Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE. - 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. - 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.
Head Quarters, nearDobbs Ferry,
My Dear Marquis,
I take your private letter of the 20th of this month in the light which you wish it, that of an unreserved communication from one friend to another; and I should be wanting in candor, were I not to expose my sentiments to you in as free a manner. I am convinced, that your desire to be with this army arises principally from a wish to be actively useful. You will not, therefore, regret your stay in Virginia until matters are reduced to a greater degree of certainty, than they are at present, especially when I tell you, that, from the change of circumstances with which the removal of part of the enemy’s force from Virginia to New York will be attended, it is more than probable, that we shall also entirely change our plan of operations. I think we have already effected one part of the plan of the campaign settled at Weathersfield; that is, giving a substantial relief to the southern States, by obliging the enemy to recall a considerable part of their force from thence. Our views must now be turned towards endeavoring to expel them totally from those States, if we find ourselves incompetent to the siege of New York. The difficulty of doing this does not so much depend upon obtaining a force capable of effecting it, as upon the mode of collecting that force to the proper point, and transporting the provisions, stores, &c., necessary for such an operation. You are fully acquainted with the almost impracticability of doing this by land; to say nothing of the amazing loss of men always occasioned by long marches, and those towards a quarter in which the service is disagreeable. I should not, however, hesitate to encounter these difficulties, great as they are, had we not prospects of transporting ourselves in a manner safe, easy, and expeditious. Your penetration will point out my meaning, which I cannot venture to express in direct terms.1
I approve of your resolution to reinforce General Greene, in proportion to the detachment which the enemy may make to New York. Let your next attention be paid to training and forming the militia, with which you may be furnished, and disposing of them in such a manner, that they may be drawn at the shortest notice to whatever point the enemy make their capital post, and which I conclude will be at Portsmouth. The establishment of magazines at safe deposits will be in all cases necessary; but, above all things, I recommend an augmentation of your cavalry to as great a height as possible. It may happen, that the enemy may be driven to the necessity of forcing their way through North Carolina to avoid a greater misfortune. A superiority of horse on our side would be fatal to them in such a case.
The advantages resulting from a move of the French fleet from Newport to Chesapeake were early and strongly pointed out to Count de Barras, and I thought he had once agreed to put it into execution; but, by his late letters, he seemed to think that such a manœuvre might interfere with greater plans, and therefore he declined it. It would now be too late to answer the principal object, as, by accounts from a deserter, the troops arrived from Virginia last Friday.1
Should your return to this army be finally determined, I cannot flatter you with a command equal to your expectations or my wishes. You know the over proportion of general officers to our numbers, and can therefore conceive where the difficulty will lie. General McDougall is not yet provided for, and the Jersey and York troops are reserved for him. They are promised to him, though they have not yet joined.
In my letter to General Greene, which I beg the favor of you to forward, I have hinted nothing of what I have said to you, for fear of a miscarriage. You will probably find a safe opportunity from your army to him, and you will oblige me by communicating the part of this letter, which relates to my expectation of being able to transport part of the army to the southward, should the operation against New York be declined.
I wish, as I mentioned in my last, to send a confidential person to you to explain at large what I have so distantly hinted; but I am really at a loss, for want of knowing the officers better, to find one upon whose discretion I can depend. My own family, you know, are constantly and fully employed. I however hope, that I have spoken plain enough to be understood by you. With every sentiment of affection and regard, I am, &c.
[1 ]Alluding to the expected arrival of Count de Grasse with a French fleet.
[1 ]“I have no doubt but the reasons which induce you to decline the removal of the squadron under your command to the Chesapeake at this time are founded in propriety; but I am certain, that, could the measure have taken place, it would have been attended with most valuable consequences, more especially as, from reports and appearances, the enemy are about to bring part of their troops from Virginia to New York. Although the detachments from your fleet under the command of the Baron d’Angely did not succeed at Huntington, we are not the less obliged to your Excellency for directing the attempt to be made. If that post is maintained, I think an opportunity of striking it to advantage may still be found, and I doubt not but you will readily embrace it.”—Washington to Count de Barras, 21 July, 1781.