Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE. INSTRUCTIONS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. IX (1780-1782)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE. INSTRUCTIONS. - 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).
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 THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
I have ordered a detachment to be made at this post, to rendezvous at Peekskill the 19th instant, which, together with another to be formed at Morristown from the Jersey troops, will amount to about twelve hundred rank and file. The destination of this detachment is to act against the corps of the enemy now in Virginia, in conjunction with the militia, and some ships from the fleet of the Chevalier Destouches, which he informs me sailed the 9th instant from Newport.
You will take the command of this detachment, which you will in the first instance march by battalions towards Pompton, there to rendezvous and afterwards proceed with all possible despatch to the Head of Elk. You will make your arrangements with the quartermaster-general concerning the route you are to take, concerning transportation, tents, intrenching tools and other articles in his department, of which you may stand in need; with the commissary-general concerning provisions; with the clothier concerning clothes, shoes &c.; and with General Knox concerning the artillery and stores you will want for the expedition. The result of these several arrangements you will report at headquarters.
When you arrive at Trenton, if the Delaware is open and boats are readily to be had, you will save time by going from thence by water to Christiana Bridge, Marcus Hook, or Chester; if you cannot avail yourself of this mode, you must proceed by land, by the route which the quartermaster and commissary may designate as most convenient for covering and supplies. You are not to suffer the detachment to be delayed for want of either provision, forage, or wagons on the route. Where the ordinary means will not suffice with certainty, you will have recourse to military impress. You will take your measures with the quartermaster-general in such a manner, that vessels may be ready by your arrival at the Head of Elk to convey you down the Bay to Hampton Roads, or to the point of operation; and you will open a previous communication with the officer commanding the ships of his Christian Majesty, to concert your coöperations, and to engage him to send, (if it can be spared,) a frigate up the Bay to cover your passage, without which, or some other armed vessels, might be otherwise insecure.
When you arrive at your destination, you must act as your own judgment and the circumstances shall direct. You will open a correspondence with the Baron de Steuben, who now commands in Virginia, informing him of your approach, and requesting him to have a sufficient body of militia ready to act in conjunction with your detachment. It will be advisable for him to procure persons in whom he can confide, well acquainted with the country at Portsmouth and in the vicinity; some, who are capable of giving you a military idea of it, and others to serve as guides.
You should give the earliest attention to acquiring a knowledge of the different rivers, but particularly James River, that you may know what harbors can best afford shelter and security to the cooperating squadron, in case of blockade by a superior force. You are to do no act whatever with Arnold, that directly or by implication may screen him from the punishment due to his treason and desertion, which, if he should fall into your hands, you will execute in the most summary way.
Having recommended it to Count de Rochambeau to detach a land force with the fleet, that it may be destined for the Chesapeake Bay (though, from the disposition which has already taken place, it is not probable that land force will be sent yet), if the recommendation should be complied with, you will govern yourself in coöperating with the officers commanding the French troops, agreeably to the intentions and instructions of his Most Christian Majesty, of which you were the bearer, and which, being still in your possession, it is unnecessary for me to recite.
You will keep me regularly advised of your movements and progress; and, when the object of the detachment is fulfilled (or unfortunately disappointed), you will return with it by the same rout, if circumstances admit of it, and with as much expedition as possible to this post. I wish you a successful issue to the enterprise, and all the glory which I am persuaded you will deserve. Given at Head-Quarters, New Windsor, February 20th, 1781.1
[1 ]This letter was accompanied by the following note: “The enclosed are your instructions, in the prosecution of which, if you should receive authentic intelligence of the enemy’s having left Virginia, or, by adverse fortune, the detachment from Monsieur Destouches has lost its superiority in that State, and is disabled thereby to coöperate, you will return with the detachment under your command, as the enemy cannot be affected by it while they have the command of the waters; but the detachment may be capitally injured by committing itself on the water.”