Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VII (1778-1779)
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TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH. - 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 HEATH.
The unfortunate circumstance of the French fleet having left Rhode Island at so critical a moment, I am apprehensive, if not very prudently managed, will have many injurious consequences, besides merely the loss of the advantages we should have reaped from succeeding in the expedition. It will not only tend to discourage the people, and weaken their confidence in our new alliance, but it may possibly produce prejudices and resentments, which may operate against giving the fleet such zealous and effectual assistance in its present distress, as the exigence of affairs and our true interests demand. It will certainly be sound policy to combat these effects, and, whatever private opinions may be entertained, to give the most favorable construction of what has happened to the public, and at the same time to exert ourselves to put the French fleet, as soon as possible, in a condition to defend itself and be useful to us.
The departure of the fleet from Rhode Island is not yet publicly announced here; but, when it is, I intend to ascribe it to necessity, from the damage suffered in the late storm. This, it appears to me, is the idea, which ought to be generally propagated. As I doubt not the force of those reasons will strike you equally with myself, I would recommend to you to use your utmost influence to palliate and soften matters, and to induce those, whose business it is to provide succors of every kind for the fleet, to employ their utmost zeal and activity in doing it. It is our duty to make the best of our misfortunes, and not to suffer passion to interfere with our interest and the public good.1
By several late accounts from New York, there is reason to believe the enemy are on the point of some important movement. They have been some days past embarking cannon and other matters. Yesterday an hundred and forty transports fell down to the Hook. These and other circumstances indicate something of moment being in contemplation. Whether they meditate any enterprise against this army, mean to transfer the war elsewhere, or intend to embrace the present opportunity of evacuating the continent, is as yet uncertain. If they have a superior fleet on the coast, it is not impossible they may change the seat of the war to the Eastward, endeavoring by a land and sea coöperation to destroy or possess themselves of the French fleet. With an eye to an event of this kind, I have desired General Sullivan, if he makes good his retreat from the Island, to disband no more of his troops than he cannot help; and I would recommend to you to have an eye to it likewise, and, by establishing signals and using other proper precautions, to put things in a train for calling out your militia at the shortest notice. I am, &c.
[1 ]“The violent gale which dissipated the two fleets when on the point of engaging, and the withdrawing of the Count d’Estaing to Boston, may appear to us as real misfortunes; but with you I consider storms and victory under the direction of a wise providence who no doubt directs them for the best of purposes, and to bring round the greatest degree of happiness to the greatest number of his people.”—Washington to Governor Trumbull, 6 September, 1778.