that the enemy had received some favorable advices from the southward which put them out of danger, and superseded the necessity of continuing their preparations for defence. But, on further reflection, we think it more probable, that this is only a change of disposition; and that finding, on closer examination, they would be unable to defend the Hook, they had determined to relinquish the attempt.
This seems the more likely, as Major Lee mentions, that a part of the hulks, sunk in the channel, had gotten afloat and drifted ashore.
To this experience of the difficulty of obstructing the channel, may, perhaps, be attributed the change we suppose. And we are confirmed in this conjecture, by the evacuation of the two posts at King’s Ferry, which appears by your Excellency’s letter to have taken place on the 21st, five days after the supposed arrival of the vessel from Georgia; a proof that they had not received information of any decisive good fortune on their side, or ill fortune on ours; and that they persisted in their defensive plan. We are persuaded, too, that their exultation would have given wings to any good news they might have received, and that it would have reached us before this. Were the season less advanced, we should regret the change of disposition; because we believe the attempt to defend the entrance of the Hook would have been fruitless; and it might have thrown a part of their ships and of their troops into our hands, in the first instance, which could not fail to facilitate the successive operations.
But, at this late period, it may rather be an advantage. To force the passage might have required land operations against the Hook, which would lose time and expose the fleet to the hazard of winds, which would have rendered its situation critical. Now, the fleet may probably enter the bay, on its first approach, and be in security; and the whole operation will be brought to a point, and may demand less time for its accomplishment.
As a large number of fascines, ready for use, appear to us essential to any operations that may be undertaken, we presume your Excellency has been preparing, and will continue to prepare, as many as possible. We beg leave to suggest the utility of having, at the same time, a sufficient number of gabions and sand bags. Of the former, Colonel Gouvion,1 if your Excellency thinks proper, may be charged with the constructing: the latter may be made under the care of the Quarter-Master at Philadelphia. Several thousands may be necessary. The usual dimensions are fifteen or eighteen inches long, and twelve wide. If, notwithstanding the advices from Major Lee, any thing by land is to be attempted against the Hook, these will be peculiarly useful on such a flat, sandy spot; and, indeed, it would be impracticable to construct batteries, in any reasonable time, without them.
Hamilton and General Du Portail were sent by Washington to meet the Count D‘Estaing on his way up the coast with the French fleet and arrange for his coöperation with our forces. Lebégue Du Portail, general in the French army, came to the United States with Lafayette, and was a valued officer. After the revolution began in France he was made minister of War by Lafayette’s influence, and fell with the latter. He remained long in hiding and finally escaped to America, and died at sea on his way back to France after the 18th Brumaire.
The attack upon Savannah was made on Oct. 9th. The assault was a gallant one, but the combined French and American forces were repulsed by the British with heavy losses.
Jean Baptiste Gouvion, captain in the French army and major-general of the National Guard in 1789 He was killed before Maubeuge in 1792.