Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO MAJOR-GENERAL SULLIVAN. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VII (1778-1779)
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TO MAJOR-GENERAL SULLIVAN. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VII (1778-1779) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VII (1778-1779).
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TO MAJOR-GENERAL SULLIVAN.
I have the pleasure to inform you of what you have probably heard before this time, That the Admiral Count d’Estaing has arrived upon the Coast, and now lays off Sandy Hook, with a Fleet of twelve Ships of the line and four Frigates belonging to his Most Christian Majesty. The design of this fleet is to coöperate with the American armies in the execution of any plans, which shall be deemed most advancive of our mutual Interests, against the common Enemy. No particular plan is yet adopted, but two seem to present themselves; either an attack upon New York, or Rhode Island. Should the first be found practicable, our forces are very well disposed for the purpose; but, should the latter be deemed the most eligible, some previous preparations must be made. That we may therefore be ready at all points, and for all events, I desire that you may immediately apply in the most urgent manner, in my name, to the States of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and make up a Body of five thousand men inclusive of what you already have. Establish suitable magazines of provisions, and make a collection of Boats proper for a descent. I am empowered to call for the militia for the purpose above mentioned, by a Resolve of Congress of the 11th instant. You will not fail to make yourself fully master of the numbers and position of the Enemy by land, and of their Strength by Sea. Should nothing come of this matter, it will answer this valuable purpose, that the Enemy will be distracted and deceived, and will probably be off their guard in respect to the defence of New York, should that ultimately be our real design.
I have it not in my power to be more explicit with you at present; but, should the expedition against Rhode Island be finally determined upon, you may depend upon having every previous and necessary information for your government.
You should engage a number of Pilots well acquainted with the navigation of the harbor of Newport, and of the adjacent Coast, and have them ready to go on Board upon Signals, which will be thrown out by the French admiral, and of which you will be advised. That you may have the earliest intelligence of his arrival, you should establish a Chain of Expresses from some commanding View upon the Coast to your Quarters. I need not recommend perfect secrecy to you, so far as respects any assistance from the French Fleet. Let your preparations carry all the appearance of dependence upon your own strength only. Lest you may think the number of five thousand men too few for the enterprise, I will just hint to you, that there are French Troops on board the fleet, and some will be detached from this army, should there be occasion.1 I am, &c.
[1 ]In speaking of the expected arrival of the Cork fleet, Washington wrote to Governor Greene on the 18th: “It is probable that this fleet as well as other vessels, to avoid the Count d’Estaing’s, will be directed to take its course through the Sound. If this should be the case, it might answer the most valuable intentions, were the eastern States to collect immediately all their frigates and privateers to rendezvous at some convenient place for interrupting their passage that way. Could the whole or any considerable part of this fleet be taken or destroyed, it would be a fatal blow to the British army, which it is supposed at this time has but a small stock of provisions on hand. I would, therefore, beg leave to recommend and urge the matter to your particular consideration, as a thing of the utmost importance to our course at this critical conjuncture, from the proper execution of which we might derive the most solid advantages.”