Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO COUNT DE GUICHEN. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VIII (1779-1780)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO COUNT DE GUICHEN. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VIII (1779-1780) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VIII (1779-1780).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
TO COUNT DE GUICHEN.
The Marquis De la Fayette arrived in America in May last, charged by the Court of France to announce to me its intention to send a fleet and army to co-operate with the troops of these States. Foreseeing that this succor would not have the intended effect, from an insufficiency of the naval force, which would probably be found inferior to the enemy, I requested the Marquis to represent to you the situation of affairs on this Continent, the necessity of an active campaign, and the great utility of a detachment from your fleet to reinforce the one expected from Europe, and give efficacy to the generous intentions of your Court. I was persuaded, that, if it were compatible with your instructions and the plans in contemplation in the Islands, you would cheerfully afford your assistance in a coöperation so necessary to this country, so beneficial of the common interest. * * *
It appears since to have been the intention of your court to send a larger succor than was at first mentioned, and that a second division was to have followed that, which has arrived at Rhode Island. The late advices, however, from Europe show, that the execution of this project will at least be suspended by the appearance of the British fleet off the port of Brest; and there is little hope that the second division can arrive in time to undertake any operations against the enemy in this part of the Continent.
The Chevalier de Ternay has informed you of his being blocked in the port of Rhode Island by a superior British fleet; and the French troops are of course under a necessity of remaining there for the security of the fleet against a combined attack by sea and land. Nor indeed could they be more useful to us in any other position, a naval superiority being essential to every enterprise in these States. In consequence of the expected aid, great exertions have been made on our part for offensive operations. An additional expense, immense to this country in its present exhausted state, has been incurred; great expectations have been excited among the people; and if events do not permit us to derive correspondent advantages, the disappointment will no doubt be attended with effects very injurious to our affairs. * * *
The situation of America at this time is critical. The government is without finances. Its paper credit sunk, and no expedients it can adopt capable of retrieving it. The resources of the country much diminished by a five years’ war, in which it has made efforts beyond its ability. Clinton, with an army of ten thousand regular troops (aided by a considerable body of militia, whom, from motives of fear and attachment, he has engaged to take arms), in possession of one of our capital towns, and a large part of the State to which it belongs. The savages desolating the frontiers. A fleet, superior to that of our allies, not only protects the enemy against any attempts of ours, but to facilitate those, which he may project against us. Lord Cornwallis, with seven or eight thousand men, in complete possession of two States, Georgia and South Carolina; a third, by recent misfortunes, at his mercy. His force is daily increasing by an accession of adherents, whom his successes naturally procure in a country inhabited a great part by emigrants from England and Scotland, who have not been long enough transplanted to exchange their ancient habits and attachments in favor of their new residence.
By a letter received from General Gates, we learn that, on the 16th of last month, attempting to penetrate and regain the State of South Carolina, he met with a total defeat near Camden, in which many of his troops have been cut off, and the remainder dispersed, with the loss of all their cannon and baggage. The enemy are said to be now making a detachment from New York for a Southern destination. If they push their successes in that quarter, there is no saying where their career may end. The opposition will be feeble, unless we can give succor from hence, which, from a variety of causes, must depend on a naval superiority.
In addition to the representation made to you by the Marquis De la Fayette, the Chevalier de Ternay has done me the honor to impart to me that he has also applied to you for a reinforcement to put him in condition to act. Though I have entire confidence, that the steps already taken will determine you to give us all the assistance, which your situation and the plans you have formed will permit, yet, as the Honorable the Congress have lately thought proper to vest me with full power to concert with the officers of his Most Christian and Catholic Majesties any enterprises, which appear to me advantageous to the common cause, it becomes my duty to address you immediately myself, and to expose to you the dangers and difficulties we experience in the present posture of our affairs, that you may judge how essential your assistance would be to us at this juncture.
I write to you with that confidence and candor, which ought to subsist between allies and between military men. In my eye the interests of France and America are the same, and to conceal our embarrassments would be to betray both. While I assure you, that the latter stands in need of the most vigorous assistance of its friends, I entreat you to believe, that I am as remote from exaggerating as from palliating, and that I do not heighten the picture from a partiality to our own interest. The Chevalier de la Luzerne, whom I shall beg to transmit you this letter in ciphers, will, I doubt not, add his testimony to mine. To propose at this time a plan of precise coöperation would be fruitless. I shall only observe in general, that any succor you can send in consequence of this letter must arrive too late for an enterprise against New York; but an unequivocal naval superiority would, I hope, enable us to act decisively in the Southern extremity.
The 20th instant is appointed for an interview with Count de Rochambeau and the Chevalier de Ternay, in which we shall probably combine several plans, dependent for their execution on different contingencies. One of these will be the arrival of a detachment from your fleet. Convinced as I am, that the independence of America is the primary object of the war with your Court, it is unnecessary to offer any other motives to engage your exertions in our favor. I might otherwise remark, that the destruction of the enemy here would greatly facilitate the reduction of their Islands. Supplies in much greater abundance, and on much better terms, might then be drawn from hence to forward your operations there; and these States, disencumbered of an internal war, might unite their inhabitants and resources in vigorous efforts against the common enemy elsewhere, for the benefit of the common cause. I am happy in this opportunity in congratulating you on the advantages, you have reaped in your different combats, as glorious to the flag of France, as humiliating to that of Britain. My happiness will be complete, if the coasts of this Continent should add to your laurels. I have the honor to be, &c.1
[1 ]The Chevalier de Ternay wrote also to Count de Guichen, requesting him to send four ships of the line to the coast of the United States; but he had left the West Indies and sailed for France before the letters arrived. M. de Monteil, his successor, could not decipher them, and of course no reinforcements were forwarded from the fleet.