Front Page Titles (by Subject) SUBSTANCE OF A CONFERENCE BETWEEN GENERAL WASHINGTON AND COUNT DE ROCHAMBEAU AT WEATHERSFIELD, 22 MAY, 1781. 2 - The Writings of George Washington, vol. IX (1780-1782)
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SUBSTANCE OF A CONFERENCE BETWEEN GENERAL WASHINGTON AND COUNT DE ROCHAMBEAU AT WEATHERSFIELD, 22 MAY, 1781. 2 - 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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SUBSTANCE OF A CONFERENCE BETWEEN GENERAL WASHINGTON AND COUNT DE ROCHAMBEAU AT WEATHERSFIELD, 22 MAY, 1781.2
Rochambeau.—Concerning a project of employing the squadron at Newport to transport the French army to the Chesapeake Bay, he consulted Count de Barras, who deemed it impracticable, chiefly on account of the inferiority of the naval force to that of the enemy. The objections were mentioned in detail.1
1st.Washington.—“However desirable such an event might have been, the reasons assigned by Count de Barras are sufficient to prove its impracticability.”
Rochambeau.—Should the French army march to the North River, will the squadron be safe at Newport under a guard of militia? By secret instructions he is not permitted to separate his army, except for detachments of a short duration. Count de Barras thinks the squadron would not be secure, if the enemy should take possession of Rhode Island; and, moreover, he has been instructed, that, in case the army should march into the country, his fleet should proceed to Boston.
2d.Washington.—“It is Genl. Washington’s opinion, that the plan of Campaign will render it necessary for the French army to March from Newport towards the North River as soon as possible, and that consequently it will be advisable for the Count de Barras (agreeable to his instructions in that case provided) to seek the first favorable moment of removing the squadron under his command to Boston.”
Rochambeau.—In that case what does General Washington propose about Rhode Island? Does he intend it should be kept by a general officer and a body of American militia? It is to be observed, that if in the hurricane months the French fleet should come to the coast, the harbor of Rhode Island might be of use to the operations of the squadrons, either for a union to act against New York, or as a place of retreat in case of misfortune.
3d.Washington.—“As the harbor of Rhode Island may be useful to the fleets of his Most Christian Majesty, it is Genl. Washington’s opinion, that a force should be left for the security of Newport; but, as the Enemy will not be in a condition, from the present circumstances of their affairs, to detach any considerable body of men to re-possess the Island, it is agreed between His Excellency Count de Rochambeau and Genl. Washington, that 500 Militia under a good officer will be sufficient for the Guards for the works; but, in case of an enterprise against them, a greater force should be called for their defence.”
Rochambeau.—If General Washington resolves that Rhode Island shall be left, and the works destroyed, does he consider the siege artillery, powder, magazines, and heavy stores, which cannot follow the French army in a land march, as safe at Providence under the two hundred French troops and the militia? For such an object the English may attempt an enterprise to seize these stores. Would they not be more secure, if taken with the fleet to Boston?
4th.Washington.—“In the former communications between His Excellency Count de Rochambeau and Genl. Washington, it was understood, that the French Fleet was to have remained in the harbor of Newport after the removal of the army; and therefore Providence was fixed upon as a safe and proper deposit of the heavy artillery and spare stores.—It now being determined, that the fleet shall embrace the first opportunity of going round to the Harbor of Boston, it is to be wished, that the heavy artillery and spare Stores should be sent round also. But Genl. Washington being informed by His Excellency Count de Rochambeau, that they have been already deposited at Providence, and that it will be impossible, under the present circumstances of the Fleet, and want of Transportation, to remove them to Boston, he is of opinion, that they may safely remain there under the guard of 200 French Troops, who will be aided by the Militia of the Country in case of need. The possession of Newport will add to their security.”
Rochambeau.—Should the squadron from the West Indies arrive in these seas, an event that will probably be announced by a frigate beforehand, what operations will General Washington have in view, after a union of the French army with his own?
5th.Washington.—“The Enemy, by several detachments from New York, having reduced their force at that Post to less than one half of the number, which they had at the time of the former conference at Hartford in September last, it is thought advisable to form a junction of the French and American Armies upon the North River, as soon as possible, and move down to the vicinity of New York, to be ready to take advantage of any opportunity, which the weakness of the enemy may afford. Should the West Indies Fleet arrive upon the Coast, the force thus combined may either proceed in the operation against New Yk., or may be directed against the enemy in some other quarter, as circumstances shall dictate. The great waste of men, (which we have found from experience) in long marches to the Southern States, the advanced season now to commence these in, and the difficulties and expense of Land transportation thither, with other considerations too well known to His Excellency Count de Rochambeau to need detailing, point out the preference, which an operation against New York seems to have in present circumstances over an attempt to send a force to the southward.”
Answer to the P. S.:
“The observation upon the 4th head sufficiently answers this, as the numerals 500 militia proposed to be stationed at Newport may be disposed of in any manner which His Excellency Count de Rochambeau may think proper.” Weathersfield, 23d May, 1781.
[2 ]Generals Knox and Duportail had accompanied the Commander-in-chief to Weathersfield. The following is an extract from Washington’s Diary.
[1 ]The substance only of Count de Rochambeau’s propositions and queries is here stated. The replies and remarks of Washington are printed in full, as transcribed from the records.