Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO COUNT DE ROCHAMBEAU AND THE CHEVALIER DE TERNAY. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. IX (1780-1782)
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TO COUNT DE ROCHAMBEAU AND THE CHEVALIER DE TERNAY. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. IX (1780-1782) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. IX (1780-1782).
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TO COUNT DE ROCHAMBEAU AND THE CHEVALIER DE TERNAY.
New Windsor, 15 December, 1780.
Two days ago I did myself the honor to inform his Excellency the Count de Rochambeau, that Sir Henry Clinton was making another embarkation. This is since confirmed by other accounts; but I have received none yet, which fix the particular corps or numbers with certainty, though all agree, that this detachment is intended as a reinforcement to Lord Cornwallis, that it is to consist of about two thousand five hundred, and that it is the intention of the enemy to push their operations to the southward this winter in the most vigorous manner. Official information is likewise lately received, that this is the resolution of the British cabinet, and that for this purpose a powerful reinforcement is to be sent to America with all possible despatch.
When it is considered how essential it is to the independence of the United States, and how important to the interest of their allies, that the common enemy should be obliged to relinquish their conquests in South Carolina and Georgia, your Excellencies will, I am confident, agree in opinion with me, that no means ought to be left unessayed to endeavor to dislodge them in the course of this winter and next spring.
It is needless for me to enter into a detail of the situation of our affairs to the southward. Your Excellencies must know, that, from the great loss of men, artillery, and stores in Charleston, and from the defeat of our army near Camden, we can only hope to reassemble such a force, and that chiefly of raw troops, as will prevent the enemy from extending their conquests over North Carolina. To attempt the reduction of Charleston, supposing we had men sufficient for the purpose, is a thing impracticable, while the transportation of artillery and all kinds of stores proper for a siege must be made from hence by land.
I am informed by the Marquis de Lafayette, who is still at Philadelphia, that a vessel had just arrived at that place from L’Orient, which port she left the middle of October; but as he makes no mention of the second division of land and sea forces, expected in America to reinforce the army and navy at present under your Excellencies’ respective commands, I am led to believe, that the much desired event is more remote than under present circumstances is to be wished.
A piece of intelligence, which has been communicated to me in confidence by His Excellency the Minister Plenipotentiary of France, has turned my attention towards a new object, and brought into my mind the outlines of a plan, which, if it can be acceded to by the parties necessary to its execution, may be attended with the most solid and permanent advantages. The communication of His Excellency the minister is, that the court of Spain have in contemplation two expeditions against the British settlements in the Floridas, Pensacola and St. Augustine. The first, consisting of four thousand men convoyed by eight ships of war, had sailed from Havana the 16th of October. The force destined against the last was twelve ships of the line, besides frigates and bomb-ketches, and ten thousand men. These were to leave the Havana some time in the present month. The plan, with which I am impressed, and which I would submit to your Excellency’s consideration, is, the propriety of attempting to combine our force with that of Spain for the purpose of totally subduing the common enemy, not only in the Floridas, but in the States of South Carolina and Georgia.
It is not for me, at this moment, to enter upon a detail of the business. My general ideas are, that a proposition or request should be made to the general and admiral of the Spanish forces (and through them to the governor of the Havana, if they are not themselves at liberty to accede to the proposal,) to coöperate conjunctively or by diversion for the purposes I have mentioned. In case they do accede, their ships of war are to be sent, as soon as they have made good the debarkation of their troops at St. Augustine, or at any other given point, to form a junction with the squadron of his Most Christian Majesty at Rhode Island, and take under their convoy the French and American troops, destined for the expedition against Charleston; the first of which will be embarked at Newport, the last at Philadelphia. I should make such drafts from this army, as would amount to two thousand men at least. His Excellency the Count de Rochambeau would, I should hope, be able to detach double that number, and leave a sufficiency with the militia, who might be called in upon the occasion, to give security to your works, hospitals, and spare stores, should you choose to leave the two last behind you. These corps, and the troops who will be collected under the command of General Greene, in conjunction with the force, which may be furnished by the Spaniards in the manner aforementioned, will form an army not to be resisted by any, which the British can draw together in that quarter, and capable of effecting the utmost wishes of the allied powers.
It is unnecessary for me to remark, that the basis of my plan and propositions is, that the combined fleets shall be decidedly superior to that of the enemy, and that they shall coöperate to the completion of the enterprise, or until it shall be abandoned by general consent. To ensure so essential a point as that of a naval superiority, the propriety of a further requisition to the admiral, commanding his Most Christian Majesty’s fleet in the West Indies, is submitted to your Excellencies’ judgments.
I persuade myself that your Excellencies will view these propositions with an eye to all their consequences, and candidly approve or reject them as they appear to you practicable or proper. In making them I am solely influenced by motives of general good, and would not wish them carried into execution, unless they shall be deemed as conducive to the interests of the powers, who have generously stepped in to our relief, as to those of the United States.
Should the plan happily meet your Excellencies approbations I have to request, that the Chevalier de Ternay would be good enough to despatch a frigate, if one can be spared, with the substance of these propositions to the generals of his Most Catholic Majesty; duplicate and triplicate of which I will endeavor to forward via Philadelphia. If the communication is to be made, no time should be lost in doing it, and procuring an answer. I think I could, in a month after hearing of the proposition being agreed to on the part of Spain, be ready to embark at Philadelphia, if the state of the River Delaware will admit of it.
I cannot conclude this letter, without mentioning an argument, which in my opinion ought to induce the Spaniards to accept of these propositions. The force, which the British will be able to draw together in South Carolina and Georgia, will be so much superior to the American, that they may, without putting matters to the risk, leave small garrisons in Savannah and Charleston, and throw such a reinforcement into St. Augustine, a very strong fortification, as will in all probability defeat the enterprise; whereas, if they find that measures are pursuing to divest them of those acquisitions, which I am convinced they mean to make the basis of a negotiation, I think it more than probable that they will abandon the Floridas to their fate, and exert themselves to the utmost to retain the only apparent compensation for their vast expenditure of blood and treasure. Besides this, the Spaniard ought to reflect, that, while Britain is in possession of Georgia and South Carolina, he must hold ye Floridas by a very precarious tenure or by a very expensive one. I have the honor to be, &c.1
[1 ]This plan was not approved by Count de Rochambeau. News had lately arrived of the appointment of a new Minister of Marine, of the preparation of a grand armament at Brest, and the assembling of a large Spanish force at Cadiz, which it was rumored would be under the command of Count d’Estaing; and there was every probability, in the opinion of Count de Rochambeau, that despatches from the French ministry would very soon arrive, which would contain a plan of operations. In this view he could not with propriety engage in any measures, which might thwart such a plan. It was moreover his belief, that the Spanish commander in the West Indies had his course of action marked out by definite instructions, and would not assume the responsibility of sending a squadron to transport the French and American troops to the south. Again, the Chevalier de Monteil, the French admiral commanding in the West Indies, had only a small force in those seas since the departure of M. de Guichen for Europe, and would not be able to furnish such a number of vessels from his squadron, as would ensure a naval superiority on the American coast.